Just before Christmas I had the most incredibly humbling experience. I decided to put a little Christmas cheer into someone else’s life — someone less fortunate. At the end of the day I still feel as if I gained the most out of it all. It’s a long story but I’ll give you the short version. Probably about two years ago I got involved in the lives of two black gentlemen who had recently become quadriplegics. An occupational therapist from the local government hospital called me and asked if I would mind popping in to visit these two guys as they were extremely depressed and she hoped that I could attempt to motivate them by offering them some emotional support and encouragement. So that is how I came to meet Moses Mlombo and July Mathebula. These two guys touched me in an incredibly profound manner with their incredible bravery, high spirits and smiles despite the horrific conditions they were being treated in — a very far cry from the type of hospital and treatment I received after my accident.
Moses was shot in the neck a few meters from his house for a cell phone. He was in grade 11 at the time. When I met him he was almost ready to be discharged from the hospital and all he wanted to do was to finish school and write his matric. He came across as so positive and ambitious and I decided to make it my business to help him achieve his goals. Anyway to cut a long story short I managed to get him into a self-help center for quadriplegics in Johannesburg and he is finally doing very well. He will be studying project management next year. It’s been a long road but I’m so proud of him!
July’s story is even more tragic. He was working on the mines and was the main breadwinner of the family. He was home for holidays and had been drinking at the local tavern. After a fight with his girlfriend he roared off in his car and overturned it breaking his neck. When I met him he had been lying flat on his back in traction staring at a ceiling for two months. In all that time he’d had 2 visits from his mother and that was it — no other visitors! My heart broke for this man. I have been unable to get July into a self-help center due to the fact that he has a pressure sore. The Quad Homes have such long waiting lists and they refuse to consider anyone who has a pressure sore. It’s so frustrating because he is not getting the care he needs. I fear the pressure sore will eventually result in his death — as with so many of the other quads living in the rural areas.
Anyway Moses was home for Christmas. So just before Christmas I got my dad — as driver – my 2 care assistants and myself loaded into my Combi and we set off to fetch Moses and his helper in a large rural area about 45 minutes drive from Nelspruit. Then we literally went into deepest darkest Africa — to a place so far from nowhere — one cannot imagine that people can actually survive there. It was a little village called Tsakane in Bushbuckridge. It took us three hours in total to get there. The condition of the roads are shocking and with two wheelchairs in transit the trip was exceptionally slow. It was also unbearably hot. The air conditioner hardly made a difference. But when we eventually reached July’s house — a shack in the middle of nowhere — and I saw his smile and his entire extended family eagerly awaiting our arrival… it made everything worthwhile. I know that we made a difference in July’s life for at least one day. We sat under the shade of a Marula tree thankfully — although it was the only tree in sight — it was stifling. But nothing could prepare me emotionally enough for the terrible conditions July is having to survive in. I struggled to keep my tears from flowing. I think if there was space in our combi for July I would have brought him home with me. I felt so guilty leaving him behind. Besides his extended family he never sees anyone. He says he has no friends. Both his parents have passed on. His dad was a polygamist with two wives so July is living with his dad’s second wife and seven siblings in the tiniest little house one can imagine. The second wife is now threatening to move out as she no longer wants to take responsibility for caring for July. I just pray that he hangs in there and things work out.
Just writing about all of this is making me extremely emotional. I wish I could do more. At least I know that day made a difference in his life and we took a whole lot of groceries so at least I know they had something decent to eat on Christmas day.
I left there feeling so humbled and realize again how much I have to be grateful for.
Please say a little prayer for all the less fortunate people out there. I hope that in 2010 each of us can make a small difference in someone else’s life.