The Sunday Tribune, one of South Africa’s leading Sunday Newspapers, has conferred its first ever ‘Lead Hero of the Year’ award on Dr Julia Ambler, from Umduduzi – a not for profit organisation that provides paediatric palliative care to the children of the greater Durban area of KwaZulu Natal. Umduduzi is a word which means ‘the comforter’ in isiZulu, the predominant language spoken in KwaZulu Natal.
In an article in this Sunday’s edition of the newspaper, Dr Julia Ambler said that she was humbled by news of the award. “It seems crazy to be called a hero for doing your job. But it is very exciting and I am grateful for the support. I am also thankful for the exposure as people have started to recognise our organisation’s name and become aware of this vital service,” she said.
The article goes on to describe the work that Julia does with her small team to support children with life limiting illnesses and their families in public hospitals. The Umduduzi team counsels families to prepare them for the inevitable death of a child and help the children they care for to spend their last days without pain, surrounded by family and where possible, in their own homes.
Admitting to the work being challenging, Ambler says, “It can be very sad and on difficult days I sometime wonder why I do this job. You cry a lot dealing with dying children daily … but when you see a family well prepared and equipped to deal with the death, and the child is pain-free, I know I am making a difference. It can be a special and beautiful time and that keeps me strong.”
The winners of all regional Lead SA heroes of the year will be flown to Cape Town in August 2013 where overall winner will be chosen. We are keeping our fingers crossed that Julia will come out tops in the country.
Umduduzi is a registered non profit organisation. It is based at the paediatric ward of Clairwood Hospital’s where there is a counselling room, an end-of-life room and a play centre. Julia explains that one of the biggest challenges facing Umduzi at present is the need for funding to employ a nurse who will be able to assist with their growing work load and give them time to do some much needed bereavement follow up for the families who have lost a child.