Submitted by: Thandazile Mageba Zulu

24 November 2019 was supposed to be a normal day for unemployed, qualified nurse and single parent, Thanda Zulu and her two children, daughter Khethelo (15) and son Nhlanhla(10). To make ends meet and care for her children, she sells fresh fish and chips, Mgwenya, and other goods from a container on her premises.

The unthinkable occurred that morning. By accident a deep fryer in the container where Thanda was preparing food toppled and boiling, hot oil spilled over her, causing significant burns to her back, arms, and knees. 

Her healing was a slow, agonising process.

Emergency services rushed her to the RK Khan Hospital, located in Chatsworth, KwaZulu-Natal,  where she was treated and cared for. Her healing was a slow, agonising process. Her stay at the hospital was marked with intense pain.  Thanks to the kind and loving care of the nurses in Ward D1, and Dr Sewpaul and Dr Buthelezi who supervised her recovery, Thanda was discharged on 19 December 2019.

Armed with a discharge summary for care at a local clinic, she was soon united with her children at home.  Her dressings had to be changed daily. School had already closed for the festive season and Christmas was drawing near.

The following day her daughter accompanied Thanda to the Savannah Clinic in Chatsworth.  What followed was a traumatic event for Thanda. The removal of the dressings, bathing of the burns, and redressing them was excruciating. 

“It’s me Sister, I am going to care for my mother,” came her steady answer.

“The amazing nurse put up with my cries and shouts of pain,” Thanda recalls.  What came as a shock was when she was informed that the clinic would be closing for the holidays and was asked who would bathe, clean, and dress her wounds.  Thanda’s left arm was badly injured, leaving her rather helpless. 

Worry was racing through her mind when her daughter Khethelo, surprised everyone. “It’s me Sister, I am going to care for my mother,” came her steady answer.

Thanda remembers turning slowly to face her first-born, tears streaming down her face thinking how can she allow a 15-year old child to help her with this terrible situation.  She did not have a chance to protest. Khethelo stepped in, and insisted to assist and observe what the sister was doing. After the session, the two left for home, armed with all the medication and dressing needed to take care of the wounds.

“She never left my side, at night she sat through my sleepless anguish and tears of pain. She forgot her own needs.

 “I did not realise how strong my child is. It is just myself, her, and her brother at home.  I was incapacitated. In the following weeks, Khethelo was the main carer in our home. She did everything.  Cooking, cleaning, laundry, bathing me, dressing wounds, and taking care of her brother. An endless list of daily chores and she’s only 15,” Thanda tearfully relates.

“She never left my side, at night she sat through my sleepless anguish and tears of pain.  She forgot her own needs. A teenager who needs to play and have fun like kids her age. It has been just over three months since the incident and healing is slow.  Khethelo is still by my side and still helps me bathe, dressing my wounds, and doing chores. #ImStaying because of her.  Life is hard sometimes, but when I look at my daughter, I have hope.  As young as she is, she is strong and hard-working and an example to all.  I will never be able to express enough gratitude for what she does for me. I am proud that she calls me mother,” she said.

“I am also staying because of the support I get from my church,  the Worship Centre. Mom Bishop and her family, and our local pastor and his family have been there for us from the day of the accident to now.  They’ve shown me that in Christ, I have all I need.” 

“RK KHAN Hospital #ImStaying because of you.  I am alive because of you.  Thank you so much Ward D1 staff nurse Cele and nurse Shozi .  For your kindness when you nursed me with a smile on your faces.  Thank you, Drs. Buthelezi and Sewpaul. Thank you for saving my life.  South Africa, there are still kind people in this world that is why #ImStaying.  Today is a sunny day in KZN and the pain is bearable,” she concluded.

Editor: Erna Maré

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