Lis­ten­ing, and the art of liv­ing

Grocott's Mail - - PEOPLE -

Dr Celia Jame­son Rose, well-known and much-loved spe­cial­ist physi­cian in Gra­ham­stown for over 35 years, passed away at Set­tlers Hos­pi­tal five days be­fore Christ­mas af­ter a long bat­tle with can­cer. At a packed Cathe­dral fu­neral ser­vice on Christ­mas Eve her son, Dr Arthur Rose, Rhodes grad­u­ate and Post-doc­toral Fel­low at Durham Uni­ver­sity, UK, de­liv­ered the eu­logy. r Celia Pringle Jame­son was born in Ga­tooma, Zim­babwe, then Rhode­sia, in 1948. Af­ter A Lev­els, she at­tended Med­i­cal School at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town, one of only six women in her class. She went on to fur­ther train­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don, and be­came a Mem­ber of the Royal Col­lege of Physi­cians.

When she re­turned to work at the Jo­han­nes­burg Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal, she un­der­took fur­ther train­ing in gas­troen­terol­ogy and geron­tol­ogy.

Here she de­vel­oped a life­long com­mit­ment to care for the ter­mi­nally ill and in 2007 she com­pleted a Mas­ter’s de­gree in Pal­lia­tive Care at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town. While rais­ing her chil­dren, she also man­aged to read for a BA de­gree in English Lit­er­a­ture and Psy­chol­ogy at Unisa.

In the early 2000s, she cam­paigned strongly for a Pri­vate Wing at Set­tlers Hos­pi­tal.

Al­most alone, and in op­po­si­tion to many other pro­po­nents for an ex­clu­sive Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal, she in­sisted that such an en­deav­our must come about through Pub­lic Pri­vate Part­ner­ship, whereby State

Dpa­tients could re­ceive equal ac­cess to health ex­per­tise. Joint sup­port in pro­vid­ing com­mu­nity med­i­cal treat­ment was crit­i­cal, she felt, to in­te­grat­ing com­mu­ni­ties di­vided into the haves and the havenots.

The for­mer Fi­nance Min­is­ter, Trevor Manuel, cited this part­ner­ship as ex­em­plary of the types of PPP the gov­ern­ment should strive for.

In 2006, she fought to open a Pal­lia­tive Care Ward at Set­tlers Hos­pi­tal, now sadly closed.

In pro­vid­ing spe­cial­ist care for the ter­mi­nally ill, she was able to show that HIV/Aids pa­tients, in par­tic­u­lar, not only ben­e­fited from spe­cial­ist pal­lia­tive care but, in in­creas­ing num­bers, were re­turned to a healthy life in the com­mu­nity.

In her time at Set­tlers Hos­pi­tal, span­ning more than 35 years, she was a for­mi­da­ble pres­ence.

She was a re­spected col­league, car­ing physi­cian, at­ten­tive prac­ti­tioner but es­pe­cially a gifted di­ag­nos­ti­cian.

Amidst that, she man­aged to be part of PTAs, so­cial groups, choral groups.

She grew roses for Home In­dus­tries, she helped award Flanagan Schol­ar­ships, and she fetched and car­ried not al­to­gether ap­pre­cia­tive chil­dren.

Her favourite joke was to ask these com­plain­ing chil­dren whether she should just step over dy­ing pa­tients at Set­tlers in or­der to be at the school gate to pick them up on time.

Our favourite re­sponse was, “yes”!

When I think of my mother, one word crowds out all oth­ers. It ap­pears, as we re­ceive the many, many mes­sages of love, care and sad­ness, I was not the only one who saw her in this light.

You may be sur­prised, but the word isn’t kind­ness or care.

Though she had a great ca­pac­ity for kind­ness, she was al­ways more car­ing than kind. To be a physi­cian, and I think we can agree she was a great physi­cian, one needs to be will­ing to say things that oth­ers would rather not hear, to care above be­ing kind.

It isn’t even em­pa­thy, sym­pa­thy or un­der­stand­ing, though, again, she had these qual­i­ties in abun­dance.

The key to good medicine, she told me once, is in the case his­tory. The pa­tient will tell you what is wrong, if only you let them.

And so, she lis­tened. Lis­tened with for­bear­ance. To com­plaints, to pains, to tears, to the ex­pres­sion of fears that seemed so daunt­ing that no one could pos­si­bly hear or un­der­stand. And yet she did. It is, you might think, dif­fi­cult when you have to share with an en­tire town the mother who is yours, who is sup­posed to lis­ten, first and fore­most, to your grum­bles, wipe away your tears, patch up your scraped knees.

But it wasn’t; she had pa­tience enough, re­sources enough, to grant each and every one, equal au­di­ence.

Is there a greater gift than sit­ting in front of a good lis­tener? All these, and yet, the word that rises up for me is “adamant”.

No need for bluff, or loud voice, my mother could hold you with her eyes: eyes that could ex­press steely grey de­ter­mi­na­tion. Adamant in her pro­fes­sion­al­ism, adamant in her faith, adamant in her care for fam­ily, adamant in her love for Peter, her hus­band, Rhodes aca­demic and Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor.

Af­ter her pass­ing, my sis­ter, Sarah, said, our mother has taught us how to die, speak­ing of the great re­silience with which she faced the many health chal­lenges in her fi­nal years.

An old friend af­ter vis­it­ing her in hos­pi­tal, com­mented that it was like at­tend­ing a Mas­ter Class in deal­ing with ad­ver­sity.

But we learn to die, that we might bet­ter learn to live. And so, in teach­ing us this last les­son, how to die with dig­nity, and with a calm as­sur­ance that cur­rent tri­als were but a stage on an on­ward jour­ney, and af­ter a life­time of car­ing for the dy­ing, I think my mother also taught us all some­thing else, some­thing about what it means to live. • Celia Jame­son’s fam­ily have de­cided not to hold a memo­rial ser­vice, be­cause so many peo­ple at­tended her fu­neral ser­vice on 24 De­cem­ber.

Photo: Fam­ily Al­bum

Dr Celia Jame­son.

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