Hillary's Angel
One woman's search for meaning

Does this book give a true reflection of the clinical situation in South Africa?


I did the research for this book in the late nineties. All details were then taken from my own personal experiences or those of mothers I interviewed at that time. As for the current situation, I am not qualified to comment as this industry evolves constantly and the financial structures within organisations and the external support they receive are very much entwined in economic climates. What I do know is that all organisations strive at any time to do the best with what they have.

Search result for 'clinic' in Hillary's Angel

Chapter 2: Broken China
"...of her foiled fer- tility. Likewise, Hillary’s replies were an ironic record of her own domestic crises and triumphs, a monologue recording the horror of the accident and its tragic consequences – things she could not bring herself to discuss with Hans or even the staff at the clinic. ..."

Chapter 4: Robbie
"...a year’s journey since the day that, to her mind, marked the beginning of the nightmare. Getting Hans to agree to this trip was her most recent triumph. He was unaware that this was yet another step in her crusade to get Robbie out of the clinic and back home. ..."
"... kept the bathroom door locked. Then when Robbie was exactly thirteen months old, she got her grounds for appeal. During a routine check-up at the clinic, sister told her he had lost his “parachute reflex” and granted her a referral to a neurologist. The switchboard was so busy. ..."
"...The following day, on her own, Hillary had rushed Robbie off to have an EEG done at the clinic – the earliest appointment she had been able to get. She cried all the way there. She stopped trying to wipe away her tears because the steering wheel got so slippery. During the tests she battled to control herself, expecting the worst – only ..."
"... the sacrifice of a single mother’s son. But, to her bewilderment, he could not make the connection, began to talk about being “sensible” and the “needs” of the rest of the family and “seeing things in perspective”. Then it turned out that while she had been hopping from clinic to institute to hospital, trying to get a diagnosis, Hans had made some arrangements of his own “for your own good” and booked a place for Robbie at a psychiatric clinic just outside town for “observation and therapy”. ..."

Chapter 5: Sparrows
"...feelings of con- cern and hope came flooding out unchecked. This man had restored her faith in her child, in herself, encouraging her to follow the only path that she as a mother could truly understand. She knew now that she would take Robbie out of the clinic if that was what it took. Take him home again … if she could just get Hans to understand. Robbie filled her horizon. ..."

Chapter 8: The Green Door
"...Daniel, the dogs and Raphael – the beings her life ap- peared to revolve round – were just a dream. Thursday grounded her, reminded her of her true worthlessness and failure. The long-weekend with Robbie had been such a fiasco Hans had insisted that he stay on at the clinic. Although his reasoning was specious, Hillary was unable to refute it: ..."
"...her desk, and always filled with chrysanthemums or daisies. It was Sister’s one concession to femininity. The staff joked that de- spite her fluffy hair she was really a man in disguise – unshockable, unshake- able, a veritable Rock of Gibraltar. She had been at the clinic longer than anyone could remember. But even she was visibly surprised to see Hillary. ..."

Chapter 9: The Water Tower
"...It was open day at the clinic. For once Hans had not interfered when Hillary announced that she was taking the twins along. Although unbeknown to him she had dropped by with them the previous Thursday too when they got off early from school. They had watched the band practice. Today there was no ..."
"... the eyes. So what, she could deal with it. And she still was dealing with it. She turned the van up the road to the clinic. On the corner at the turn lay a windmill, on its side. Close-by stood a drilling rig. “Look, they’re putting up a windmill.” “Duh, that’s been there for ..."
"...When they arrived at the clinic visitors were already buying cakes and jumble. Here someone mooned about in shorts labelled “chronic”. There someone sat listlessly in a wheelchair. On the porch steps, Paulie was waiting for his mother. “Today’s Saturday” he told Hillary and the twins, very seriously, explaining to them: “My mother’s coming today. ..."
"...She recalled how things had been when Robbie was first admitted to the clinic. For two months he had cried without letting up. He had regressed completely. At first they had not been able to feed him. Nothing had seemed to make any difference – not the visits, not physiotherapy, nothing. But Hillary had kept on keeping on. Because there was ..."
"...As far as Robbie’s sessions were concerned, at this stage he just lay in her arms, listening (she hoped) while the therapist played the guitar. But she had no re- grets. The results obtained with other patients proved that her efforts to get the clinic to offer music therapy had been well worth while. ..."
"... After that there were drum majorettes and a puppet show, and finally the clinic band played their limited repertoire. They waited until the very end. Then Hillary made the children come with her to say goodbye to Robbie. She of- fered them a chance to feed him his dinner. ..."

Chapter 12: Cold Turkey
"... just for today. And at least it’s shady.” “I’m a brickie” announced Albert. “I know. And I’ve seen what you built at the clinic. I want you to build a shed for me too, but not today.” Raphael showed them how to dig over the soil. “It’s like mixing cement.” ..."
"... Hans gave a snort of exasperation. “Surely they’ve got facilities back at the clinic. Now we’ll have them running round buck naked.” For the first time the wizened trio looked at him as a man, as if giving his suggestion serious consideration would earn his approval. ..."
"...Hillary took his arm. “Don’t give them ideas. Look, tomorrow’s Friday. Then it’s the weekend. So you can think about it until Monday.” She hesitated. “Then, I promise, if you haven’t changed your mind I’ll tell the clinic to forget all about it.” She couldn’t go ahead without his agreement; she knew that, so she might as well give in gracefully. ..."
"...to the kitchen as usual. But no Raphael. Never again any Raphael. She had experienced a similar void when Hans had sent the children off to boarding school immediately after Robbie had gone to the clinic. For her the loss had been unspeakable. Suddenly deprived of the numerous little chores and routines associated with the children she had been left with nothing but the dogs and her grief to fill her time. ..."

Chapter 13: The Sentinel
"...Awakened by the dogs, Hans drew back the bedroom curtain and looked out just in time to see Hillary leave for the clinic to fetch her inmates. It was get- ting earlier and earlier. Each morning now, she was up and gone before he could even attempt to reach her. In a way, her absence came as a relief. He was hesitant to touch her these days. She seemed ..."
"...When Hillary reached the clinic the workmen were not yet ready and waiting as she had hoped and she found herself pacing up and down, muttering to herself. When they finally arrived, the three men immediately sensed her irri- tation and fell over each other in their haste to climb ..."

Chapter 14: Curtains
"...How could she have forgotten? She had dropped Hans off in town and driven back out to the clinic meaning to return well in time for their appointment. These lapses kept happening since Raphael had gone. There were so many more things to be done and so much less time to do them in. She kept for- getting things. Her life ..."
"...“contacts” so he had to take what he could when he could. But Hillary also suspected that it was a cash flow problem. At any rate, the tem- porary lull in activity meant that she now made excuses to spend more and more time at the clinic, trying to avoid Hans and Cecile in case they noticed her deepening depression. ..."
"...After her partial success at finding employment for Albert, Ephraim and Zebedee – Jorg was employing them now, to prune his roses and other odd jobs – the clinic had elected Hillary to the committee. She now found herself trying to arrange a parents’ commitment group to encourage parents to help with therapy, get them to the point where they might take their children home over the weekend. But it was uphill work. Some of them ..."
"... to help. She had written to Le Roux and asked him to come and give a talk at the clinic, but as yet there had been no reply. Perhaps he was no longer involved at the children’s hospital after all. She felt that on her own she lacked the au- thority to get the parents involved. ..."
"...was “only” a mother and most people distrusted mothers be- cause they were “emotionally involved”. Their subjectivity made them suspect. And this despite the fact that every mother she had ever talked to had been convinced that her child had a problem long before any clinical diagnosis was made. In the same uncanny way a woman knows when the child in her womb has died, but invariably both her husband and gynaecologist consistently ignore her judgment. Ironically, whatever the outcome, Hillary noticed that mothers were always blamed for what ..."
"...she knew of who might possibly be able to make some contribution to lightening the load: absolving mothers of unnec- essary guilt and inspiring them to follow their hearts and make a difference. So when there was no response she convinced Sister to write on behalf of the clinic. Still no reply, but she was determined not to give up. It was a commit- ment that made her feelings for Robbie easier to bear. ..."
"...matter how much she wanted to, did she actually, physically have the time to tutor Jade? Perhaps the headmaster was right: what Jade needed most was a mother, and how much of a mother was Hillary being to her? Had all this business at the clinic become a meaningless distraction that had less and less to do with Robbie himself? And now, had she needlessly committed herself to yet another time-consuming project on the assumption that it was in Jade’s best interests? Was it, in fact, in Jade’s best interests? How ..."

Chapter 16: The Storm
"...She knew what Hans would say: this was one more reason why they couldn’t have Robbie at home. All for Robbie’s own good, in his own interest naturally. But for Hillary it was still so unnatural, such a wrench, leaving him here at the clinic. Every day they were apart chipped away at her nerves. Would there always be someone there when he had an attack? Would she see him smile again? It was the not knowing that got to her. ..."
"...All at once there was a very large black man standing in front of her. Where had he sprung from? With the light behind him, it was difficult to make out his expression, but he was not smiling. Neither was he wearing the familiar clinic clothes. For Hillary at that moment there was only one logical explanation: he must be an intruder from the squatter camp. For a full minute they stood in silence, staring at each other, each waiting for the other to speak or make a move. Then, with a ..."
"...Don’t get upset, she told herself, this was simply a case of mistaken identity, like the doctor at the clinic whom she had mistaken for a hostile intruder: a storm in a teacup. Yet she felt strangely empty as she wandered from stall to stall, visited the classrooms and chatted to the teachers. For her conviction was growing that it was her identity that had been mistaken, ..."

Chapter 17: Family
"... them enough in rent. So she relented. But by Thursday she wished she had not. She took the pink envelope along to the clinic and was touting it to the nursing staff when Sister approached her solemnly, her face expressionless as canteen blancmange. “I’ll thank you to take your free ..."
"... “If not just to gawk.” “Well … I …” “Which sister sent you here?” “I have a child at the clinic. Sometimes I get discouraged. One of the nursing sisters thought it would do me good …” “Oh, I thought you were talking about the convent sisters. Well, has it done you ..."
"... a business to run, no time to socialise. On the way home Hillary dropped in at the clinic. She wanted to pick up the letter announcing Prof Le Roux’s intended visit so she could start making arrangements for inviting the families to meet him. “How was the salon? Your appointment was ..."

Chapter 18: Bats
"...But then there was the issue of the training dummy. Since Raphael had gone, despite Hillary’s resolve to resume her afternoon sessions with the dogs, this had not materialised. She had become far too involved with the special pro- grammes at the clinic – the music therapy, parent programme, casual employ- ment, and so on. The planning and organisation absorbed any last scrap of energy that might survive her weekend sessions with the twins. But one af- ternoon, when Hans was at the lawyers, Hillary ..."

Chapter 19: Music
"...Hans was already up and dressed. For once Hillary had overslept. Now she would have to rush to complete her chores before leaving for the clinic. She had to be there before Prof Le Roux arrived. Hans was bringing the twins along later. It was the year-end function so many family members would be there. Some, she knew, would be reluctant listeners, but at least they would be sitting in ..."
"... Jade from somewhere deep inside the house. “See you later,” she shouted, “And don’t forget to give the Harrises the mail.” The Harrises were giving Hans a lift to the clinic on their way in to town. Emsie worked in the shop on Saturdays too. When Hans arrived at the clinic, Hillary ..."
"...When Hans arrived at the clinic, Hillary was out on the lawn connecting the wiring for the sound system. She was going to play muzak all day, but muzak with a difference: Mozart mainly, and things like the Skaters’ Waltz and Dance of the Hours, the Silver and Gold Symphony – stuff that ..."
"...with yet another handshake – the professor clasping hers mo- mentarily in both of his. Sister was taking him to see the workroom now and Hillary still had to sort out the sound. She wanted strings – strings! What was that now? For goodness sake, it was the clinic band warming up! However had that happened? But as her professor followed Sister through the archway, he deliberately turned back toward Hillary and smiled broadly, miming applause. He must think it had been purposely arranged. Oh well, maybe after all … As the air began to vibrate with sound ..."
"...thought Hillary, what have I done? He had told her last Christmas that he had little experience in dealing with families, with individ- uals – he was basically an academic. And here she had set up a collection of people, of families, rivalled only by the clinic’s cannas in their tarnished va- riety: from the poorest of the poor to the most privileged and educated – pa- tients, nursing staff and parents, only a smattering of administrators and professionals. How ever could she have expected him to cope? Again she was doubting the ..."
"...to work, but it doesn’t feed the real person inside us. That person is still as empty as ever. Still needs proper food. And without that food, before long things will go wrong again and we end up back in hospital or in another kind of clinic. That sort of therapy is the kind we call ‘white bread’ therapy.” He paused, a little too long. People shifted, restless. ..."
"...“All this is great. It is wonderful to be here. It is obvious that this clinic gets a lot of support from the community, and that’s how it should be. Looking round now I can see a lot of faces and a lot of people all dressed up in their best clothes. We all look very smart. We all look like we belong ..."

Chapter 20: Angels
"... letter for Emsie Harris to fetch from the box at the end of the drive. Now she would see. That evening there was a phone call from the clinic. Hilary was feeding the hounds at the time so Hans took it. “A most peculiar thing” he confessed. “I can’t understand it. There’s got to be ..."
"... is?” “All the clinic patients apparently. The sister says the place has gone crazy and the staff are battling to cope so she’d be grateful if we could take Robert for a day or two until they have calmed down a bit. She wants you to go and fetch him tomorrow if possible.” “That’s ..."
"... suppose we have no option.” It was a godsend. Exactly what Hillary needed. Robbie at home to keep her busy, take her mind off Irene’s suggestion. Nothing Hans said could dissuade her from setting off to the clinic immediately. When she arrived at the door she was ..."
"...“Not exactly ‘give’. The patients would have traded something from inside the clinic. We just need to put our finger on it. This is why it would be helpful if you could take Robbie home for a day or so, until we get to the bottom of things. We need to make a thorough investigation.” She added a little ..."
"... the key just enough to illuminate the dashboard. Thankfully Robbie was still asleep. As she was about to switch off the ignition, the illuminated digital display suddenly caught her attention. No, surely that was impossible! Scarcely half an hour had elapsed since she left the clinic. ..."

"... all day?” Hillary glanced at the maid. “Would you empty the dogs’ water for me please, Siena?” she asked softly, then turned back to her husband. “One of the pa- tients is dying, Hans. At the clinic: Paulie. I was sitting with him, in the san.” “Paulie?” She began to fill ..."

Chapter 23: Wings
"...It was all too good to be true. A non-profit HBO clinic operated from the sport stadium right there in town. Right under her nose, as it were. A married couple – the Bertrams – usually took turns to run it on weekday mornings. They worked for an estate agency in the afternoons and at weekends. But this was ..."
"...and a tiny office. High skylights left plenty of room on the walls below for shelves of toys and bright pictures of the clientele: from babies to adults, complete with names and dates of birth. It reminded her of their efforts in the children’s ward at the clinic. But here there were no personal details. The pictures seemed purely decorative, the modern equivalent of bushman drawings on the walls of a cave. ..."

Chapter 25: Fledglings
"... threw darts at. Or a voodoo doll in her image, to stick pins into. Who knows. She looked at her watch. If she didn’t go back to the clinic there was just enough time to see Father Nel. If he was available. He was. She was lucky enough to find him alone in his office next to the ..."
"... As Hillary went into the clinic she met Gerhard coming out. In his hands he had a two litre icecream carton. He lifted the lid to expose two tiny corpses: dead fledglings. Apart from size there was little clue as to what kind of birds they were, they were still too young. “Stupid ..."

Chapter 26: Coffee
"... just in case. When she got back to the van there was something tucked under one of the wipers. She pulled it out and dropped it onto the seat next to her without a second glance. Robbie was fractious and she needed to get him back to the clinic and feed him. It was only when she ..."
"... seem to notice. He was filling cartridges for the hunting season at the other end of the room. “They think they’ve found the guy who was peddling mandrax to the clinic pa- tients.” “But what’s that got to do with me?” “Well someone at the clinic told the police that the man ..."
"... what’s that got to do with me?” “Well someone at the clinic told the police that the man who helped you with that dog also fitted the description.” He looked at her accusingly. “You said as much to me yourself. You can’t deny it.” She tried to change the subject. “So ..."
"...finished. He was on a roll: “You don’t go to church anymore. You’ve stopped helping with the dogs. When that maths teacher phoned to dis- cuss Jade’s homework you wouldn’t even talk to him. I don’t know what’s got into you. Every morning you rush off to the clinic. I never see you anymore. You’re in bed by seven o’clock. Then you walk around the house like a zombie half the night as if you expect someone to break in …” He gave a sort of snort, shaking his head again. It was all beyond his powers of ..."

Chapter 27: The Gun
"...the farm. Six months ago she might have walked to the cottage and back on occasion – when Cecile and Jorg were still there. Now it was all drive: into town and out (with the twins), up the koppie and down (with the dogs), into the clinic and out (for Robbie or meetings). ..."

Chapter 29: Wisdom
"... But something might have taken root: the faint flicker in her eyes reflected a hint of old stirrings deep within. Her favourite clinic sister, if she’d had the vo- cabulary, might have philosophised that wisdom, like love, has a tendency to expand exponentially the more you pass on. ..."

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Does this book give a true reflection of the clinical situation in South Africa?

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"Hillary’s Angel is a story about a woman’s daily struggle to live a life within the confines of her circumstances...."

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