Archive: June 30, 2020

Caring and compassion that knows no bounds: A tribute to Sr Judith Young

It is with extreme sadness that we share the news that Sister Judith Young recently passed away peacefully.

We are all devastated by the news that a friend and colleague, who fought a long battle with cancer, bravely trying to protect her family from her pain, and continuing to care and support her patients despite her illness, has died.

Sr Judith Young, one of our homecare nurses, who was at HospiceWits for 29 years, and who left the organisation in March 2019, was a very special, giving, nurturing and loyal person. Her patients and their families will remember her fondly, and everyone who participated in our annual Cyclethon at Melrose Arch will know that Judith cycled the full six or eight hours on the day to raise funds for HospiceWits.

She was a committed member of the homecare team, always going the extra mile, caring for her patients whenever they needed her, and ensuring she provided the quality homecare nursing that HospiceWits is proud of.

A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp …
because the dawn has come.

Everyone at HospiceWits sends our sincere condolences to her family and friends at this time of grief.

Take comfort in the fond memories you have of a special and unique person that always will be, Sister Judith Young.

We again share her words about her life’s work.

1. Please share with us a little about your life and nursing career.

I was born in Newcastle, England, and from my earliest memories, I always wanted to be a nurse. After graduating, I was persuaded by a good friend to come to South Africa, and arrived in May 1985 on a two-year contract to Morningside Clinic in Johannesburg. Soon thereafter, I met an Englishman and we subsequently got married. We have two sons and a daughter, all in their twenties. My two-year stay turned into 31 years!

2. What sparked your interest in end-of-life and palliative care?

On my last assignment as a student nurse at Newcastle General Hospital, I was placed in a chemotherapy/radiation ward. I fell in love with the concept of terminal care, and the challenges and rewards that came with it. Then later, while working for a specialist physician in Johannesburg, I was asked one day to decline an invitation to a HospiceWits function. As I rang the number I had an epiphany – it was as though a light bulb came on in my head! I duly declined the doctor’s invitation and got myself a job at HospiceWits.

3. Please share with us the challenges and rewards of your daily life.

Hospice work can be very challenging, as we are dealing with death and dying every day. We know our patients will not recover, but there is always something that can be done to improve their day-to-day living. It is a privilege to be welcomed into a patient’s home to share their final journey with them. We sometimes have to deal with angry families and patients – misplaced anger can be directed at the hospice nurse, making it hard not to take it personally. On the whole, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. To know that we have made a positive difference in the patient’s last few days – whether it’s due to counselling or symptom control – it makes the job so worthwhile.

4. What feeds your spirit?

I love music and reading – physical exercise is also important, so I attend gym regularly. My husband and children are very supportive and understand the nature of my work.

5. Can you share a story about your work that illustrates what you love about it?

I saw a young, 33-year-old male patient last week, who lived outside HospiceWits’ area of operation, but as there was no hospice availability, I was asked to assess his condition. I found a young man paralysed from the waist down and in severe pain. He desperately wanted to be able to work and drive again, and was living with his girlfriend and her two children, aged five and eight, respectively.

We decided to admit him to our in-patient unit for symptom control – his girlfriend was very stressed and exhausted, and was experiencing major financial problems as well. The patient was admitted the next morning – he sat in our carpark for 20 minutes before deciding to enter the unit. On admission, he looked terminal and was understandably anxious, but settled in very quickly. I was surprised to hear the following morning that he had passed away peacefully with his family around him. It seems as though he knew hospice was where he needed to be to let go. His family was very grateful for the care and support he received from HospiceWits. Cases like this one make all the hard work worthwhile


Here is how you can help HospiceWits

As a registered non-profit organisation, HospiceWits has been looking to the public to support the work we do for the four decades of our existence. Now, more than ever, we are reliant upon the generous support from both the public and corporate spheres.

While much of our country’s industries come back online in June, following the lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19, the work that HospiceWits does has gone on uninterrupted.

Rendering essential services, our healthcare workers have kept providing much needed support to the many patients in our care, despite the threat of the novel coronavirus. As your organisation starts doing its work again, please consider contributing to the work HospiceWits does – becoming one of our partners will be beneficial to both our organisations.

How corporates and individuals can assist us

Corporate organisations and individuals can become donors or sponsors in various ways:

  • Donate essential monthly items like pharmaceutical consumables, medication, food and toiletries (our wish list is a good guideline here, but we are grateful for any and all donations).
  • Donate your professional services.
  • Sponsor a ward in our in-patient unit.
  • Sponsor a home care vehicle.
  • Sponsor the repair and maintenance of the shaded car park.
  • Make HospiceWits one of your company’s CSI beneficiaries.
  • Encourage your employees to contribute directly from their salary via payroll giving.
  • Celebrate events like birthdays or wedding anniversaries by asking family and friends to make a donation to HospiceWits in your name instead of giving a traditional gift.

All donations are tax-deductible, and a Section 18A tax certificate can be emailed to donors or collected from our Houghton offices.

If you have a Woolies card or a MySchool, MyVillage or MyPlanet card, please nominate HospiceWits as one of your three chosen charity beneficiaries. Doing this will give a percentage of your purchase value back to HospiceWits every time you swipe your card.

Remember to link your Woolies cards to your MySchool card here – you’ll be contributing to our work every time you shop at Woolworths or at partner businesses, including Bidvest Waltons, Engen and

Discovery Vitality members who have listed Woolworths as their nominated food store will also ensure that HospiceWits benefits every time they swipe for healthy food purchases.

Become a monthly contributor and win!

A monthly commitment of just R50 per membership number makes you a part of Club 2000 and enters you into the monthly draw for one of seven cash prizes. The more numbers you take, the greater your chances! Every month, contributors stand a chance of winning:

1st prize: R20 000
2nd prize: R2000
3rd prize: R1000
4 x R500 prizes

Giving in the age of the coronavirus

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has put strain on just about every organisation out there. During this time we would be highly appreciative of donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our healthcare workers, as well as food donations for patients.

From 1 June, our charity shops will be open again, and in this regard, we kindly request that you donate any clothing or other goods to aid us in our fundraising efforts. Please also feel free to browse through the extensive collection of bits and bobs that are available in your nearest HospiceWits charity shop.

As all our other fundraising events are on hold for the foreseeable future in the light of the Covid-19 outbreak, our charity shops, together with donations from the public and corporate sectors will keep us afloat in this time. It is thanks to you that we are able to do our important work every day.

To find out more about how you can help, please contact HospiceWits on 011 483 9100, and choose the Fundraising/Events option, or send an email to

Death awareness and the coronavirus

As any terminal patient will tell you, the awareness of death often brings with it a far greater appreciation for life. It’s not that we don’t know our existence is finite, but rather that we don’t know when the finite comes to an abrupt end.

In his final column for The New York Times before his passing, the author and neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote quite profoundly of his newfound awareness that his life wasn’t over, upon receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.

“On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight,” Sacks wrote.

Researchers have found that this type of reaction is common: very often, our perception of just how much (or how little) time we have left dictates the way we spend it. Realising that we are, indeed, impermanent beings often makes us appreciate the little moments and the people close to us so much more.

Of course, not everyone reacts this way when they learn that they or someone close to them is terminally ill. Aside from leading to reflection about our lives and the people in them, the knowledge of impending death may also cause feelings of anxiety, which can lead to self-protective, self-righteous behaviour. When one is faced with death, many people have a much higher regard for self-preservation and the protection of their own.

Suffice it to say, the Covid-19 crisis has brought death into much sharper view for a large group of people. No longer is the threat of our own expiration something far off: the coronavirus has brought this threat right to our doors.

Even if the thought of our own death or the passing of those we are close to is something most of us prefer not to think about too much, the topic is worth exploring, as it may well turn our attention to improving the quality of our lives. Ultimately, we may choose to view death as something that induces anxiety and makes it difficult to live our lives to the full, or as something that makes us appreciate every breath and opportunity we have to take.

Are you struggling with anxiety related to the coronavirus lockdown or are you battling to deal with a family member’s terminal diagnosis in the face of Covid-19? The psychosocial team at HospiceWits can assist you with online counselling services. Reach out by contacting Pauline (011 483 9100) or Francois (071 970 0576).