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The Human Faces of Hospice

I first arrived at Hospice in July 2011 with my 13 year old son, who was extremely ill with brain tumours.

I remember feeling enveloped by kindness and gentleness as we walked through the ward doors, and a sense of immense relief. At last my son was in the hands of people who were experts in this kind of care, and who would know what to do at every turn in the road ahead. I felt as if we had been given a parachute.

It was only thanks to the skills and availability of the St. Luke’s community nurses that our son could be at home, surrounded by family and friends for the last weeks of his life. We owe Hospice an eternal debt of gratitude for carrying us through what would otherwise have been an unthinkable time in our lives.

Whilst at St. Luke’s, I was struck by the fact that this impeccable care was available to all at that very stressful time in their lives. I realized how rare it is in our society for financial means not to dictate the resources available to a patient and their family- and knew that I would like to volunteer at Hospice.

I did the St. Luke’s volunteer course in 2013, was welcomed by the team at the Conwyn Bay Day Hospice and spent 3 fulfilling and humbling years enjoying ‘arts and crafts’ alongside the patients.
I then became the ‘thank you letter’ volunteer, and have spent the past 3 1/2 years doing my best to adequately thank the many people who so generously support Hospice-  financially, and in a multitude of other ways.
(There is a roster of volunteers who collect medications from Groote Schuur daily for St. Luke’s patients, and I fill in there when needed.)

Rev. Peter Fox, head of spiritual care when my son was a patient at St. Luke’s, also inducted me as a volunteer. I remember him saying that our St. Luke’s badges were to be worn ” with pride and with humility”. I can think of no better summary of the privilege of volunteering at Hospice.

It is with a heavy heart that I am retiring at the end of July after 25 happy years at St Luke’s Hospice.

In 1976 while nursing in Surbiton England, I was invited to a ward-opening at St Christopher’s Hospice. On entering the hospice, it was the calm atmosphere, the crocheted blankets and the chapel that gave me the feeling that I would love to work in a place like that, although I had no idea that Cape Town had a hospice.

My first contact with St Luke’s Hospice was as a volunteer in 1994. On first walking into the ward was the calm atmosphere, the crocheted blankets and the chapel and I knew that this was where I was meant to be.

I was employed full time in 2000. I had a devastating stroke while running in 2001 and was off work for four months. I have subsequently worked 18 years’ post-stroke and have achieved so much in my time at St. Luke’s Hospice.

  • 2002 Short course in Palliative Care.
  • 2006 – 2007 B.Tech degree in Oncology which I passed cum Laude.
  • For the above degree a requirement was to present an improvement to my working environment.  My plan was to alter a store room into a family tranquillity suite – which has now come into full function in the IPU.
  • M.Tech degree with an article published in an international Palliative Care journal.

The above is a reflection of my passion and joy at doing a job that I loved, and was able to achieve while working at St Luke’s Hospice, be it in the IPU or training in the community.

It has been the most humbling experience to enter into the personal space of the dying patient and to be with them in the reverent moment when they draw their last breath.

After 20 years in the IPU, I was afforded the opportunity to achieve my other passion which is the training of carers and to witness their growth in confidence and ability. My motto for the carers has always been – ‘I’m bright, I’m brave, I’m blessed and I’m beautiful’ I encourage everyone to be true to their calling.

My strongest attributes are perseverance and discipline. Few will know that I have two black belts in karate to show for my efforts.

I thank everyone at St Luke’s Hospice for giving me the wonderful opportunity to fulfill my calling for the past 25 years. I could not imagine working anywhere else.  I have made many abiding friendships within the St Luke’s Hospice community.

I plan to remain true to St Luke’s Hospice and I will enjoy becoming a volunteer again.

Grateful thanks and appreciation to all.

Kirsty is our HOD for Outreach Services which consists of Bereavement, Social Work, Spiritual Care and Volunteers.

I am a person who has been on quite a journey of life. I was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in KZN and emigrated with my family to the UK. As well as living in the UK I was fortunate to have lived in the US, Australia and the Netherlands. My health professional background is as an Occupational Therapist which is fairly unusual for a hospice. My first really memorable experience of palliative care was working on a pulmonary (lung) unit where many of my patients were palliative care patients. I just found it such a privilege that they would choose to spend some of their precious time with me as we discussed what was most important to them in this last phase of life. I  had a sense at the time that it was an area I would come back to and after a long stint in neurology and paediatrics I found myself back in South Africa studying Public Health. When the position at St Luke’s came up two and a half years ago I jumped at it. Someone in my family had recently been cared for by St Luke’s and the care made such a difference in him and his immediate family’s life. In South Africa we have a really diverse health care system between private and state; what I find so wonderful about St Luke’s is that every patient irrespective of income or socio-economic background gets the same high quality care which is just amazing. Knowing the difference that St Luke’s made in my family is the motivation I need to get up every day knowing that my role is just one small part in ensuring others have the same great experience that my family did.

When I walked in the doors of Hospice, on the 17th June 1998, I got the feeling of Love and Peace.

I had been asked by a friend of my sister who  worked at that time in the account’s department at St Luke’s Hospice, Kenilworth, to do some capturing of donor records that needed to be updated

I had been helping out for two weeks when Anne, the lady in the Accounts department working with creditors, asked if I was interested in her job -offering to train me, as she was wanting to retire.

I said” Yes, please”, gave in my CV, got the job,and that was 21 years ago.

I had just become permanent when I was asked to do the administrative work (Levy Statements) for Norfolk Place.  I first did that on excel, then put myself on a Pastel course, asking the boss at that time to give me the time off. He offered to pay for the course too, as I was doing it for work purposes. I said “No”, I would pay, as Hospice was giving me the two hours off, twice a week in the morning.

Over the years I  have done just about all the tasks of administration and financial work. Three years ago, when a new financial manager started, she changed my job to financial work only.

I took over the position of Medical Aid Claims administrator, which I truly enjoy. I was happy for the change of position as it was something new, and I was inspired by this as I would be helping Hospice by bringing in an income.

It is a great feeling to give back to Hospice as my heart is in this place, having been here for all these years.

I have had lots of interaction helping out with fundraising events, including the fete, and at the light up of the tree, year after year, with the buying a light forms on that night.

I have had many blessed years at St Luke’s. My belief in life is that if you enjoy your job, then you don’t work a day in your life .

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