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Farewell to our colleague Farai

It is with great sadness that we report that our colleague Farai lost her long bravely fought battle with Diabetes and Kidney Failure.

Tribute to Farai by Howard:

I took over the Green Elephant Backpackers in 2010, that was when I first met Farai, then she was 35 years old and had started working at the Green Elephant since May 2008.

Farai had suffered from Type 1 Diabetes since she was a teenager. In 2011 she informed me that her kidneys were failing and that she required Dialysis.

She was being treated at Groote Schuur Hospital for her Diabetes but they refused to put her on the Dialysis program. Initially they claimed that this was because she wasn’t South African, when we challenged them on this (the Constitution covers healthcare for all who live in SA, not just citizens) they informed me that her condition was too far gone and she would not survive more than a few more months with or without dialysis.

We managed to get her onto Medical Aid, but she needed to survive a year exclusion period for her pre-existing condition. She chose to go home for that year. I said goodbye to her in October 2012 uncertain whether I would see her again.

Farai not only survived, but returned a year later to begin Dialyses and thrived.

She also returned to work at Green Elephant and did light duties 3 times a week in between her dialysis.

It was not plain sailing, there were many many setbacks in Farai’s goal to have her body healthy enough to undergo a kidney transplant. A sore on her toe turned bad and the resultant infection necessitated the amputation of her left leg below the knee. After a few weeks, Farai’s spirit sprung back and she got used to the crutches and then a prosthetic leg and was back at work again engaging with staff and guests with her cheerful smile and playful personality. She built a strong fort of competent medical specialists around her. All got to know her well and developed a special bond. I could tell when interacting with them that she was not just another patient to them.

A few months later a sore developed on her remaining foot, the surgeon who had amputated her first leg explained that she needed to wait until it got worse and then he would amputate it as well. However, with the help of the Noakes Foundation and Dr Wellington, she got to understand that if she controlled her sugar levels very well, it would be possible for the sore to heal. She explained a few weeks later how disappointed the surgeon was when he saw that her remaining foot had healed.

One of her highlights was meeting Prof Noakes when she came to show her support to him during the Health Professions Council Hearing against him. She was still on her crutches whilst getting used to her prosthetic leg. I remember her asking me rhetorically in her quiet manner during his cross examination “What has he done?”. She was not a Doctor or a lawyer, but knew exactly what was there in plain site for all to see.

She became knowledgeable about her condition and would freely give information and encouragement to others starting their journey with dialysis. This wasn’t easy as the Nursing Staff in the Dialysis units would contradict what she knew and instead espouse the Low Fat “Balanced Diet” (read high carb) regimen to those in their care.

Farai was very excited when her daughter Natasha arranged to visit from Zimbabwe and could not wait for her to arrive. Perhaps she knew something that we didn’t.

Her humour and cheerful personality made her a joy to be around, even when she was very ill and feeling miserable or in pain, she would still take the trouble to ask how everyone else was and find the strength to crack a joke.

Around Mid August, Farai developed an infection via her dialysis port in her arm. This caused her body to go into ketoacidosis.

The infection required surgery which they tried to delay whilst getting her blood levels in order but in the end the surgery became critical.

The surgery itself went well, but whilst recovering from the anesthetic her heart stopped. After a long resuscitation attempt, her heart restarted but with a very weak pulse.

It became apparent that her heart had been badly compromised and when it failed again it was decided that further resuscitation would be futile.

It is a sad indictment that the cause of death on her Death Certificate reads “Natural Causes”. This belies Farais brave and courageous battle with Diabetes, but in the end this strong woman’s body, who had survived the impossible, had finally succumbed, many many years longer that the predictions of the Medical Specialists we had consulted way back in 2011.

All of us at the Green Elephant family are devastated that she is no longer with us. She touched many lives including guests from all over the world who would often ask after her.

She leaves behind her Husband Gary and Daughter Natasha who is studying Development Studies in Zimbabwe.

We have set up an appeal for contributions towards Natasha’s education at  https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/natasha-dikinya


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