Much of my time at Cape Town is spent interning at St. Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children, a pediatric intermediate care facility located in Montana, Cape Town. Often, when children are discharged from hospitals, their parents may not have the resources to take care of them at home. St. Joseph’s allows for the smooth transition from a hospital back into a child’s home. It has a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach to a child’s care, focusing on education, medical treatment, rehabilitation, and therapy (occupational, speech, and physical). Children typically stay here for about six months, with their ages ranging from 0 to 17.
All of the services here are offered free of charge.
My role as an intern is to research the disease profile of patients at St. Joseph’s for the past fifteen years using their database. We were given five of the most common ailments at St. Joseph’s (HIV, Tuberculosis, Diabetes, Oncology, and Traumatic Brain Injury), and looked at which of these were increasing or decreasing among the patients here. We tried to find out why these trends were happening and we looked at if there were certain ailments common among specific age groups or location of the patient. In addition, we interviewed some of the doctors at two referring hospitals, Red Cross War Memorial and Tygerberg Hospital, for more insight on these ailments. Given all of this information, we tried to predict what type of patients we would see at St. Joseph’s. This research will help St. Joseph’s when they conduct their strategic planning for the next decade so that they can allocate their resources more efficiently in the future.
Working here is so exciting. Around 11:30 am, we go to the Daisy Ward and help out with lunch. The patients here are infants and toddlers, so we need to spoon-feed them. To be honest, I was terrified of feeding the babies on my first day. I had never done something like this before back in the States. But now, in week 6, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. The babies in this ward are always so energetic; as soon as you walk into the ward, they will all crowd around you.
My favorite part of interning at St. Joseph’s is being able to shadow the therapists. I’m interested in psychology, so I’ve definitely learned a lot from watching the occupational, speech and physio therapy sessions. During an occupational therapy session, the patient used different colored and sized beads to make a necklace for herself. It was so fascinating to see that a task like making a necklace could have so many components to it that improved her cognitive, motor, and memory skills. She had to remember the pattern that the therapist gave her and think about how to arrange the beads, as well as put the beads on the necklace.
As the program draws to a close, I have really enjoyed my time here at St. Joseph’s. All of the staff members here are so welcoming and friendly. There is always something to do here – whether it is playing with the kids, shadowing therapists, or interviewing doctors. St. Joseph’s is so unique in its approach to care and is one of the only pediatric intermediate care centers in the Western Cape. I can say that without a doubt, this has been such an incredible opportunity for me to explore my interests.