As we conclude our #HospiceVisits at Abundant Life Palliative Care, we managed to have a chat with two extremely passionate members of the team. Elizabeth De Klerk who is the psychosocial nurse and Jennifer Issacs who is currently a volunteer.
They both touched on their personal journeys leading up to the different roles they play at Abundant Life and how enriching it has been on a personal level for both of them.
Background of Elizabeth De Klerk and Jennifer Issacs
Elizabeth De Klerk started her journey working with cancer patients through the CANSA association of South Africa in 1995. She worked in the community with a team doing specialised palliative care and in particular home-based care for patients who were being looked after in their homes. She would see to it that those patients were evaluated, monitored and looked after to the best of her and the team’s ability.
This was a passion of hers between the years of 1995 through till 1997 where she then started working at Groote Schuur Hospital and enjoyed her stay there for 10 years. Elizabeth then sought new challenges and a friend of hers made her aware of a position available at Abundant Life. Elizabeth was not sure if this was the right calling for her and prayed a lot about it. After a while, she made contact with Abundant Life because she felt God had answered her prayers and made her aware that it was indeed the next step in her life.
Contact was made with Dr Clint Cupido (founder of Abundant Life) and the relationship got off to a fantastic start with Dr Cupido reiterating the fact that he had been searching for someone like Elizabeth for a long time. She started there as the volunteer coordinator and the first person who she recruited was Jennifer Issacs.
Jennifer Issacs’ background was that she was a machine assistant at Distillers. Due to unforeseen circumstances she was retrenched and it was at this time too that her dad was very ill. She was able to look after him with the amazing support of Abundant life to which her father was referred in January.
He passed away in the same month, but the positive impact that was left on her from Abundant Life left her wanting to give back to this amazing organisation because of all that they had done for her father.
Jennifer recalls feeling very overwhelmed by all that they had done for her father. She then added that Elizabeth had approached her to possibly volunteer at the organisation, to which Jennifer recalls having given some thought. “I went home and spoke to my husband about it. I told him that I want to give back to this organisation, it’s the least I can do.”
I then phoned Elizabeth and made myself available.
Impact that Abundant Life is making
Both Jennifer and Elizabeth stressed how amazing it’s been working for Abundant Life but more so how obvious the impact has been. Basic needs of patients are addressed, besides the medical. A prime example is of just reading a book at a patient’s bedside and basic communication with the patient which they generally crave and need.
“At times they get told there is nothing left to do, however, we give them hope! Through all the emotions and anxieties that they are currently feeling. We reassure them about realistic and unrealistic facts which at times does make them feel much more at ease. The psychosocial aspect of helping a patient is so important and funny enough it is sometimes the one that gets forgotten the easiest” they both added.
Jennifer gave a simple example of what she realised in her own capacity. A person gets ill, goes to the doctor and is diagnosed with 6 months to live. It’s a death sentence to the patient and they don’t have any motivation to live. That’s the difference at Abundant Life, we address the fears and make it a priority to show patients that they can still live in abundance. That is where the palliative care aspect comes in.
Joys of working at Abundant Life
Jennifer and Elizabeth both stressed how much they enjoy what they are doing. They are both learning a valuable amount of information and it’s really grown them personally in their lives. “No money can buy what we do” was a sentiment felt mutually between the two and a real reflection of what Abundant Life is all about.
“Passion, compassion and an ear to listen to the patient are the three necessities you need and we both feel without it, you won’t last long in this profession. It’s like a calling.”
Find out more about Abundant Life here.