After Every Storm Comes a Rainbow

As we continue our #HospiceVisits at Groote Schuur Hospital, we catch up with Maria Ockhuys van Niekerk, a staff nurse who despite having a challenging childhood still rose above her circumstances which made her the person she is today.

Maria, also known as “Ria” by many of her colleagues and friends was born in the Northern Cape. She is the oldest of 5 children and her father served on the police force. During those years it was mandatory for people working in the police force to relocate between provinces every 5 years which resulted in Maria needing to adapt to new cultures and schools each time this happened. For her, moving was extremely exciting as she enjoyed meeting new friends and at the same time getting to learn about different cultures. “It was always exciting for me to see how different people are. “She added.

Unfortunately her parents got divorced and because of her father’s stability, it was decided that he would take care of all the children. This was not easy at the beginning but when he was asked to return to the Northern Cape, he willingly accepted as his family could assist him by looking after the children while he was at work. Maria eventually finished her schooling and after 12 years of not seeing her mother, decided to make an effort to reconnect with her. After many attempts, she eventually made contact with her mother and travelled to Cape Town. It was a big adjustment for her as she was accustomed to the rural lifestyle to that of the City life. Cape Town was also the place where she started her nursing career completing her training at Nico Malan Nursing College and Conradie Hospital respectively. From 2002 – 2008 she then worked for the Nursing Association of South Africa.

Maria expresses that she always wanted to become a nurse. Her love for people and taking care of their needs is always a priority for her. “I am a caring person always wanting to make a difference in people’s lives where I can, no matter how small. “She said. At the time while working at Groote Schuur Hospital, palliative care was something she never heard or knew about until one day Sr Jennifer Arendse, professional nurse invited her to do a palliative care training course which was offered at the hospital at the time. She was a little sceptical as she just completed a course but through Sr Jennifer’s encouragement, she decided to do it.

The outcome of the training was very informative and to her surprise it made her realise what impact palliative care really has on patients. “Palliative care is about passion and compassion and putting the patients’ needs first. “She said. The need for palliative care in hospitals is big as we deal with so many patients on a daily basis.

Imagine if all our patients were knowledgeable about palliative care..what impact would that not have? I am definitely determined to advocate for Palliative Care!