Caring for minds, bodies and souls Living with AIDS # 318
For four days of the week, Sister Corona, a Catholic nun, travels the villages of Modjadjiskloof district, outside Tzaneen in Limpopo, to minister to the needs of the sick.
We followed her on one of her trips to provide home-based care.
Sfx’¦ Child crying
KHOPOTSO: Under the seering heat from the onset of spring in this part of the country, this tiny toddler loathes it when his mother, Khomotso, puts her down. Sister Corona has come to do a follow up visit with the young mother, who we find basking in the warmth of the sun on the stoep of her house in the village of Ga-Mathibane, about an hour’s drive from the town of Tzaneen. The Catholic nun is able to speak with the quiet, shy patient, with the help of an interpreter by the name of Freddy.
SISTER CORONA: Khomotso’¦ Your skin is not so itchy, is it?
ANSWER: No, it’s not itching like before. Now it’s better.
SISTER CORONA: And how’s your mouth ‘ do you have any sores?
SISTER CORONA: Are you eating well, Khomotso?
SISTER CORONA: Do you have difficulties with your breathing?
SISTER CORONA: And are you sleeping at night?
KHOPOTSO: During the exchange, the sister ‘ a former nurse and nursing instructor from Australia – writes down some notes into a file. Once done she asks to see what medication Khomotso still has. After satisfying herself that she is using her medication well, she offers her some more cream to use for the sores on her skin, which are very visible on the face down to her neck. But before she could go, it is time for prayer.
Father, son and the Holy Spirit’¦ Morena Modimo’¦
KHOPOTSO: Besides medicine and prayer, Khomotso receives food parcels, which include maize, samp and cooking oil to feed herself and her son. Back in her small four-wheel drive on the way to another of her patients, Sister Corona tells us that Khomotso is one of a growing number of people with HIV and AIDS that she looks after.
SISTER CORONA: She’s 23 years of age. She has one child and she is positive. Her CD (4) count is still too high for her to go on the ART programme. To go on the ART, the CD (4) count has to be below 200. So, she is waiting for that. (The) last time we came, she had sores in her mouth. She had sores on her skin, which were weeping in places, especially under her arms and other parts. So, we gave her some Betadine to dry up the sores and some aqueous cream, and we encouraged her to go to the clinic to get those free’¦ She’s doing quite well. Soon, she will be going on the ART programme. She’s on Ametryptelline, which is an anti-depressant. You could see she’s feeling quite down in herself. But she will have a much better quality of life when she goes on the programme.
KHOPOTSO: Has the child been tested?
SISTER CORONA: The child has been tested. We encouraged her to have the child tested. Now, I didn’t ask her today what the results were.
KHOPOTSO: Sister Corona moved to the district a little over three years ago. She visits the villages four days of the week from Tuesday to Friday, and sees 10 families per day.
SISTER CORONA: We started with home-based care. We bring medicines, food parcels, we listen to them – hear them share their problems in terms of skin conditions, diarrhoea and some of them are in just pretty desperate situations’¦ There is a lot of illness. AIDS is a very huge problem. We have families where the husband and wife and the children are infected. We have encouraged a lot of people to go on the ART programme. And this has helped tremendously. When we came at first, people were very much in denial. Some tend to be still in denial.
KHOPOTSO: Like in all of South Africa, the walls of denial are slow to break down. But the deeply religious sister, with the age and caring qualities of an adoring granny, says she draws her strength from those who are open up to receiving help.
SISTER CORONA: What gives me heart and what gives me hope is their openness now’¦ And I’m delighted.
KHOPOTSO: The district of Modjadjiskloof, the region of the Rain Queen, has 38 villages in total. The Catholic Church has parishes in 13 of the villages and these are where Sister Corona and her team work. The number of families who need help increases steadily. But Sister Corona doesn’t seem worried at all.
SISTER CORONA: You now, I suppose my call to religious life is to go out to be a missionary and to help people. And for me, it doesn’t mean that you’re going out preaching. But it means that we can touch the lives of people, that we can make a difference in their lives.