Testimonial – Louise Barretto

It was our great privilege and honour to care for Dave, Louise’s husband towards the end of last year. Here is a bit of her story, in her own words….

On 13 August 2022, my husband, a super fit, healthy man with zero symptoms (who still cycled for three weeks in Sweden during July 2022), fell off his bicycle on an easy morning ride… and three hours later, he was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. After stressful periods of hospitalisation in two hospitals, we found ourselves in a crisis in early October 2022: no further treatment was to occur, and we needed to find a care home for him – he was hemiplegic (paralysed on one side), and had several other huge challenges, which effectively left him bedridden.

After only seeing the inside of hospital rooms for two months, I was desperate to find a homely, but professional place with real soul, that was prepared to care for such a challenging patient while affording him the joys of life available to him: a lovely garden, birdsong, peace, music, very relaxed visitors’ hours, therapists’ sessions in his private room, pet visits (and access to good hospital nearby, should a crisis arise).

I looked thoroughly at 14 care homes, steps downs and frail care centres on the north side of Johannesburg. Driving wise, it had to be within 12 km from our home in the Fourways/Bryanston area. I shortlisted three eventually, having found most places greatly lacking in warm atmosphere, friendly ambience, visual and wheelchair access to a garden and easy homeliness. Quite simply, most were impersonal, geared to ‘handling’ the frail and aged behind closed doors, and very matter-of-fact. Most lacked the kind of soul one wants to enjoy in venue, surrounds, nature, garden and of course, carer staff.

I interviewed the owner at Sunninghhill Recovery Lodge, Ann, at length, and left (privately) thinking she is so kind, she must be “too good to be true”. What if I transfer my husband there with great trouble and distress to him, and then, once settled in, I find us trapped in a place with inferior care and service? It is easy to talk up services and make promises. A patient like my husband cannot be moved at will once settled into a post-hospitalisation phase.

I resolved to give her another “test” first, and asked if she would paint the room another colour, that would be more pleasing to him. (I planned to pay for the job). Well, that same day, she sent me wall colour proposals, and that very same afternoon, the room was beautifully repainted. “This is for free, it is our pleasure,” she said. From this base, she later exceeded my expectations every single day… no request was too difficult, no challenge arose without a prompt solution.

We moved my husband in, and from Day One, we were very happy, and everything possible was done to help us settle in. No 84 Edison Crescent became my second home. Daily, my husband reassured me of how happy he felt, that he was being cared for in every detail of his needs; he adored every one of the loving, kind carer staff. Where care needs had to be learned, or new practices adopted, or solutions found, these could be sorted out with ease. Never did a problem, challenge or new clinical issue arise, that could not be immediately analysed, addressed and a good, workable solution found. Carer staff (who are not trained nurses, after all), were excellent, keen to help and support, eager and quick to learn. Any bed bell was responded to immediately, communication handled excellently under very difficult circumstances… The subtle challenges of patient dignity and privacy were wonderfully understood. Therapists could conduct their home sessions in privacy, with great support from the carer staff.

Above all, my husband felt safe, comfortable and very much loved and appreciated.

I too, became part of the staff and patient family, (sorry, one is only permitted to say “guest” at the Lodge, not “patient”). We grew close as we shared our challenges and went about our daily trials in this very special, intimate setting. Never was privacy breached or lines drawn by other guests, crossed or infringed upon. Anything could be asked, or ordered, and we soon learnt they had a great, proven supplier list who gave us excellent service; always at good, competitive prices. In fact, pricewise, we did not once get fleeced, or sense that ‘trapped market’ pricing occurred, once we were settled in.

It would be unfair to single out any staff members, as they were all very good, dedicated, and extremely caring. My husband was rather private though, and from the outset, George, a wonderful young male carer, handled him with deep intuitive understanding of his needs and challenges to his dignity. The fun, witty rapport George had with him, was a terrific comfort. They shared many light moments, and these carers brought kindness and love to his days.

Later, towards the end of December, when his condition got very serious, the staff (now continuously supported by the professional palliative medical team), went way, way beyond the call of duty to support us. They met our every need instantly, during a most challenging time. By then, we were a family, who could finally greet him with all the love, dignity, kindness and appreciation he so richly deserved.

My test? I would check myself in there today, if a medical setback were to befall me, that requires any of The Lodge’s wide range of support and carer services.

With infinite gratitude, Louise

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