A Thousand Splendid Sightings

My wife, Jill, and son, Jordan, are setting off to the Kgalagadi National Park today; a warm day in December. It is going to be very hot with temperatures hovering between 36 to 42 degrees Celsius. “What on earth possessed you to want to visit this area at this time of the year?” is the question that both of them have been asked on numerous occasions.

The answer is much more complex than their standard answer: “It is on my bucket list.” Jordan had a kidney transplant nearly six years ago after having suffered from renal failure and having had to dialyse for nearly four years. His transplant was not the complete success that I had hoped for.

Soon after his transplant, he was diagnosed with a type of parvovirus and for the next two years, he struggled with many health issues, including developing diabetes, as his nephrologists tried to find a balance between suppressing the parvovirus without his body rejecting the kidney. His transplant did mean that he no longer had to dialyse, which for me was a huge relief as his spending five hours, coupled to a machine, at least three times a week impacted negatively on his mental health and affected us deeply as a family.  He became more and more depressed and my wife, a very emotional person, was on the verge of a breakdown. During this period I was always on edge, anxious and expecting the worst.

I had hoped

Due to the parvovirus, he spent a lot of time after his transplant in and out of hospital, more so than is normally the case with a successful transplant. As a father, I was very frustrated because I had hoped that he would be able to move along in life, going through all the rights of passage a young man should experience. Falling in love, and getting his career started but I could see that this was not going to be the case. He had completed his Bachelor of Agriculture degree hoping to specialize in the field of wildlife management but his condition negated any hope of that. At the age of 31, he still does not have a girlfriend, mainly because he feels that he cannot expect anyone to commit to a relationship when he is so uncertain as to his future health.

During this time of uncertainty, we, as a family, decided that he should spend time with his aunt in Cape Town as she ran a guest house and it was abundantly clear that he was not going to be able to get employment in any conventional institution; he was too much of a health risk for any company to employ. It was agreed that, as his aunt lived alone, he could help her and at the same time learn the ropes with the idea that he could become her permanent assistant as she travels a lot and often needs a caretaker for her business while she is away.

…his condition improved remarkably.

Having moved to a new town, he began seeing a different nephrologist and his condition improved remarkably. This was fantastic news and he stayed in Cape Town enjoying the best health since his renal failure. He helped his aunt out and volunteered to work at the Cheetah Rehabilitation Centre. However, he returned home after a year, having decided to pursue a career in teaching, He signed up to study for his post graduate certificate in education (PGCE) and moved into a school boarding house as one of the dorm masters.

Due to his love for the outdoors, especially wildlife, he began taking every opportunity to visit the South African national parks. Jill, often accompanies him on these trips but I cannot abide sitting in a motor vehicle for most of the day hoping to spot something, so I stay at home. Each to their own but as they departed on these trips, my final words would be along the lines of: “Wishing you lots of good sightings.”

Everything seemed to be going well and I cherished the selfish hope that his kidney would last for 20 years which would mean that I would probably not be around to experience the trauma of him having to dialyse again.

His own body is attacking the kidney.

In July this year, he went to Cape Town for his six-month check-up. Normally, he can tell when there is something wrong but leading up to this check-up he was feeling fine so when his nephrologist told him that his kidney function had dropped below 20% and that he was in danger of losing it, he was caught completely off guard. He was admitted to the hospital for nearly a month as they conducted various tests to determine why his kidney function was so low. Needless to say, the news was not good. His own body is attacking the kidney and it has suffered damage.

However, with adjustments to his medication, he has slowly recovered, although his body is very swollen, especially his face, due to the high dosage of steroids that has been prescribed. Unfortunately, this also had an impact on his studies and he has had to carry a few subjects over to next year, instead of qualifying at the end of this year. The most important thing is that his kidney function is slowly improving.

…tomorrow it might not be possible…

 “Take each day as it comes, don’t try to outguess tomorrow.” These words are often used when discussing Jordan’s future. After this last setback, Jordan has taken it a step further. “I will try to do as much as I can each day, as for everyone, but especially for me, tomorrow it might not be possible.” So, it came as no surprise, when he told me that he planned to visit the Kgalagadi National Park in December. It had long been a dream of his to experience the wildlife found in a semi-desert environment as opposed to those he is accustomed to seeing in the bushveld.  Even though it was probably going to be extremely hot, who knows if he will get a chance to do so again? My wife, of course, was his eager accomplice.

So, saying farewell as they set off, this time I tell Jordan: “Wishing you a thousand splendid sightings.” The car pulls out of the driveway and I continue under my breath, using two of the few IsiZulu words I know: “Hamba kahle – go well, sala kahle – stay well, I love you, my boy.”

The Writer and his Grandson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *