My week: Katie Brewin, PR and media manager, Help the Hospices

The PR and media manager for Help the Hospices takes two journalists to South Africa.

Brewin - deprived of sleep - but warm!
Brewin - deprived of sleep - but warm!

Monday: I am in Cape Town on a press trip with a couple of journalists to do some work ahead of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, which is on 11 October. We accompany a hospice home care nurse visiting a 33-year-old woman who lives in a one-room home - essentially a shack. She is HIV-positive and has two children, one of whom has cerebral palsy - this daughter is also pregnant. The nurse shows true compassion and provides pain-relieving drugs, but the situation looks bleak.

Tuesday: Up at 4am, we fly to Durban to meet some of the women pioneers of the hospice movement. One, now in her 80s, took dying patients into her own home until premises were found. How many of us would do that? I am reminded of the remarkable people who are the driving force behind so many charities. They are a fearless breed, and much of the work of our sector would never have got off the ground without them.

Wednesday: Another 4am start and another flight - this time to Johannesburg. Everyone is getting tetchy because we are all extremely tired and no one can think clearly. I order my travelling companions to get an early night, but end up leaving the journalists to their laptops.

Thursday: We are staying in Soweto, but there's no time to visit Nelson Mandela's old house or the many museums that chart the township's amazing history. Instead, we head for the local hospice, where a nursing sister wears full Zulu dress in honour of our arrival. It makes for great photographs - but if we show them back home, we will have to explain that she doesn't normally go to work dressed like that.

We are constantly under pressure of time. I try to make sure people feel appreciated, whether or not they are interviewed by the journalists. I negotiate with patients about what pictures we can take and feel inadequate that all we are doing here is telling their story.

Friday: Our final stop is at a hospice for babies and young children, most of whom are orphaned, HIV-positive or the children of sick parents - some are all three. Happily, most of them look well, thanks to drug treatment and good nutrition. Our locally based photographer charms the kids and has more models than he could possibly wish for.

"I've noticed you don't feel the cold," comments my South African colleague. If only our summer was as good as a South African winter.

 - Help the Hospices is a national charity that represents hospices across the UK.

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