In the End: Bheki’s Story
Dignity and Love
For the past 15 years, the Hartmann’s have dedicated much of their lives to bringing hope and dignity to the people of Swaziland through home-based healthcare. Together with a team from the Good Shepherd Mission Hospital, they administer medications, treatments, and human kindness to the sick and the dying.
This impact story is not about a life saved, but rather about dignity restored.
Here we meet Bheki, a Swazi man, in the final days of his life. In this story, we are reminded that even when there is nothing left to be done, there is always something that can be done.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. – Psalm 25:16
A letter of gratitude
To all those who support our work,
We would like to share the story of one of our Palliative Care patients. The photos are difficult to look at but the patient wanted his story told and his pictures shown in hopes of helping others.
The patient’s name was Bheki.
Bheki was referred to the Palliative Care team by the “Rural Health Motivator.” Rural Health Motivators (RHMs) are trained members of the very community they service. They visit the sick and dying in their own community – their neighbors, friends, and family – to provide basic care in their homes.
The team found Bheki living in a tiny mud and stone house with his elderly father. He was suffering from severe cancerous wounds caused by end-stage AIDS. He was lying on a piece of ripped ½ inch foam that was wet and filthy.
Bheki was too weak to care for himself and his elderly father was unable to bathe him or care for his wounds. He was only able to swallow a very thin porridge. His mouth and skin were dry, his hygiene was poor, his wounds were draining and covered in maggots, and his body was emaciated.
He greeted us with large hopeful eyes.
We decided to bring him outside to bathe him under a tree. He lay there as we cleaned his body and applied lotion. We treated his wounds and gave him mouth care. A special cup with a spout was provided and filled with water so he could have a drink when needed.
While we cared for the patient the RHM washed the floor of his father’s house. They placed a new mattress that we had brought and covered it with clean sheets. When Bheki was placed on his new bed he smiled and sighed with relief.
Before leaving, he and his father sang a hymn and prayed with us. His voice was barely audible but his peaceful face, his closed eyes and his lips moving as he prayed, was enough for us to know that he was comfortable and felt loved.
We were extremely humbled by the gentleness and gratitude of this man.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
Bheki died 2 days later but we know that he passed away with dignity and the knowledge that people cared for him. That he mattered. That he would be remembered.
In his memory and with deep gratitude to him for allowing us to share his pictures and story, we thank you all for your generous support. It is your generosity that allows us to provide this much-needed care for our patients in the final moments of their lives.
Siyabonga kakhulu, (thank you very much)
Al and Kathleen Hartmann