Discovery Home Care brings entrepreneur's treatment to his home
Successful entrepreneur Cecil Nel balances business commitments and family life despite a chronic immune disorder that requires a full day’s treatment every three weeks. Thanks to Discovery Home Care, Cecil’s ongoing hospital admissions are now a thing of the past.
Thirty-three-year-old Cecil Nel has worked hard to build up several workshops, tool and hardware businesses, all based in Hammanskraal in northern Gauteng, employing 75 people.
“Every day, I commute between my home in Pretoria and Hammanskraal, which is about a 40 minute drive if I leave as early as possible,” he explains. Cecil is on the road between 03:30 and 04:30 each morning. “I get so many things done in the early morning before my staff come in, like ordering and checking stock, and more. I usually work until around 11:00, and that is only because my body doesn’t allow me to work a full day. Usually by noon, I experience hot flushes, I feel stiffness in my body, and I have muscle cramps, especially in my legs. If I can, I take a nap once I’m home, around 15:30.” Between work, daily life, his 11-year-old son and very supportive wife, there is a lot to do each day. He adds, “Thankfully, I no longer need to factor admission to hospital every three weeks into the mix.”
Cecil shocked to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder
Back in 2006, Cecil began working 14-hour days, from 05:00 to 19:00, and really giving his businesses his all. “I did this for close to a decade. Then, one day, around February 2014, my muscles began cramping and I found I couldn’t really stretch them or bend over to tie my shoelaces. In March that year, we went to Cape Town for a wedding and I struggled to push the baggage trolley from the plane to the rental car, as my muscles were sore and stiff. I also found it difficult to walk up the steps at our hotel and had to hold the railings. We later visited Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal and, while I was always able to walk on beach sand and over the rocks that link the beaches with ease, I couldn’t step onto the rocks, as my feet were too sensitive. Back home, I saw a physiotherapist who said my muscles felt like bone, they were so stiff. Thankfully, she sent me to a neurologist at Life Wilgers Hospital in Pretoria, where I was admitted and monitored for two weeks while various tests were done. Finally, a lumbar puncture showed elevated protein levels and confirmed the diagnosis – chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy or CIDP.”
This rare neurological disorder is characterised by inflammation of nerve roots and peripheral nerves, and also the destruction (or “demyelination”) of the fatty protective covering (called the myelin sheath) over the nerves.
“It’s an auto-immune disorder,” explains Cecil. “My immune system attacks the myelin sheath. We don’t know what causes it. The diagnosis came as a shock as I had always been healthy. Suddenly I faced lifelong, very regular treatment, which at first meant I had to be admitted to hospital every three weeks for a Polygam infusion (intravenous drip). My world changed on every level.”
Hospital admission, every three weeks for three years
For three long years, Cecil’s life revolved around admission to hospital. “I would schedule my infusions up to six months in advance to keep them from disrupting life too much. You can imagine trying to fit them in so regularly, without affecting my family, or my businesses and staff. It was very tough to maintain it all. I’d wake up very early on treatment day, be admitted by 06:00, get to a hospital bed by 07:00, wait for the pharmacy to open at 08:00, see my doctor, wait for the Polygam medicine to be mixed and the drip line to start around 10:00. I would miss an entire day of work and stay overnight to finish the infusion. While the nurses and doctors were all angels, I was very stressed at being surrounded by sick people all the time and being exposed to hospital bugs. Many patients would ask what was wrong with me, as outwardly, I looked fine. I began telling people I had HIV, to get them to leave me alone. I didn’t want to tell them I had CIPD and have to explain it. It was too exhausting,” says Cecil.
Then Cecil’s doctor told him about another of his CIPD patients, who was receiving care through the Discovery Home Care benefit. “This person is also a business man and my doctor felt that Discovery Home Care was really working well for him. I gave it some thought and we agreed that my CIPD had stabilised – I wasn’t degenerating anymore. I started on Home Care towards the end of 2017. I never expected that it would be the most remarkable change for the better for me,” he adds.
Discovery Home Care – quality care at home for Cecil
“I was so used to hospital treatment; I wasn’t sure what to expect. Almost three years later, I can honestly say that both the process and all of the Home Care nurses I have seen have been wonderful. I receive my medicine three days beforehand, and I refrigerate it. On infusion day, the nurse arrives at around 06:00 (they’re early birds like me!) and have the infusion up and started by 06:45. We go through six Polygam bottles over the course of the day and are done by 16:00.
“We chat throughout, discussing my health and condition, the state of my muscle cramps, medicine I take, and more. The nurses do admin work in between and check my vitals. I sleep a lot during the infusion. Overall, the experience is far superior to being treated in hospital, for so many reasons. I only miss a day’s work. My medicine is delivered to me. There is flexibility as I can plan and move the infusion a day out slightly if I have to. There is no exposure to other sick people in hospital. My late afternoon and evening are my own, to spend with my family. I avoid the commute between home and hospital and only need to see my doctor every three months. Home Care is about giving people like me a better chance at quality of life.
“I still experience joint and muscle pain and so take a lot of pain medicine throughout the day. That makes me a little drowsy and that is part of why I tend to leave work earlier. But at least I can still work and run my businesses,” says Cecil. “And, I am not deteriorating anymore.”
Discovery Health Medical Scheme covers Cecil’s infusions in full
Each of Cecil’s Polygam infusions costs around R36 000. His Discovery Health Medical Scheme plan fully covers this cost as well as the cost of his professional nursing care at around R5 000 a visit. “Compared to the hefty costs of a two-day hospital admission, there are massive savings in using Home Care,” adds Cecil.
“Discovery Home Care is such an excellent initiative and valuable service. There is nothing like being cared for in the comfort of your home. People dealing with a condition such as CIPD have to put every effort into maintaining a positive outlook on life. The less you complain, the better your life, I say! And, Home Care helps me to wake up positive and keep believing that I am happy, lucky and blessed.”
DISCOVERY HEALTH MEDICAL SCHEME IS AN INDEPENDENT NON-PROFIT ENTITY GOVERNED BY THE MEDICAL SCHEMES ACT, AND REGULATED BY THE COUNCIL FOR MEDICAL SCHEMES. IT IS ADMINISTERED BY A SEPARATE COMPANY, DISCOVERY HEALTH (PTY) LTD, AN AUTHORISED FINANCIAL SERVICES PROVIDER.
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