August 1, 2008

Tragedy, Unfolded

I wrote a few months back about a recent widow, a young woman who went by the name of “NoFirst.” She had about five children under the age of eight or nine, her husband recently died from TB and HIV, and she herself was HIV-positive and had recently tested positive for TB. I called it an “unfolding tragedy” and wondered about what the future held in store for this family and especially the children, who faced a very real chance of being orphaned at a young age. If you don’t remember that post, you should check it out now or none of the following will make sense.

In mid-May or so, about halfway through NoFirst’s TB treatment, the whole family picked up and went to their rural village home for what was supposed to be a two-week visit. We haven’t seen them since.

On Tuesday, I was chatting with a woman I know to be a friend of the family’s and asked about NoFirst. In English, the friend replied, “NoFirst, she has died.” It absolutely floored me and my instant reaction (for the first time ever) was in Xhosa, “Nyani!” (“Really!” or “No way!”) To check, I used a few Xhosa words for death and the woman just nodded. NoFirst had seemed reasonably healthy when she left and her CD4 count wasn’t extraordinarily low so I don’t know what happened so suddenly to lead to her death.

The children are with their grandmother now in the rural village and I imagine they’ll stay there indefinitely. I find the whole situation unbelievably heartbreaking.