Fearless fighter against disease

Estelle Ellis

IT is early on a cold winter’s morning in Walmer and Red Cross volunteer worker Nozibele Mcunukelwa is getting her MDR- TB support group together.

“You have to be positive,” she tells them.

“Don’t think for one second that anybody is going to feel sorry for you just because you are ill. You have to kick TB in the teeth.”

Her attitude has helped those in her care fight the infection.

Officially Mcunukelwa looks after eight MDR-TB patients but after a trip through the township with her it becomes clear that she actually looks after anybody who needs it.

“I will go in anywhere,” she says. “I will never get TB. I look after myself. My spirit is strong. MDR-TB will run from me.”

Nozi, as she is known, started reading up on HIV/Aids when her best friend became ill and later died. She took the woman’s two boys in and raised them. She is also raising a little girl she found.

“When I grew up I didn’t get a lot of love. When I got married my husband was abusive. I get better every day by giving the love I never received,” she says.

The support group give tips on how to take 21 tablets a day – whether it is better to sort them by type, capsules and pills, or to just down them seven at a time.

“The injections are the worst,” one of the patients says.

As the medication causes a painful pins-and-needles sensation in the hands and feet, Nozi often needs to visit her patients at home because they cannot get to the clinic. “If it rains I will get a taxi. Otherwise I walk where I want to be. I want to get my driver’s licence, [then] nobody will be able to stop me.”

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