Sister Colleen Grehan has worked at Groote Schuur Hospital for 35 years and has never taken sick leave; she has dedicated her entire life to caring for others.
Cape Town, South Africa – Heroes of Groote Schuur is a Facebook page dedicated to highlighting the amazing people who work or visit the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.
Recently they celebrated the career of Sister Colleen Grehan. Sister Colleen has worked at the hospital as a Wound Care Specialist for the last 35 years. She officially retired this year after working non-stop to care for those in need. The page called her “one of the greatest heroes to ever grace its corridors”.
During her career as a wound care specialist, Sister Colleen has never taken a single day’s sick leave. “Not. One. Day.” says the Heroes page.
“I started nursing when I was two and a half. My mom was busy with my baby sister and I walked into the room with a towelling nappy on my head and she said, ‘What are you doing with that nappy?’. And I said, ‘I’m a nurse’. So she made me a little uniform and she made beds out of tomato boxes, so by the time I was three I had a hospital. I used to bandage the cat and the dolls and put them all in beds.
I retired last year for 10 hours. But they had nobody to replace me so I came in the next morning, signed the papers and I was back. I’m 66, and now I’m retiring again. I don’t want to, but I have to.”
The page asked her which case stood out to her the most over her 35-year career. She can recall the situation with ease as the horrific details of it etched into her mind. It was a heinous case, but she got to see it have a very happy ending years later.
“One of the cases that stands out for me was the girl that was mauled by dogs. The Philippi farmworker. She was the 6th victim of those dogs. They knocked her down and started chewing on her and every time she moved in the night they carried on and by the morning she had no flesh on her leg from the knee to the foot, they’d eaten it all off the bone with her awake. Eight people were attacked by those dogs. I was still busy with her when number seven came in. Number eight was killed. That patient did really well. She went home to the farm without a prosthesis. Recently I went to treat a patient in the maternity ward and she had her leg amputated and she had some narrow scars and I asked her if she was diabetic and she said no. So I asked what happened to her leg and she said ‘Sister you know….. the dogs’ and that’s when I realised it was her. Sixteen years later she was here having a baby.”
Sister Colleen has to retire now but wishes she could stay on and keep on doing her job. She has loved it for every year she has had it. Many can confirm that she went above and beyond to offer the very best care and that she will be greatly missed.
“In the dressing room if I’m not there there’s nobody to do my job. So I refuse to take off sick, I’m here no matter what. I’ve had times where I had a problem with my back and I could barely walk but I was here. A couple of times I’ve had to say to somebody please drive me to work because I can’t drive, but I was here. If I could just keep going I would keep going.
Monthly I treat between 250-270 patients. Last year I did 3097 patients in one year.”
Since the heroes page shared her story, over 500 people have commented praising Sister Colleen or remembering how she had helped them.
Thank you for inspiring South Africans with your dedication, Sister Colleen. May you have a long and happy retirement.