53 year-old, Bongi from Shongweni was one of the 76 palliative patients that passed away in the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust’s (HACT) Respite Unit in 2017.
Bongi died of cancer of the lung and was sadly still awaiting her first chemotherapy appointment when she died almost a year ago on the 4th May 2017. Having personally nursed and cared for Bongi during her last days, HACT Nurse, Nokuphila Kanyile still remembers her fondly; “even though she knew she was dying, Bongi was very strong. She didn’t want her children to see her suffering.”
Sparing young children from the trauma of trying to care for their terminally ill parents was one of the key reasons HACT’s 24 Respite Unit was set-up over a decade ago explains HACT CEO, Candace Davidson, “HACT ran an extensive home-based care programme in the early 1990’s before ARVT treatment became available in South Africa. It was through this project that our team realised the need for a dedicated Unit which could provide palliative care in a controlled setting and thus remove this burden from ill-equipped family members. The worst case our team ever saw was a four year-old little girl who was single handedly trying to nurse her dying mother.”
Today, HACT’s Respite Unit provides free palliative and respite care to over 250 patients a year who are suffering from either end-stage AIDS and or cancer. Thanks to ARVT and the quality care provided by HACT’s trained team of nurses and caregivers, approximately 70% of its patients admitted to the Unit recover to the point they can return home to their families while 30% pass away in a dignified environment surrounded by HACT’s dedicated team.
Bongi has left behind seven children who are now orphans, ranging in age from 9 to 25 years and one three year old grandchild. Her oldest daughter, Sindi is currently pursuing her degree in Social Science through UNISA and is doing her practical work assignments through HACT’s Granny Support Groups Programme. Speaking of her mum, Sindi says “I still miss her every day, but I’m so glad that she died here and was well taken care of. I’m working hard now at my studies because I want to make her proud.”
For more information on HACT and its Respite Unit, please visit www.hillaids.org.za
Please note: Names have been changed to protect our beneficiaries’ identities.