Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My new friend Bheki...

As I mentioned earlier, I met a wonderful man last week…his name is Bheki (short version of a HUGE name). He was admitted to the Respite Unit last Monday with severe weight loss, night sweats, dizziness and chest pain from TB. Bheki is 28 and is HIV+. When I took him to the clinic last week, he was in pain and dizzy and I knew he felt like absolute crap. There is something about him that I was drawn to the instant he smiled. We began chatting about how he ended up at the Respite Unit. He told me his boss brought him in because he was so sick and he didn’t have anyone else to take care of him. Bheki has worked as a gardener at a private home for the past few years. He told me how grateful he was to his boss for helping him.

Over the past week, we have talked much more. He is such a beacon of joy. He smiles and you just can’t help but feel better. Now, he’s on treatment for TB and is feeling a little bit better. He’s now working on gaining weight and then hopefully, he’ll be able to begin ARV therapy for HIV. We’ve talked about everything including sports, family, his health, America, his job, my volunteer year, and whatever happens to be on TV. He has also been teaching me some South African card games (by the way, they do not use Jack, Queen, or King here at all…weird huh?) and helps me practice my poor Zulu.

One our conversations was particularly touching when we spoke of his family. He told me that he is one of 6 children. He has 5 older Sisters (one has since died of AIDS). I came in and he was so excited to tell me that one of his Sisters had visited the night before. He was pleased beyond belief because she brought him a bottle of juice and a bag of chips. Then, he was quiet and I saw tears well up in his eyes. He told me that he thought his family had “thrown him away because he was sick.” His sisters visit was much more than a simple visit, for Bheki, it was a re-assurance that he is not forgotten like so many patients sadly are. He told me that he had been so sad, but after her visit “his heart is happy again.” He always thanks me for talking to him. In reality, I should be thanking him. Bheki has no idea what an impact his kindness and courage have had on me.

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