Nomsa is a 25-year old Swazi woman who is smart, funny and has hopes and dreams like us all. She has Multi-drug Resistant Tuberculosis and is HIV positive. Nomsa lives in a hospital where she receives 22 pills each day and an injection in her hip. The treatment is the only way that she might live, but it makes her vomit daily and the side effects include total deafness and psychosis. Her twin baby girls live at the El Roi baby Home. Nomsa represents many young women in Swaziland.
This month has not been easy.I left to take Chloe to school in Taiwan and Nomsa ran away
from the hospital. Well, technically she was given a five-day pass and then
decided not to return. She was lonely, hurting, very afraid and needed time
alone to think.
Nomsa asked me what she should do? Should she start the
treatment for XDR-TB* (she doesn’t know that only one person has been cured of XDR-TB
in Swaziland through treatment)?How much would she suffer with the side effects of another layer of
medication?Would she be better to
go home and die alone?How long
would that take?Her questions
were heart wrenching and not having an answer for any of them was even
worse.I am a problem solver, but
I can’t solve this problem.
Here were her options:
1.Stay at the TB Hospital in an isolated room and
begin a minimum of 8-month new treatment regime (see photo of one months supply
including daily injections), suffer from new side effects and a high likelihood
of losing her mind while she watches others die through the tiny window of her
2.Leave TB Hosptial and go to her homestead where
there are no people, no food, no electricity and no clean water.A nurse would have to come and give her
the daily injection, but without any food her body would succumb to the
3.Pretend she is fine, go back to a life of
prostitution and infect an infinite number of people with XDR-TB and HIV/AIDS.
Nomsa spent the last month praying, thinking, reading her
bible, and praying some more.She
asked me again and again what she should do?What could I say?I can’t begin to put myself in her shoes and really understand what she
was/is going though.By staying
away from the hospital she had effectively made the decision to not take her TB
treatment and that effectively was a death sentence. But wasn’t taking the
medication in the hospital almost also certain death?
Last week she contacted me and said she was going back to
the hospital. If they would agree to treat her at home, she would start
treatment again.If not, she would
not return to the hospital to stay and take the treatment.We met up outside the pharmacy and I
helped her pack eleven boxes of pills and a huge box of injections in to her
large purse.These would last her
a month and then she would return for the next prescription refill.
Nomsa's new cocktail - one months supply.
The really sad part is that the Doctors have no way of telling
Nomsa WHICH of the drugs she is actually resistant to.Sadly the government is lacking the
funds to pay its bill at the facility in South Africa that reads those results.
Fortunately for Nomsa she/we have a mutual friend who has a friend who can help
us get her test results.I had her
go to a different clinic in Manzini and she gave them a Sputum sample on Monday
of this week.They are sending it
to Belgium for free (as a personal favor to my friend) and we will know in 8
weeks which of the drugs she is resistant to (or if she is resistant to them
all, which is a strong possibility).For now, we have 8 more weeks to pray.
On Tuesday Nomsa called me and said that the government had
just run out of funds to provide health care workers to go in to the community
to give the injections to TB patients.She was distraught because without that person giving her the injection
and without that part of the treatment she would not be able to continue it
all.Later that day she was
offered a room at her Uncle’s house so that she can live there and go to a
local clinic for her daily injection.She was happy again.
I am not going to lie here … I am highly suspect of this
“Uncle” who didn’t care about her before, but now that she looks and feels
healthy (and she is a beautiful young woman).Nomsa assures me he is a “man of God”, but I pray for her
safety if she goes to live there.
I just called her on the phone so that I could give you all
an up-to-the-minute update and she said that the Uncle has told her to “hold”
on moving as he doesn’t have a room ready yet.She also said that a man showed up unexpectedly at her
homestead today and gave her a very large bag of mealie meal (ground maize) and
some soup stock (dried for flavoring the maize).She was astounded and thankful for the provision of
food.You and I are likely thinking the same
thing … who is this “good Samaritan” and what does he want?I have no answer for that.
That is my report for this week.If you are confused, it is because it is confusing.If you are heart broken, it is because
this is heart breaking. If you are called to pray more for Nomsa than ever
before, it is because you are called to pray. Remember, Nomsa represents
thousands/millions of women in Swaziland and other parts of Africa and the
world who are living with and dying of TB and HIV.