Its dark and cold outside at 2 am in the morning she is tiered from lack of sleep as her daughter vomited most the night. It was pure bile her child hasn’t had a decent plate of food for months. If only she could eat a little more to gain little energy. Nancy is weary from months and months of this cycle but she has an inner drive forcing her to get up and going.
Nancy has forgone her own need for food to buy a few of her daughters favourite foods to try and entice her to eat so she is also lacking energy from a poor diet. Her body is sore from lifting her daughter to go to the toilet which is five shacks down from theirs. She is lucky to live so close to the toilet that is shared with about 200 others that no longer flushes and no one bothers to clean.
Wearily she gets up puts on her threadbare coat and wraps a blanket round herself like one wraps a towel when you get out the shower. She opens the door and braves the icy wind to empty the bucket and get water. She wanted to get water last night but the queue was so long and Anandi needed her so she had to leave it. Her son is to small to walk with a bucket of water.
She runs out and walks five shacks down and three rows further to the tap and stands waiting for the trickling water to fill the bucket. The pipes have iced and it is taking a long time to fill. Finally as she is almost frozen the bucket has enough water and she hurried back to the shack.
She gets there to find Anandi vomiting again and she cleans it up with a cloth and a little of the water she has just collected. She warms a little of the water on a paraffin stove she has managed to purchase. She can’t warm enough water for both her children or she will deplete her paraffin and won’t be able to cook the little porridge she has left for her children.
She uses the warm water to wash Anandi down and then dresses her in her warmest threadbare clothes she can find. She then wakes her son and gets him ready for school, she will leave him with her sister to take to school but she must still take him to her house.
She is a clean neat woman and so after breakfast and making her childrens lunch she quickly rinses the dishes and puts them away. She makes the beds and sweeps the floor. She gives the shack a quick glance and is satisfied it is clean.
She picks up Anandi and holds her sons hand. Its awkward she should be holding Anandi’s hand and carrying her son but Anandi is to weak to walk and although she is 10 she only weighs 30kilos but that’s heavy when you carry her for so long.
The cold bites into them as they walk and her sons usual chatter has frozen as he walks along sleepily. They reach her sisters shack and all is dark. She hates waking her up but she has to. The door opens and her sister offers her some tea but she doesn’t have time she has to go.
She hugs and kisses her son goodbye not sure what time she will be back to fetch him and she holds him a little tighter. Her sister squeezes her hand saying nothing because there is nothing that can comfort Nancy at the moment.
She walks for a half an hour at a slow pace putting Anandi down every so often as she got heavy. Finally they reach the taxi rank. Not a cab type of taxi its a 16 seater mini van which the driver stuffs anything between 18 to twenty people into.
Anandi is relieved to finally reach the rank but her heart sinks, a taxi just pulled out and she is the only customer waiting to get in. How long will she wait before it fills up so that they can go and will the driver want to overfill it. Its not much warmer in the taxi but at least there is no icy wind biting into her.
A half hour later and the taxi is only half full, where are the people this morning why are they not filling the taxi. Slowly one by one someone comes ambling out of the shadows and gets into the taxi. She is anxious she needs to get going the earlier she arrives the earlier she gets to go home.
Anandi is restless her body is sore from being carried and the ravages of her disease together with the side effects of the drugs is making her feel ill. Even though she is so tiered she can’t sleep and she begins to cry. The driver warns her to keep quiet or they must get out, she cries more softly but can’t stop.
Nancy doesn’t even try to explain to the driver because she knows how rude and ruthless they are and if he knows she is sick he might throw them out. She comforts Anandi and strokes her head, this sympathy makes her cry more. Nancy feels helpless as she has no idea how to comfort her child.
The journey finally begins 45 minutes later an hour later than anticipated with 18 people. They are squashed and to Nancy’s dismay two of the passengers are coughing. She tries to shield Anandi but there is no guarantee that it will work. One cough drop could infect her and that could be lethal to Anandi. She covers Anandis head but Anandi begins to keen louder and she has to uncover it.
The trip seems to take hours and hours its only a two hour trip but it just doesn’t seem to be ending. Nancy remembers the joy she felt when Anandi was placed in her arms for the first time. That warm snuggly body squirming into hers searching for her breast to be nourished. She jumped in shock as Anandi latched for the first time and then she laughed realising it was working. Her body was doing what it meant to do.
Anandi began to walk and talk and laugh and life was good then Able was born and life was even better. Her husband had a job that provided shelter and food for them. She had a job bringing in a few luxuries and they were happy.
Then Anandi started to get fevers that couldn’t be controlled and she kept taking her to the clinic and back but nothing was working Anandi got worse. Finally she found a doctor at the clinic that wanted to run tests. She was told to wait for the tests it would take about 5 hours for the results. Those five hours seemed like a million years to her as she held her fever ravaged baby.
The results revealed she had luke mia, what was that Nancy didn’t understand she just kept hearing the doctor say “sorry ma your baby is sick and needs to go to the big general hospital today” He arranged for an ambulance and that’s when Nancy’s world fell apart.
Six months she lived in the hospital with Anandi never coming home. He husband visited on a Saturday bringing Able for an hour to visit. She missed Able and her husband and longed for her home. Finally she was released Anandi seemed better and relief was in the air.
She hadn’t told her husband she wanted it to be a surprise. She arrived in her street and saw her home with relief. She scurried out the taxi with joy and almost dragged Anandi along. She arrived at her door and found it open, she called for Able and her husband but a strange woman came out demanding to know who she was.
“I am Able’s mom and Solomon’s wife who are you”. She was Solomon’s mistress and she seemed very comfortable in their home. Nancy’s world was shattered what was she to do. Solomon chose his mistress and walked out on her and the kids. In fact he kicked them out and found them a shack to live in.
He no longer paid her any money and she relied on the R150 government grant for each child. The transport to and fro from the hospital was eating most of the money and her part time work was just covering the rent with bare minimal food and creche for her son. Her sister helped when she could but that wasn’t very much.
They had arrived at the taxi rank and she had to get out, it was a ten block walk to the next taxi which would take her to the hospital. She had to carry Anandi and town was a dangerous place. It was already 8h00 and that would mean she would arrive at the hospital only at 8h30. She would still need to retrieve her file and then go to the ward. This would mean a really long day at the hospital as others got there before 6:00 meaning they were first in the queue to be seen.
Anandi wasn’t coping well today she was now sobbing and clinging to Nancy begging her to make the pain go away. Nancy had to be strong and reprimanded Anandi which caused more tears. Would Anandi ever be strong enough would she ever get better.
At last the taxi turned into the hospital and Nancy felt relief that at least they had arrived. The file in her hand she set out for the ward and finally arrived. Oh no she looked and the queue and her heart sank. They would be here for a long time. She sat down resigned to having to wait. She was worried about Anandi and fed her a sandwich each bite took her a very long time to eat but she was at least getting it down.
A lady came in with a puppet and they all laughed at little Lee who wanted to see the puppet but was scared of her and kept running away. She was a darling tiny three year old whose face shone with joy.
Her friend Gloria was there and they were able to share some of the difficulties they were facing and it seemed to ease the burden a little.
Finally it was her turn for chemo and she almost cried with relief. It would take 45 minutes and then their long journey home could begin. The chemo dripped the poison in a drop at a time and already Anandi was feeling more awful. At last they were done and could head on home.
Now Anandi was so weak from the Chemo she could hardly say goodbye. Nancy carried her out with great difficulty if only she had a pram but she couldn’t afford one and the taxi drivers wouldn’t allow her in the taxi with one. At least the taxi back to town had filled quickly and soon they were hurtling dangerously towards the last taxi of the day.
These taxi drivers drove like lunatics so they could head back with another load of passengers to ensure they made as many trips as possible. They skipped red robots dodged in and out of traffic racing against each other a law unto themselves.
They reached town at 3h30 more than twelve hours had passed since waking up and still they had another two hour taxi drive. Upon reaching town the next taxi didn’t fill up as quickly and they only left town at 4h30 pm meaning they would reach home at after sun set. The trip home seemed never ending and Anandi wanted to get sick but managed to keep it down.
When they reached home Nancy was so weak from not eating and being exhausted she was struggling to carry Anandi and just when she thought she couldn’t take another step there was her brother in law. He lifted Anandi up into his strong arms without a word and started to march on home. Nancy followed at a slower pace but so relieved. Upon arriving at her sisters home Able was already asleep and her heart was breaking she had wanted to cuddle him.
Her sister insisted she have dinner before her husband carried Anandi home. Anandi couldn’t eat more than a bite of food before she lost control and vomited. She was so tiered she could hardly muster the strength to heave up the contents of her stumac. Nancy just sat there watching her sister clean the mess. He sister wanted her to stay but she wanted to go home she couldn’t keep them all awake with Anandi’s vomiting and she wanted her own bed.
She agreed to let Able stay and her brother in law lifted Anandi up and carried her home. Nancy was so grateful to this man who loved her kids and her sister. They arrived home and he put Anandi in bed and turned and left before Nancy could even thank him.
That night by the grace of God Anandi slept right through the night and in the morning they both woke up refreshed and ready to face the day. Anandi even managed to eat a little.
This is a story dedicated to a woman who travels this road weekly, I have changed names and added to the story but basically this woman and her child do this weekly. Rise early morn and get home late evening once a week and she does it all on her own.