Returning Home with Kaputu
7th March 2014 – Written by Berrie Holtzhausen
Zelma and I arrived at Ward 16 well before 9 o’clock. We were directed by the nurse who only counts pills around the corner directly across the grated doors of the female section. Yes, the nurse was still counting pills. When we arrived in Ward 16, five policemen were already there with a man I take to be in his thirties. They were handcuffing him and then pushed him into a room that I assumed must be an examination room. After about five minutes, three nurses came out of the room with him and dragged him to the men’s section where they forcefully removed his clothes and dressed him in the blue pajamas all the ‘inmates’ wear.
Kaputu with the male nurse
Not a word was spoken to us and when I asked for assistance, I was told to wait. So we waited. After about thirty minutes, Kaputu appeared in the long corridor with the only male nurse on duty. I found this really odd and this occupied my thoughts all the way back to Epupa. Why was the only male nurse the one taking care of the female patients while all the female nurses were either in front at reception or on duty with the male patients? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Fifteen minutes later we were on our way with Kaputu; or so I thought. When we reached my pick-up, Kaputu refused to get in. I told Zelma to ask her what the problem was and if she needed to go to the bathroom. I could not think that it would be the latter, as she just came from her ward where there is a bathroom. But it was and off they went to the hospital bathroom. When they returned Zelma told me Kaputu was in real trouble as her bladder really was full. This added to my suspicions about the nurses and their different positions.
Before we left Oshakati, Zelma asked Kaputu if she needed anything. Kaputu replied that she was very thirsty and hungry. We quickly stopped to buy her water and I gave the Ensure to Zelma that I prepared for Kaputu. She refused to drink the Ensure and when offered an apple, she just held it. She took a sip from the water and for the next 225km she turned away from Zelma every time the latter offered her something to drink or the Ensure.
Kaputu with the empty bottle Ensure
Two hours later we arrived in Opuwo, the capital of the Himba people and a town very familiar to Kaputu. Then something odd happened. As we drove into town, Kaputu smiled and started eating the apple and finished the bottle of Ensure. She even showed me the bottle as proof that it was empty.
Due to the rain, it took us another two and a half hours to reach Kapika’s Omuramba. It was still raining when we arrived at the Omuramba. Kaputu surprised me yet again as she got out of the car and walked straight to Ndjinaa’s tent. As it was dark inside the tent, she hesitated for a moment at the door and then went in and sat in front of Ndjinaa. In all the time that she was here, she has never done anything on her own. In my heart I was hoping for the start of something very positive!
Kaputu walking to Ndjinaa’s tent
Kaputu sitting in front of Ndjinaa
Our reward is to experience moments like this. Seeing Kaputu happy and at home. I am not a photographer, but have realized that a camera is a great investment to capture these unforgettable moments.
I left for Mbakutuka Komapando – the first Himba dementia village in Namibia, just 500m from Kapika’s village. The name was suggested by Koos about a year ago when he was travelling in Angola and we were still dreaming of this village. It means; ‘Here I was freed from my chains’.
I was hopeful that we were going to move Ndjinaa and Kapika to the new village tomorrow. Upon seeing the finished fence, I was, for once, speechless. No words can describe what I felt that moment. These feelings do not come all at once. They have been building up, day-by-day, as we worked on this idea that became a reality. Mbakutuka Komapando – a sign of hope for the Namibian people living with dementia and other brain diseases in my beloved country, here on the African continent. ‘Not because we were born here, but because Africa was born in us.’ – Author unknown
The village fence
I only arrived in Epupa late in the afternoon. I was tired and emotionally drained. It was a long road from the first day we took Kaputu to the Omuramba, and a much bumpier road that then one I had to travel to meet Ndjinaa back on the 7th October 2012.
As always Koos welcomed me at Epupa Falls Lodge. He showed me six campers from the Czech Republic who wanted to help us in the morning to move the village. If I remember correctly, they actually changed their plans to stay a day longer here to be able to do this. I went to fetch the bottle of whisky in the pick-up; Koos and I had a lot to discuss.