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Make My Baby Live

South Africa 2 November 2006 (continued) The sun sends long shadows alongside us as we drive Thembi back home in the township outside Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. We park in front of Nellie’s half-finished home and Aubrey gets out of the truck so Nellie can get into the cab with me and tell her story. She is HIV+. It begins to rain and dusk falls quickly. Nellie’s husband comes out and her teenagers peer at us, but Nellie is determined. I thank her for being so open.

Once she starts, a flood of words washes over me. I don’t need to ask a single question. This is what I wrote in my notebook: “Pregnant, cold, flu, doctor discharged other woman, pick up baby—she’s breathing. Not drinking, end of day my baby’s not drinking anything. Sister in charge Indian. At 4.30 my baby’s not drinking. Change breathing, has a sound like person with cough. They tell me she’s ok. Didn’t see. Where. Waiting outside. My baby is sick. I say why? Probably in lungs. I said ok, but I have hope. In my heart I say thank You, Lord, I’m in a hospital so I can get help. Baby steam pneumonia, was in very cold room. This nurse is wrong. If I saw my baby, oh my baby! So difficult. Why my baby breathing so hard? Lungs. I say ok. Baby very big—don’t be worried. The thing I noticed is way baby breathes. Moves head to breathe in and out. Make my baby live. Look my baby little. No, I trust God. Nellie, you must move your baby. Your baby is sick. We tried to help her. Ok, your baby can’t breathe now. Baby not in steam, but not breathing. Worried. But didn’t cry. I still believe. I touch my baby. I touch my baby, but still not breathe. Doctor says Nellie, I’m sorry. Hope God give you another baby. At night wake up look for baby and hear sound. Take long time to believe. I want to build my house. I’m worried about my children. One day I must die. Bless you. God took my little girl—in heaven.”

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