Stepping Stone Hospice’s feathered friends

It’s often said that ‘feathers appear when angels are near’. Seems the ducks that roam the grounds at the AMCARE Centre in New Market Park, like to spend most of their time in and around the pond at Stepping Stone Hospice – with the result that their antics have become a source of entertainment and comfort for the in-patients that come into contact with them.

Stepping Stone Hospice & Care Services is an independent, community-driven organisationand the first-ever service of its kind in the Greater Alberton area of Ekurhuleni. Their seven-bed in-patient unit is situated on the grounds of AMCARE.

Says Tersia Burger, CEO of Stepping Stone: “Our patients seem calmer and more at peace when they are fit enough to sit outside with the ducks in our garden.” She recalls one patient in particular who used to love being pushed outside in her wheelchair to be near the ducks. “Then, one day, a few of the ducklings marched into the unit and headed straight for her room. They came waddling out soon afterwards, with the nurses in hot pursuit. It was very funny at the time and the patient was so happy that they’d paid her a visit. It really brought a smile to her face. Sadly, she passed away the next day.”

As it turns out, ducks make great animal companions. USA Today recently ran a story about a wounded army veteran who keeps pet ducks in his yard as a form of therapy. He claims that they help him with depression, post-traumatic stress and keep him active as they motivate him to get out of the house. “They’re quite relaxing and they help comfort me,” he said, adding that “watching them can keep you entertained for hours.”

Since Stepping Stone opened its doors in October 2013, the aim has always been to provide special palliative care to people experiencing the impact of life-threatening illness. In their own way, these ‘feathered angels’ have become an unexpected yet welcome extension of this care. 

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Working at a hospice exposes us to every kind of human emotion and experience. What we have learnt is that we all have a story. We all experience heartbreak, heartache, uncertainty and difficult times in our lives. Courageous Conversations was borne out of this knowledge. Courageous Conversations is about talking about the 'unspeakable' issues that we are often confronted with and have no outlet to express or learn coping mechanisms for…

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