I’m sure it’s true of many of the most passionate health carers – that they were pushed deeper into serving others as a result of their personal experience with a loved one who was seriously ill.
Mrs Zandile Ntisana, 50, is one such. She lost her three-month-old Ncubeko in 1995; the newborn contracted pleural effusion due to Zandile having polyhydramnios, an excess of fluid in the amniotic sac.
A relatively young nurse at the time, Zandile says her passion to help other babies grew from there. In 1997, she had an opportunity to study further in paediatric nursing
On the day that I interview her, she is overseeing a slate of 38 specialist cardiology consultations in the paediatric outpatients department of Frere Hospital, where she is the operations manager.
The department runs general clinics every day of the week, with up to 30 children attending with a parent or guardian. A different specialty clinic also operates on each day of the week. Wednesday is reserved for children with heart disease.
Usually there are only about 10 or so young heart patients. Today there are 38, as two paediatric cardiologists from the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCCH) in Cape Town are doing their biannual clinic.
The children are either very young and very ill, and have passed through the screening consultations with regular Frere paediatricians like Dr Maurice Levy for possible further treatment in Cape Town; or they are visiting the clinic for run-of-the-mill annual check-ups, having already been treated in highly specialised open heart surgery or cardiac catheterisation laboratory (cathlab) procedures at RCCH.
By the end of the day’s clinic, says Zandile, about half of the children will have been scheduled for treatment in Cape Town during 2018, with some going to Provincial or Dora Nginza Hospitals in Port Elizabeth.
The transformation in the lives of the young children is phenomenal. Zandile has spent 22 years in paediatrics at Frere and bubbles over with enthusiasm for the work being done. “The results (from the procedures at RCCH) are very good – the children grow, gain weight, become older.”
Parents also talk highly of their experience of this service.
Currently, Frere’s paediatric unit has six consultants, nine medical officers and eight interns.