I could feel that autumn was in the air as I got into my car to go meet Adele Saayman for the first time. We had set up a meeting at OHH CEO Dr Helene Basson’s house in Pretoria as it was kind of in the middle for us both. I was worried that it would be a difficult trip for her since she had received a hip replacement just two weeks earlier. She, however, arrived early and as she walked into the house, I immediately realized that she was all but the broken, defeated woman I expected. I knew a bit about her life story and had all the wrong preconceived ideas. Surely someone with a life as hard as her life should be at least a little bit bitter and defeated? But boy was I wrong! Adele Saayman is one of the most formidable, positive, amazing people I have ever met. 

Thirteen years ago, Adele’s then-husband murdered two of her children and injured her oldest son. She did not have time to say goodbye to her children. As it was a murder scene, their bodies were immediately taken away. This tragedy, however, shaped her future. She decided to become a caregiver. That person who looks after you while terminally ill and then stays with you right to the end and help you pass over to the next life.

“I never got to say goodbye to my kids. Now I help other families to say goodbye. Because it is such an important thing in finding closure,” says Adele.  

This was not the last of her hardships. While on holiday a few years back, Adele started to feel excruciating pain in her hips and back. She immediately went to the doctor who told her that the pain would go away as soon as she started to lose weight. Adele was 70kg heavier back then. In her gut, she knew that it was something bigger that was wrong. After going from doctor to doctor she at long last got an x-ray and her fears were confirmed. Her hip was giving in.

Adele was totally devastated. The waiting list for a new hip was three years. She had no more than a few months before she would be bound to a wheelchair. This would mean the end of her career. 

“I sometimes need to lift my patients up, help them take care of themselves, move their bodies to wash them…this all would be impossible from a wheelchair. Even with my hip working half and half I already realized that I would not be able to do this job, that was my whole life, anymore.”

Not only her career as a caregiver was at stake but also her motivational speaking – helping other families in grief to forgive and go on with their lives. She would not be able to travel anywhere with this acute agonizing pain.

Small tasks like grooming herself, going to the shops and making dinner became impossible mountains. 

“I saw Dr Basson on the Groot Ontbyt, and a friend also told me about the work OHH does. I applied, and I have never looked back since. I cannot even explain how this surgery changed my life. The number of people I can now help because of this. It’s incredible.”

On 24 February 2020, Adele received a hip replacement at Life Eugene Marais, courtesy of OHH and their partner Elite Surgical. 

“The team was so friendly. From Jackie (OHH Secretary) who just embraced me right from the start, right through to the Eugene Marais nurses, the anaesthetist, the physiotherapist, Dr Helene and Johan Basson who was available on their cell phones at all times…it was just an amazing experience.” 

I leave our meeting with a new look on life. One of being thankful and being more positive about my own life. Adele leaves our meeting with just one crutch and walking like she never even had the surgery. Her first new patient after surgery is meeting her on Sunday. She can’t wait!

Article by Yolande Strauss


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