We started the work week back on track for our remaining home visits. In the morning, Sunshine Coast Hospice Staff Member Sister Zelda and Grahamstown Hospice Staff Member Ivis drove us to our first home visit of the day in a township called Kenton on the Sea.
This township is similar to the others we have visited on this trip. In these communities, there is a lack of social services and opportunities for people to find work. The way people here pay for electricity and power in their home is through a special, pre-paid card. When they use up the card, they need to add more Rand (local currency) to keep it going or they end up in the dark. As Vonceil would describe it, it is like a pre-paid cell phone service.
Our second home visit of the day was with a young woman suffering from HIV/AIDS. She spoke of how much she wanted to become more educated in order to teach others in her community to be more self-sufficient. Unfortunately, she will probably be unable to receive that further education because of the lack of funds to help pay for that education.
After we completed our first two visits, we stopped for our morning “tea time.” We all think it is so interesting that the culture here has a built-in time for having tea. I guess it’s like us having a 15-minute break during the work day, but we usually have coffee or soda. During our tea time, we stopped along Riverbend Street where Katie, Pam, Tangela and Vonceil decided it was a perfect time for a Kodak moment. Let me tell you, these four have had a great sense of humor throughout this trip. This time, Pam did a high school cheerleading stunt. She was awesome! After I took a picture, I mentioned to Pam that she has to share it with her grandchildren. I’m sure they will all be so proud of her.
After tea time, we were on our way to the Port Alfred office. That’s around another 45 minutes of driving. One thing's for sure, everywhere the Grahamstown and Sunshine Coast Hospice staff must travel is about an hour’s drive away. Another point I should make is that I no longer allow myself to fall asleep on these drives anymore. The group, mainly Katie, takes great joy in filming me while I sleep in the vehicle and it is not a pretty picture. Now, no matter how sleepy I get, I won’t allow myself to close my eyes. That’s the kind of crazy stunts we do in order to entertain each other. I must admit that I probably started this whole thing by trying to scare everyone, so they are only repaying me for that.
We received an extremely warm welcome when we arrived at the Port Alfred office. We were also interviewed by two of the local newspapers, The Sunshine Escape and The Talk of The Town. It was wonderful that the people here thought enough of our visit to want to interview us and put our picture in the newspaper. What an honor it was for us!
After visiting several more patients, we ended our day and I was feeling a little under the weather. After seven days of non-stop traveling, I think some of this is finally catching up with me. We are all having such a great time, laughing and talking, that if we were truly getting sick, we might not notice it until we board that last flight to the U.S. Vonceil started saying “allergies” every time she coughs or sneezes. That might not sound funny to you, but to us, it’s hysterical. Now this is everyone’s way of saying, “I’m not getting sick, so it must be allergies.” I’ve cracked up every time Vonceil, Katie, Pam or Tangela sneezes.
For dinner, we met with Zelda, the board members, and their spouses and friends. I would have to say that this meal was the best one I’ve had since being in South Africa. I don’t remember the names of the traditional dishes that were served, but we were told that this meal wasn’t very expensive to make and was the most traditional food you could eat to have the true South African experience. I want to thank Zelda, Karen, Maggie, Jennifer, Juan, Norman, Barry Mac, Barry, Wally and Mistral for a wonderful evening.
Before I sign off, Vonceil wanted to share some of her experiences…
Vonceil: Sometimes I am floored by what I am allowed to experience as a social worker at Haven Hospice. What has floored me today is the courage of a patient named Lydia. How many times have I complained about being tired, frustrated or overwhelmed? Today, Lydia has taught me a valuable lesson.
She is a 33-year-old woman who greeted the hospice care workers while telling jokes. Lydia is the mother of a 15-year-old and she is a cancer patient. The tumor on her neck is bulging and it’s the size of a large head of cabbage. She is in extreme pain and her morphine ration has run out. This patient is in such pain that if she were a patient of Haven Hospice, she would be on a continuous IV drip to help manage that pain. Lydia is frail and can’t be over 60 pounds. But through all of that, she smiles and tells us thank you for the chocolates, sweets and a teddy bear that we brought for her. And as we were leaving, she told us that she has no worries. The next time Blanding Boulevard traffic or any other annoyance threatens to rattle my day – I will just remember Lydia. No worries.
Haven Hospice Chief Information Officer Arthur Clark is one of five Haven Ambassadors chosen to travel to Grahamstown Hospice – our sister hospice organization in South Africa. The experience will provide an opportunity for the Haven Hospice Ambassadors to learn about end-of-life care in South Africa and to bring insights back to Haven Hospice to share with their colleagues. The selected Haven Ambassadors come from a variety of career paths and will bring a wide-range of experiences to the exchange experience: Pam Giebeig, hospice nurse; Tangela Wilson, respiratory therapist; and Vonceil Levine and Katie Alphahando, clinical social workers.