40 pa­tients will get free cataract surgery; 27 peo­ple to re­ceive free joint op­er­a­tions

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE VERVE -

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

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