HEALING: Sareldene Lamberts got free knew a replacement Picture: Siphephile Sibanyon / African News Agency (ANA)
Sareldene Lamberts, 62, from Paarl, has always been an active person and loved to be in the kitchen.

But for the past seven years she couldn’t exercise, let alone cook for her family or play with her grandchildren, following a knee injury that left her unable to walk on her own.

“I missed a step while walking down the stairs at work. The fall was so hard that I couldn’t move. Since that day I have been in so much pain and agony it’s almost like I became disabled right there on those stairs,” said Lamberts.

But all of that will soon change after Lamberts received free knee replacement surgery at Paarl Hospital - thanks to the Western Cape Department of Health’s Mandela Day initiative, Operations 100.

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

This year, the provincial department’s initiative will be improving the health of 100 people who are in dire need of life-changing operations.

The initiative, which was started last year in partnership with Independent Media, has already embarked on a series of life-changing surgeries such as knee replacement, cataract operations, ear, nose and throat procedures and female sterilisation.

Eight hospitals, including Groote Schuur, Paarl, Worcester, Mitchells Plain and the New Somerset Hospital will perform hip and knee surgeries. The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital will perform 28 ear, nose and throat procedures while Mitchells Plain District Hospital will perform about 40 sterilisation procedures. The beneficiary patients, however, are not selected at random.

Although Lamberts is still dependent on a walker to move around while she is still healing, she says it’s better than depending on her 90-year-old mother.

“My mom has days where she would get sick and she couldn’t help me. It broke my heart. I felt useless on those days where I could not even bathe myself because the pain numbed my body,” said Lamberts.

Not only was she forced to stop working, but the injury led to her health further deteriorating. “I lost weight as I was constantly in pain, and I was in and out of the hospital. When the pain got too much, my family was forced to take me to the hospital to get a drip. Sometimes it would be in the middle of the night because I could not sleep,” said Lamberts.

But the knee operation that she’s just had is expected to sort out her problems.

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