Nobuhle’s story


It’s amazing how something we consider simple, such as hearing can change your life drastically and forever.  Nobuhle is my niece and she lost her hearing due to meningitis.  To say how tough it was for her and the family is putting it very mildly.

Nobuhle was a very soft spoken but very happy and an outgoing little girl.  Suddenly meningitis changed her whole existence, from a happy little girl to a sullen, unhappy and sad child.  I remember visiting her at Karl Bremer Hospital, it was the 13th June 2011, I had spent the whole day with her the day before and although she was in a lot of pain she was her usual self and very chatty.  She had asked me the day before to bring her cell phone, so she could play music and radio as she put it, “It is very boring in this hospital room, I don’t even have a TV”.  This day as I came in to the room, I was smiling and started speaking to her, she also started crying.  I was very puzzled and I started asking what the problem was, my mom requested that we speak outside.  She told me that Hlehle as we call her became deaf due to the strong antibiotics she was taking to kill off the meningitis.  I was so shocked and I told my mama that, I just left late yesterday, how can any of this happened so fast.

My life changed from that moment on.  I started thinking about what was I going to say to her.  Are there any words that can make a difference to someone going through that?  I started crying myself as memories of her love of music came rushing back to me.  Hlehle was always listening to music and singing.  I remember when she was 4 years old, she came running to me and said BON JOVI was on TV.  I was so shocked and I thought how would she know that?  Although, I always played music around her, I never realised that she has knowledge to such an extent to know the artists.  That was the very first time I noticed her love of music.  I went into the room and I cried with her and I told her that I was going to try everything to get her help.  Hlehle grew up as a Christian and now she started questioning God’s existence and why would he do that with her.  Now, it was not only her deafness we were dealing with but a lot of thing developed through that.

The whole family was very shattered and this brought all of us closer together.  It was very difficult dealing with the situation, especially as everyone did not know how to communicate with Hlehle.   It was worse when the family was together, laughing and joking, Hlehle would start crying as she felt left out.  None of us knew anything about deafness before her and we never had contact with the deaf world before.  I always thought deaf people were born like that and I never realised that anyone can lose their hearing due to various reasons.

My first contact with someone, I considered help, was Francis Slabber.  If it was not for her, I don’t know where Nobuhle would be today.  She is the one who started the ball rolling by contacting Jenny Perold at Tygerberg Hospital.  Those ladies including Suryn Lombaard, Prof Loock and his team are the reason, Nobuhle can hear today.

On the 23rd January 2013 Nobuhle had a cochlear implant as of now she can listen to music and watch TV and sing.  The first time that she could hear, she ran around the house and screamed that she could hear herself singing.

I don’t know how to describe the joy and elation that the family had, from seeing Hlehle happy.  The sullen and sad little girl was transformed into a happy, outgoing, feisty young adult.  These days, she is just a chatterbox, you are lucky to have a word in.

This is just not only a chance for her to hear, but this will open doors for her for a lifetime of opportunities.  She got a second chance due donations by many people.  I would be amiss if I did not that Mrs Gurland and her team for fundraising and a lot of many people who contributed to her hearing.  Dominican School for the Deaf for taking a chance on her and showing us that deaf people can have fun and great opportunities given a chance.  Mr Fanie du Toit, for giving me a better understanding of deafness.

All of you will, never know how much you changed her life and the opportunity you afforded her to be something more.

Never take life for granted, I never knew the real meaning of the saying until it happened to my family.


Nesia Barnes