Zarahne Lewin, 2, received a free tonsillectomy for Nelson Mandela Day. With her is her mom Yolanda.
An operation has changed things for two-year-old Zarahne “Zara” Lewin, giving her an opportunity to enjoy life without regular hospital visits and depending on chronic medication.

She was born with inflamed tonsils and her parents realised that at the age of 6 months Zara could not eat solid food due to chronic inflammation.

But thanks to a Nelson Mandela Day initiative to offer free surgery to Western Cape’s public sector patients, the little girl can lead a normal life.

Every year on July 18, Mandela’s birthday, people around the world honour his legacy by volunteering their time and talents in doing community service.

This year, the Western Cape Department of Health is improving the health of 100 people.

The initiative was started last year in partnership with Independent Media and other private donors.

The Lewin family, subjected to long surgery backlogs in state health care, said the wait had been not only emotionally taxing, but costly, as they had to spend more than R60 a week on Zara’s milk.

“When we introduced her to food, she would chew it but spit it out to avoid swallowing, as it was painful for her. Until earlier this year, I did not even understand why she breathed through her mouth, I thought was a habit, but the tonsillitis was the problem,” said her mother, Yolanda.

Zara is one of the 28 people who will have paediatric ear nose and throat surgeries at Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

Other hospitals that will perform operations include Groote Schuur, Paarl, Worcester, Mitchells Plain and the New Somerset Hospital. Mitchells Plain District Hospital will perform about 40 sterilisation procedures.

To donate towards the Operations 100 project you can contact Shanaaz Dove, administrator of the Groote Schuur Facilities Board on 021 404 2002 or email [email protected]