Nurse rides into the sunset after a 42-year career

Freda de Kock left her beloved Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town,  on horseback (Photo: Supplied)
Freda de Kock left her beloved Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, on horseback (Photo: Supplied)

After more than four decades as a nurse, Freda de Kock left her beloved Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town – on horseback.

Ever since they were little girls Freda (60) and her twin sister, Marinda Norbal, had wanted to become nurses.

Growing up on a farm near Kakamas in the Northern Cape, the two girls would often “doctor” injured birds. As their brother and sister are respectively 17 and 13 years older, the twins are the youngest by far and so were best friends.

In 1976 the sisters, then in Standard 9 (Grade 11), had their first taste of their future nursing careers when they worked a holiday job at Tygerberg Hospital.

“It was my dad’s idea that we choose nursing as a career. We took to it like ducks to water,” Freda tells YOU.

Freda worked in Tygerberg’s oncology department in the chemotherapy section from 1982 until her retirement last month. She also did a 10-year stint – from 1991 to 2000 – teaching at the Otto du Plessis Nursing College, which is affiliated with Tygerberg.

Marinda works at the Institute for the Blind in Worcester, Western Cape.

After more than four decades in the nursing profession, Freda has mixed emotions about retirement, feeling sad and fulfilled at the same time.

“Cancer patients changed my approach to life. They live each day to the full. From cancer patients you learn many life lessons such as patience, faith, determination and gratitude. You don’t always experience this from other types of patients.”

She loves horse riding and for more than 15 years she’d often spend weekends at the Green Acres Riding School in Kraaifontein.

That’s what inspired her friend Zita Groenewald to surprise her on her last day at work. It was no mean feat for Zita to organise getting a horse to the hospital so Freda could “ride away” from her career. Also, it had to remain a secret.

“On my last day of work I got the biggest surprise of my life. On that rainy day, dressed in my nursing uniform, I got to wave goodbye to my colleagues from the back of one of my favourite horses,” Freda says.

“My colleagues had kept the secret for two weeks and took my breath away. It was definitely a first for Tygerberg Hospital – and thanks to good friends, I got to end my career on a high.”

And her plans for retirement?

“I plan on helping out at a doggie parlour, spending more time with my family and travelling, if my health allows it.”

From her medical experience she’s well aware of the impact of regular exercise and a healthy diet on quality of life. “I’m definitely not going to be sitting still,” she says.

“My motto in life is that your deeds must reflect your words, that you must seize the day, and that you must do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

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