One voice against silent killer

One voice against silent killer

5:00AM Saturday Jan 12, 2008

By Sheryl Garratt

The above article was sourced from

Tags: Mary Crockett, South Africa, Sheryl Garratt, heroes, New Zealand Herald,

“That is my only challenge,” she smiles. “The treatment. Otherwise, I’m ready to work, I’m ready to do everything.”
On Sunday afternoon we went back to the hospice, where I met Pulane – although I’m not sure she was aware I was there. Grey-skinned and stick-thin, a shadow of an 18-year-old, she had only hours to live. The staff didn’t have a full name for her; she’d been dumped outside two week ago, so ill that she could only whisper her first name. Pulane died that night. By the morning, when we returned, another patient had been collected and was lying in her bed.
Mary officiated over the lonely funeral the day after I left South Africa. Before we parted, the pastor took me to the graveyard where she buries her charges. She is the only one keeping count: “It’s 298 so far, including the babies.”
Broken heart and family
Mary Crockett doesn’t know where she was born, or which of South Africa’s tribal groups she belongs to. She was found abandoned in a coloured area of Johannesburg as a baby, and was raised in the city’s orphanages.
One day in class, the teacher caught Leonard, one of the other orphans, writing a love letter. “Mary, I love you more than a chicken in the oven,” it said. “Meet me at the gate.”
After graduating from teacher training college together, the couple were married and had a baby boy two years later. They settled in the El Dorado Park area of Johannesburg, teaching in primary school and active in the church, where both were lay preachers.
Thirteen years were to go by before a second child, Cynthia, was born.
In retrospect, Mary can see that her daughter was never really well. Her husband fell ill with what he said was diabetes. Her own health hadn’t been so good, either, but she put that down to being pregnant after such a long time: she was 38 when her daughter was born.
Then one Saturday morning when the baby was nine months old, they set out to the shopping centre as usual, but their car smashed head-on into a truck. Leonard and Cynthia died instantly. Mary survived, although she was in a coma for three months. When she came to, she learned that her husband and daughter had been buried by the community. The doctors also informed her that she was HIV positive.
It was only after she’d recovered, and found the suicide note in their safe at home, that she realised the collision was deliberate. After her husband had discovered he was HIV positive, he secretly took their daughter to be tested. When she proved to be positive too, he decided that the best course of action was to kill them all. “So it wasn’t really an accident, he knew what he was doing,” she says quietly.
“I was so desperate, because I was a pure girl, I never slept with anyone else. I lost my mind for a while – I went into a mental institution.”
It took a year, but counselling – and her faith, to which she credits all of her strength now – got her through the breakdown. But although her health got steadily worse, she didn’t tell anyone about her HIV status for a further year. “I was in denial. And I didn’t know who to tell. I had no family, nor did my husband. It was terrible. I was very thin. I was giving up.”
Finally, she got so sick she was admitted to hospital, and when word spread, her house was looted and burned down. The pastors’ forum she belonged to asked her to leave. “They said they couldn’t have a pastor with Aids in their churches,” she says. “It hurt me for a while, but I’m used to it.”
It was when she went to QwaQwa to teach that she finally began to break her silence. She confessed her HIV status to colleagues, and when some of them admitted they too were positive, she formed her first support group. Suddenly, she had found a reason for living, a new vocation. “And it is so satisfying,” she smiles.
* British writer Sheryl Garratt is former editor of The Face magazine.
Sourced from

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9 Responses to “One voice against silent killer”

  1. craiglock Says:

    Thanks for the follow/link/like/reblog and/or comment/kind thought


    MANY MORE COMMENTS OVERNIGHT .. together with hundreds of thousands already on my various other blogs at
    …true!) …obsessive or WHAT! *So hope it’s not slowing down your loading speed!). Am really pleased you are enjoying my writings, as the reason I write is to share.

    Though I’m rather “driven”, I still get really, really fatigued, so sorry can’t reply individually to all you good people scattered around the planet, but DO try to read as many as possible daily (and even moderate a few when I get a “mo”), I got swamped with comments on my various blogs, so have had to close them off on all of my blogs, except for one or two of particular interest to me – sorry and hope you can understand..

    * “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

    ~ Franz Kafka

    I do really appreciate your liking, linking to and/or following this blog (and “writing in”), so “thanks for the thanx”

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    “When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
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    When (or if ever) you arrive in heaven, let faith, hope and love be the wings that carried you there.”

    – as adapted from the inspiring words of Jonathan Edwards, former minister in New England, Massachusetts

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    “Having pursued the goals, the dreams set before us and run the race with persistence and endurance, after giving it all. Then one day standing on the summit of life, breathing in the pure sweet oxygen of achievement, totally satisfied in running the greatest race, the race of life one that ANYONE can run and win.”


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  2. craiglock Says:



  3. craiglock Says:

    Reblogged this on Craig's Books.


  4. craiglock Says:

    Reblogged this on TO THE END OF THE RAINBOW: A New "Work" by Craig Lock.


  5. craiglock Says:

    Reblogged this on The Foreign Correspondent.


  6. craiglock Says:

    Reblogged this on YOU can be a Champion of Hope (to others).


  7. craiglock Says:

    Reblogged this on Craig's Books.


  8. craiglock Says:

    Reblogged this on Craig's Books.


  9. craiglock Says:

    Reblogged this on The Champion.


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