Naledi’s wish upon a star

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Every young girl dreams of meeting her favourite celebrity, and for Naledi Kopane, a patient of Sunflower Children’s Hospice in Bloemfontein, South Africa for the past 18 years, that dream was linked to her will to live during a time of serious illness. In 2010 Naledi was in a five-month-long coma and her life hung in the balance. 

The song “Believer” written and sung by Miss Lira, Naledi’s favourite South African musical artist, was the song that brought her out of her long coma and gave her the will to carry on and make the most of her life. Naledi, whose name means “shining star” in her home language of South Sotho, was born HIV positive and orphaned at a very young age.  Brought up by her grandparents at a time when anti-retroviral therapy was not available in South Africa, Naledi experienced many health and emotional problems from living with the virus. This was at a time when HIV was very stigmatized. However, with the support of a caring family and her hospice, Naledi weathered many times of ill-health until she was able to access anti-retroviral therapy, However, an unfortunate reaction to one of the drugs led to her experiencing renal failure and she now spends three days every week having dialysis.

ICPCN and Sunflower Children’s Hospice worked together to arrange a surprise visit from Lira while she was at the dialysis unit. Naledi’s absolute amazement and delight at seeing her favourite artist had everyone in tears, including the other dialysis patients. The tears only increased when Lira sang “Believer” to her, with Naledi joining in with every word and movement. Joan Marston, ICPCN Chief Executive and the founder of Sunflower Children’s Hospice had this to say: “It was wonderful to be there and to experience Naledi’s joy at meeting her idol and a privilege to witness this very special moment. In children’s palliative care we are aware of the need to recognise the value of every moment.”

Lira spent two hours talking to Naledi and presented her with a signed copy of her DVD and CD. She also made arrangements for Naledi to attend as a special guest at one of her concerts in October.

An inspiring outcome of this story is that Naledi was not the only one affected by the visit. Lira was profoundly moved by Naledi’s story and her courage in the face of such adversity. She shared the story of her visit to Naledi with her many thousands of Facebook followers where she wrote “Today I met a 21 year old girl named Naledi who was born HIV positive and was orphaned at 4 yrs old. The ARV’s caused her renal failure and she slipped into a coma for 5 months in 2010. She says my Song BELIEVER brought her back. Ever since, she woke up, she’s wanted to meet me.” Lira ended her post with the words “Naledi – you blessed my life so much today.THANK YOU.” She also spoke of the affect that meeting Naledi has had on her life during a recent SABC TV interview.

The emotional meeting was all caught on film by Mike Hill of Moonshine Movies in Australia. Mike, who had met Naledi  during a previous visit to South Africa, had returned to Bloemfontein for more footage of Naledi telling her life-story. 

Moonshine Movies is producing a series of short films and one feature length film on palliative care for children. Some of Naledi’s story is told as part of the Little Stars project of Moonshine Movies’ in the film ‘Value Every Life’ and the film which includes this meeting will be premiered at the ICPCN Conference in Mumbai, India in February 2014.

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