If you follow us on social media, you would have seen that one of our patients has been with us for two years. You would also have seen that all the evidence, scans, tests and results showed that she had between one and five days to live when she came to us, yet, here we are 730 days later! There was no miracle recovery. No one gave her a magic drop of essential oil. No crystals were hung in her window. No sangoma danced around her bed and no happy clappy group came to pray for healing. In fact, her condition has definitely deteriorated over time, but yet, she is alive and apart from being bed-ridden, really quite well. This got me thinking about what she must be thinking when she first arrived.

Imagine you are told that your death is imminent just after your 80th birthday,. Your children get you discharged from the hospital and you arrive and start the waiting process, knowing that you are coming to die here at Sunninghill Recovery Lodge, 84 Ediscon Crescent. “Daphne” as we always call her in these blogs, was at peace. She said goodbye to her friends and family and all she wanted was to go “quietly into the night”, only seeing her two children, and Sally, the yorkie. Then five days passed, but she kept on breathing… and then another five days. Her son from Europe kept postponing his airline ticket back to Amsterdam, wanting to be by Daphne’s side when she took that last breath. Eventually five weeks passed and he had to go back to the Netherlands. We kept in daily contact via WhatsApp. First thing in the morning, I would report on how her night was. Later, I would send a  report on how her day progressed. I am sure, Brian (the son) must have thought that his beloved mother had passed away every time he saw my name flash on his screen. Daphne’s  daughter spent days and days by her side because everyone fully expected her to die at any moment. But instead, her pain got under control completely and she started getting her healthy appetite back. Eventually, after she’d been with us for five months, I messaged Brian less and he told me that the panic he felt in the beginning totally subsided when my messages popped up.

After a few months, we convinced Daphne to allow her friends and other family members to visit. The thought of them remembering her “like this” was quickly navigated. She actually looked quite glamorous. We started arranging a guy, Alan, who would come every Friday to wash and blow dry her hair in bed (not an easy feat, I tell you, but where there is a will, there’s a way!) We found a nail technician who would paint her nails, another hairdresser to cut her hair, and even a very specialised dentist to come and see her in bed. Her friends and family came in droves, all arriving in tears, ready for the goodbyes, which were never needed yet. The same friends still come, but now it is just for a good old-fashioned visit with cake and tea. Once we even did a dinner party for 10 people around her bed!! Despite Daphne not wanting any of her personal items in her room in the beginning because she didn’t want to put down roots, it now looks like Daphne exploded her personality all over the place. There are cushions she embroidered, pictures, photos, knickknacks (proudly displayed on two specific shelves installed just for her) and always loads of flowers. On her bed is her own lovely throw and every day she wears her pearl earrings, pearl necklace, a lovely blouse, red lipstick and she makes sure that she knows everything that’s going on from her prime position looking out over the pool and patio.  She always knows exactly who is in which room and who visits them. In the first months, she did not want her phone. She said it would overwhelm her and she had said her farewells. But the phone is back, and I am not sure if that is such a good thing, because now she has two ways of summoning me to her room to ask me questions and give some gardening advice.

Of course, as the disease progressed, medication was adjusted, her mobility decreased, but her flame-sharp wit is firmly intact and her love for her family (and definitely her little yorkie) is as fierce as ever.

Her doctors and other medical professionals cannot understand it. Her scans did not lie. We know there is no medical reason for her to be alive. Some people would say that maybe she has a purpose left to fulfil. I believe she does, but I think that  the young mother with two teenagers who died last week did too. So that alone cannot explain this. Maybe she has no stress? She is loved, gets pampered, sees the ones she loves, Dylan, our chef, makes sure she only eats meals she absolutely loves, and Nthabiseng gives her daily massages and ensures every need is met.

I do not want to get philosophical about this, simply because I really do not understand it, and also, I do not want to try and put this special experience in a box. All I know is that looking after her is a constant blessing and honour in our lives. We adore her, we love her family, her daughter is one of my dearest friends now, and her little Yorkie entertains us endlessly. She is completely egotistical and yet petrified of our cats.

Daphne reminds us of the mystery of life; that our lives were never meant to be lived for ourselves alone and that just when we think we have everything figured out, we realise we really don’t. And thank God we don’t, because I’d hate to think we were in control after all.