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Issy Anstey (1921-2012)

As told by his daughter Carol Cesman

Issy Anstey
Issy Anstey qualifying

Strong memories of my dad as a doctor in the Northern Suburbs, centres around the fact that in that bygone time and idyllic lifestyle, house calls were the order of the day.

In fact, years later, when my journey took me to Johannesburg where I got married and where my two sons were born, it astounded me to realize that we had to bundle our sick children up (in the cold, and sometimes bitter climate of the Highveld) and take them to the doctor, instead of the (more obvious) other way round.

Once in the waiting room, we were surrounded by other sick children, and it always amused me that whatever germs one did not arrive at the doctor/paediatrician with, one certainly left with.

In the event that the germs would not merge, we were encouraged to play with toys and read books that were touched and cradled by other diseased children!

However, the absolute luxury of having a doctor visit one's home, was part and parcel of normal living in those Northern Suburbs, so many years ago.

The sound of the phone ringing in the middle of the night was quite regular and normal, and my father, should a house call be deemed necessary, would put his clothes on over his pyjamas and go off on his duty call. I cannot imagine how many of those midnight visits were really emergencies. Yet, it happened weekly and no one seemed to acknowledge that this was a huge imposition on the doctor, who then still had to get up in the morning and face his daily patients.

It never fails to cause me to stop and question and ponder.

One cannot omit from mentioning the disparity and blatant inequality of the separate and completely different waiting rooms, obligatory during the apartheid years. The White waiting room was large, with white leatherette furniture and the adjoining examination room was large, bright and sunny. In harsh contrast, the Black/Coloured/Indian waiting room was undersized, and the examination room was more of a passage.

            Issy Anstey and family
The Anstey family

When I teach history and 'The Road to Democracy' comes up, I always explain this disparity to my class of 12 year olds. They look at me in utter amazement and disbelief, wondering what kind of monster and inhumane family I emerged from.

I always go on to explain that we were not insensitive people but that this was the law of the country.

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