Each day for about 2 weeks in June I was told that a little boy would be coming to the Respite Unit after he was discharged from a local hospital. The "rumor" was that he was Stage 4 AIDS and needed our palliative care. I waited. I asked where he was and when he was coming. Still...no young boy arrived.
Finally, at the beginning of July, Siyabonga arrived. I don't think any of us were prepared for how he changed us. I certainly was not. He was a young, 14 year old boy battling for his life after defaulting on his ARV treatment. His family was not taking care of him or helping him to take his life-saving drugs. He came to us in absolutely heart-breaking condition.
From the moment he got to the Respite Unit, he had everyone wrapped around his tiny fingers. His bedside table was full of soda, candy, snacks, toys, and books. However, he could barely see or hold things because of how sick and weak he was. We all took turns reading to him or playing memory or just talking to him. He enjoyed using my camera, but I usually had to help him hold it. He loved seeing the pictures and tried his best to smile.
He spent every day reminding us all that his 15th Birthday was coming up. On his special day, we showered him with gifts, balloons, and a huge Birthday cake. As you can see in the pictures below, he was very ill at the time of his birthday but did try to enjoy the festivities.
Siyabonga passed away shortly after his 15th Birthday. It was just a cruel reminder of the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS. This young boy suffered so much in his young life. It is really hard for me to put this situation into words. I pray he is in a better place and I'm thankful that he's free of pain. I feel blessed to have been able to spend some time with this amazing young boy. In Zulu, Siyabonga means "we are thankful." This young angel was certainly named appropriately. Rest in Peace Siyabonga!