Saturday, 3 January 2015


Dr de Bruin lifted his tired gaze to meet Simon and Pearl's. "I am so very sorry."

"Sorry." Pearl stared back at him. "My baby is six and she is dying, and you are SORRY?" She lifted her hands to cover her mouth. "Sorry...That's it? You are sorry? I don't want to hear SORRY from you. You are a doctor. Don't tel me SORRY, you tell me what to do, how to help my baby."

"Miss Chabalala, I understand your anger..."

"You understand NOTHING, little man!" Next to her, through his horror, Simon cringed. "Thali is dying, yes, but she is not dead. She is sick, and until she is dead, you don't bury her, do you hear?"

"Miss Chabalala..."

"Doctor," Pearl enunciates the word with precision, "Do your work. Leave the dead to the undertakers, help me care for my litle girl, help me keep her alive."

"I cannot heal her, Miss Chabalala, I cannot give her her health, you must understand that."

"Doctor, tell me how I can work to keep her as well as she can be, for as long as possible. That is all I want."

Dr. de Bruin looked at Pearl for a long, long time.
"Miss Chabalala, if we were in Europe, or America, I would tell you that HIV is a life-sentence, not death. I would tell you of all the resources that would give Thalie a long and relatively normal life. But we are not in Europe, or America; and I make it a policy not to lie to my patients or their families. Here we are limited in what we can do. We simply do not have the resources to help so many millions of sufferers. There just isn't enough money."

Simon stirred himself from his stupor. "Money is not a problem for Thali. I can pay. Anything, any amount. We will send her anywhere. If there is any treatment that can help my child, I will pay."

Dr. de Bruin sighed. "Mr. Thambisa, a year ago, we could have thought about that, and there is a lot we could have done; unfortunately, now Thali is suffering from full-blown Aids. We can try to reinforce her immune system as much as we can, there is promising medication, yes. But at this stage, there are no miracles."

"So we CAN help? There is medication?"

"Yes Miss Chabalala, there are anti-viral cocktails we can and will administer, but Thali is being diagnosed very, very late. I suspect she was infected in utero. She is in the last phase of the HIV infection.She has Aids, and as I explained, her viral count is extremely high. We can expect the major symptomatic phase to develop within the next 18 months. In this final stage she will be vulnerable to infection by all and any opportunistic diseases..."

"But we can help her."

Dr. de Bruin nodded reluctantly. "Yes, we can help Thali. But I want you to understand: help is what it is. Not a cure, that we can't do, I want it to be clear to you both."

Pearl nodded back crisply. "I perfectly understand. You want us to face this with no false expectations, or foolish notions of miraculous cures. We have understood what you cannot do. Now Doctor, tell me what I CAN do. In fact from this moment on, please spare me a detailed description of what is impossible, what you cannot do. Let's hear something constructive from you."

Dr de Bruin cringed under Pearl's steely gaze, and Simon winced at the flex of muscle rippling along her delicate jaw.

He reached out and took her hand. "Pearl," he said, "We fight this together, as a team, the three of us. I know Dr. de Bruin will teach us all we need to know to give Thali a good life, for as long as we have her with us. Everyday extra will be blessing, Pearl, it doesn't matter how many days we have. What matters is how good they are."



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