40 patients will get free cataract surgery; 27 people to receive free joint operations
NELSON Mandela International Day, which will be celebrated on the former statesman’s birthday on July 18, is synonymous with giving.
And for Julia Witbooi, 67, of Montana outside Cape Town, the day will be more meaningful after she received free hip surgery to replace her ailing hips thanks to a Mandela Day initiative that will see 67 publicsector patients in the Western Cape receiving free life-changing surgery.
The surgery, which includes cataract removal and joint replacement, is offered this month by the provincial Department of Health in partnership with the private sector and some NGOs a the cost of almost R1 million.
The initiative, with Independent Media as a media partner, will see 40 patients receive free cataract surgeries and 27 people getting joint operations from various public hospitals in the province.
These patients, who would ordinarily have to wait up to two years for surgery due to long waiting lists in the public sector, will now get these life-changing operations within a space of a month.
Although R750 000 has been raised for this initiative so far, the department needs an additional R150 000 to make possible all 67 operations.
It took Witbooi more than eight years of immobility before she could get the operation after she was diagnosed with arthritis which resulted in deterioration of her hip bone.
Rheumatoid arthritis – a chronic lifestyle disease – is characterised by the inflammation of the joint lining, which then damages both cartilage and bone.
Rheumatoid arthritis, which is common to women, affects the same joints on both sides of the body. Hands, wrists, feet, knees, ankles, shoulders and elbows can be affected.
Speaking to Independent Newspapers just before her surgery an elated Witbooi said when she had been approached by staff at Tygerberg Hospital recently, telling her about the news that she was going to receive free surgery, this grandmother said she was “overjoyed when I heard the good news”.
“I just had my appointment with the doctor and I was told that I had to wait till June to get my operation. So when I heard that my operation is being moved to this month it was really a pleasant surprise and a blessing,” she said.
After years of working as a seamstress for a Cape Town textile company, Witbooi said living with arthritis made her work difficult and limited her mobility.
“I’m a hard worker by nature, I hate sitting and doing nothing… it feels like a waste of time.
“And for the past 10 years, part of me felt like my life was wasted because I spent most of the time just sitting because of arthritis.”
Witbooi described herself as creative and enjoys handwork such as knitting, beading and sewing. She said the disease had negatively affected her job as a seamstress.
“I loved my job as a seamstress. I got opportunities to meet with a lot of famous people. Among the people I met is Samuel L Jackson and Tom Cruise, which was and is still a big deal for me.”
In 2010, Witbooi said she had to give up her job as she could not sit for a long time.
She said her hip problems came as a double whammy for her, after her mother broke her hipl.
“My mother fell and she broke her hip. Unfortunately she didn’t get a replacement and was constantly complaining about pain.
The saddest part of it was when she needed my help and I couldn’t get to her because I was also in pain from my own hip.”
After the surgery, Witbooi hopes to get back to her active self.
Johanna Blaauw, 58, from Eerste River, said living with arthritis had led to the deterioration of her knee.
She said that after she had been on a public sector waiting list for so long, she had already given up on getting knee replacement surgery.
“I told myself that I can’t live with sadness every day. If it (surgery) happens, then so be it. If it didn’t, then the least I could do is to go through the pain with happiness and contentment.”
Blaauw, who had surgery in the past two weeks, said this was her second operation as a result of arthritis.
The first one was done on her left foot last year in August.
“I thought I would have to wait for years, just like I did with my first operation.
“I’m so grateful to all the doctors and donors for this lifechanging surgery. It didn’t help me alone but it helps my whole family,” she said.
One of the private funders which have contributed towards the project is the Mediclinic hospital group, which has donated R50 000 and offered to perform additional cataract surgery at Milnerton Mediclinic.
Organisations such as the Ackerman Foundation, Medmetrics, Smith and Nephew, The Cape Joint Trust and the two joint sisters, Nicci and Ruth Annette – have also contributed towards the initiative.
To donate to the project you can transfer funds to the Groote Schuur Hospital Facilities Board Account: First National Bank Account number: 62478395306 Cheque account, and a swift code: FIRNZAJJ Reference with #Mandela67# For more information go to Groote Schuur Hospital Board’s website: https://www.gshfb.co.za/ donate-page.
Transplant operations have been offered to many desperate Tygerberg Hospital patients who have been on the waiting list for a long time. This is a Mandela Day initiative. In the photo is student nurse Esther Motlomelo with patient Julia Witbooi, 67, who had a knee replacement. In the background is, Nurse Bhelekazi Noqhakala with knee transplant patient, Johanna Blaauw, 58.
Former president Nelson Mandela