I was born in 1927, the 23rd of November in Potchefstroom. You know, at that time, there were no incubators. I was premature, 7 ½ months premature, and my mother told me that I was wrapped in cotton wool and put in a shoe box. And I was just continuing crying, I was a crying baby. They had to supplement me with donkey milk. And when they took me to the doctor, he said I would never live. But, God is so great. I just progressed in growing, you know.
I started schooling when I was ten years old and I went well in schooling. I ended up in, at that time we’re calling it Form 2. I couldn’t finish because unfortunately my father left my mother and she had to look after me. I later applied to
I started at a nursing home, doing deliveries there for a year and from there I went to Saulsville. There I practiced for six years and my mother died. I had to come back to
There were more than 300 patients there at that time. People had to go to
And then, during my practice there, patients used to go home and come back, readmitted, and they used to tell us the way they had been treated at Westfort in the past. That people would avoid them, that the nurses used to stand at the door and just give them the medicine, throwing it, and nobody would greet them with a hand. At that time the nurses were Europeans only. I don’t remember the time when they employed black nurses, but it’s then that those nurses used to greet people, sit next to them and let them feel that there’s nothing wrong with them. Most of the patients at Westfort were black. It seems that the whites were sent somewhere else. There was a Chinese patient, they happened to transfer him somewhere in the
So from 1974 up to 1985, I was just working there and helping too in the general wards. I delivered babies there. At the present moment I cannot tell the number, but there were quite a number of babies delivered in there. When the babies were born, they were kept separate but the mothers would keep breast feeding them. The babies were in a separate house with cot beds and we used to look after them. They would stay as long as the mother is there. It was a bit complicated. You couldn’t understand it all sometimes. Some would say maybe the mother would infect the baby. Then there was a Dr. Brown, he is dead now, and he used to say that during pregnancy the baby cannot have leprosy. So when the baby is born, the mother just has to breast feed them and stay away from them. [Laugh] But when they discharged the mother, the mother ultimately goes with the baby.
The labor room was not so well equipped. So if there was any complication, we had to refer the patients to
Now, at the end of 1985, due to transport problems getting to work, it was strenuous. I had to wake up very early and sometimes be late on duty, so when they opened a children’s home near Mabopane, I asked them for a transfer and I worked in a children’s home, still looking after abandoned babies and HIV babies. I worked there for seven years and then I went on pension at the end of 1992. Still then, I didn’t discover that I’ve got this disease. In 1994, I started being in denial, because they used to give us lectures about leprosy. My radial nerve used to be very painful but I said to myself, no I cannot I have leprosy. I was attending monthly check-ups and now I started discovering that I’ve got those patches. I went to a doctor, he said to me, “Oh no, don’t you worry, those patches don’t mean anything.”
When I got home I told my daughter that I suspected that I’ve got leprosy. She said to me, “No Mama, don’t think of that. Perhaps it’s just a skin disease. Then, my nose started irritating me. I went to an ENT doctor in
But through the grace of God, you know, here am I. I’m living just like anybody. You know, I accepted everything. It was a shock at first but, as time went on, I accepted that I am a leprosy patient and I will get well.
So today I’m well and just like anybody. Well, those who avoid me, I don’t worry about them. There’s one thing I know and that is that God loves me.
-- Interview by Anwei S. Law,