Patching up the sick with love

Alicia van der Westhuizen and Kathleen van Zyl.

Through her non-profit Wings of Love, Sunningdale mother of three Kathleen van Zyl is helping to make hospital stays a little easier for sick children and their anxious parents.

She is helped by a team of mothers; Sabrina Herman, Alicia van der Westhuizen and Karen Gunton, all of whom know what it’s like to be in and out of hospital with a sick child. They call the work they do at hospitals all over Cape Town “patching”, after Patch Adams, a semi-biographical film about a doctor who takes an unconventional approach to patient care.

Kathleen, who has earned the nickname “Patch”, was employed under a paediatric dietitian and would often do hospital visits, and that is where she started patching. After getting retrenched from her job last year, she registered Wings of Love and started doing the patching full time.

“We want to be a familiar face to your child when you aren’t able to be there. We want to cheer them up, make them laugh and give them a little toy to hold on to,” Kathleen says.

Many of the children Wings of Love help have rare illnesses. Some are terminally ill. Wings of Love’s mission is to make life as comfortable for them as possible.

They visit families in hospital, taking toys, nappies, toiletries and crossword puzzles. Sometimes, with the parents’ and doctors’ permission, they take the children out on fun days to cheer them up.

Sabrina Herman’s son has DiGeorge syndrome, which can cause heart defects, poor immune system function and low levels of calcium in the blood. He goes every six weeks to Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital for check-ups.

Sabrina says joining Wings of Love was one of the best things she ever did because she gets to help those in need.

“Thanks to our retail partners, we are able to feed over 100 people per week, from young children to the elderly who can’t work anymore. The reason why I do this is because of the difference that we see in people’s lives just by the little that we do.

“We are not doing this for recognition or to try and turn this into a big corporation and profit from it. We would rather remain a small organisation that does quality work with positive results on people’s lives,” Sabrina says.

There is still more Kathleen would like to do, such as running sign-language and CPR courses and raising awareness for organ donor campaigns.

“We don’t get any income for the work that we do, but that is not why I got into this anyway,” she says. “But my biggest goal is that I would love for Sabrina to make an income as I can see how difficult it is to make ends meet, juggling the work that we do and having to take care of her son.”

“We are open to working with organisations that are in a similar field to what we do. If we have more than we need we share with other organisations,” says Kathleen.

Email or call 061 426 6578 for details.