Hanneke and I went to Molweni last week, as we’ve done many times before, for some traditional home visits. Many of these home visits are in order for Hanneke to complete her graduate research, but some of them are literally “house calls.” Sometimes we get calls from concerned neighbors about patients, sometimes our home based care workers refer patients to us and sometimes, we get calls about ex-patients or their family members. The day started out normally…or at least as “normal” as things get here in South Africa. We interviewed a few patients that Hanneke had on her research list. Next, we were supposed to find one of our ex-patients, Thobile (see pictures below). We had been told that Thobile’s son was bleeding out his nose profusely and that he needed to be seen. Also, we were told to check on Thobile’s recent medical activity to see if she was up to date with her CD4 counts.
We had two Zulu care workers with us to help us locate the patients and to translate. We pulled onto a dirt driveway and I looked up to see where this home was. I saw three houses and knew I was in for quite a hike. We began trudging up the mountain side. We eventually got to and PASSED the three houses. I looked up and saw nothing but grass and trees and wondered if we made a mistake. The care workers told me that we were on the right track and that the house was at the top of the mountain. The hike up was brutal and when we finally reached the top, we were met by her sister who told us she was at the local nursery working. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We then repelled down the mountain and went to find her at the nursery or crèche as they call it here. At the nursery, we met Thobile who told us her son was much better. Good news. She had not followed up on her own medical care, so Hanneke took blood to get a CD4 count done. The blood was taken in the crèche classroom as I guarded the door from all the little rascals that were interested in seeing the visitors.
Hanneke finished up and we all walked out. We were greeted by two women in a row who both needed help. They begged us for information, resources, help of any kind really. The stories, sadly, are so similar and so prevalent here. The women were both HIV+ and did not have money to get to the clinics. They had no food for their families. They needed money to pay the school fees for their children and their childrens’ children. It’s so overwhelming to be surrounded by this constant and terrible poverty. Hanneke and I spoke about it later and both felt completely helpless. It’s very hard to tell someone who is in dire need that you can’t give them the change they need to take a taxi or food so they don’t go hungry. The need is soooooooooo great and we are doing all we can. There is so much more that needs to be done…and that is the sad reality here.
#1: Me on top of the hill!
#2: Hanneke and our care-workers on top of the hill!
#3: Hanneke doing a CD4 count on a patient.