So, it is me and the Google-gods again. Apparently, in order to appease them, you need to sacrifice a huge amount of time and hard-earned cash and just about throw a young maiden off a clifftop to make them happy. I have been instructed by the powerful people who have a direct line to the Google-gods that we need to build a new page for each service we offer. My job in this ritual offering is to write these pages and so, I’m killing two birds with one stone today.


We offer post-surgical care, and we see some fascinating things. Surprisingly, we’ve had many guests with surgeries after an incident with a wild animal. We’ve looked after a woman who was gored by an elephant in Botswana and then stitched back together by a brilliant trauma surgeon. A young lady was impaled by a buffalo, but flew home to America in one piece. Once, a hyena dragged a young girl away from a fire, but the SA doctors managed to save her eye and fought off the most horrendous infections caused by those dirty canines. We’ve cared for people patched together after bomb explosions, stepping on landmines, gunshots received in high-jackings, horrific car crashes, bike accidents and much less exciting surgeries, like the removal of hemorrhoids.


Two years ago, we picked up Jacques from Netcare Sunninghill after Dr Mike Barrow saved his leg from imminent amputation. Mike told us that the only femur trauma he has seen that was worse, was when a guy plummeted out of a helicopter. What made Jacques’ case interesting was that he had no recollection of what happened to him. He is a specialised deep-sea diver and was working off the coast of Angola on oil rigs. He came back to Luanda in order to fly home to Europe. In the hotel, he had a beer, and that is all he remembers. His next memory was waking up in ICU bandaged and in traction in an ill-equipped third world hospital. He was in excruciating pain, and luckily was medevacked to South Africa where the 30-year-old almost had to have his leg amputated at the hip.


We got to know Jacques very well over the next six weeks and still no one could ever piece together what happened to him. We know, based on the toxicology reports, that he had a spiked drink, but the reason for it remained a mystery.  He was not robbed and he was found, badly injured, in front of the hotel gym. However, his injuries were so severe that all the medical professionals suspected that he must have fallen from a high building. So how did he get to the low ceiling gym entryway? I suppose we’ll never know, but we do know that he made an incredible recovery. We still keep in touch and when he ran his first half marathon some time ago, we were all in tears.


Other frightening injuries we’ve seen include when a Russian sea captain had his entire face shattered when a massive nautical cable came loose and hit him. Every facial bone had to be reconstructed and he suffered severe damage to his frontal lobe causing a complete change in personality and emotional outbursts. He looked like the younger brother of Frankenstein, and we were all quite nervous of him and his Russian wife. He recovered well physically but will be forever be altered emotionally. I often wonder how he is doing and if their marriage survived.


We have seen our fair share of equestrian traumas, from brain injuries to ruptured bladders, and many hips that were broken. We’ve seen plenty of nasty cycling injuries and car accidents that one cannot believe anyone survived. Adventure sport is also not as safe as people think, and recoveries have taken place here because of bridge swinging gone wrong and parachutes that were faulty.


You can imagine that we get a lot of general, rather vanilla surgeries (well not so general for the poor guys to whom they happen, but you know what I mean). There is almost always someone with us who has had a knee, hip or shoulder replaced. It is sore, but with a lot of love, fantastic physio and good pain management, they tend to get better quickly and leave us within about four days to a week (except for one woman who simply loved being with us and kept extending. She ended up staying with us for nine whole weeks! I think in the beginning her hip really was sore, but later she just stayed for Dylan’s food).


Staying with joint replacements, we see a huge amount of people from other regions who come to see our specialists to fix replacements that have gone horribly wrong. Those surgeries are incredibly painful, and seeing the old prothesis which always get sent back with the patient as a “show-and-tell”, holds a bit of a morbid fascination for us all.  We get quite a few people who have lapsed in the monthly medical aid payments and ended up having joint replacements in state hospitals. Generally, the surgeries go well, but the after care in the wards leaves a lot to be desired. (When using the words, “after care”, I am being very generous. Our idea of care, and what the poor state nurses are forced to do, are vastly different). The patients leaving state hospitals have quite scary tales to tell and never leave with any meds stronger than a Panado!  We’ve had someone who received a hip replacement which was completely the  incorrect size, and another that had a replacement where the socket and ball did not actually fit.



We also often have patients who stay with us after a surgical oncologist has removed tumours and/or surrounding tissues.  It is painful, like all surgeries, but one can expect that when there is a cancer diagnosis, there is also a huge amount of emotional turmoil, and these guests have different emotional needs to which we are acutely attuned. We see a lot of people post colon surgery when they have to deal with the cancer, the surgery and then getting used to a stoma (a surgically made hole in the abdomen that allows body waste to be removed from the body directly through the end of the bowel into a collection bag). You can imagine how these people battle with so many drastic life changes, and the thought of being either at home, or in a clinical environment, is simply not feasible. Our team are so good and relaxed around colostomy bags that they take the anxiety right out of it for the patient.

We’ve carefully treaded around a patient that who his penis recontructed after a gunshot wound using skin from inside inside his mouth. He was not only in emotional turmoil and physical pain but unable to eat properly and in a country where he did not speak the language. Luckily for him one of our carers speak fluent French and he became a pillar to lean on and I suspect they will be life long friends.


To walk the road alongside parents when their babies, often only a few days old, receive life-saving heart surgeries is a privilege we hold dear. We create a bond quickly and over the years to come, as the child grows and further surgeries are needed, we remain their support and safe space. If the children do not survive, we are devastated and I think we will never get used to this unfair reality.


Our team is acutely aware that each surgery is an obstacle for the patient and that there is no one-size-fits-all here. We adapt and invest in each person instinctively, and fully and are know that it is a privilege to be in this space of assisting during recovery.


We’ve seen a fairly impressive, and sometimes bizarre array of different injuries and diagnoses, and through it all, we’ve learnt that each recovery experience is unique. There is no algorithm that works here (I would say, unlike on Google, but I sometimes think Google algorithms change their minds every day too).  No matter the type of injury or illness, no matter the prognosis or the personality, we regard it as a great honour to take the individual journey with each patient and their loved ones.