Angela and Peleka:
Bedford Hospital, Umtata South Africa

story by Angela Hartmann

In Transkei, South Africa's poorest province, Polio still afflicts many children. Bedford hospital in Umtata is one of the few places where treatment is available. Angela Hartmann a volunteer Physical therapist from Germany spent time working with the children here and remembers one unique child named Peleka.

In the beginning Peleka was quite a strange one, she was laughing, biting and slapping around all the time. Peleka didn't like to be touched or hugged. When I asked the nurses about her family-situation they told me that her mother doesn't want to come to see Peleka in the hospital.

Peleka is a polio victim who got tendon-releases, so from the beginning she was unable to walk. When I started to train her she couldn't sit without support, or even hold a kneeling position. It wasn't long before Peleka became one of my favourite children. It was really a pleasure being together with her.

Although I couldn't speak the language well enough to understand her properly the local nurses said that Peleka was quite a clever child who was constantly joking and fooling around with the others.
As Peleka and I got used to each other she definitely lost her aggressive style and got friendlier. After a few weeks I could even begin to hug her and carry her around in my arms. When I entered the children-wards Pelaka and the others always shouted for"physio, physio".
By the end of my time at Bedford, Peleka was able to hold herself in a sitting position and balance without help; she could even kneel without assistance. Paleka's wonderful aura and amazing eyes will forever be in my memory, and I will always remember the disparity between her wonderful joyous face and her thin deformed body. I often wonder who is taking care of her now... *******