Happy kind-of-birthday

A year ago, on Heritage day, we were away with close friends. Gill, recently had a bi-lateral knee replacement and was telling me about how she enjoyed the step-down facility she went to and how great it was to start a recovery journey outside a hospital. She loved the food especially and said she would have liked to stay longer. My other dear friend had recently written a script fora state of the art sub-acute in Midstream. They jokingly said, why don’t you open a step-down. Your position is perfect.

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The idea started taking shape. We got back to Joburg and I started doing research. Many a morning was spent in the labyrinth of hallways of the department of health. There was so much red tape and, due to COVID, lack of communication, but I persevered to the extent that Dr Jack Bloom, shadow minister of health, eventually phoned me to talk about my idea.

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I had reams of documents, between the re-zoning, BHF and Department of health one can pretty much get a step by step blue print of what is needed for a sub-acute facility. But what I saw on paper screamed, “Institution”. I knew that if I were to open a stepdown with my team, we could not be an institution. That is not our heart.

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We had to do a feasibility study and that is when I realised that for the past 23 years, we have been doing our own research in the field. We’ve been running a business for two decades where the focus has always been on people and kindness. We were now just at the point where we could use all the info and pivot in a new direction.

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In March 1998 our first guest, a big Texan guy with a cowboy hat, and his family stayed with us after major cardio surgery. For the first year we almost exclusively looked after patients and their loved ones from all over SA and the world.

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I am very optimistic and this personality trait is often detrimental, as I will attempt things that are not really possible. I needed people I trust to buy into this idea. A friend and I had coffee, she started the a Sandton based sub-acute decades ago, before she sold it to a hospital group. She generously shared her vision and ideas. Then a dear friend and I had lunch. He is an established GP, has a huge practice but also rents space to a variety of therapists. He is a rare creature: a good business man and a good doctor. I did not tell him at the time, but if he thought I was crazy or rolled his eyes at me, I was going to let it go. He didn’t. He just encouraged me and introduced me to his partner, who gave the best advice of all: “Let it develop organically.” I knew that we were onto something when we had offers from surgeons and specialists wanting to buy into our dream before we even opened. The money would have been great but we decided to venture into this new territory solo.

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On 1 December we officially closed the Woodmead guest lodge and we started building, shopping, breaking through walls, marketing, designing logos , getting websites and in between, our team embarked on our training at Wits Hospice to do Ancillary nursing and home care.

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The one thing that did not change through all this is my budgeting skills. I managed to spend 9 times more than I thought we would…

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but, here we are, one year later. So much has happened and so many wonderful people have enriched our lives. If I knew what it would take to open this Recovery lodge and run it a year ago, I would have been petrified, but I would definitely still have done it.

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