Stellenbosch University Anatomy Society (SUAS) launch

Hard wooden benches and the smell of formalin dominate my faint recollection of studying anatomy as an undergraduate.  Aah but, that was some time ago.  Here at Stellenbosch, plans are afoot to overcome that perception and last month I attended the inaugural meeting of the Stellenbosch University Anatomy Society (SUAS).

Elsje-Marie Geldenhuys opened proceedings, characterising the society as a new voyage and then extended the metaphor referring to the "unchartered waters of anatomy".
She introduced Dr Karin Baatjes, the head of the division of anatomy, who told us that the society  is at the heart of the division's desire to expand the presence of anatomy in the Health Sciences faculty.  The three pillars of the society are research, clinical application and education. The aim is to inspire, to encourage professional development and to develop new technologies. The society is aimed at students and members of the medical medical professional.  There will be links with related societies, nationally and internationally, and so enthuse this generation and future generations of health care workers.

To make anatomy alive and relevant, a series of vibrant clinical talks have been scheduled.  Prof Vlok (neurosurgeon) and Prof Dempers (forensic pathology) gave talks at the inaugural meeting.  Prof Vlok detailed the relevant anatomy underpinning the management of a young women with a head injury and a dilated pupil.  He described the brainstem as being equivalent to the motherboard. Whilst his team used their anatomical knowledge to successfully treat the young woman, the example of the importance of anatomy used by Prof Dempers was in a different context. The case he presented is best summed up by the quote he used from Sherlock Holmes:  " Look at all the facts, eliminate impossible and you are left with the answer."

The department is also hosting a number of weekly lectures and I was privileged enough to be invited. I chose to speak about reclassification of the axilla based on functional anatomy.  As it was Friday afternoon, I thought we should have a little fun as well.  I then argued that the most clinically used aspect of breast anatomy is nothing to do with underlying structure but size and shape.  Utilising the statistics from the American society of plastic surgeon, making the assumption that 20% of the worlds plastic surgery is done in America and using the average price per procedure as quoted on the Internet, I estimated that in 2018 a staggering $30 546 306 750 was spent on 5 plastic surgery breast procedures.

The SU anatomy society is taking us away from wooden benches and the smell of formalin and making anatomy a living subject.  Well done to them. If you are interested in joining, please contact them:  SUAnatomySociety@gmail.com.


The Love Box Project

The fourth of February is world cancer day and the breast clinic at Tygerberg celebrated by hosting partners and supporters for an update on developments. The occasion was a "thank you" for people involved in the breast clinic.  Some of the volunteers are part of national or international breast cancer support groups (such as Reach for Recovery and Project Flamingo). Other projects are unique to Tygerberg Breast Clinic.

The Love Box is an example of such a project.  It was started by Zondelia Swartz who had breast cancer.  Although she works full time as a teacher, she wanted to give something to women who have breast cancer and perhaps don't have the support that she had.  She was unable to be with us on 4/2/19 so came and talked to us and the medical students 10 days ago about her experience and about the work she has been doing.

The love box or bag (preferably wrapped in pink) is filled with the following:
🌸white soap for sensitive skin
🌸face cloth
🌸 bank bag filled with maizena
🌸 lip ice
🌸 small lotion 
🌸small baby powder
🌸a pair of socks
🌸 roll on for sensitive skin
🌸maybe a mint sweetie or two
🌸ginger biscuits
🌸a little stress ball to help with blood circulation after mastectomy
🌸 a word of encouragement
🌸pink nail polish  (optional)

Karin Baatjes and Athalia October

To anyone who hasn't had chemotherapy the contents will seem random and bizarre.  Anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of having radiotherapy and chemotherapy will immediately understand what a difference these can make.

 For a project to be sustainable, it takes more than one person to be involved.  Karin Baatjes (a colleague from Tygerberg) has been involved from the start of the program and enlists the help of students when carrying all the boxes to the clinic or wards.
Other people (such as Athalia October) have hosted Love Box parties.

Having breast cancer and undergoing treatment isn't only about physical experiences.  As a profession, we have been slow to understand the importance of wellness and listening to what is important to patients. Dr Karin Baatjes has been running a wellness project with the medical students for some time.  Every other Thursday, they are asked to choose an aspect of wellness and discuss it with the patients in the waiting room.  When Zondelia visited us last week, we changed the routine and asked the medical students to talk to women with breast cancer and have an open ended discussion with them about what barriers to care they had experienced.   They gave us anonymous feedback and Zondelia shared her experiences with them as well.

She stressed how important family support is and it was lovely for all of us to have her daughter with us.

On World Cancer Day, we thanked many other people.  To list them here, is not doing their contribution to the breast clinic justice but as the year goes on, I will blog about them as well. They include:
The Love Army, Reach for Recovery, the transport project, Reach to Recovery, Elna Sutherland and the Flamingo Project. From the corporate side, we would like to thank DigIt and Lancet.

Last but not least, Penny Steynor painted a scene for us for everyone who has contributed to the clinic to sign.  Zondelia signed this last week.


Pink Lady Crafts for Cancer

The 9th annual Pink Lady Crafts for Cancer was held at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West last weekend.  It was the first time that I had the pleasure of attending the day which is organised by Pink Lady® apples  The craft day is an annual fund raising event and the money raised goes towards a transport fund which supports women with breast cancer attending Tygerberg Hospital.

This year's craft was cake decorating. The masterclass was attended by 100 women. It was coordinated by Beate Strydom from the Birdcage Restaurant in Stellenbosch.  There were many beautiful cakes and whilst they were varied in their patterns and themes, the overall colour was pink. ( The Birdcage is a lovely coffee shop in Stellenbosch and as it is one of my son's favourites, I have had the pleasure of having tea there.)

After a musical interlude from Elandre and Josh (many thanks, particularly for the Cole Porter), we went on to an excellent buffet lunch in the large dining room.

Liza, Justus Apffelstaedt, Mike Burton and I all gave brief speeches outlining the transport fund and thanking the sponsors.  Having any cancer results in many trips to the breast centre.  In a large country such as South Africa, the distances travelled are often long and therefore expensive.  For many women, the cost can mean they cannot come for all their cancer treatment sessions.  This results in the treatment being less effective.

Ms van Eck with her cake

Over the last 12 months, the transport fund has paid for 2332 trips to the hospital for treatment.  As the cost of fuel is set to increase next year, the need for the fund will increase rather than decrease.  On behalf of the the women who have benefitted from the transport fund, I would like to thank the following sponsors: The Lord Charles Hotel, Rees Dynamic, Top promotions, Tart Supreme Coffee, Blue Jay-Pink Lady apples, TopFruit and Four Paws wine.

We were all given goody bags and our thanks to all the contributors. A huge thank you to Liza Matthews and Tania Fourie who coordinated the whole event.  I am really looking forward to further projects.
Pink Lady® apples team
On behalf of all the women who have benefitted from your generosity: I thank you.


Clinical Breast Examination Project

Written by Sr Lieske Wegelin

Last week Tuesday, I joined the advanced midwifery students of Stellenbosch University (SU) at the women's month breast education and examination project. It was held at the View Church in Tableview. The project was in collaboration with SU, View Church and SALT.

For the past few months, the midwives have attended lectures regarding breast health presented by Dr Edge. They have also been trained in clinical breast examination (CBE) and what to look out for when performing a CBE.

Dr Nomafrench Mbombo

The morning started with a brief introductory talk by Dr Leanne Greeff and a song performance followed. The group then welcomed Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, the Western Cape Minister of Health, to the stage. She spoke about women's health in general and the importance of events like these to educate our communities. Dr Doreen KM M’Rithaa, the head of the Advanced Midwifery students, spoke next and she was followed by a breast cancer survivor giving a talk about her experience of the process of being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

I represented the Breast Course for Nurses and spoke during the next session about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and also how to perform a breast self-examination and the importance of doing this every month. The talks were aimed at educating the community members about early detection of breast problems.
T-shirts printed for the day

The midwives then each went to their assigned stations that they had set up to ensure privacy of the person being examined. The community members were offered a CBE by the midwives. Prior to having the CBE, the person's history was taken by members of the SALT group. I was there to assist with any queries or concerns the midwives had about the people they were examining.

Just over 150 members of the community received a CBE with +/- 12 people needing referral to the clinic. The doors stayed open until 16h30 when the last few people were seen and examined.

The feedback received was that the programme was very well done and very much needed. The midwives did a fantastic job!

Well done to each and every person that helped with the preparations of this day, hopefully the first of many to come.

Log in to Facebook, like our Breast Course 4 Nurses page and enjoy the recording of the event shown on the Expresso television show!

Sr Lieske, Dr Doreen and Sr Melanie