Finding Gifts Through Hardship
At 13, Alzona Klein became her mother’s main caregiver. She tells us how her mom’s condition was an eerily reminder of a life that could’ve been her own.
Talking about the early years of her life, Alzona, 17, originally from Bonteheuwel says that shortly after her birth at two-months-old, she went to live with her aunty in Mitchells Plain and her brother went to live with another aunty in Manenberg. Both of her parents couldn’t cope with working at night and caring for their children during the day. She spent her childhood visiting her parents over weekends.
Alzona says that she came to know her aunt as her mother and she loved her very much because of all the time she spent with her. However Alzona secretly longed to move back home and live in the same home with her parents and brother.
Besides the living arrangements, Alzona childhood was quite normal until the age of 11. Alzona recalls a specific day as shocking and confusing.
“I recall hearing the sounds of the ice-cream van before I dropped my ice lolly to the floor as my face and right arm went numb. I was 11-years-old and having a stroke. I remember falling and lying on the sidewalk and watching my friends run away to call my aunty, I had a friend who stayed with me but I can hardly remember anything after that. I just remember waking up in hospital the next day,” says Alzona.
Having never really understood what caused her stroke, Alzona explains that her father said the doctor told him it was caused by stress . Alzona spent her next two weeks recovering as the stroke left some side effects for the rest of her life.
When Alzona (13) reach the age to attend high school, her parents decided that they wanted both their children to move back home.
“I had mixed emotions because I would miss my aunty, but I was really happy, because I always wanted to live in the same home as my family,” says Alzona.
But Alzona’s dream of a ‘normal’ home – as she called it – wouldn’t last for long. Two weeks after she moved in, her dream of a normal life ended when her mom had a stroke.
“That day, my mom (38) was acting strange I remember her putting iced viennas on a sandwich and complaining of a really bad headache. I was young so I never thought anything of it and went to a friend’s house. The next time I would see my mom, she would be in a hospital bed,” says Alzona.
She says that remembering the day she saw her mom as a stroke victim was difficult.
“She was in a dark hospital room with three empty hospital beds next to her, she was disorientated and couldn’t remember anything. She had a pale face and her eyes were deep in her head. She just stared at us,” says Alzona.
Her mom would spend six months in hospital recovering, but when she returned home Alzona says it seemed as though a piece of her mother had been peeled away.
“My mom used to be talkative and full of life. She used to love to go out and to be around people. When she returned from hospital she was bed-ridden and it almost seemed that she did not have life in her.”
Making it hard to believe that at half the size of her mom, Alzona took on the role of washing, cleaning and feeding her mom who could not walk or talk. Between her father and brother, each of them took turns caring for the mother the best way they could.
As a high school student, Alzona says that she found it really hard to concentrate on her studies as she was always worried about her mom at home.
“Even though my brother was at home, I was always worried that something would happen like the time my mom fell when my brother went to the shop,” says Alzona.
Unable to focus at school, Alzona failed her Grade, but returned the following year focussed and determined to pass and so she did.
After five years, Alzona’s mother is still recovering, she has regained mobility but still struggles with her right side of the body.
“My mom and I have become much closer through this process. I think we have made up for the lost years with the difficulties of the past five. As a family we have become stronger and closer.”
Alzona ends by saying, “difficulties are not always all bad. Through hardships you might receive unexpected gifts as I did with the bond between my family. Look at each situation and find the gift.”
Alzona is a Leaders’ Quest participant, an intervention offered by Salesian Life Choices