Goodpastures Syndrome

Too close for comfort - a near-fatal encounter, told by the patient

2. Port Elizabeth February 1990, a fresh opportunity

(This is a true account of my experience with Goodpastures Syndrome, but a few people’s names have been changed, indicated by *.  My aim in writing this is threefold; first, that victims and families of people suffering from Goodpastures Syndrome can have some knowledge of what to expect in a serious event but also to show that Goodpastures is survivable, even in a case like mine; second, it would do no harm for physicians treating Goodpastures Syndrome or other devastating diseases, not to mention GP’s prescribing medication to patients, to read this as there are lessons here for some of them; lastly I am trying to exorcise the psychological after-effects of my experience with Goodpastures Syndrome).

My first view of Port Elizabeth was glorious. Driving along the N2 freeway from the east, the enormous sweep of Algoa Bay on the left, the sea an incredible blue with a strong wind stirring up whitecaps, the city shone in the bright sunlight as it curved round the bay. My spirits, depressed by nine long years in Pietermaritzburg, lifted at the thought that I had actually been asked to apply for this job and that, provided I did not make a mess of my interview, I stood a reasonable chance of success.

Part of central Port Elizabeth seen across Algoa Bay from Bluewater Bay

In Pietermaritzburg it had seemed that my career had come to a dead-end. For eight years I had been an Assistant Superintendent without any prospect of promotion, which only went to the “old cronies” and had tried to get a job elsewhere but, having all my life been used to getting the jobs I applied for, nobody wanted to even give an interview to someone from Pietermaritzburg, so bad was the reputation of the place. I would have been prepared to go to Pofadder just to get away from Pietermaritzburg. I had effectively despaired of furthering my career at all. Hence my cautious optimism regarding this opportunity. (Pofadder, by the way, is to South Africa rather what Panamint Springs, Death Valley would be to the USA.)

I had taken a week’s leave for the trip. If unsuccessful, I would at least enjoy a holiday away from Pietermaritzburg. Were the job mine then I would try to find a house here to simplify the move when it came.

As I passed where the N2 freeway turns inland on its way towards Cape Town, the Settlers freeway continued beside the sea. The south-east wind was blowing strongly and waves were crashing into the dolosse, hurling spray across the freeway so that it became necessary to use the windscreen wipers now and then. I was aware that Port Elizabeth has two nicknames, one being the Windy City and the other the Friendly City. The first was making itself spectacularly appropriate.

Never having visited the place before, I had obtained a map and noted the location of a hotel on the beachfront which would be simple to find by just following the freeway and its continuation as far as Summerstrand. This plan worked perfectly except that the hotel proved to be full. I had thought that, being the end of February, there would be no shortage of accommodation.

A further examination of the map showed that the Tourism Office was located not far from the City Hall in Main Street which runs parallel to and just inland of the Settlers freeway. I headed back north along the sea, ducked left of the freeway entrance and went into Main Street and found myself in an immense traffic jam. Port Elizabeth has a narrow foreshore, a fairly steep escarpment and then a gently rolling plateau. Main Street runs for kilometers along the foreshore and was then the principal business district, a C.B.D. effectively one street wide. It was the afternoon rush hour and everything seethed.

Having laboriously oozed my way a few hundred yards and correctly judging the Donkin Reserve to be on my left, I managed to turn off Main Street and found myself in the relative quiet of Central Hill. I parked the car and walked to the Tourism Office which was most helpful and within minutes I was settled into a very clean and pleasant holiday flat next to a small public garden on the hill.

That evening, with the assistance of the map, I made a dry run to Sidwell, where my interview would take place, to ensure that I could find the way and to get some idea of timings.



Port Elizabeth February 1990             copyright 2011 Richard Binstead Goodpasture's Syndrome

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