Inspirational SA nurse, who never took sick leave, retires after 35 years

She has been a model for many,  given her kindness and care for those patients that have come her way.

The pretty nurse, who helped care for thousands of people’s wounds at Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town, has retired after 35 years – and she has never taken a day’s sick leave.

Sister Colleen Grehan’s dedicated service was highlighted on the Heroes of Groote Schuur Facebook page, a project of the hospital facility board.

Some of her patients fondly remembered her care and thanked her, while former colleagues appreciated her knowledge and patience.

Grehan, 66, who retired on Friday, told the project that nursing had always been in her blood and she paraded around with a towelling nappy on her head as a toddler, pretending to be a nurse.

With a little uniform that her mother made, and a bed made out of tomato boxes, she ran her own little hospital and put bandages on her cat and dolls.

One of the cases that stood out for her was a farmworker who had been mauled by dogs in Philippi.

“They knocked her down and started chewing on her and every time she moved in the night they carried on and by the morning she had no flesh on her leg from the knee to the foot, they’d eaten it all off the bone with her awake,” she recalled.

“Eight people were attacked by those dogs. I was still busy with her when number seven came in. Number eight was killed. That patient did really well. She went home to the farm without a prosthesis.”

Sixteen years later, she treated a woman in the maternity ward who had her leg amputated.

“… she had some narrow scars and I asked her if she was diabetic and she said no. So I asked what happened to her leg and she said ‘Sister you know….. the dogs’ and that’s when I realised it was her. Sixteen years later she was here having a baby.”

Grehan explained that she had refused to take sick leave because there had been no one else to do her job.

“I’ve had times where I had a problem with my back and I could barely walk but I was here. A couple of times I’ve had to say to somebody please drive me to work because I can’t drive, but I was here.” she said.

“If I could just keep going I would keep going. Monthly I treat between 250-270 patients. Last year I did 3097 patients in one year.”

Grehan said she retired for 10 hours last year but there was nobody to replace her so she returned. Now she was forced to retire.

People wished her well for her retirement.

“Sister Colleen was always willing to help my mom when we went for her chemo and dressings. Always there with a friendly smile and always giving advice. God bless you always,” said one woman.

Another commented: “Thank you for saving my husband life …14yrs ago… with your healing hands may your retirement bring u lots of beautiful blessing and good rest… lots of love to you.”



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