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SA can spend money on crooks, but not its poor

By newadmin / Published on Wednesday, 14 Feb 2018 13:27 PM / No Comments / 4 views


Kabelo Chabalala
‘THE only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision,” said Helen Adams Keller, an American author, political activist, lecturer and the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree.

Such profound words coming from someone who could neither hear nor see sent shivers down my spine.

She stopped at nothing to achieve her dreams.

I realised that I was worried by small matters, and she made me appreciate the little that is left of my vision.

When I visited an optometrist over two years ago, I had conceded that I had vision problems. I was not ready to wear spectacles or contact lenses.

Equally, I was not ready to damage my sight any further.

I was told that I was short-sighted.

Since that day, I have been wearing spectacles and they have become a part of me. I had not had any close interaction with anyone with eyesight issues until two weeks back when I was in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria.

I sat down with a boy who is 19 years old and partially blind. He was diagnosed with retinal detachment in his right eye in May 2016, then in the left eye in September the same year.

The operation and treatment for it is expensive.

I asked myself, why do poor people have to go through so much pain when they already have so much to deal with?

His family could not afford private hospital services.

He went to a public hospital, and with our public hospitals having to serve multitudes with so little resources and limited time, this sadly led to his right eye being blind.

He waited in long queues with people who had the same condition if not worse, for weeks.

Mind you, one has to book for the hospital to perform the operation.

If he had the funds for this operation in a private hospital, his eye could have been saved.

He lost a full year of studying, which led to him failing to complete Grade 12.

He is such a ball of great energy and optimism.

Even when he was telling me this story, I could’t detect any negativity in him. Only the worry that he might lose vision in both eyes was expressed.

He believes the right eye can still be salvaged if it gets specialised attention.

This teenager dreams of being a pilot and a model.

The atmosphere of the park we sat in changed as he spoke about his dream to be a pilot. He strongly believes it is not too late to save his eyesight.

He reminded me of the miraculous biblical story recorded in the Book of Mark’s gospel where a certain man named Bartimaeus was healed by Jesus. It was through his faith that he was healed, and this lad still has faith to see again.

Sadly, money is standing between him and his vision.

His family took him to an ophthalmologist. He is currently receiving treatment for the left eye, and he has had five surgeries since mid-2016.

A big challenge he faces is the constant (every 3-4 weeks) visits to the ophthalmologist because of the recurring blurriness in his eye.

Again, this means the family have to raise money for the check-ups.

The specialist said he would need to do another surgery around April to help save his left eye.

Money is still going to be a problem.

I know that lawyers or attorneys take pro-bono cases for clients who are on low income.

Do we have some good Samaritan ophthalmologist out there who is willing to help this young man pro-bono?

Again, this kind of situation makes me furious because, yet again, our government spends millions of rand at correctional services and rehabilitation centres for people who have wronged, but we have little or no money to help those who did not bring upon themselves the challenges they face.

There is a huge cry for sanitary pads; we have people who are partially blind and at the verge of losing their eyesight completely, but cannot be aided.

Yet, rapists, murderers and God knows who else, continue to gain from taxpayers’ money when the many who have not broken the law, or done anyone any wrong, continue to suffer.

The injustices of our constitution and the unfairness of our law are really beyond my comprehension.

I just hope there are people out there who have bigger hearts and can empathise with this lad and open their surgeries to help him save his one eye.

I believe that will ensure that his vision of becoming a pilot will be preserved together with his eyesight.

Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement. E-mail ; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala

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