It’s a deadly combination: South Africa’s scourge – TB – and the pandemic HIV/Aids. Where there is one, there is frequently the other; both interlinked in a complex dance of disease and deprivation. Like lethal shadows, the one stalks the other, masking symptoms, complicating treatment, spiraling the mortality statistics ever upwards.
Jack was destined to be a statistic. At the age of 33, he was doomed to become yet another figure in the tables and graphs that show the relentless rise in deaths in ever-younger age categories. The local clinic referred Jack for anti-retrovirals when it became clear that he could not hold off the HI virus within his system on his own. He was routinely tested for TB and after showing up positive, was referred to Helderberg Hospice’s Home Based Carers, a team of specially trained women who monitor and support those in the community with HIV/Aids. While Aids is a killer disease, it is not a death sentence to be diagnosed HIV positive. Hospice, in line with its mission to improve the quality of life of all who are referred for care, strives to keep these patients motivated to take their sometimes complicated regimes of medication and to live healthy lifestyles.
Within two weeks of starting treatment, his condition started to deteriorate rapidly. A few days later he was admitted to the In Patient Unit at Helderberg Hospice, a ten bed fulltime facility, where seriously terminally ill patients are given high quality medical care. His list of symptoms was frightening, ranging from drug-induced hepatitis to renal failure. Most people would assume that this man did not have long to live; that he had been admitted to Hospice to die. But that would be without reckoning on the deep and professional concern for every patient under the care of Helderberg Hospice. The nursing staff immediately devised a strategy of specialised care, co-coordinating the services of the ARV and TB clinics, the local hospital and the expert medical advice of the Hospice doctor. He spent two weeks undergoing extensive tests and was given optimal care and support. Good food, good care, good motivation for life. It was the recipe for a miraculous recovery and those who cared for Jack were delighted to see him turn the corner, fight the diseases that sucked the very life-breath from him and defy the death that loomed over him.
Today Jack enjoys a well-managed level of good health. He has been able to return to his job as a golf caddy which means he can provide for his young family. With the sustaining support of Helderberg Hospice monitoring his physical, emotional and psychosocial circumstances, Jack is motivated to take his medications and make the necessary lifestyle changes. A man who was assumed to be on his deathbed is, today, a man who contributes to society instead of leaving dependents in need of State aid. Helderberg Hospice made the difference. The core value of making the most of life while there is life, is what drives the high standards of specialised care according to each patients needs. When others may say there is nothing more to be done, Helderberg Hospice says there is much we can do. And we will do it to our best.