I don’t know if it was the stress or the infrequent visits but I never conceived again. Meanwhile my husband had more children with Onicca. While I stayed in the village, Onicca stayed in the city. We only met at a few important family functions over the years. Onicca and I have an understanding. I don’t despise her for stealing my husband—well at least on most days.
I didn’t exactly hate Morris anymore neither did I love him. What am I saying? Of course I love him. He was my friend long before he became my husband. He’s like my brother now, a brother I have a child with.
We’re not passionately in love anymore. That ship sailed with the night. He didn’t bother to touch me anymore. Thank God, That would have been weird. The money still came and life continued. Hurrah!!!
I was so good at home-based care that I got picked for a nursing school scholarship. The hospital was overwhelmed. The rumour that had travelled across the country was now a reality that was killing people like a forest wildfire.
“Please Sister Moyo can’t you keep him here?”
The woman’s pleas are heartrending but the hospital is stretched to the limit. “Unfortunately there is nothing I can do. The hospital beds are reserved for the critically ill. We barely have space for those as it is. Go home, follow the care guidelines and if there is a change you can bring him back for review.”
I scribble on his card and sign the discharge papers. “I’ve put down some medication that will help him keep his food down. You can collect it at the dispensary.”
“Thank you, Sister Moyo,” she says turning the wheelchair towards the exit.
I watch her walk away for a moment. Her story like so many others is now the norm rather than the oddity. Her husband has AIDS and now she has to look after him because the hospital can’t. He used to work in the city before he became too sick to work. The prescription drugs can only help so much. There is no cure.
The bed he has vacated is taken by a woman who looks like a bag of bones covered with grey sweaty skin. An old woman stands beside the wards latest patient. A loud hacking cough shakes the emaciated frame almost pitching her to the ground. The handkerchief the old woman holds to her mouth comes away bloody.
I pick up the card with a sinking feeling in my chest. The results are not back from the lab but I’m sure she has the dread disease and TB too. “When did the coughing start?”
“A few months after her husband’s death, she started losing weight no matter how much she ate. She was fine and I just thought it was stress. It’s too soon after her husband’s death. The coughing only started a week ago.” The old woman grips my arm fear glazing her eyes. “Nurse please tell me my daughter is going to be fine—how am I to raise the children, as old as I am?”
“Sit down, gogo.” Taking her by the arm I lead her to a seat. “I will do my best.”
I don’t tell her everything is going to be alright because that would be a lie. This new disease is something we have no weapons to fight.