CHAS
Life Lessons
An E-mail

The rainy season was slow in coming this year, but today it was trying hard to make up for it.
It was the kind of day I was happy that no appointments were scheduled. Our CHAS People have enough troubles without
adding being soaked, wet or even just damp to them.
So I walked around putting out and emptying the pots that catch the rain water from the two new leaks in the office roof. Once
this rainy day routine was done I settled down to sort through my CHAS computer work.
An e-mail had come in over night from Ireland. The address was new to me. It was from a Clinical Officer who was related to
one of our Missionary Friars, who was presently home in Ireland on his holiday.
She wrote that during the previous week, she had spoken with her uncle about her concern for one of her patients. Her uncle
told her to get in touch with “Charlie” at chas@zamnet.zm. “Charlie”; He assured her  I would know what to do and see that it
is done properly.
The e-mail was all about a Zambian woman in her late thirties named “Chola”. Chola had gone to stay with her Zambian
cousin who had been employed in Ireland. Her cousin became sick and Cola was asked to watch over him. She cared for
him during his last days with full blown AIDS. Now months later when Cola requested to be tested herself , the result was
that she too was HIV Positive(+). In addition Chola was also positive for Tuberculosis.
Through out Africa the main caregivers are women. I would go as far as to say that when it comes to
medical care and health issues,  the African women carry this burden, without regard for
themselves.  Lacking of the simplest medical paraphernalia such as gloves or disinfectant, they
clean, wash and relieve the suffering of countless patients. They do this because their fearless love
sees no boundaries like that of a mother.
Our niece the clinical officer’s main concern was  Chola would be cared upon her return to Zambia. What was available?
Who could Chola see? Was it possible for Chola not just to be given medical assistance but also financial assistance to set
up an income generating project for her. Chola who was trained for secretarial/clerical work at this point in her life could only
walk with the assistance of two friends supporting her one on each side.
After exchanging information with Chola and the clinical officer through e-mails, it was agreed that on Chola’s return to
Zambia she would first spend time reacquainting herself with her family. This is the custom and practice in which she
informs her family of all that has transpired while she was away, and then they would bring her up to date with the family
occurrences. Basically this meant a very long talk  with a large number of family and friends. Chola would later phone CHAS
for an appointment:  When Chola arrived for her first appointment she needed the assistance of her cousins to walk. She
had very swollen legs and feet and was embarrassed because of her inability to walk independently.
After the initial greetings were exchanged her to cousins agreed to wait in their vehicle for 45 minutes. They were given
some reading material . They took our office lawn chairs and sat outside in the shade a good distance away for lack of
privacy. Now Chola and I got down to the business at hand, setting up a network of support for her. Chola spoke of her
withholding her HIV status from her family and her fear of exposure. This meant we would have to stay away from the public
health network for the time being. Confidentiality was her first priority. However, Chola needed a lot of work done fast to
countermand the effects of her illness and get her back up on her feet. I asked one of our ‘Partnering Doctors’ for his help.
He was quick to agree and accepted Chola as one of his special HIV patients.
This meant that all of her medical needs would be addressed. She would be in the expert hands of a private physician. It
was all set up and ready to go in one phone call! Chola and I discussed the possible dates she would be able to reach the
Doctor’s office. Then we called the doctor back on his cell phone to confirm that the times and dates were acceptable to him.
Step one was in place. During the remaining twenty minutes Chola talked freely with me about her fears and asked what her
options were at this point.
I ask how long did she wished to live and she replied with enthusiasm until she was 70! I then asked that if she was 70 and
still alive would she still agree to continue live. Chola answered of course! Many clients ask how long they have to live? I
always remind them that “Everybody dies sooner or later” and that CHAS existed to help her and others to see how best to
make it later . As far later as possible!
Chola’s balance and motor skills were off. She wanted so much to get them back that tears streamed down her cheeks
when she spoke of it. The time for our first meeting was coming quickly to an end. However Chola still stated she wanted to
continue to talk so I went outside to her cousins and they agreed wait. Truth be told I believe they were both deeply
engrossed in their magazines and did not mind at all.
Chola was angry at the man that left her when her HIV status turned positive (+). He had promised to marry her then just left.
She was even angrier at him when she later found out that he was already married to another woman back in his home
village and they had three (3) children together. Chola was angry at herself for being so foolishly in love with him. As she
spoke she shook and sobbed openly. I handed her  tissues and listened .  I had heard it all before. Women lied to, abused,
then dumped. Like towels  that are used, crumbled up, and tossed into the rubbish bin  Each individual story is unique as
each woman  that stands up and cries out “injustice”!  “Injury to one is an injury to all!” Yet it never blurs the vision of the into
a whole or group but stands alone as individual lives are destroyed by a loved one. The results of which once again, sat with
me.
Before leaving that day, Chola had shared her life and her pain with me. She was scheduled to see a doctor and work on
her TB, HIV and equilibrium problem. Chola thanked me for giving her hope to continue and I helped her stand up and using
my arm for support.  She slowly walked out to her cousin’s car.
Over the months, Chola worked with the doctor and regained strengthen in her legs and feet. The swelling gradually went
down. At one point we used a basic dance step know as the  “Box Step” to work on building her confidence and
coordination. This also helped her exercise for remaining flexible. By the third month she was doing the different local
dances without loss of balance. Unfortunately, she still needed a walking stick for long distances but she was no longer
home bound. We agreed at that point to set  the goal of Chola independently getting on and off the mini buses that run
around the city. Chola was looking forward to the day that she would be able to go see her doctor alone or with a small girl
accompanying her.
So great was Chola’s recovery from our initial meeting that in our last session , most of the time was spent discussing her
options in generating income for her livelihood. She decided on two viable projects and CHAS funded both of them.
Chola is still HIV positive (+) and under treatment for her TB. She faithfully goes to her doctor for her CD4 count, vVral load
and Full Blood Tests every three months. She freely admits to all, who will listen,  she meets that she is living a much better
life than the one she dreamed of when she was first diagnosed .
Chola is up and walking today because people cared enough to get to know her and look out for her. They did not turn away!!

"CHAS strives to enhance the lives of its members by improving their living conditions, medical
care, thereby assisting in the lengthening of the remainder of their lives in a holistic fashion which
prepares them to pass over to God. We let them know that no matter what; they are loved, they are
not alone and will continue on with God's Mercy no matter what!!