Chapter Four – Good morning, Lindwe
“Good morning, Ms Buthelezi,” said a white nurse to the patient at the Netcare Jakaranda Hospital in Middelburg Street, Pretoria.
Lindiwe ran her hands over her face.
“How did I get here?” asked the patient.
“I am not sure, I was not on duty when they brought you in four days ago,” answered the nurse.
“I can see on your medical chart that you had quite a bit of gas in your lungs. You are lucky to still be in one piece. Were you a part of the explosion at the Vosloo Grill a few days ago? The gas could be quite harmful at your age.”
Lindiwe did not know what the women was talking about and what was this about age?
The patient asked for a mirror, and the nurse courteously offered her one from a small make up bag in her side pocket.
Lindiwe stared at the face of the woman in the small mirror and understood what the nurse meant.
Lindiwe Buthelezi Jnr had somehow changed bodies with her mother, Lindiwe Buthelezi Snr. The older Buthelezi was the one laying in the hospital bed!
Lindiwe Snr looked around the ward of the neat private hospital and quickly realised that she was not in a government medical building.
“Who is paying for my stay here as I don’t have the money too?” she asked frantically.
“Relax, Ms Buthelezi, the place where got injured is paying your bill, but right now you need to rest,” said the nurse.
Lindiwe stared at the name tag on the left breast area of the nurse’s white top. Lisa Visagie. It was hard to tell if the nurse was English or Afrikaans as there was no trace of an Afrikaans accent.
“Please can you organise a telephone for me so that I can phone for me so that I can call my boyfriend,” requested Lindiwe.
Lisa produced her mobile phone from the right pocket of her slacks and offered it to Lindiwe.
“What, is that a calculator?” snapped the patient.
“No, Ms Buthelezi, it is my mobile phone, and you are welcome to use it if you promise to keep your call short,” said Lisa.
“How do you plug the phone into a jack on the wall?” asked Lindiwe.
Mobile phones were not in existence when Lindiwe Snr died in giving birth to Lindiwe Jnr in 1991 so this was all new to her.
She looked across at a television set and there was a black man giving a speech, claiming to be the President of South Africa. His name was Jacob Zuma.
“What happened to F.W. de Klerk?” asked the patient.
Lisa Visagie immediately realised that this patient was different to the rest and seemed to suffer from some severe memory loss.
“Dr Tim Mokoena and Dr Robert Scott will be here in a minute to see you,” explained the nurse.
Lindiwe Snr was much more arrogant than her daughter. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and tried to get her feet on to the floor.
“I don’t need a doctor, I need to get out of here,” said Lindiwe, who suddenly felt faint and fell back on to the bed.
“You are not ready to go anywhere so please relax,” quipped Lisa.
“Nurse, what year are we in?” questioned Lindiwe.
“It is 2010,” smiled Lisa.
“What!” screamed the patient.
“The last I remember; I was pregnant and ready to give birth in 1991.”
Before Lisa could say anything, Dr Tim Mokoena and Dr Robert Scott arrived at Lindiwe’s bedside.
Tim was in his early forties and was a general practitioner, while Robert, quite a bit older than his colleague, was a psychologist.
“Good morning, Ms Buthelezi,” said Tim as he introduced himself and his colleague.
“A psychologist?” yelled Lindiwe.
“I am not crazy.”
“I am a psychologist, not a psychiatrist, Ms Buthelezi,” smiled Robert, dressed in black plants with a white open neck shirt.
He opened his Apple IPad and began to take notes.
Lindiwe did not have a clue about the device that was in the psychologist’s hand.
“Now, Ms Buthelezi, you need to tell me all that you can remember before you arrived here,” said Robert.
“Look, the last I remember was that the year was 1991 and I was pregnant with my first child,” began Lindiwe.
“My boyfriend and the father of the child is police Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus and you can phone him at the police headquarters to verify that.”
Tim and Robert shot a glance at each other. It was highly unlikely that an Afrikaner man had been in a relationship with a black woman back in 1991, with the country having still been under Apartheid rule, albeit the dying days of racial segregation.
Robert had to work out whether Lindiwe was making up the story or was she suffering from mental block about last remembering 1991.
Robert tested the patient’s memory.
“Do you remember the release from prison of Nelson Mandela?” he asked.
Lindiwe thought long and hard.
“Yes, he was released in 1990 after serving 27 years in prison for standing up for the black masses against the Apartheid regime’s policies,” she said.
Robert looked at Tim and nodded. Clearly Lindiwe was mentally fit.
“What happened to Mr Mandela after being released?” asked the psychologist.
Lindiwe scratched her head.
“I can’t remember,” she replied.
“Is he still alive?”
Robert answered in the affirmative.
“What has happened to me, Doctor?” asked Lindiwe.
Robert closed his IPad before answering.
“For some reason, you have lost a major amount of memory, but it is not the end of the world as we can fix that over time so just get some rest.”
He left with Tim and they did a debrief in a side office.
“Tim, I have been doing psychology work with top clients in South Africa and other countries too, but I have never experienced a case like this one,” said Robert.
“It is like a spaceship collected her from Mars or Jupiter and dropped her off in Pretoria.”
“What could have caused the memory loss?” asked Tim.
“At this stage, I am not sure, but I found it strange that she asked about her boyfriend, the alleged Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus, but not once did she ask about the well-being of the child that she said she gave birth to in 1991,” said the psychologist.
“Surely you would want to know about the state of your child?”
Tim nodded in agreement.
“Do you think that the gas blast at the Vosloo Grill may have had a major impact on her memory?” questioned Tim.
“Maybe, but as I say, I have never had a case like this before,” replied Robert.
“I mean thirty years of memory is a lot to lose. Some people are not blessed to live that long.”
“I suggest you keep her here for a week or so and I will put work out a daily psychology programme to help her.”
“Do you think that she could be a danger to society if we released her?” asked Tim.
Robert shrugged his shoulders.
“Your guess is as good as mine at this stage, but I am sure that if we released her, she would go straight to the police to search for her alleged boyfriend,” said the psychologist.
“I suggest that we find this Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus before she does, so we can find out the truth about what really happened. My God, Tim, I hope that this Pieter guy hasn’t also lost thirty years of his memory.”
Back in the ward, Lindiwe was given a magazine to keep her busy. The white nurse had forgotten that doing crossword puzzles was really seen as a ‘white person’s thing’, but she was running out of ideas of how to keep Lindiwe’s mind occupied.
“What about Pieter, my boyfriend?” asked Lindiwe to the nurse.
Lisa Visagie smiled.
“I am sure that the doctors are doing their level best to track him down,” said the nurse.
Lindiwe was getting impatient.
“Pieter is on duty at the police headquarters in Pretoria,” she said.
“He phoned me this morning before he left for work. He needed to report for duty at the Union Building where President de Klerk was to give a public speech.”
Lisa stared at the patient. She hoped that the doctors could find out what had caused Lindiwe Buthelezi to lose so much memory.
“Ms Buthelezi, Mr de Klerk is no longer President,” quipped the nurse.
“Jacob Zuma is. South Africa became a democracy under the ANC leadership in 1994. Nelson Mandela was the first President, and he was followed by Thabo Mbeki.”
Lindiwe began to get frantic.
“No, de Klerk is still President, you people are playing with my mind!” she said in a loud voice.
“Let me out of here!”
Lindiwe tried again to climb from the bed and Lisa pushed the emergency panic button. Doctors Tim Mokoena and Robert Scott charged to the ward.
“What is it nurse?” asked Tim.
“Ms Buthelezi won’t believe me that it is 2010 and wants to leave,” explained the nurse.
“She thinks we are playing mind games with her.”
Lindiwe grabbed on to Tim’s arm.
“What are you doing to me?” she screamed.
“Nurse, give her a dosage of Temazepam (Restoril),” ordered Tim.
“That should help her to sleep and relax.”
“No, you are not going to inject me!” yelled Lindiwe, as she tried to break lose.
“Nurse, chain her down if need be,” said Tim.
“It is for her own good.”
Lindiwe’s wrists were bound to the side of the bedrails.
“Look, Ms Buthelezi, we are trying our level best to find out why you have lost so much memory, but please understand that it will take some time for us to run some tests on you,” explained Robert.
“I don’t want your tests!” screamed Lindiwe.
“Let me out of here, I just want to get to Pieter!”
Lisa Visagie injected the dosage into Lindiwe’s right arm, and it was another five minutes before she fell asleep.
Robert stared at the patient.
“We have a real case on our hands here, Doc,” he said to Tim.
“The pieces of this puzzle are just not fitting together.”
Over at 1 Military Hospital, Colonel Jaap Cornelius had spent half hour pacing up and down the waiting area as he waited for Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus to wake up.
Jaap thought of all the beers that he had consumed at the Vosloo Grill over the past fifteen years of his stay at police headquarters. He also remembered the endless hours of conversation that he had with Pieter. Those were good times.
Now Pieter was in the emergency ward and the Vosloo Grill was closed for business. Life simply was not fair!
Jaap took in a sip of coffee. He was not a big coffee fan, but he knew that his shift would be an extremely long one and the caffeine would do him good.
His mobile phone sprung to life.
“Ja, Burgess, please tell me that you have found the girl,” answered Jaap, in seeing the name of investigator Wayne Burger appearing on the screen of his device.
“Well, sir, yes and no,” responded Wayne.
“Which is it, Burgess, yes or no?” replied a confused Jaap.
Burgess began to explain.
“Well, we managed to get hold of some security footage from the main area of the bar as well as the kitchen. You will not believe this, but the girl was frying chips in the kitchen when the gas explosion happened. Then a second later, she was gone.”
Jaap listened intently.
“What do you mean ‘gone’?”
“Sir, the footage shows the time of the accident,” went on Burgess.
“One moment she was there and a second after the explosion, she was gone.”
“What did you see of Erasmus?” questioned Jaap.
Burgess explained that the camera was focused on the area where the girl stood at the fryer so they could not see the doorway and there had been no sign of Pieter on the video footage.
“So, we still don’t know what set off the gas explosion or where the girl disappeared too,” summarised Jaap.
“No, sir,” confirmed Wayne.
Jaap puffed out his cheeks.
“Have you checked out all of the other hospitals for the girl?” asked the Colonel.
“Yes, sir, there is no sign of any 19-year-old girl matching Lindiwe’s description,” replied Wayne.
“It is like she was an alien sent to earth to make our lives a misery. I take it Lieutenant Erasmus is still asleep?”
“Yes, I just hope that he knows what happened inside that kitchen as the doctors say that he bumped his head pretty hard before hitting the floor,” said Jaap.
“He is a good cop, sir,” said Wayne.
“One of the best,” replied Jaap.
“It is like a third force is at play to drive us crazy. I will not be surprised if another group has tried to get to Pieter to use his skills to carry out an attack. However, Pieter is a loyal guy and would never trade his country for money.”
“I hope that you are wrong about some group trying to win over Lieutenant Erasmus,” said Wayne.
“The last thing we need is another dirty cop, but I really don’t think that the Lieutenant is in that bracket.”
“Every man has his price, Burger, but yes, I certainly hope that Pieter has not thrown in the towel with us,” said Jaap as he ended the call.
Jaap noticed some commotion at the end of the passage. Two of the doctors who were treating Pieter were in deep conversation.
Eventually, one of the doctors headed down the corridor to update Jaap.
“Lieutenant Erasmus’ position has stabilised, and he is responding to treatment,” said the a tall doctor with the traditional stereoscope swung over his left shoulder.
“He has woken up but is still quite drowsy from the medication,” said the doctor.
“Anyway, Colonel, he keeps mentioning the name ‘Lindiwe’.”
“Can I go see him?” asked Jaap.
At that moment, loud shouting was heard from the emergency room.
Pieter had become hysterical. He wanted to escape. He could not face a world where he had lost Lindiwe Snr and quite possibly Lindiwe Jnr too.
The tall doctor and Jaap ran towards the emergency room where they found three other doctors, one black and two white, trying to restrain Pieter.
“Let me out of this fucking place, you bastards!” yelled the Lieutenant.
Then things turned political.
“Stay away from me you gorilla!” yelled Pieter at the black doctor.
The battleplan was clear. If Pieter lost both Lindiwe Snr and Lindiwe Jnr, he could honour his parents’ views by returning to their racist mindset.
Ons sal lewe, ons sal sterwe, ons vir jou, Sui-Afrika (we will live, we will die, us for you, South Africa)!