Reflections of Hospice through the eyes of Shaun Thomas

Working in the communications/marketing department as an intern at the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA) has not only given me an opportunity to develop myself but has also given me insight as to what hospice is really about and passion of the people it involves.

A hospice to be honest with you is something I never really wanted to engage with as so much negative stigma is attached to it. My perception of hospice was that it was a place only for sick people that are about to die. I was then given the opportunity to visit St Lukes Hospice in Kenilworth and my perception changed as I entered the front doors of the building. Unlike a hospital setting, this place was bright, full of beautiful paintings, fresh flowers and very friendly staff. If this was the first impression of an ordinary day, I was impressed.

I was greeted by the Nursing Services manager, Sharon who showed me around the hospice and what caught my attention as we walked down the corridor was that each ward was so well positioned and had access to the beautiful garden where patients were enjoying the fresh air and listening to the birds singing. Not too far from this garden was also a prayer room where people could say prayers.

The highlight for me during this visitation was that I had an opportunity to sit down with a patient who was eager to share how he has benefited from hospice care. He seemed quite healthy but little did I know he just recently found out that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Before being diagnosed, Mr Davids experienced severe stomach pains which would not go away. He became very tired and started losing a tremendous amount of weight over a short period of time. He consulted a doctor who did some tests and discovered he had pancreatic cancer. He was referred to St Luke’s Hospice where he underwent chemotherapy. “Morphine has really helped me control the pain”, he said.

Mr Davids said that he has greatly benefited from hospice care and that the perception of hospice is wrong. “At times it can become lonely but I occupy myself with crafts and talking to the carers”, he added.

If there is one word that I could use to describe hospice, it would definitely be “passion”. Never have I seen staff so passionate about what they do! Hopefully I can now change the perception attached to hospice.