My very dear friend, Deline, and I often jokingly wonder whether people know about all the “ad hoc” things one does when you run a business (or in her case a church and a business). People don’t realize that a huge amount of your time is absorbed by frivolous things like trying to make sense of COJ (our delightful municipality) accounts, getting quotes on better Wi-Fi, calling plumbers when your geysers burst on Saturday nights, organising baby showers for staff who promised in their interviews that they are “done with babies”, filling in ENDLESS forms to be on different vendors lists, buying new uniforms, as your staff are getting too much cake and are bursting out the seams, sending estimates to potential guests, and trying to see what Google add campaign is going to be cheapest and most effective… There are so many things we do, that are essential, but which are entirely unglamorous and often, not at all related to our actual business function.


So I thought that today, I would give you a glimpse into our lives and chat about what we do in a day… and as this blog makes its appearance on a Tuesday, I am going to chat about last Tuesday in the life of Sunninghill Recovery Lodge.


At 6:30AM  we all gather for a weekly meeting. It is a chance for the day and night shifts to connect, along with the maintenance and admin teams. The best seats get taken by the guys that arrive first, and the last few people either get the tiny little chair (I do not know why we own this. I think it was used to milk cows!) or worse, have to bring an ice cold metal chair from outside. I talk about some boring admin, but then we also have a chance to talk about each guest and each staff member gets an opportunity to verbalise what they are dealing with and how they are. It is quite unstructured and casual, but it makes all the difference for us.


After the meeting I go through all the “guest sheets”. We diligently record everything about a guest, from which meds they take at what time, to when they go to the loo, to what visitors they had and very importantly, what their mood was like. I love the comments my staff make sometimes like, “Mr P was sulking as his wife came to visit late,” or “Mrs S likes to watch Peeky Blinders,” or “Mr V now knows that we put his Banatrol-plus in his ice cream”. The doctors and therapists also put their input on these i-pads. It makes quite a wonderful history and baseline for us.


While I was busy in my office, I saw the staff serving coffee, cappuccinos and rusks to the guests and I could smell chef Dylan getting started on some heavenly lamb shanks which would cook slowly until dinner. I could hear the bath trolleys starting to go to different rooms. Guests choose what time they bath and there is never a rush as to when we do this. Often guests have bed baths, but if they have the strength, we help them to the shower. Nothing feels better than washing your hair under hot running water.


I then had to design the artwork for our blog, as well as the social media artwork which alerts people of said blog. Then, as on every Tuesday, I had to load the blog on the different platforms and because the techno demons are at play again, it felt like I had to balance on the edge of my desk with my foot keeping me upright at a peculiar angle to get good signal. The Wi-Fi is awesome everywhere at the lodge, even in the far-off corners miles away from the access points. I suspect it is even great at the bottom of the borehole, but just because God is trying to teach me endurance or patience, the Wi-Fi is shockingly temperamental in my little corner. (Let’s just say, at this stage it is Tech Demon 1, Me 0 ).


I popped out to the other lodge to see how the builders are proceeding. We are renovating the staff rooms and bathrooms there and I wanted to see how the team was progressing. I took my gardening shears, because I spotted some very lovely succulents on a neighbour’s sidewalk and I wanted to go and acquire (is it stealing if the neighbour did not give permission) some cuttings, so that Remember (my gardener’s difficult to forget’s name) and I could plant them the next day.


I got back to SRL and off loaded my bounty of succulents and then crossed the road on foot to Netcare Sunninghill. I have a friend there who is desperately ill, I have another friend’s stepdad there on whom I check daily, and then I have a few guests that I go and see as we are expecting them to stay with us upon discharge. I also popped into the hospital coffee shop. The owner there has a lodge too and gossiping and moaning with my mate is almost as good as seeing my shrink. Louis is a great hotelier with a wicked sense of humour. We laugh so hard sometimes that I think people are convinced we are drunk.


I got back in time to see the social worker we love,  arrive to do some debriefing with the staff. We recently lost a precious patient for whom we cared for  seven months, and we are a little bit lost without him. Later in the day we  celebrated his life with his favourite food: Steers burgers, chips and Cokes (his last words were: “I want a Coke please” – so you can gather that the commitment to this nectar of the gods was intense). We all posed with the burgers and talked about things we loved most about Vernon.


Next, I went to each room and spent about ten minutes with each of the guests, checking their emotional temperature and making sure they feel loved and treasured.


Once I got back to my office, I heard Olida’s chirpy voice announce something. It was that the sweet Afrikaans Oom who is extremely ill,  he had managed to get up and get into a wheelchair. He had not been able to get out of his room since his arrival some weeks ago but amazingly, with gentle love and care and George patiently feeding him, he had built up enough strength and had come to visit me in the office. We made a huge fuss about him and took videos to show his sons overseas.


During the course of the day three of my friends, at separate times, came to SRL. They know our mutual friend is ill and parked at the lodge, and we walked across the road to visit her at the hospital for a few minutes. She is ventilated and highly sedated. She did not know we were there. We knew though. We did this together as friends, holding each other’s hands, hoping for a miracle but bracing ourselves for the worst.


At 15:00 the afternoon shifts arrived and while some shifts overlapped, we sang to Nobuhle who was celebrating a birthday. I made a short speech about how proud I am of her and how she had blossomed into such an incredible carer. I then managed to fall off the couch as we posed for a photo. I’m graceful like that.


During the rest of the afternoon, I was elated to receive 150 little compact mirrors with our logo on them. We are sponsoring an event of the VLU (Vroue Landbou Unie – if you are Afrikaans you know who belongs to this and why it is the perfect target market for us) and these and some brochures will be going into the “tannies’” goodie bags.


Throughout the day there were no less than four dogs that visited their loved ones. I overheard the wife of one of our guests complain that our cats are man-eaters and pure evil while she desperately tried to protect her tiny “stoep-kakkertjie” (small dog in Afrikaans) and another dog tried to escape into the road. It is a fabulous circus at times!


The lady in room 1 had finally passed a stool after her bowels were on strike for four days. It was a celebration and we gave her a Movicol in a champagne glass to emphasize the achievement. During the course of the day, we also had five different physios from three different practices who came to see their patients post-surgery, or for chest physio for our COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) guys.  Amidst all this, one of the palliative care doctors we work with came to do a family consultation, where he explained to the family what can be expected during the last days or weeks of their mom and wife’s life. A wound care sister also popped and and congratulated my staff on the excellent care of a complex pressure sore which healed beautifully. Guests often arrive with bedsores after long stays in hospital and sub-acutes unfortunately. 


Before I went home, I received a call from the mother of my friend who died when we were little. She is desperately ill in Olivedale Clinic and would like to come recover with us. We were choc-a-block and I had to let her know I couldn’t help, even though I desperately wanted to. I wanted to step up for my friend who can’t. I just quietly hoped that a room would open up before her discharge. As it turned out, one did, and as I type she is safely tucked up in bed in room 4).


Around six in the evening I got in my car and drove home. My amazing husband had dinner ready and I just about inhaled it. Halfway through dinner, Kundai, a blessing with the best smile, phoned me to let me know that one of our patients gently slipped away. Two of her four children and her beloved dog was with her, and he had called all the relevant people to make arrangements. I took my PJs off and got back in to my scrubs and drove back to work. When I entered the room, the peace was unmistakable. I am so proud of this team who are able to make death incredibly beautiful. Mrs Reeve’s maltese was lying on her lap and her daughter and son are filled with gratitude.


We hugged. I hugged my staff and started the short trip home. I was tired, but the day was filled with a huge amount of laughter and beauty. I got to be in a space where people were incredibly courageous and authentic. A day in the life of the Recovery Lodge is always filled with laughter, with amusement, with tears and all that makes us truly human.