Reassuring Words – and Famous Patients

In 1980 the army relieved me of my post as adjutant for the Natal Medical Corps and sent me to work for the provincial ophthalmology department in Durban. This meant I worked at the three racially-segregated hospitals King Edward VIII in Umbilo (healthily pigmented), RK Khan in Chatsworth (bit less so) and Addington on the beachfront (pigment deficiency – pale).

At KE VIII we had our own building, at RK Khan and Addington we shared. Addington OPDB (outpatients department B) was for legs and eyes. My mate Bob Ilsley in orthopaedics would say “I’ll get them to walk straight, you get them to see straight”.

Resident ophthalmologist Pat Bean was a character. Surfer dude at heart. And heart of gold. “You got cat tracks, mummy”, he’d say at RK Khan. “Cat tracks. Terrible things those cat tracks. Must give you ‘PRATION. Not sore ‘pration. Over one time you go home next day no pain see nicely.”

(‘cataracts’ ‘operation’)

————————————————

The nurse in charge of the clinic most days at KE VIII was Staff Nurse Anita Lekalakala, another character of note. One day she picked up a card for me, glanced at the name, grinned and called out loudly to the packed waiting room:

Miss Grace Kelly! Calling Miss Grace Kelly!

And in shuffled old Mrs Grace Cele, leaning on her walking stick.


(36yrs later I still see Anita for her glasses)

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