Death is not age selective

2017-05-03 06:00
Josephine Namutebi (37) has been in the care of St Francis Hospice since October 2015.Photo:SUPPLIED

Josephine Namutebi (37) has been in the care of St Francis Hospice since October 2015.Photo:SUPPLIED

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WITH Hospice Week currently taking place from May 1 to 7, St Francis Hospice has some frightening facts to share.

Of the 1 152 115 people living in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, some 422 000 (36.6%) are unemployed. The youth make up 47.3% of this number, which amounts to nearly 200 000 people.

Another scary statistic is the large number of terminally ill youths that are in the care of St Francis Hospice.

St Francis Hospice cares for an average of 5 000 terminally ill patients every year, 25% of whom are between the ages of 18 and 35.

St Francis Hospice was started in 1986 by a passionate young sister. It provides home-based palliative care to patients in the terminal phase of cancer, HIV/Aids, TB and Motor Neurone Disease.

Hospice has several caring and dedicated qualified nurses and social workers that visit patients and families in their homes to provide them with much-needed medication, love, support and counselling.

However, the tragedy is that the youth, who is meant to be the next generation of breadwinners for their families, often leave behind a legacy of debt and displacement as they are unable to work and care for their children.

One of St Francis Hospice’s patients, Josephine Namutebi (37), has been cared for since October 2015.

“I started getting severe pain in my bones in 2015 and the doctors could not find out what was wrong with me. The pain would not go away and eventually my employee sent me to see his private doctor,” she said.

The doctor discovered a lump in her breast and, upon further investigation, found that the cancer had spread to her bones. It was too late to remove the lump and the doctor advised her to go for radiation.

“I felt much better after radiation and I returned to work, but six months later I was in severe pain again and I could not go back to work. I was very sad in the beginning as I even struggled to make lunch for my little boy, who is now nine years old.

“Instead of me looking after him, he is now looking after me. I must say that I am very blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. Everyone is so positive and encourage me to appreciate every day as a gift. I believe that God will cure me. I see miracles around me every day, why can’t I be one of his miracles?” she asked.

Sister Janice Malkinson, who has been assigned to Josephine since 2015, said she is still amazed at her brave spirit and how she defies her illness.

“I see Josephine two to three times a week to change her dressings and bring her medicine and vitamins from the Livingstone Oncology Department. We believe in a multidisciplinary team approach and together making a positive difference in the lives of our patients.

“We first look to ensure they are comfortable and pain-free before we look at their emotional state, spiritual needs and how well the family is coping now and will manage once the patient passes on. It really is a holistic service that we offer to provide our patients with the best quality of life until they pass on,” Sister Janice said.

Hospice Social Auxiliary Worker Bukelwa Matabese played a pivotal role in securing the financial well-being of Josephine.

“When I met her in 2015, I realised that she received no financial support from government as she was born in Uganda. I immediately made arrangements for her to receive a disability grant, child support and grant-in-aid. Josephine has a wonderful sister who makes sure that her son goes to a good school and assists her where possible,” she said.

Josephine is still fighting the good fight and doesn’t believe in giving up.

How can Hospice help you?

Hospice provides care to terminally ill patients suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, TB and Motor Neurone Disease.

Once you have reached the stage where you need care, you can request a referral letter from your doctor or clinic to submit a referral to Hospice.

Once received, a nurse will visit to assess your needs and admit you as a patient.

How can you help Hospice?

The public is encouraged to donate and volunteers are sought to help with the many fundraising events hosted every year. One such event is taking place today and tomorrow (May 3 and 4) between 7am and 8:30am at the Walmer Boulevard and William Moffett/Cape Road intersections.

St Francis Hospice’s 16 volunteers, dressed up in superhero outfits, will be collecting cash donations and handing out information about St Francis Hospice.

For more info contact 041 360 7070 or kerry@stfrancishospice.za.org.

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