News / Africa

In South Africa, Woman Treks Miles to Save Grandson

The proud granny with the boy she saved, her grandson, Luphumlo (Photo:D.Taylor)The proud granny with the boy she saved, her grandson, Luphumlo (Photo:D.Taylor)
x
The proud granny with the boy she saved, her grandson, Luphumlo (Photo:D.Taylor)
The proud granny with the boy she saved, her grandson, Luphumlo (Photo:D.Taylor)
Darren Taylor

This is Part Five of a five-part series on Child Health in South Africa 
Continue to Parts:     1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5


ZIDINDI, South Africa - An arctic gale pummeled the mud walls of the hut and threatened to rip off its thatched roof. Inside the one-room structure, an older woman and her twenty something daughter held a baby swaddled in blankets between them, as the temperature plummeted further.

Many South Africans, like Nongezi Sinkile, must walk very far across treacherous terrain to access healthcare (Photo:D.Taylor)Many South Africans, like Nongezi Sinkile, must walk very far across treacherous terrain to access healthcare (Photo:D.Taylor)
x
Many South Africans, like Nongezi Sinkile, must walk very far across treacherous terrain to access healthcare (Photo:D.Taylor)
Many South Africans, like Nongezi Sinkile, must walk very far across treacherous terrain to access healthcare (Photo:D.Taylor)
Nongezi Sinkile,55, couldn’t hear herself pray as the first storm of the winter season tore through Zidindi District, a remote part of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.
 
It was a few minutes after midnight, and Sinkile was begging God to spare the life of her one-year old grandson, Luphumlo.
 
A few days before, she and the boy’s mother – her daughter, Nosintu – had taken him to the local clinic. He was suffering from intense diarrhea and was vomiting profusely. A nurse had provided them with medicines to give to Luphumlo. But they didn’t help him and his condition deteriorated.
 
Sinkile was convinced that the child was dying.
 
“He couldn’t breathe. He looked like a fish on the sand, gasping for air. His lips were dry and blue. He was vomiting until the vomit was no more,” she recalled.

Nongezi Sinkile retraces the journey she recently took to help save her grandson’s life (Photo:D.Taylor)Nongezi Sinkile retraces the journey she recently took to help save her grandson’s life (Photo:D.Taylor)
x
Nongezi Sinkile retraces the journey she recently took to help save her grandson’s life (Photo:D.Taylor)
Nongezi Sinkile retraces the journey she recently took to help save her grandson’s life (Photo:D.Taylor)
Luphumlo needed urgent medical help. His grandmother realized she and her daughter would have to get him to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. But it was 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) away, and they had only 20 rand ($2.50) between them – enough only for a small part of the transport fare needed.
 
They would have to walk most of the way to the hospital, to a point where they’d be able to afford to take a minibus taxi to the facility.
Almost half of all South Africans have to walk to hospitals and clinics when they’re in need of medical attention, according to a nationwide survey completed by the government-affiliated Statistics South Africa in 2010.
I
Ncedisa Paul, who works for the Philani health NGO, said poor people living in isolated areas of South Africa often walk for five hours and more to get to their nearest medical facility.
 
“It can take them the entire day to get there and back and, if they arrive too late, they have to sleep over on a hospital bench or outside to see a doctor the next day. Some people simply die in the bush or along the road before they get to hospital; others die before they get a chance to see a doctor,” said Paul.
 
No romance
 
Like almost everyone in the district of 130,000 people, where the unemployment rate is almost 100 percent, the Sinkiles are poor. But they’re fortunate compared with most others in Zidindi. They at least have a small income – 560 rand (about $70) a month in state child-support grants for Luphumlo and Nosintu’s first-born son.

​“I just want to thank my dear God for the money that we get every month, when most people here get nothing,” said Sinkile. “My child and grandkids are well covered (with clothes); I’ve got food at home. That is one thing that keeps me going and to smile at all times. I do my garden here; I’ve got spinach; I’ve got everything. So, I’m happy.”
 
But the family’s meager income means there’s money for only the barest of essentials. And on that icy night when Sinkile’s grandson was gravely ill, they certainly couldn’t pay the hundreds of rand needed to hire a private vehicle to speed them to the hospital.
 
Sinkile decided they would wait a few hours and start walking shortly before dawn, when there was some light to guide them across the region’s treacherous terrain. In Zidindi, there are no tarred roads, only rough tracks. When dry, they’re rocky and dusty. When wet, they turn to ochre red mud.
 
From afar, the seemingly endless green hills that break the horizon are a pretty postcard picture. But traversing them ends any notion of romance. They rise steeply and plunge into deep valleys and gorges, their warbling streams fast becoming muddy torrents during heavy rain.
 
Hysterical
 
As a semblance of shine from the sun’s first rays began breaking the early morning darkness, Sinkile and her daughter prepared for their tortuous journey to the hospital. But as they were about to leave, Nosintu became hysterical, her mother said.
 
“She thought Luphumlo had stopped breathing. Then I thought to myself, ‘I must be the strong one if we are going to save this boy,’” Sinkile recalled. She tied her grandson to her back with a blanket.
 
Then they left their hut.
 
Even though she knew thorns would tear it, Sinkile was wearing a long black dress. She was in mourning. Her husband had died eight months before, his lungs ravaged by a disease contracted from decades of work underground in a platinum mine in northern South Africa.

The proud granny with the boy she saved, her grandson, Luphumlo (Photo:D.Taylor)The proud granny with the boy she saved, her grandson, Luphumlo (Photo:D.Taylor)
x
The proud granny with the boy she saved, her grandson, Luphumlo (Photo:D.Taylor)
The proud granny with the boy she saved, her grandson, Luphumlo (Photo:D.Taylor)
The bush was alive with the sound of countless insects. A stray dog barked at the Sinkiles as they struggled up the first hill. In the distance the seething sea that characterizes the rugged shoreline known as the Wild Coast roared in the distance. The sun began to illuminate the skeletons of ships that jutted from the jagged rocks and white beaches, wrecked down the years by one of the roughest stretches of ocean on the planet.
 
Birth on rock
 
Sinkile checked on Luphumlo.
 
“He was screaming so much but no sound was coming out of him. The mouth was wide open and dry, and you (could) see that the child is very sick. I was very worried. I thought, ‘This child is going to die.’ But I turned to my daughter and smiled and told her, ‘He is doing fine,’” she said.
 
They labored on. On the slopes of yet another hill that by this time felt to their aching bodies like a mountain, they approached a large rock. Sinkile recognized it as the same boulder on which her niece had given birth about two years before. The woman’s water had broken late one night and she and her husband had also tried to walk to the hospital.
 
They never made it.

“She gave birth on this very rock,” Sinkile said, patting it almost with affection. “Her husband wrapped the baby in his jacket. It took them another four hours to get to the hospital so the baby and mother could be assessed. That baby is well today, but it is very lucky….”
 
No charity

After walking for about two hours, the grandmother, still carrying her grandson, and her daughter, reached the gravel road that led to the tarred highway from where they would be able to hail a taxi to the hospital.
 
Then something happened that Sinkile said she’d never forget. A white van pulled alongside them. The driver asked her if they needed a lift to the highway. When she said yes, he demanded money.
 
Sinkile said she explained to him that all they had was 20 rand but that they needed the money to pay for a taxi to the hospital. She recalled that she’d begged the van driver, “Please sir, this child on my back is very ill; please take us to the highway and give me your details and I will pay you next month….”
 
But the man sped away.
 
Sinkile reflected, “Life is hard for everyone here. He also needed money, I suppose. No one can afford charity in this place. Only rich people can show charity.”
 
Thousands die
 
After another hour of trudging, the family reached the tarred road. They’d been walking for more than three hours. “It took us so long because we had to stop and look at the child (to see) if he’s still breathing. And also we had to change his nappies all the time; the diarrhea was just flowing all the time,” said Sinkile.
 
Luphumlo was sweating but his skin was cold. He was still vomiting and suffering intense diarrhea. But the driver of the first taxi they approached refused to leave for the hospital until his vehicle was fully loaded with passengers.
 
The Sinkiles waited for what seemed to them like hours more before departing. They eventually arrived at the hospital shortly before noon – about six hours after they’d left home.
 
A nurse immediately inserted a drip into the baby’s arm to replace lost fluids. They still had to wait almost two hours to see a doctor. Public health facilities in South Africa are strained to the limit.

Luphumlo was diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis – inflammation of the intestines – and admitted. He spent the next 10 days in hospital.
 
Again, the Sinkiles count themselves as fortunate. Every year thousands of children in South Africa die of simple diarrhea because their relatives are too poor to afford to immediately access medical care.
 
Back at Nongezi Sinkile’s homestead, another morning dawns. The grandmother chases chickens from her vegetable garden.
 
She doesn’t know what the new day will bring -- maybe another illness, maybe another torturous journey on foot to the hospital.
 
Whatever it is, Sinkile said, she’s ready.
 
“I am very strong; I am very strong. I know that,” she said emphatically.  
 
Then, amid a choir of crickets and squawking chickens, Sinkile laughed, and said, “God is the only thing that’s stronger than a granny.”

Listen to: Grandmothers Journey to Save Grandson
Listen to: Grandmothers Journey to Save Grandsoni
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid