Hope and Healing - Meet Respite Unit Patient, Nelisiwe

08 Jan 2018

HACT's 24-bed Respite Unit provides care and treatment to over 240 patients every year that are suffering from advanced stages of AIDS and or cancer.

29 year-old Nelisiwe  (name has been changed), was admitted to the HACT’s Respite Unit in late November 2017. For the past three years, Nelisiwe had been living on the streets of Durban’s Point area where she would do anything to get her next fix of whoonga. Prior to this, Nelisiwe, an AIDS orphan, had been living with her granny in KwaMashu and she was earning a good living through local modelling work and contracts. But Nelisiwe’s world came crashing down in August 2014 when her beloved gogo passed away and she was chased onto the streets by her uncle who wanted to rent out the family home. With no one and nowhere else to turn, the streets and drugs quickly become Nelisiwe’s new source of solace and comfort.

Living only for her next fix, Nelisiwe’s health quickly declined as she defaulted on her ARV medication. Weak and severely malnourished, Nelisiwe was thankfully referred to HACT’s Respite Unit by a care worker from a local homeless shelter. Nelisiwe’s treatment in the Unit began with a strict regime to wean her body off the whoonga, a physically and mentally challenging process that Nelisiwe describes as “worse than childbirth!”.

Now clean, Nelisiwe has resumed her ARV medication. She is feeling and looking much better and has started, with the help of HACT Nurse, Nokuphila Khanyile, to tentatively make plans for her future. “Nokuphila has been like a mother to me since I arrived. She makes me feel comfortable and has shown me a lot of love, like I haven’t had in a long time.” First and foremost, Nelisiwe needs somewhere to stay when she is discharged from the Unit, but while this is important to ensuring she doesn’t go back to the streets, she has something much more important to her on her mind – her 11 year-old son, Khaya who she also hasn’t seen in the three years she’s been living on the streets. “I really want to see my son again and tell him how sorry I am and how much I’ve missed him. I’m scared what he will think, but I hope to make him understand that I still love him.”

With the help of Nokuphila, Nelisiwe has been writing letters to Khaya, which she one day soon, hopes to be able to share with him. “I’ve been given a second chance and I really want to be a good mother to my son and be there for him now. I know now that I have to take care of my health first if I want to do that.”

If you would like to help HACT give more people like Nelisiwe a second chance at life, please click here to join our HOPE CLUB.