Qaqamba, Kauther, and Iyad recording the sounds of the hospital.
It was the first day of our radio production workshop with patients at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. We entered the hospital building with bags of equipment in tow, eager to meet our young co-producers in radio for the next few weeks. As we set ourselves up in hospital’s cozy primary school room, the first participant arrived—right on time. Mujahid Wiener, 7 years old, had eager written all over his face. “Where are the other children?” he said, as he entered the room and immediately busied himself with anything and everything within his reach. Mujahid first came to Red Cross last year as a burn patient in the Intensive Care Unit. He is currently a hospital outpatient, yet a frequent visitor. Already with many skin grafts and other surgeries under his belt, Mujahid is scheduled for more procedures in the upcoming months. “We are forever in Red Cross,” Kamilla, his mother, noted. Mujahid, like most of the other children in the hospital, knows the hospital building like the back of his hand. He can describe in detail all the nooks and crannies of the hospital, telling you about nurses and doctors he likes to visit, which patients stay where, and also, the hidden and unknown corners of the hospital complex.
Mujahid Wiener, age 7
Next to arrive was 8 year-old Kauther Sallie.
Kauther Sallie, age 8
After a greeting filled with smiles and hugs, Kauther quickly took a seat at the table. First order of business—she pulled out her blue lunch box filled with small white bags of pills. She sorted through the various medications, adding them one by one to the pile of pills. She cut some in half, and cringed about the prospect of ingesting certain pills. “This one tastes like toothpaste,” she said smiling. “And this one—no, no, no,” she remarked, pointing to a pair of large pills. Fourteen pills, twice a day—this has been her routine for quite some time. Kauther is waiting for a kidney transplant. “2009 is our year,” her mother noted. “The year of the kidney.”
Kauther taking her morning pills.
Next to arrive were the two participants from St. Joseph’s Home, Qaqamba Cuba and Nonkhanyiso Mphanga. St. Joseph’s is a residence care facility for children who suffer from chronic illnesses, and the place where children with less critical cases go after being treated at Red Cross. Qaqamba is 9 years old, and a tracheostomy patient. Because of her spine interfering with her lung development, she had to have a tube inserted into her trachea that allows her to breathe and talk. Qaqamba spent several months in Red Cross last year before she was transferred to St. Joseph’s.
Qaqamba Cuba, age 9
Qaqamba speaks Xhosa as a first language, and originally comes from the Eastern Cape. She says it’s quite hard to be hundreds of kilometers from home, as she rarely gets visits from family members and friends. But when she walks through the halls of the hospital, she is greeted with superstar status—high-fives, hugs, and waves from patients, nurses, and doctors alike. Nonkhanyiso, or “Nonnie” for short, is 15 years old, and the oldest participant in the workshop. She has heart and lung problems, and has been in and out of the hospital on a regular basis for the past few years.
Nonkhanyiso Mphanga, age 15
Nonnie requires a constant stream of oxygen, and walks around with an oxygen tank when she is not in her hospital bed. She started to list all of the different instances when she was staying at Red Cross. “Its too many to remember,” she said. Nonnie said that she is very excited about the workshop, and that she looks forward to telling the story of her life on radio. Iyad Africa, 9 years old, is the final participant in the workshop to arrive. He had a full day of chemotherapy today. He and his mother stopped by to say hi and to meet the rest of the group, but Iyad decided that he was not feeling well enough to stick around.
Iyad Afrika, age 9
Iyad has leukemia, and is currently undergoing a year’s regime of chemotherapy. Iyad’s mother, Fatima, said that his involvement will depend on how he feels—some days are good, and others are not. So that’s our cast of characters—keep reading updates on our blog to see how things develop!