Christa Meyer and Vivyan Alers

SA Journal of Occupational Therapy

Abstract


In Commemoration of Christa Meyer 20th Oct 1941 – 28th Oct 2018

After attending primary school in Kroondal and high school at Rustenburg
High, Christa went on to study occupational therapy at the then
Pretoria College of Occupational Therapy. After qualifying
she worked at the Pretoria General Hospital (HF
Verwoerd Hospital now Steve Biko Academic Hospital)
where she became interested in the rehabilitation of
people with spinal cord injuries(SCI). Vona du Toit
realised Christa’s dedication to rehabilitation of people
with SCI and involved her in starting a Sport Association
for paraplegics. Christa accompanied the first South
African team to the Olympics in Japan. Thereafter, she
travelled many times to international sporting events,
as part of the management team.
The treatment of patients with spinal cord injury
became a speciality for Christa and she later went on to
work at Conradie Hospital in the Cape where she became
an expert in orthotics and functional rehabilitation
of the upper limb and developed a training programme
using the Engen flexor hinge splint.
After the 1974 WFOT meeting in Vancouver
Christa, together with Priscilla Stevenson visited Maud
Malik at the Hammerville Rehabiliation Centre as well as Thorkild
Engen himself in Houston. While in Houston she actually taught the
American team how to train patients to use the splint with different
levels of injury. In the same trip Christa and Priscilla learned about Jobs
garments for burns patients and brought this information back to SA.
Due to Christa’s expertise in splinting and in treatment programmes
for quadriplegic patients she was invited by Maud Malik to
work with her at the rehabilitation centre in Hammerville where she
spent 2 years and co-authored books with Maud Malik on splinting.
She later brought Maud Malik to SA to share her expertise on splinting.
Christa left Conradie to take up the post as Head OT at Groote
Schuur Hospital (after Moira Peart retired) where she was involved in
the clinical training of occupational therapy students. In 1990 Christa
took up a post to lecture at MEDUNSA (now Sefako Makgatho Health
Sciences University), a post that she held until her retirement in 2001.
While at Medunsa she became involved in community services
for people with disabilities in the neighbouring areas, especially Winterveld.
She saw the extreme need for rehabilitation at the community
level as many adults and children were not able to access the existing
hospital services. This resulted in her training a group of local women
as rehabilitation assistants at the community level (community
rehabilitation workers). This pioneering work
was done along with the training of similar workers at
Alexander Health centre and that at Tintswalo hospital.
It was a great sadness for her to see this type of the
training being abandoned as she realised that getting
rehabilitation to disadvantaged communities was going
to be compromised. In spite of this she continued offering
services at the community level until she retired.
All OT students at Medunsa spent time during their
training learning about community rehabilitation under
Christa’s guidance.
When Christa retired from Medunsa she spent
one year in Kampala, Uganda to help the occupational
therapists to develop OT services. Thereafter, she was
invited to the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre
(KCMC), in Moshi, Tanzania where she spent four
years training occupational therapists and helping to
establish this training.
On returning to South Africa, she was often asked (even earlier
this year) to hold workshops for therapists working with SCI.
Christa who had a disciplined attitude to life and a deep Christian
belief spent her life unselfishly helping others. Many people’s lives were
greatly enriched by knowing her. Her positive approach to life helped
her to overcome or live with many underlying medical conditions.
Even when she was unwell, she still managed to help people in the
retirement village at Kroondal where she spent her last years; and
she was involved in Food Garden projects at the local school as well
as the distribution of bibles to disadvantaged communities.
Christa always saw her life under God’s guidance and she knew
that God was beside her every step of the way.
Christa’s legacy as an outstanding OT and friend will live on.
The Lord said: I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore
with loving kindness I have drawn you to me.
Estelle Shipham, Pricilla Stevenson and Marj Concha
November 2018


Vale to Vivyan Margaret Alers

South Africa, and indeed the world, has lost a dynamic and prominent
occupational therapist in Vyvyan Alers. She had a degree in social
work, and a Bachelors and a Masters degree in occupational therapy.
She belonged to the World Psychodrama Association and trained in
psychodrama and the Therapeutic Spiral in the UK, Jerusalem and in
France. She was also highly trained and an expert in the theories of
Sensory Integration and was a progressive leader in the South African
Institute of Sensory Integration (SAISI).
As a clinician she had her own practice in the paediatric field
and, typical of her generous nature and activist leanings, she took
her expertise in psychodrama, trauma and bereavement counselling
into disadvantaged communities where violent crimes are rife
and the availability of such expertise is minimal. It was here that she
developed her own NPO in the deprived township of Ivory Park, a
poverty stricken township near Johannesburg.
She was a popular lecturer in occupational therapy at the University
of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and, together with Rose
Crouch, advocated for the commencement of a coursework Masters
in Group work at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal.
Viv was co-editor with Rose Crouch of the last three out of five
editions of “Occupational Therapy in Psychiatry and Mental Health”,
an internationally respected textbook. Active in the latter years of
Occupational Therapy Africa Regional Group (OTARG) conferences,
and with a passionate love for Africa, Viv’s determination to chronical
the unique role of OT in Africa was realised when in 2010 as principle
editor, she produced the book “Occupational Therapy: An African
Perspective,” which is used extensively by OTs in Africa today.
Viv was a much loved, larger than life, and truly fun-to-be-with person
whose infectious laugh and humour made her great company at a
party but equally, was the passionate gentle and loyal friend that would
listen intently to the concerns of her colleagues and the oppressed.
Many close friends have all lost a kindred and vivacious spirit that
enriched their lives with her creativity, generosity and overwhelming
presence. Many individuals in need of support globally, have benefited
from her collaboration, teamwork and joint productivity.
Apart from her deep conviction for the essential contribution of
OT to the health and wellness of humanity, Viv was a talented artist,
and an excellent gardener (especially indigenous African gardening).
She loved animals, had particular passion for bull terriers and horses,
and rode very well.
Her husband Ian, and two children Luke and Cindy were the
centre of her life. The children married and the family grew with
the additions of a daughter and son-in-law Nicole and Ian, and then
grandchildren, Kate, Chloe, Isabel and Alexander. It is thus in one
sense a compounded tragedy that her life was so prematurely taken
when she was at such a contented and happy place within it. But from
another viewpoint, her death at such a time of occupational fulfilment
and emotional contentment can also be viewed as a blessing in that
she died in such a happy space within her life journey.
The OT halls will echo with the sounds of your laughter, and
vibrate with the passion that your activist soul and conviction brought
to those of us who sit in boxes and fear to get out of them. We will
miss you deeply dear Vivyan.
Robin Joubert and Rose Crouch
July 2018
Vale to Vivyan Margaret Alers
After attending primary school in Kroondal and high school at Rustenburg
High, Christa went on to study occupational therapy at the then
Pretoria College of Occupational Therapy. After qualifying
she worked at the Pretoria General Hospital (HF
Verwoerd Hospital now Steve Biko Academic Hospital)
where she became interested in the rehabilitation of
people with spinal cord injuries(SCI). Vona du Toit
realised Christa’s dedication to rehabilitation of people
with SCI and involved her in starting a Sport Association
for paraplegics. Christa accompanied the first South
African team to the Olympics in Japan. Thereafter, she
travelled many times to international sporting events,
as part of the management team.
The treatment of patients with spinal cord injury
became a speciality for Christa and she later went on to
work at Conradie Hospital in the Cape where she became
an expert in orthotics and functional rehabilitation
of the upper limb and developed a training programme
using the Engen flexor hinge splint.
After the 1974 WFOT meeting in Vancouver
Christa, together with Priscilla Stevenson visited Maud
Malik at the Hammerville Rehabiliation Centre as well as Thorkild
Engen himself in Houston. While in Houston she actually taught the
American team how to train patients to use the splint with different
levels of injury. In the same trip Christa and Priscilla learned about Jobs
garments for burns patients and brought this information back to SA.
Due to Christa’s expertise in splinting and in treatment programmes
for quadriplegic patients she was invited by Maud Malik to
work with her at the rehabilitation centre in Hammerville where she
spent 2 years and co-authored books with Maud Malik on splinting.
She later brought Maud Malik to SA to share her expertise on splinting.
Christa left Conradie to take up the post as Head OT at Groote
Schuur Hospital (after Moira Peart retired) where she was involved in
the clinical training of occupational therapy students. In 1990 Christa
took up a post to lecture at MEDUNSA (now Sefako Makgatho Health
Sciences University), a post that she held until her retirement in 2001.
While at Medunsa she became involved in community services
for people with disabilities in the neighbouring areas, especially Winterveld.
She saw the extreme need for rehabilitation at the community
level as many adults and children were not able to access the existing
hospital services. This resulted in her training a group of local women
as rehabilitation assistants at the community level (community
rehabilitation workers). This pioneering work
was done along with the training of similar workers at
Alexander Health centre and that at Tintswalo hospital.
It was a great sadness for her to see this type of the
training being abandoned as she realised that getting
rehabilitation to disadvantaged communities was going
to be compromised. In spite of this she continued offering
services at the community level until she retired.
All OT students at Medunsa spent time during their
training learning about community rehabilitation under
Christa’s guidance.
When Christa retired from Medunsa she spent
one year in Kampala, Uganda to help the occupational
therapists to develop OT services. Thereafter, she was
invited to the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre
(KCMC), in Moshi, Tanzania where she spent four
years training occupational therapists and helping to
establish this training.
On returning to South Africa, she was often asked (even earlier
this year) to hold workshops for therapists working with SCI.
Christa who had a disciplined attitude to life and a deep Christian
belief spent her life unselfishly helping others. Many people’s lives were
greatly enriched by knowing her. Her positive approach to life helped
her to overcome or live with many underlying medical conditions.
Even when she was unwell, she still managed to help people in the
retirement village at Kroondal where she spent her last years; and
she was involved in Food Garden projects at the local school as well
as the distribution of bibles to disadvantaged communities.
Christa always saw her life under God’s guidance and she knew
that God was beside her every step of the way.
Christa’s legacy as an outstanding OT and friend will live on.
The Lord said: I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore
with loving kindness I have drawn you to me.
Estelle Shipham, Pricilla Stevenson and Marj Concha
November 2018


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