File image: Knee surgery

KathLeen Bosman, 68, of Bishop Lavis grew up as an active and energetic young lady. She loved aerobics and she and her husband were ballroom dancing fanatics.
After spending long days working as a caterer, she would look forward to spending quality time with him; and on Fridays they would go out dancing the night away. But Bosman has since stopped doing what she loves most after she developed arthritis over the years, which almost left her immobile.

“My back, my hands and knees cannot move as they used to; the arthritis has robbed me of the things I loved the most that made lasting memories.”

Not only was she forced to stop dancing after she developed arthritis almost 20 years ago, Bosman says her health has deteriorated so much that she now relies on her husband to do almost everything for her.

“I can’t stand on my own for a long time, so my husband has to do some of the things like hanging the laundry, running errands and grocery shopping.”

But, all of that will soon change now that Bosman has received free knee replacement surgery at Tygerberg Hospital - thanks to the Western Cape Department of Health’s Mandela Day initiative, which will see medics performing 67 most-needed surgeries on the province’s destitute.

Every year on Mandela’s birthday, on July 18, people around the world use this day to honour the legacy of South Africa’s former president, through volunteering and community service.

As part of the Mandela Day initiative, the department has already embarked on a series of life-changing surgeries that will see 67 patients getting either cataract operations or arthroplasty - otherwise known as hip and knee joint surgeries - within the space of a month.

The initiative, of which Independent Media is a media partner, will see 40 patients receive free cataract surgeries and 27 people getting joint operations from various public hospitals in the province, at a cost of almost R1million.

Ordinarily, these patients would have to wait for up to two years for such surgeries owing to the long waiting list for elective surgeries in the public sector.

Bosman, who was operated on last Wednesday, said the operation will improve her life: “I always knew that I was too young to just sit and do nothing. I want to continue with my community work and give back to my community.”

She said she was inspired by her late mother, who died aged 26. Over the years she gained an interest in taking care of the elderly to ensure they lived longer than her mother did. She started an aerobics class for her community, and an arthritis club that she runs with others at the Mfuleni indoor swimming pool area.

Recently, she had to be replaced by someone else because she was not really able to teach exercises she could not do herself.

As a great-grandmother, she also had days when she wished she could pick up her grand-kids and play with them but, because of her back and knees, she was unable to do that.

Another beneficiary of the Mandela Day initiative is Norton November from Mitchells Plain.

November was hit by a car 15 years ago, which left him with permanent damage to his knee.

He still remembers the pain from that accident vividly: “I was in so much pain and terrified that my knee had been dislocated. I was very upset when I found out that the car driver lost control of the car because he was drunk.”

After the accident, November was booked off for bed rest for six months and could not walk without assistance.

He went back to work but, about a year later, he started experiencing pain.

“The pain continued and intensified with each passing day. I noticed that I could not run or move as fast as I wanted, so I had to quit my job because I was not as competent as I was before - and many people at work, including my boss, noticed that.”

The only thing that could help with his knee was a knee operation - which he received last week 15 years after his accident.

“I waited so long for this day, I kept on praying that I would get it so I can live my life pain-free like it was meant to be.”

One of his favourite things to do is gardening, but his biggest problem over the years was that he couldn’t stand for long.

“I have a little chair in the garden while I work, so I can sit. Nothing is as tiring as carrying my chair in my garden the whole day. I look forward to hassle-free gardening.”

He also hopes that he can still enjoy riding his bicycle after his surgery.

“I used to love it but, because my knee couldn’t bend properly, I couldn’t ride. Now I know that, if I’m not riding, it’s because it’s a choice.”

One of the private funders that have contributed to the project so far is the Medi-Clinic hospital group, which has donated R50000, and has offered to perform additional cataract surgery at Milnerton Medi-Clinic.

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.

To donate towards 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: