My conversation stopping career choice

My wish is that this blog post will find its way across the globe

Umduduzi Blog

‘So, what do you do?’. Here we go, I think. I proceed to explain that I am a palliative care doctor. I work mostly with children, but some adults facing serious illness, supporting their physical, emotional and spiritual needs and often end of life care.

This is the moment the conversation gets really awkward.

Cocking their head to the side they say, ‘I don’t know how you do what you do. You must be so special. An angel.

Well, ‘thank you’ I say. When in truth I am thinking. Nope, no angel here. Just someone willing to talk about topics others find uncomfortable or difficult. I am prepared to have those conversations that the vast majority hope they will never have to.

And yet when it comes down to serious and possibly life ending illness, wouldn’t it be comforting to have someone empathetically tell the truth? Someone…

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COVID-19 DAG-VIR-DAG

Moeilike tye!

Dag-vir-dag en treetjie-vir treetjie. Dis hoe ons dit doen! Maar soms, net soms, raak dit bietjie te veel. En soms, net soms, dink ons dit gaan nooit weer einde kry nie. Maar dan kyk ons terug op ons lewens en onthou ander moeilike tye. Tye van chaos en onsekerheid. Tye van bekommernis en moedeloosheid. En dan weet ons, ons KAN, ons WIL en ons SAL hierdeur kom.

Wat beteken dag-vir-dag?

Goeie vraag, veral as ons so graag vooruit wil beplan. Hoe doen mens die dag-vir-dag-ding? Ek weet ook nie, maar ek dink jy DOEN dit net! As die groot kommer waaroor ek nie beheer het nie in my hart kom nesmaak, jaag ek hom weg deur vinnig aandag te gee aan iets waaroor ek wel beheer het.

Hoe doen ek dit?

  • Ek bid.
  • Ek stof af.
  • Ek was skottelgoed.
  • Ek werk in die tuin.
  • Ek lag.
  • Ek is dankbaar.
  • Ek bel my kinders.
  • Ek maak vir my man tee.
  • Ek bemoedig iemand anders met ‘n boodskap.
  • Ensovoorts, ensovoorts.

En so kom ek deur die dag – tree vir tree. Een ding op ‘n keer. Voetjie vir voetjie. Stadig maar seker…met God se genade. Wat ‘n groot troos!

Daar is hoop

Ja, daar is hoop en daar is ‘n toekoms. En ons hoef nie te weet hoe lyk die toekoms nie. Gee maar net een klein treetjie op ‘n slag.

Probeer dit. Dit werk!

COVID-19 – Day 5

A strange day

Day 5 of the COVID-19 lock down was an ordinary Tuesday, except that I did not go to work, or to the stores, nor visited friends. I enjoyed the solitude and the stillness around me when I awoke and was certain that this day would be filled with the rest that we all need. Rest from being so busy with non-essential tasks that revolve mostly around ourselves.

Then the message came from my sister to say that her second grandchild was born, but that the doctor was worried about his lungs. We started praying, as we always do when we are in trouble. Heartbroken that it is always trouble and challenges that bring us back to faith and on our knees.

The next message was of even more serious nature. My son-in-law’s dad suffered a massive heart attack while he was completing admission forms in the hospital after being told by his doctor to rush to the hospital. His wife was with him and I just can’t give enough thanks that this happened inside the hospital. He was wheeled to theater almost immediately where they worked on him for the best part of 5 hours. And his wife (over 70 and not well herself) was waiting all the time in a lonely waiting room. Lonely, because there is a lock down and her children are not allowed to drive and visit.

For me, this was an eye opener. We, as a family, were now in the same position where many people will be once they contract COVID-19, and should they be admitted. Being ill and isolated certainly sounds like too much to adapt to. And what if death sets in and you have to die alone without having the chance to say goodbye? Everyone is talking about living wills, but there is more to advanced health care than just a living will. There is the important, but difficult, conversations that must take place between family members. This should include last wishes, yes. But it should also include the following 4 things as Ira Byock pointed out in his book on The four things that matter most:

  • Please forgive me
  • I forgive you
  • Thank you
  • I love you

I urge you to use your time with your significant others wisely and to open the discussion about the four things that matter most.

Ek ontmoet ‘n Ou Vroutjie

My werk neem my soms op interessante paaie. Gister was so ‘n dag.

Ek laai ‘n vreemdeling, met goeie verwysings vanaf my kollega, op. Hy vat my op die kronkelpad oor die heuwels van Endlovini. Ons is op pad na ‘n gemeenskapsorganisasie wat hulp en sorg verskaf aan persone met ‘n lewensbedreigende siekte.

Terwyl ek ry, verkyk ek my aan die vreemde mooi van kleihuisies op heuwels. Ek kry die gevoel van vreedsaamheid. Ek sien laggende mense en ek kry vriendelike wuiwe van meeste voetgangers by wie ons verbyry. Ons vat ‘n stywe verspoelde grondpaadjie en my nou bekende metgesel maak die hek oop. Die hek is nie daar om skelms uit te hou nie, maar wel die beeste. Skreiend in kontras met die ontwikkelde en misdaadryke gebied waar ek bly.

Hier is ooglopend min hulpbronne, maar die hartlike manier waarop ek ontvang word is in skrille kontras met die armoede van die omgewing. Dit laat my wonder wat armoede werklik is. Wie is die arm mens hier? Dalk ek?

Skitterskoon vloere begroet my. Iewers vanuit die gebou kerm ‘n pasiënt en my voete loop vanself daarheen. Daar is min plek in die klein kamertjie. Die bed staan reg onder die gordynlose venster. Daar is lekker warm komberse op die bed. Dis ‘n ou vroutjie wat eintlik met haarself lê en gesels. Baie hard. Dalk is sy doof. Haar oë is al dof. Ek vat haar hand en sy draai na my toe. ‘n Glimlag wat my skaam maak, begroet my. Sy is bly om my te sien! Sy vryf my hand en praat met my in Zoeloe. Dis n goeie praat, al verstaan ek min. En toe praat sy Engels en vra MY  hoe dit gaan. So lei sy die gesprek weg van haar en fokus op my, die arm ene?! Toe ek groet wil sy my eers nie laat loop nie. Maar sy stuur my uit met ‘n seëngroet wat my vir lank bybly.

Toe begin ons werk in Endlovini.