Joyce beamed when we arrived. Although we had never met, she welcomed us in as though we were friends and ushered us to a perfectly set table covered in a variety of snacks and sweets. We could see that being a hostess was natural to her, something she really enjoyed and as we sat she patiently waited for an opportunity to tell us her story.
We wanted to meet her because of the change cataract surgery had made to her life. Joyce had received cataract surgery just a few months prior to our visit. Before the surgery her life had deteriorated until she could no longer work or simply take care of her family. She had lost her regular job as a waitress and cleaner at the South African National Defence Force and could no longer see her grandchildren. It was during this time that her house burnt down and using her hands to check the builder‘s workmanship she rebuilt her home from the ground up. Despite her determination to keep going she was desperate for help.
Through information given to her by the nearby clinic, Joyce heard about the cataract surgery taking place at Donald Fraser Hospital run by Flying for Life. Asking strangers for help, she walked and took several taxis to eventually arrive at the hospital to be assessed. Thankfully she was put onto the waiting list, although the list had about 200 people on it which would mean a year of waiting. She was devastated by the news that she would be spending a further year without a job and unable to care for or see her family.
Praying for things to change and pleading with the hospital staff she described how a ‘miracle’ happened and within a few weeks they called her to tell her she would be having her surgery within the month. Joyce passionately tells her story to anyone who will listen now and refers all her hard of seeing friends to the Flying for Life program
Alfred sat quietly on a couch in his living room. His back straight and sitting in a noble pose his posture belied the fact that he has been blind for over a year. Alfred has been on the list for cataract surgery for almost a year and prior to our visit had not heard that he had been scheduled for surgery. In a little over a month Alfred would be able to see again.
Thankfully Alfred has a wonderful family structure who have helped him during this tough period. On either side of his house live his relatives and as we walked around the village they came and introduced themselves. During this time and never leaving his side, his four year old granddaughter held Alfred’s hand and directed him. She faithfully leads him around the village, takes him to the outside bathroom and on several occasions has saved his life.
In one instance as he was trying to make his own way to the bathroom his granddaughter noticed a large snake lying on the path, shouting at her grandfather and running to try and stop him from taking any further steps she managed to scare the snake away. Alfred told us that she has also scared away dangerous dogs and helped him along slippery paths.
Alfred is now really excited about his future with his family. Not only will the burden of helping him be relieved but his granddaughter will no longer have to lead him around enabling her to spend more time with her friends. This is all made possible through the work of Flying for Life who provide cataract surgeries for free, changing the lives of people and their families forever.
Timothy and his wife are entrepreneurs. Their house, situated at the base of a beautiful mountain, speaks to their active business life. Cows, goats and farming land surround the house and inside is evidence of a successful dress making company. Proud of what they have accomplished and the house they have built they happily told us how their lives had changed when Timothy received cataract surgery.
Timothy’s sight had declined slowly. After moving back to Limpopo, following his work at the Johannesburg Hotel, he used to complain to his wife that he battled to see at night while driving. It wasn’t long before his license was revoked and he had to rely on his wife to get him around. Shortly after this his vision completely faded and he was forced to spend his days either sitting in his lounge or outside the house.
The frustration eventually got to Timothy and he attempted to cross the road to help with the farm animals, and with his wife watching from a distance, was very nearly knocked over by a vehicle. Worried, his wife started searching for a solution. Asking friends and family they were directed to the Donald Fraser Hospital and it wasn’t long before he had been placed onto the list.
Although he still has one eye that is scheduled for surgery in the future, Timothy now has perfect vision out of the other eye. This enables him to help with the farming and clothing business. His wife says she is “Happy, in fact more than happiness, I don’t even know how to explain,” now that he can see again. .
Hassan gestured over his fields telling us about the work he is able to do. Before us grew maize, macadamia trees, spinach, pumpkin and other vegetables he uses to earn a living and feed his family. At over 68 he diligently tends the farm daily but for a period of over a year he was unable to do anything.
Back at his house we sat under the lone tree in the back yard, the same tree he sat under day after day unable to do anything due to being blind. In the days before his surgery, his faltering eyesight limited his ability to farm and as his health decreased, so did the health of his family.
Unable to find work they got into a desperate situation. Looking for a cure for Hassan’s eyesight they ended up at the Donald Fraser Hospital where Flying for Life was conducting free cataract surgery. Within a year Hassan had a new lens in one eye, giving him the ability to return to work and a year later both his eyes had 20/20 vision.
Today, Hassan is one of the fittest 68 year old’s you may ever encounter. His hard work at the farm provides for his family and his daughters and wife are no longer heart sore over the distress the blindness caused Hassan and those around him.
Masindi has only left her village twice, to give birth to her two children. When asked why she responded with, “where would I go?” A great answer considering the wonderful home she lives in. Masindi lives with her son in a very rural but beautiful part of Thohoyondou. 
A long walk from any shops she is forced to grow her own food. In her garden are a multitude of vegetables accompanied by pigs and goats. A little over a year ago her vision started to fade in one of her eyes. She thought she was getting very sick and went off to the doctor immediately who referred her to the Donald Fraser Hospital where Flying for Life was performing cataract surgeries. She was placed on the list and after a short wait was able to have her operation returning the full vision to her eye. 
Masindi is one of the lucky ones who got successfully identified and referred to the right place. With Flying for Life’s help many more people like Masindi can be helped.

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