An optometrist in Springbok, Northern Cape, has volunteered to help people with cataracts and other vision difficulties in Namaqualand as there are no government specialists in the region to help them.
The backlog for cataract surgeries in the province is huge. And people are put on a long waiting list, should a specialist arrive in their area.
For two years, Loraine Damon was blind. Cataracts robbed her of her eyesight. A simple operation would solve her problem. But the waiting list for those who can’t afford private care is daunting.
“It was so wonderful when they removed the eyepatch. For two years, you can’t see anything and then you can see again. You see everything. Things you didn’t take notice of in the past…everything in the finest details,” says Damon.
Her story is not unique. Hundreds of others in the province suffer from this curable blindness. Thomas Van Neel was sent from pillar to post after his diagnosis.
“I was told they no longer send people to Kimberley because the list is too long and they can’t send me to Cape Town because I am from the Northern Cape,” says Van Neel.
While the procedure is available in the private sector, many cannot afford the R50 000 for the surgery. Optometrist Tharien Schoeman saw the need and felt obligated to assist. She is using her own resources to aid pensioners.
“Unfortunately the waiting list for cataract surgery in Kimberley is extremely long. So I felt I couldn’t ignore the problem, I couldn’t send the people out and not help them at all. And that is why I decided to start the NGO caring for sight. The main aim is to raise funds for cataract surgeries in Namaqualand,” says Schoeman.
So far, they’ve managed to operate on 16 patients in their first six months. But the need is huge.
“Our current waiting list is about 250 people so we would love to help the patients but we need funding for that,” Schoeman explains.
They’re hoping to bring back the gift of sight for a number of people in the Namaqualand if they can find the money.