There is an old saying: may your bad luck last as long as your new year’s resolutions.


I don’t believe in luck and if I stuck to my new year’s resolutions, ever, I would have been fluent in isiZulu by now. I would have read all the classics, would have played the piano perfectly and definitely would have been kinder to call-centre agents. It also goes without saying that I would have been up this morning at 4:30 to meditate and this afternoon I would have spent an hour in the gym. Carbohydrates would never have crossed my lips and boy, would I have got my  over-sharing-issues under control.  


But here we are, two weeks into 2024 and today I have already told Ncuba from Vodacom what I think of the company she represents while shoving cake into my mouth with one hand and typing my deeply personal blog with the other.


So, in this first blog of the year, I want to disclose that I cannot write about resolutions at all, but I think I can try and tell you about a new beginning; something that has started so gently and has taken off with such force that I am convinced, without a doubt that it is destiny.


To give you a tiny bit of context without too many details, we have two lodges. One you know as Sunninghill Recovery Lodge which was converted fully to sub-acute care a few years ago. We also have a 28-room guest house which has dabbled a bit in sub-acute care but mainly runs as a boutique hotel. I have wanted to change over completely for a while, but the demand has just not been big enough yet and, let’s face it, if it’s not broken there is no need to fix it.


But for me, the guest lodge did break a while ago. When and Airbnb entered the hospitality market, they  killed relationships and the personal touch. Then Covid came along and trampled what was left of the soul of our “people’s business”. The bloodshed was caused not only by the pricewar declared, but  Zoom and Teams resulted in the final casualties of the smaller guest houses that had been hanging on by their fingernails. People became anonymous beings in a digital universe. They could book, stay and then disappear without us ever really getting to meet them. With that came the dirty secrets they carry with them, and we were left to clean up the mess. I know that on paper this does not matter. If you have bums in beds and the financials are working you leave it alone. But it does matter, and we were tired of facilitating a space for women to meet their lovers, for men to hide their sexuality from their longsuffering wives and for smartly dressed people to transact deals for which I dare not try to image the currency. This was not fair on my staff, my neighbours or myself.


Last January I converted two rooms, fixed up paving and was ready to  transition the guest lodge to a sub-acute / medical support facility, but business just did not come. My friend Candice quoted a baseball movie (I forget what it is called) that said, “If you build it they will come…” but what if they didn’t, and if they did, how would I cope? I did not have enough fuel in my tank (sorry Jacinda Ardern) to have an additional 28 patients if I had to be as intensely involved as I am at the Recovery Lodge.


I felt for months that we had reach a stalemate and could not move forward.


At the end of last year, my dear friend Craig, who also rented a medical suite from us at the lodge, gave notice. He taught me so much and we served many a patient well. I understood his need to spread his wings and I started getting the practice ready for a hot-desk-vibe. This was not my passion, but it made sense. Letting different medical practitioners share the same space would be a lot of hard work, but profitable… plus one doctor did Botox, and I thought I could negotiate some of the rental payments in treatments.


I was about to start drawing up rental contracts when on a bland, boring Friday afternoon, everything changed. Craig was having a meeting outside by the pool. He was wearing shorts (and looking like he was hardly an adolescent, never mind a highly specialised doctor) chatting to a lovely woman in scrubs. He introduced us to each other and casually said,” I think there could be some synergies here. I reckon you should have a chat.” The lovely woman was Dr Jesne Kistan, and she told me that she’d have a look at the practice and then chat to her partners. She also told me that she was actually looking for not just a practice, but to set up a palliative care centre. This sounded too good to be true. Despite me being more positive than Polly-Anna on her best days, I brushed it aside and dared not get excited. I whatsapp’d Jesne’s partner, and the CEO of their company, Dr Jodi Wishinia.  She’s the one who organized all the licenses and fancy numbers one has to get for centres like this. (For those of you who do not know, BHF numbers are scarcer than unicorn halos and a practice number is so hard to get it is easier to donate the department of health your vital organs without anesthetic).


Jodi and I set up a meeting and all I can say is that if Tinder could hook people up like this, everyone would be happily married.


I liked her immediately. We had some coffee and spoke about what our needs were. Whatever she needed, I could deliver. Whatever I needed, she could deliver, and in fact more! We talked and talked and decided to give things some thought and then gather again in a few weeks, this time with Dr Jes.


By now I had to have talks with myself. This really was too good to be true. There could not be other people in the world with exactly my dream, and even if there were, how is it possible that I could find them on my patio out of the blue?  Our passions to serve the ill and dying were totally aligned. What I felt in my gut and have come to know in my bones about end of life care through experience, Jodi worded and researched and understood on a much deeper level than I ever did.


I will fast forward the details, but in the next weeks there was a flurry of contracts, decisions, conversations and in the end, some champagne. We were going to do this! We were going to change the guest lodge from what it was like for 27 years to be something totally different: a haven that looks after patients in any part of their journey. It was finally possible!


I’m beyond excited that our journey has begun. I am in awe of their commitment, work ethic, gentleness, intellect and humour. I have never been in a situation where people that barely know each other are able to connect so quickly, so profoundly. I think it’s because when everyone knows why you are doing something and what a need it will fulfill, there is no room for ego and competition. In caring for the dying, we are, I suppose, always on the cusp of the abyss, forced to face what human life boils down to in the end.  We all had to learn what really matters and where other collaborations  might be filled with grey, ours was black and white, right from the word go. For me there has also been  an overwhelming confirmation that this was not just serendipitous, but that this is God (or the universe as Jodi says) who put people together to do good work and, in the process, uplift those who work for this same goal.


We were supposed to open this week, but Jesne had a patient with whom she has walked a long road who was nearing the end. She needed to come to us and Jes knew the chance of her surviving until we officially opened our doors was small. Without any hesitation, all three of us said, “Let her come. We will wing it as long as she is loved and comfortable and we ease the burden of her family. We will make it work”.


And we made it work. Everything ran smoothly and seamlessly (as far as what the patient and loved ones saw). They did not see the running to Woolworths, the frantic printing of documents, the Ubering of extra staff from the other side of Joburg, the throwing together last minute indemnities, dashing off to Dischem repeatedly and the damn painters that kept blocking Jodi and Jes’ way whenever they turned around. It was chaos. The patient was incredibly ill, her children terribly young, our stress levels near panic stations and a geyser burst, just to make things really interesting.


But we did it, with grace and lots of laughter, helping each other out every so often… and not one of us did any ugly crying even once. Well, not in front of each other.


And so, this is the beginning! I want to tell the best part of it all which really excites me, but it will have to wait for next week as I am already in injury time with my amount of words (yes, 1503!, almost 704 too many).

We”ll continue the story next week but in the mean time; here’s to beautiful beginnings.