From abuse and betrayal to love and hope

2017-01-24 06:01
Photo: sourcedThe Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust provided Palesa with hope and love.

Photo: sourcedThe Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust provided Palesa with hope and love.

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DIAGNOSED as HIV positive and on medication for TB, Palesa (name has been changed) was a recent patient in the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust Respite Unit.

The unit is a 24 bed facility offering care, love, hope and a second chance at life to those suffering from AIDS-related illnesses. Here is her story.

Palesa knows what it is like to grow up in an atmosphere of fear, abuse and betrayal.

“I was born in KwaZulu-Natal and grew up with my father because my parents divorced. I was very bright and also shy but from an early age I experienced a difficult time. I never experienced being a child - no dolls, no toys – we were not allowed.”

Palesa and her step-siblings were raised by different mothers; her father was very strict, often angry and very controlling. She remembers having to clean and iron for her parents as a child, and prepare their baths for them before school.

“Once I had done the ironing and put it neatly on the cupboard, they would come and deliberately crumple it up and force me to iron it again. I was also beaten…”

This abusive treatment continued as Palesa became a teenager and all she could do was to quietly absorb herself in her studies and push herself at school to get her matric. “My faith in God became my therapy,” she recalls.

Palesa matriculated and later looked after her mother who had become sick. However, her father continued to exert his control and make her life difficult even when she married. Later, Palesa experienced more betrayal - her husband was having multiple affairs. Then her husband left her and took her children with him, leaving her alone.

After her children were returned to her, Palesa’s life was still very difficult and things came to a head. “When my husband came to my work place and dropped the kids in the middle of the room, and left, we were forced to live on the veranda of the flat where I was staying because no kids were allowed there. The only food I had money to buy I gave to my kids so I became very weak. We eventually ended up in a safe house for women and children. I no longer had a job but at least we had somewhere to stay. But my family did not contact me though; it was only my cousin’s Gogo (grandmother) who took pity on us. She never tires of helping. Then I started coughing and feeling ill. I thought it was the gas stove but I was diagnosed with TB and told by the doctor I might die at any time.”

“I was still in touch with my mother and she started to look after me as I was on medication. But she only stayed for four days and then she ran away. So I became so weak I collapsed one day. Because I wasn’t eating, the medication wasn’t working. It was when my spiritual sister from church found me that I got some help. She told me about HACT and the Respite Unit.”

Up to this time, Palesa had journeyed through a long road of forgiveness finding her solace in her faith, having previously tried to reach out to tell her father she forgave him. Thankfully, after a muted response, her father at last came to her for forgiveness and a promise to help her with her children.

Palesa was admitted to HACT’s Respite Unit in October 2016 when she was struggling with diarrehea, could barely walk, had a CD4 count (measure of the strength of the immune system) of just 54 and has lost mobility in one of her arms.

“Within just four weeks here I can walk freely; I can move my arms and am no longer dizzy. I can also help others here and have made friends. The staff build a relationship here with you – they are warm and friendly.”

Following a total of six weeks in the Respite Unit, Palesa was discharged and returned home to her children where her recovery continues to be monitored by HACT’s team. Before her discharge from Unit, a smiling and strong Palesa told us;

“My dream is to have my own business – a mini boutique of new and second hand clothing - and to be able to donate to places like these,” she says with excitement in her voice.

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