Landisa: What working as an occupational therapist in the rural free state taught me about love

2020-02-07 12:19
Lize Eloff

Lize Eloff

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She came in a week ago, 37 years diagnosed with a stroke, a big stroke.

After assessment it was clear that a lot more than just a stroke was going on: she is HIV positive and probably has TB that spread to her brain. 

Without needing a medical degree it was clear, she is sick. 

Our first session was painful, although I was not sure where the pain was coming from, but still we managed to push through and as our eyes connected and she tried to smile at me, I knew I would be there every day, even if it was just to make her smile for a brief moment.

She couldn't speak so understanding was difficult, but as the week passed on we developed some type of communication and I was able to understand what she is trying to tell me.

I don't know if it was because the doctor told her I am an outisde doctor and she needs to do what I tell her, but somehow she trusted me.

The days went by, she couldn't feed herself so lunchtime became a good time for therapy sessions. 

But suddenly she didn't want to eat anymore...

This week I was only able to say hi, as the pain was just too bad and every day she looked worse. 

Yesterday I didn't get to see her but as we entered today I could see she wasn't doing well. 

There was no response to my call. As I took off my gloves and wrote in her file that she will not have therapy she took a deep breath, I looked up, and she breathed it out. For the last time.

This is why you shouldn't get attached to patients, they'd say.

It happens they say, don't worry about it.

But how am I to love then? 

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." 1 John 4:7

Love is not doing without feeling. So yes, I am sad today because she died and I will cry, because I loved. 

And like my clinical partner said, maybe she was just waiting for me to say goodbye.

Lize is an occupational therapist who completed her community service year at Elizabeth Ross Hospital in Phuthaditjhaba, Free State, at the time of writing. 

Do you have a story to share? Send it to landisa@news24.comand include your contact details and a photo. Visit Landisa for more stories. 

Read more on:    community service  |  occupational therapy

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