When you’re in the business of caring for the sick and dying, you may tend to think that you’ll see a lot of heartache, trauma and tragedy. I find that mostly, we get to see the beauty in people, but that doesn’t stop me from being surprised at how truly terrible people can be.

I apologise if I sound unsympathetic, but some people just trample the last bit of grace I manage to muster. Last month we had a couple staying with us. Both of them were dying. They were seriously sick and very much aware that there were no curative options left for them to try. Their doctor phoned me and explained the situation. Shame, my heart broke for them. We got a room ready (picture honeymoon suite vibes) where they had a beautiful view, a little table for two and lovely flowers everywhere. They arrived separately, from different hospitals. First Mr… let’s call him Jones, arrived, followed shortly thereafter by the ambulance bringing Mrs Jones. We all got so excited for their special reunion. We knew they had been married for over 50 years and were now allowed this amazing experience of being together, in a place of beauty, for their final days. I could give you a lot of detail about what actually unfolded, but I will spare you. Just believe me when I say, that after three days of the two of them wasting their last breaths on bickering with each other, we had to put them in separate rooms! I learned that even though people may have been married for many years, it does not necessarily mean those years were happy.

Another story that shocked me was when a Mr…let’s call him Makwetu, came to see me. He was running late as he had come from Pretoria. He arrived in an Uber black, dressed in every brand you can think of. He was like a living, walking advert for labels and his aftershave smelt of dollars. He was well spoken and clearly educated in a private school. What was strange was that although it was 11 in the morning, there was a definite whiff of alcohol on his breath. He explained that his sister would need care. It took me a while to get all the details out of him, but what it boiled down to was that his sister was busy qualifying to be an anesthetist, but after some mysterious episode (he mentioned poison and sangomas) she is now left on a PEG feed and is totally paralyzed. Following our meeting, I was inundated with requests for quotes and Mr Makwetu loved phoning me at all times of the day. I always got the impression he was gaslighting me about something. Eventually he came out with it. His sister’s friends all raised money for her care for the next few months, he was simply in charge of getting her in somewhere and getting quotes, BUT he wanted to ask if I could not just add R10 000-00 onto the monthly rate and kindly transfer it to his account each month as his little commission. Can you believe it? You can imagine what my response was. As my mom and uncle read this blog, I won’t be typing those words out. Suffice it to say, in the end, Ms Makwetu did not stay with me and I am curious to find out where Mr Makwetu got his commission in the end.  

We once had a man whose wife was here for cancer treatment. He took the room next to hers as he did not want to disturb her because she needed her sleep and strength for the recovery after each cancer treatment. What he did not share with us was that he also needed a place for his girlfriend to come and see him quietly in his “single” room each night. What a prince!

We also had a glamorous man, Benedito, from Portugal here for an uncomplicated recovery after a virus. He recovered well and left for an extended safari and cruises around Africa. He would return to Europe later because he said that for now just needed a well-earned break from the husband he planned to divorce (and, who by the way, also footed all his bills). About a month later he obviously broke the news to the unsuspecting husband who phoned me and said that he was devastated to hear that poor Benedito was now receiving end-of-life care. He wanted to find out how long he was expected to live. The rich husband wanted to jump on a plane to come and say his goodbyes. I can assure you, judging by the pictures on social media, that Benedito is very much alive, and is holidaying with a strapping young milk chocolate fellow.  I was not keen on breaking either the good or bad news to the longsuffering husband.

This story happens on repeat but let me tell yu the latest one.  A woman who was recently with us was here for palliative care and we knew the end was near. She was a beautiful blonde in her mid-sixties and had a successful business. Around the second day of her stay, her boyfriend arrived with a new will for her and after he got her to sign it, he asked if I would witness. I politely declined. Later that same day, her daughter came… exact same story. The next morning the grandson came and not only did he present us with a request to witness a new will, but even asked us to print it. I am not sure what happened, but I hope our patient left everything to her hamster!


For the past seven months we’ve had a patient who was in a horrendous vehicle accident. Now I do not know for sure, but judging from the amount of alcohol he drank here, he might not have been completely sober when he lurched  his luxury car into a tree. For a while, we were fooled by the copious amounts of Appletizer he drank upon waking, only to discover it was in fact Savannahs. Around lunchtime he would wheel himself to a far corner of the lodge where our smoker’s area is where he would partake enthusiastically of non-commercial tobacco, if you catch my drift. He was well connected in our government and his credit card was busy on Take-a-lot and a certain bakery which delivered a cake every second day that he would demolish completely.. He got better and better, was walking unassisted and really did not need care anymore. I think his family also eventually got sick of paying his multitude of bills and suddenly he had to part with his own cash. (I never quite understood why he did not go home, but I did notice his girlfriends stopped visiting around month five). Our accounts department was petrified of him. He accused them of being racist (which was interesting as they were all the same race). Then he accused us of stealing his money from his room (which he never left) and then on Friday, after he screamed at my team for harassing him and causing him stress, I went to speak to him again. For about five minutes he sat and screamed at me, waving the crutches (he no longer needed) in the air with spit flying about. He was telling me one of our laundry staff had robbed him while he was sleeping. I’m not sure how he knew it was the laundry staff if he was sleeping, and I am not sure what they stole, as he has always insisted he has no cash. He carried on with the tales and once he exhausted himself I simply said that if he did not pay us by the next morning, we would lock him up. Miraculously the money appeared and, in another miracle, he walked very quickly and healthily to an Uber and we waved him goodbye (and good riddance).

I often say that I love it when we are all so wonderfully human, and I suppose people stay true to themselves even, and maybe especially, when they are going through a challenge. We see the best of people and are reminded daily about what’s really important in life, but we also see the worst. I am proud of our team that they keep on loving, keep on advocating for our patients and keep on being gracious (even though it’s through gritted teeth at times).