The Best Thing About Madwaleni?

We decided it might be fun to go around and ask the crew of 2016 two questions before peeps moved on;

  1. What’s their best thing about Madwaleni?
  2. What advice would they give to someone joining us here?

I added some music for a ‘vibe’, and hey presto – a little video! 🙂 (Click the link!)

It was awesome to hear how everyone shared the same love about life here, and in particular about being part of such an awesome family. It’s humbling to get to share our time here with such special people!

The disclaimer for any of you who might watch this and think about joining us (besides excusing all the ‘in-house’ jokes in the video!), is that we make no qualms about living real life with each other. And as a family, that often includes getting grumpy with each other, and of course going through lots of tough times together (and those times are quite frequent when we face the challenges that we do at a hospital like this!) But the really amazing thing about this family is that you’re surrounded by the most amazing support, no matter what you’re going through.

We also live far too closely to be able to hide our flaws (which is quite humbling!), but that’s fine because we also get to know each other’s strengths, and the hardships each might be going through – and that allows us to really be there for one another.

Living like this definitely teaches you to have lots of grace for each other! And every day, the challenge us is also about learning to honour each other more and more as we live and grow together (Stu also had an awesomely encouraging message about this that he shared just this past Thursday evening at our little (growing!) church!).

So with all that in mind, enjoy the video – hope it gives you a little more of a taste of what’s happening here and some of what went down in 2016!




A Good View

There’s something special about being on the edge of a precipice.

I find it a little terrifying the way a big drop seems to suck you in, but the exhilaration of standing on the edge is always worth it (although some may disagree, or some like Tiaan may agree a little too eagerly before he jumps off with his parachute!). But no one can deny the views – if you’re standing on top of something worthy of bearing the name of a precipice, then the views are inevitably amazing.

Being in a high place seems to bring perspective, I think. You get to see the world below you in a way you’re not used to, and it helps you understand a lot of the bits and pieces, even ones that you know may know quite well, in a slightly different way, and so they end up better understood for it. And I think that perspective sometimes transcends the views you may be looking at, because so often I think we all find ourselves taking a moment to consider things, and indeed our lives, from a slightly different perspective from a precipice, if given the chance to do so.

And so we find ourselves on the edge of a precipice for the year as well. I’ve realised that thinking of Decembers as a bit of a mountain works quite well at Madwaleni. Sure it’s a rough season for us at work; flocks of folks migrate back from working places in cities and mines and our drainage area swells substantially, public holidays and a rather enthusiastic zeal for festivities seem to frequently backfire into stabbings and blunt trauma which come rolling through our merry doors quite predictably on long weekends, and add to all of this the biannual circumcision season reaching its conclusion in late December – unfortunately a conclusion most often marked by violence as alcohol, testosterone and blood flow a little too freely at many of the circumcision celebrations following the successful return of these young men from the ‘mountain’ or the bush –  and we have our work cut out for us in Decembers! But that’s not quite what I’d like to say about Decembers and mountains.

I quite like the way that Decembers offer a rare opportunity for a view. It’s like the year builds up more and more until we reach a pinnacle in December, where we get to stand up on the precipice of a new year and enjoy the view for a moment before we go diving into the depths of potential that the coming year holds for us. For me it’s as much a time to look ahead – a chance to sit for a moment and refocus, to shake off the mud of a busy year, and to put ourselves back on the road towards our goals and hopes and dreams about the plans God may have for our lives – as it is a time to look back on the year past, and a chance to be thankful for everything that we’ve come through. And inevitably, it’s been a lot!

I don’t think I can speak for the entirety of the hospital, for it is a place of many people and their lives and so to undertake such a summary I think is beyond just me. But amongst our little community of doctors and ‘allieds’ and all those loved ones who go with them, I think it’s fair to say that it’s been a rich year of new friends and family and experiences: of good times and some harder times; of minor setbacks and seemingly more devastating blows (that were somewhat cushioned by fresh outlooks and the support of a loving community); and of small wins and great victories. Of so much, so many stories to tell, that I cannot tell all of them. So I won’t try.

But I will say that more than anything else at Madwaleni, I’m most thankful to God for the loving and flourishing community that we get to share here. And as we say goodbye (for now) to the guys leaving us, I, and all of us, are grateful and richer for all the times we’ve had sharing life together, and I pray that all of you leaving will find yourselves in the midst of much love and great adventure and deep contentment, wherever you may go.

So to Francey, Janet and Shane, Louis, Mike, Monique and Rachel – we love you guys!

And to the new guys getting ready to join us at Mads – here’s to an exciting (and probably a little crazy) year ahead!



P.S. I’ve just spotted Dyl’s post!… goes to show how we’re all feeling just as nostalgic after such an amazing year together. So let this then just serve to add to the love 🙂


We’ve been here for 18 months and 12 days now, and in true Lotz style it’s taken us this long to tell some of our story and contribute to the blog. Us Lotzies have earned a rather notorious reputation for being late you see. But as they say, better late than pregnant! As it turns out though, being pregnant apparently isn’t too bad a thing to be – especially not if you ask some of the Madwaleni wives of 2015! (On second thought, if you’re a husband, never risk asking your wife whether it really was that bad being pregnant).


(The wives feeling much better after their pregnancies were over 😉 )


But how wives feel during pregnancy is not a topic to be discussed here if I have any good sense and if I don’t want to send the egret tree of emotions aflight*, and so I’d like to move swiftly on to the glorious little gifts that came after 4 pregnancies in 2015.

So, there are all sorts of things to do at Madwaleni besides work, and if you’ve read the blog posts before this you’ll see a whole bunch of great examples!  Ladies have made delicious jam and preserves, men have made great decks and other manly projects from wood and cement. Then some of the ladies and men (the married ones at least), got together for a very special project – and they made some babies! And so it was that Rosa Jo Gibson, Benjamin Luke Miller, Jordan Anne Poole and Peyton Lily Lotz were all born successively in 2015, well and truly ‘Made At Madwaleni!’ 🙂

(Some may find it no surprise that the Gibson was born very, very early in the year, and that the Lotzie was born very last 😉 )


Babies with names

(And here they are! 🙂  )


These 4 fresh little creatures have very quickly made their marks on our community as their own little individual selves. While Peyton has only recently grown out of the ‘drooling blob’ phase of life, they’re all flourishing in their own way. Rosa has made a name for herself as being something of an early adventurer, always on the move, wild at heart and definitely not afraid of loudly expressing her squeals of delight! Jordan, quite one for the spotlight, has recently taken to showing off her new found crawling skills with much animation – much to the amusement of onlookers and her proud parents! There’s no doubt she’s a Poole, when her father inspires her on with ‘Otees’ laid out on the floor! 🙂 And then there is Ben; aka Ben10, previously known as Ben12, also known as Ben-Dogg. The only lad amongst the 3 ladies born in 2015, this guy is set for an interesting time! He is often to be seen looking down on the crazy ladies around him, thoughtfully considering their motives and (wisely) keeping his distance for the moment. Most likely to avoid being drooled on by the silly creatures. 🙂 He enjoys gangster music and counting to 12.



(It’s amazing to see their little characters developing already! Except for Peyton, she was just working hard at blobbing 🙂  )



You may be interested to hear a little about what it’s like having a baby at Madwaleni, so we’ll share our story.

Living at a hospital definitely has it’s benefits. Unlike living on a deserted tropical island somewhere out in the ocean, at least you’re nice and close to emergency facilities if you run into trouble during childbirth. We kept this fact in mind as we set about working out how best to get Michaela to where we wanted to deliver when ‘it all went down’, so to speak. As much as delivering at Madwaleni could be a viable option if ‘push came to shove’ (sorry, can’t help myself), the setting just felt a little awkward for us. Yes, our team has great experience and our maternity outcomes have really been turned around in the last 2 years with no maternal deaths, I think we both felt like it would be a lot of pressure to put on our close friends and colleagues to ask them to deliver our baby. Especially since at that stage we were such a small team! So, like those that had gone before us, we looked west to the little city of East London, where a particular Gynae practice had become renowned for delivering the Madwaleni babies.

Logistically, our plan then consisted of carrying on as normal here at Mads (Michaela took maternity leave from about 38 weeks), then if Michaela went into labour we’d have our bags packed and everything ready in the car, and we’d jump in and fly through to East London hoping that the 3 hour journey would coincide perfectly with the delivery of our baby as soon as we got Michaela onto a bed and comfy. By some miracle, things had worked out perfectly for the 6 other deliveries of Madwaleni babies that had happened up till this point, and ours was an exercise of faith that God would keep us safe and help us through it in His perfect timing as well. Then the service delivery protests started, and our faith was seriously put to the test!

For the past few months, from about June last year, the surrounding community had rightfully become disgruntled with the injustice of poor service delivery to their homes in the area around our hospital. While some villages enjoyed some semblance of Eskom connection, others were completely overlooked, very few had decent ablution facilities available, and none had running water beyond the odd hut with a rainwater tank installed. Their initial marches on the main road servicing the hospital went completely unnoticed by the powers that be, and so, in order to draw much needed attention to their plight, they decided to involve Madwaleni in their efforts. Unfortunately, this played out as a small disaster when they decided to lay siege to the hospital. They cut off first the road leading to us, then our main gates, preventing not only supplies from reaching us, but also ambulances, staff, and even sick patients from entering the hospital to seek care. In one emotional instance, a young pregnant lady managed to clamber over the barbed wire perimeter fence when no one was looking, just in time to get to our maternity unit where we diagnosed a life threatening condition which we were able to manage just in time. This protest was eventually cleared, but the community’s unhappiness and the resulting effects on access to the hospital then continued to wax and wane over the next few weeks, in the midst of which we found ourselves trying to plan an emergency dash through to East London if the moment arose!

One weekday afternoon in September, with Michaela quite ripe, I had a post-call afternoon off and we decided to drive through to Mthatha for a much needed shopping trip at the brand new ‘BT Ngebs’ shopping centre (complete with a small Woolworths Food, and a Melissa’s Deli!). I was tired and Michaela drove us out of the hospital and down the short stretch of tar. All was well when all of a sudden, in the distance, we saw a dark shadow looming and growing from behind a coming rise in the road. Flailing sticks and flying rocks preceded what we soon realised was an angry mob, blocking the road and approaching us in full song. Our thoughts at negotiating with what is usually a lovely community of people who have otherwise welcomed us into their surroundings, were quickly dispelled by their taunts and chants, and we turned tail. It’s sad and rather terrifying to see a mob mentality get out of hand! For some reason, we then decided that it would be a good idea to take an alternative back road gravel route to Mthatha in order to avoid the mob, and not let them disrupt our shopping needs, and I learnt a few very important lessons from what followed.

  1. Never be too hasty to make an important decision when you are post-call.
  2. Never be too hasty to make an important decision when you’re pregnant. The ‘pregnancy brain’ is a real condition – ask anyone at Madwaleni 🙂
  3. Never trust a GPS’s recommendation for directions on back roads on the Wild Coast.
  4. Never trust a GPS’s estimated time of arrival on back road routes on the Wild Coast.

What was supposed to be a 1hour 15min trip to Mthatha turned into a 3 hour epic on some nice rough Transkei roads, which were really ideal for inducing labour (but at a time we didn’t really want to be induced!). Thankfully, nothing happened out of turn, but some might say that tender pregnancy hormones that up till that point had been quite well suppressed finally came pouring out when a rather infuriated donkey seemed to join ranks with the sentiments of the angry mob we had long since left behind, and came charging down the dirt road straight at our car, with teeth bared and hooves flying. The narrow miss with disaster pretty well illustrated the afternoon’s adventures for us, as we later finally got home well after dark, dodging broken tree stumps, fence posts and scattered stones on the tar road to finally make our way back into the hospital after the protesters had retired for the night. A little shaken but safe, we were very thankful for the prayers and concerns of our Madwaleni family who had been very worried about us and our little escapade!

As it turned out though, we then decided to take some time off and head through to East London to finish our wait there (and not a moment to soon as protests resumed and the hospital was closed off again the day after we left!), where our little baby was then born safely and much to our relief and thanksgiving. And on arriving home we arrived back to a family of community at the hospital who celebrated with us, and cared for us and cooked for us, and all the worrying and misadventures before simply faded away.

And so this is a little part of our story here at Madwaleni, which is of course part of the greater story being woven together by the people and families who call this home. We have since been joined by a whole flock of wonderful people in 2016, and I have no doubt that we as a community may soon be competing with the egrets! But until then, it seems the tapestry of our story here keeps growing more and more vibrant and colourful each day with each new arrival (be it another ‘M.A.M.’ baby or new peeps joining us), and with each new adventure.


(The mums and babes!)


In many ways I guess we’re here following the advice God gave to His people in Jeremiah 29:5-7… We’re settling in our houses, planting gardens, having children and working for the good of the people here. So do think about joining us if these stories strike a cord with you, and come add to what’s happening here! And if you’re feeling broody, it’s a great place to make babies too 🙂



JD (and Michaela, and Peyton, and Mumbo!)



*As you may have read or heard, or even seen or smelt for yourself, Madwaleni is honoured to play host to some mighty flocks of migratory cattle egrets every summer. These white devils roost in a few chosen trees around the hospital every year, where what must surely be hundreds can be found in a single tree. This has some nasty effects on our senses as you might be able to imagine, but scaring them off lends itself to a certain sense of satisfaction, albeit temporary. However, when a hundred birds take flight from a tree, they do so with an impressive show of screeching, flapping of white wings and dropping of unnecessary white cargo. You just don’t ever want to find yourself caught in the white storm of raining guano that results.