One of my patients, Bhekimuzi has been with us since about mid January. He was very sick when he arrived, but has gotten a lot better. He was stable enough to begin the ARV training and did so about two weeks ago. He finished the three sessions and was well on his way to begin his first dose. A last minute blood test showed that his liver was severely damaged. He was then admitted to an area hospital for further testing. I did not hear much about him until last week. We were told to clear out a private room for him because he was coming back. After gathering a bit more information, I found out that since his liver was so damaged, he would have to be taken off all medications and he is not able to begin his ARV treatment.
AIDS is so prevalent here that sometimes other diseases or conditions often go ignored or undiagnosed until it’s too late. People here, just like those in America, also die of Cancer, Heart Disease, they have Strokes or liver damage, but these things live in the shadow of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It’s very easy to forget that these other diseases and conditions plague people here because AIDS demands so much attention.
Bhekimuzi will stay with us free of all treatment to live out the rest of his life, however long that may be. He looks very sick and fragile, but he’s still up and around, laughing and talking. He is 46 years old and has 3 children who are living with his Sister. I completely lost it when I heard he was coming back to us and would not be able to start ARV’s. You see, ARV’s were his one piece of hope to cling on to and now, even that is gone. He seems to be in good spirits, but there have been times that I look at him and he looks so incredibly (and understandably) scared.
I have become good friends with him over the past 2 months and I have been blessed to learn from him. Making his remaining time on Earth as special as possible is my new mission. Last week I was asking him what things he’d like to do or where he’d really like to visit. The first thing that came to his mind was that he’d like to eat at “that very expensive restaurant in Durban.” I had no clue what he was talking about. After multiple questions from me, I realized he was speaking of Wimpy which is a fast food chain comparable to Burger King. I arranged a plan with my roommates and this past Friday, Bhekimuzi and his “three hot dates” went to lunch at Wimpy up the road. He could not stop smiling. He also kept saying “this is too expensive.” His face was even brighter when his bubblegum milkshake and double cheeseburger meal was delivered to the table.
We had an awesome time and I can’t wait to do it again soon. This week, we are going to take him home to visit and also on an excursion to the beach. I can’t stop thinking about this wonderful man and what lies ahead for him. All I am able to do at this time is make each of his days happy, comfortable and full of love. Here are some pictures of our outing: