Destination Johannesburg

Retreating from the chaos

Sometimes it takes a serious and vital deadline to bring the best out of you.

I’ve been avoiding hip replacement surgery for some months now. I’ve been limping and coping with the pain and soreness, because there is never a good time to be ‘out of action’ and away from a job that I love.

This is obviously not sensible or smart, in fact, it’s stubbornness of the first order.

However, I had arranged to go to South Africa with a bunch of good friends who had never been before and the date of departure was December 31st 2018.

Having first been to South Africa in 2002, and have been many times every year since, I was the obvious tour guide.

Therefore there could be no more avoidance and excuses and I went in for my hip replacement surgery on Saturday November 24th. It was successful and after three days I was released on crutches and considerable pain.

The surgeon, Professor Fares Haddad, is a consummate professional and an inspiring leader. He is one of the UK’s leading hip and knee specialists. He is still fresh, energetic and clearly loves what he does. He has built a first class team that complement him, and each other.

It was like experiencing the Spike philosophy ‘live’ happening all around me.

The warmth and in-depth knowledge of his pre-operation team made everything feel smooth and beautifully organised. They tolerated my ‘pushiness’ and impatience to be walking again without crutches by December 31st.

I felt fully informed and fully involved in all the decision making (I only slightly felt that they were indulging me). The Professor was charm personified and also assertive in the friendliest manner possible.

The big issue was going to be how determined and disciplined I would be after the operation. The ongoing focus on the physiotherapy and exercising regularly without ever overreaching was the real battleground for fitness.

Fiona, my tough and straight talking physio, also only specialised in hip and knee rehabilitation. She was also part of Professor Haddad’s ecosystem of first class professionals.

As ever, a tight plan, and a committed and collaborative team with differing strengths had me moving rapidly in the right direction.

The final piece of the jigsaw was Chantel, the masseur, who was always understanding and delivered the deep tissue and lymphatic massages to soothing music.

It was not without pain but after three weeks, I was off the crutches and starting to learn to walk again.

If ever there was living proof that collaboration works this was it. I was able to bounce onto the plane at Heathrow on December 31st.

South Africa delivered as it always does. It sometimes feels that we only ever talk about its ‘potential’, they have real issues that need dealing with but they also have huge successes that are rarely mentioned.

Having been visiting and working in South Africa regularly since 2002, I have experienced the huge advancement in infrastructure and just about everything else.

But we should never forget the massive and challenging transition led by the late President Nelson Mandela with his vision of a Rainbow Nation that so many just didn’t believe could ever happen.

Recent figures show that South Africa has more unemployed youth than any other nation. This is the real big issue that needs addressing.

A much needed change in political leadership has brought hope, and that’s a good solid start but the next few years will need to deliver the platform for these hungry, hopeful and deserving youngsters.

They also have a huge part to play themselves, as governments themselves will not deliver them jobs.

We saw the beginnings of a far more entrepreneurial approach by many youngsters who have decided to take their futures in their own hands.

In the words of Mandela – “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.