Saturday, November 23, 2013
138 chickens, 17 goats and Nomsa got to see her babies.
I had a really great week. On Tuesday I celebrated my 50th birthday surrounded by friends and family (I even got to have a GREAT Skype call with Spencer in the US and Chloe in Taiwan!). We hosted the “big kids” from the toddler home as well as “Baby Debs” (on Ian’s invitation), Rachel and Leah (Nomsa’s twins – see wednesdayswithnomsa.blogspot.com) and all the Aunties who care for the 46 children living at Project Canaan. It is hard for me to grasp that I share my actual birthday with Rachel and Leah and that one-year ago after they were born they almost died in a mud hut while their mother lay dying next to them.
The day of celebration included eating cake, chasing chickens, petting baby goats and enjoying a great view with amazing people. I had a great day.
The next day is what today’s blog is about. It is my day with Nomsa.
My personal “what do you want to do on your birthday Janine” desire was to go and visit Nomsa at the TB Hospital and then bring her out to see Project Canaan. She has been diagnosed with XDR-TB (Extremely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis) and is infectious so she lives in an isolation room, by herself, at the hospital. She has no TV or radio, no way to communicate with the outside world, no family to visit her and she has been really really sick. We didn’t know if she would make it this time, but after six weeks she has rallied like the phoenix and is at least able to walk a little bit again. She is very thin and gets weak easily, but she is still taking her meds and she is very much alive so we have not given up hope yet!
On Wednesday Lori Marschall, Ralph Glass and I started out on our all day journey. It’s about a 75-minute drive each way to and from the hospital, so that meant 75 minutes to go pick her up, 75 minutes to drive back to the farm, 75 minutes back to go back the hospital and 75 minutes to drive back to the farm. We had to borrow a truck with an open back because Nomsa can’t ride inside a vehicle without running the chance of infecting us. So Lori rode in the back of the truck on an old cushion and off we went.
Nomsa was beyond excited to be getting out of the hospital on a day pass, out in to the fresh air to spend a few hours with people who are not sick. She enjoyed chatting with Lori, looking at the beauty of nature and getting Fanta Orange and potato chips that Ralph picked up.
When we arrived at the farm she turned around and faced the front of the truck so that she could see all there was to see. Lori was her tour guide as we slowly drove past the El Rofi Medical clinic, Kufundza Carpentry Center, and down through the fields of green beans. We visited the new dairy milk building, saw dozens of baby goats playing and stopped to taste our Moringa leaves. It was like taking a child to Disney World for the first time. She was in awe of the beauty of the people and the farm. Each time she was introduced, she was greeted warmly and welcomed by all. Of course she had to keep her mask on at all times AND stay three feet away from everyone, but it was okay. We did our best not to make her feel like she had leprosy, even though the disease she carries is deadly to all in its path, especially to those who are HIV positive.
Then we went to the Sicalo Lesisha Kibbutz where we are building her a separate room. We have talked about it for a year, but I am not sure that she ever believed me when I told her we were building her a home. She knows that she can’t come and live there until she is “sputum negative”, and she knows that it will take a miraculous act of God for her to actually become “sputum negative”, but that didn’t matter on Wednesday. That was her new home and we all believe in faith together that she will live there one day, soon.
From there we went to the El Roi Baby Home to see Nomsa’s twin girls, whom she has not seen since they were tiny newborns. I have taken baby photos to her at the hospital, but to see her see the babies in person was not something that I was prepared for. She couldn't hold them, she kept her mask on and her body at a safe distance, but there they were in front of her… beautiful, plump, happy, healthy and alive. It was a miracle.
I wept. Actually totally lost it and struggled when I looked at Helen who was also visibly shaken. What total joy and sadness all at the same moment. Auntie Shongwe and Helen held the babies and played with them while Nomsa sat and watched, and cried. After some time and it was time for the babies to go and have their nap Nomsa looked at me, pulled her mask down and mouthed the words, “thank you.”
We got back in the truck and I cried all the way to the TB Hospital and only was able to pull it together long enough to stop and buy her KFC (to make the day perfect), groceries, toiletries, and a few treats. Thank you again to everyone who gives money to my Compassion Purse so that I have extra funds to do things like that (and even to pay for the gas in the vehicle). We walked her up the stairs slowly, walked past sick, dying and naked women rolling around on the floor in delirium and put her things in her isolation room.
I cried all the way home and can’t write this blog with dry cheeks. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that I would be the “lucky one” to be called to do this work. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
I had the best birthday.
Thank you to everyone who made my day special. The Heart for Africa “50th Birthday Campaign” raised $55,000+! Thanks to your generosity we can purchase 138 more chickens (for chicken coops at the toddler home and the Kibbutz), 17 more goats, a cow, 25 packs of diapers, 23 tins of formula, 99 BIRTHDAY CAKES (!), 4 bee hives, a HUGE playset for the kids AND we have most of the funds needed to start building the foundation for the next children’s home (when the toddlers outgrow their current home). And on top of it all, my Compassion Purse has been refilled and I can continue to help people in need when the need arises.
Live from Swaziland … thank you.
PS – if you didn’t see the video of our Toddlers singing “Happy Birthday” to me, please click on this link. It is only 14 seconds, but it will bring you joy.