“It’s a girl” at Stepping Stone Hospice

‘You are not alone’ is not only the motto at Stepping Stone Hospice, it is a philosophy that is put into action daily – and it has never been better illustrated than in the case of Baby Pereira.

There may be no way to change the outcome sometimes, but there’s always a way to make a difference to the journey.

Many of us think that hospice equates to death, but if you were to witness the manner in which patients at Stepping Stone Hospice and Care services are treated and taken care of, you’d quickly come to realise that hospice is very much about celebrating life. And the team at Stepping Stone has been celebrating life in a big way this past week with the arrival of baby Perreira!

Little Tersia Pereira, lovingly named after Stepping Stone’s very own ‘mom’ and CEO Tersia Burger, was born on 14 January at Netcare Clinton Hospital after her mother, Irineia, a hospice patient, went into premature labour at Stepping Stone’s In-Patient Unit in New Market Park. An ambulance was quickly summoned and after an emergency caesarean and a few days spent in ICU, both mom and baby were released back into the care of the nurses and carers at Stepping Stone.

The 27-year old Irineia, who is originally from central Angola and worked as a clerk at the magistrate court there, was admitted to Stepping Stone’s IPU shortly before Christmas after a referral from Dr Sylvia Rodrigues, well-known Alberton oncologist and active member of the Stepping Stone care team.

Irineia, already a mother to a daughter (4) and son (2), came to South Africa in the hopes of finding a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan after becoming very ill in September last year and being initially misdiagnosed back home.

Suffering from an aggressive form of cancer, she underwent radiation treatment in the hopes of stemming its spread, bearing in mind the health and wellbeing of her unborn baby. A tumour in her neck area made it necessary for her to undergo a tracheotomy, where an incision is made into the windpipe to help a patient breathe. Not only does this make speaking impossible for her, but combine that with the fact that Portuguese is the only language that Irineia understands, and you get a communication gap which has made her day-to-day care more challenging than usual for the team at Stepping Stone. Family friend and translator, Andrie Langa, can be found most days sitting at the unit, helping to bridge this gap by acting as both her voice and facilitator for her care until members of her family are able to arrive from Angola.

Luckily, however, the language of love is universal and angels have certainly rallied around this mom and baby girl – from Stepping Stone CEO, Tersia Burger, who was with Irineia at the hospital when she gave birth and has been a constant pillar of support for her at the IPU, to the Stepping Stone care and nursing team who have turned Irineia’s room into a fully-functional nursery complete with cot next to her bed so she can spend as much precious time with her little one as possible.

There has also been an outpouring of love and goodwill from the community: “Since little Tersia’s birth was announced on the Stepping Stone Hospice Facebook page, the unit has received donation after donation of much-needed items,” says Tersia Burger. “The outpouring of love has been wonderful and much appreciated.”

There’s no denying that this is a very emotional time for Irineia. Her body is weak and she cannot care for her baby as she would desperately like to. Two additional nurses have been brought into the In-Patient Unit to help her day and night. Says Tersia: “When Irineia held her baby for the first time, tears streamed down her face. She is physically unable to smile or even speak to her little girl, which must be unbearable. When she wants to comfort little Tersia, she plays her a tune from her cell phone because she can’t hum a lullaby.”