Nurse gives her all

He shivers even though he is lying under a thick blanket and is wearing more than one sweater.

The man’€™s wife leaves a half dressed toddler in the corner of the bedroom. The young boy smiles shyly at the tall woman as his mother hands the plastic bag full of antiretroviral drug containers to Sister Lorato Khiba.

A professional nurse, working for Helderberg Hospice, Khiba has spent her morning in the famous white Toyota Venture, driving from house to shack to house in Zola, a township between Somerset West and Strand.

She converses in Xhosa with the couple and asks the man to stick out his tongue, which is covered in a painful white crust from thrush, a common opportunistic infection in people living with HIV/AIDS.

The toddler trots over to the television in the front room where he watches the morning rerun of a soap opera. Khiba and one of the hospice care workers count the tablets to check compliance. She frowns as the man tells her that he is struggling to sleep and still too weak to walk.

‘€œWe might have to take him to hospice so he can get stronger,’€ she tells her assistant. Minutes later Khiba is in the Venture bouncing along the muddy potholed road to the next shack.

‘€œI love this community. I take them like they are my own people,’€ Khiba remarks, a shy smile on her thin face.

Caring for over 140 patients, Khiba remembers a time before ARVs.

‘€œBefore (ARVs) it was very stressful. It used to pain my heart to see people so sick and dying. Then it was still very much a secret and people used to arrive at the clinic in terrible pain. People would get better for a while and then they would die.

‘€œWe lost a lot of patients,’€ she says quietly.’€œIt does impact on your state of mind when you can’€™t do much for them. Previously we tried to give hope, but we knew they were going to die.’€

Khiba started out as a nurse in her home town of Taung before working as a missionary in Lesotho, then eventually heading south to Cape Town.

Khiba’€™s supervisor, Gill Wasserfall, describes her as ‘€œa small person with a huge capacity for compassion’€.  

‘€œLorato can be a hard taskmaster to the others on the team as she expects all the members to go the extra mile with patients.

We have been inspired by her when the going gets tough,’€ says Wasserfall.  

‘€œI don’€™t like being called Sister Lorato,’€ Khiba says emphatically. ‘€œI always tell my patients to just call me Lorato.

Khiba enjoys the hustle and bustle that comes with her job. ‘€œI’€™m a jack of all trades,’€ she proclaims proudly. ‘€œI am not only stuck to nursing. I am also a driver, or whatever comes up in the day.’€

Her week is mostly spent with patients in their homes, checking that they are complying with their medication, trying to solve side-effect issues from the drugs or making sure people are referred in time if they develop opportunistic infections. Referrals are also made to the hospice social worker.

Khiba is known to spend weekends doing HIV advocacy and education at churches.

‘€œI like to be involved, I prefer to be here in my community, face to face with their struggles,’€ she says.

‘€œI can’€™t do this job from a distance.’€ ‘€“ Health-e News Service.

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  • Health-e News

    Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews

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