Q&A: The author of ‘Miracle Girl’ and her guardian angel
Sivosethu Ndubela and Tony Pearce tell the harrowing life story of a Xhosa girl who narrowly escaped dying
Sivosethu Ndubela, 19, has already lived a life that produced 18 dramatic, heart-warming, cringe-worthy, sad, happy and straight-up unbelievable chapters that she put together with the help of her guardian, Tony Pearce: Miracle Girl: Life Stories from a Xhosa Girl (Pan Macmillan, R95).
Ndubela was orphaned at 13, having grown up in dire poverty near Port Elizabeth. She was diagnosed with a rare heart condition (caused by untreated strep throat) leading to open heart surgery.
Why did you decide to write your life story now?
Many said that my story could help other patients and that I could tell the story of what it is like to live in a township – to be a “voice” for township kids.
How is your health (and heart)?
I was just at the hospital and it is all good. The surgeons were amazing. I feel a little tired sometimes, but can still do most things including my traditional dancing.
Why is your culture important?
It is part of who I am and always will be. I like our traditions and our ceremonies and my beliefs are strong.
What do you look forward to?
Completing my education. My close-to-death experience is always part of my motivation to do better. For example, going to university, pursuing a career and making everyone proud of me.
What do you hope a reader walks away with after reading your book?
The will to never give up. It saved my life. Always remember that there are good people out there who love and support you. I am so grateful to the many people across the world who prayed for my life.
Should readers look forward to another book?
I hope that I do not have to face challenges like these again, but if there are people out there who would one day like to read more, then I would love to tell them about the next stage of my life.
Tony Pearce, what was the biggest adjustment you had to make after taking in Sivosethu and her family?
The financial commitment and unplanned time we have needed to commit to them. It was either we do it or we don’t. It could not be a halfhearted, short-term event. It has at times been very difficult, but a labour of love.
You are clearly very proud of your ‘Miracle Girl’ but can you describe a time when you thought you would lose her?
I am very proud of her. I am a strong person but don’t think that I would have beaten this if it was me. But the doctors were fair. They told her, almost unanimously, that she was unlikely to survive. I had dark thoughts sometimes but in those moments I just thought of her and who I saw as a person – a cheerful and positive fighter.
We were very lucky and SA can be pleased that in this case the public health system was exceptional and we owe the doctors and nurses her life. My wife and I paid for private consultations and some medication as well as her high-protein diet, but the lion’s share was paid for by the health system.