Sister Colleen Grehan. Picture: Heroes of Groote Schuur Facebook Page

CAPE TOWN - Meet Sister Colleen Grehan, a nurse who has never taken a sick day in her 35-year career at Groote Schuur Hospital. 

Grehan's story was placed on the hospital's Facebook page entitled "Heroes of Groote Schuur". 

The hospital wanted to pay homage to her service as she retires. 

"Today Groote Schuur Hospital is saying goodbye to one of the greatest heroes to ever grace its corridors. Sister Colleen Grehan is retiring after 35 years. She's never taken a single day's sick leave. Not. One. Day," the page said. 


"I started nursing when I was two and a half. My mom was busy with my baby sister and I walked into the room with a towelling nappy on my head and she said, 'What are you doing with that nappy?'. And I said, 'I'm a nurse'. So she made me a little uniform and she made beds out of tomato boxes, so by the time I was three I had a hospital. I used to bandage the cat and the dolls and put them all in beds."

Nurse Grehan said that she retired last year for 10 hours. But the hospital had no one to replace her so she came in the next morning, signed new papers and was back. 

"I'm 66, and now I’m retiring again. I don't want to, but I have to."

Nurse Grehan is a wound care specialist and one of the cases that stands out for her was a girl that was mauled by dogs. 

"A Philippi farmworker. She was the 6th victim of those dogs. 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. 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." 

"Recently I went to treat a patient in the maternity ward and she had her leg amputated and 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."

"In the dressing room if I’m not there there's nobody to do my job. So I refuse to take off sick, I’m here no matter what. 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. If I could just keep going I would keep going."

Nurse Grehan said that she treats on average between 250-270 patients in a month. "Last year I did 3 097 patients in one year.”


Nurse Grehan's story has had close to 300 reactions on Facebook and more than 50 comments. 

Shanti Samuels wrote "Wow... This is one phenomenal woman.... Thank you for treating my mom with all the love and care.... You are a true blessing from above. May you enjoy your retirement. God bless you."

Henry Herman also said "best sister ever. Treated me with love and respect. She is a beautiful soul. God bless you!"