WHEN HOPES AND DREAMS ARE GIVEN BACK

As a rule at Operation Healing Hands, we tell our #StoriesOfHope in the third person. We like to give you the facts, and maybe add a few personal details about the patient’s life to make the story hit home. But we keep it short and to the point. 

Usually, that would be how we’d do it. But not this time. 

This time, we are going to break the mold and tell you another side of an OHH story. A side that we rarely mention; that of the stories of hope of the husbands, the wives, the family and the other people close to our patients.

We never write about a patient’s wife, who sees how her once-outgoing husband slowly but surely becomes a recluse. 

A woman who, earlier in her life, loved to go camping and caravanning but cannot do it anymore since her husband had become unable to move around freely. 

A mother who has not had a decent visit with her kids for five years because, not only is her flat too small to host her children, but her husband couldn’t travel to them because his pain was unbearable. 

A wife who had gone from life-partner to a fulltime caregiver who, not only has to cut her spouse’s toenails, bath him, and dress him, but bear witness to how it humiliated and saddened her once-proud husband, leaving him ashamed and broken. 

The home-maker who, after 28 years of marriage, needed to find a job to make ends meet and had to start using antidepressants just to cope with all of the challenges that now made up her life. 

We never talk about that, and perhaps we should.

Koos Moolman started complaining about the pain in his hips six years ago. Moving around had become increasingly difficult so his wife, Sanette, suggested that he use crutches to help. Koos is a proud man so the suggestion initially did not go off well. Five years after Sanette first suggested it, however, Koos did not have a choice anymore. To be able to perform his duties as a Safety Manager at BMW, Koos had to start using crutches to be able to function (almost) normally.  Until, while out on a work call one day, his crutches got stuck and Koos fell. 

After the fall, Koos was unable to return to work. Not only did his hips not function at all, but the use of crutches had also started to take their toll on a previous shoulder injury of his. The pain Koos had to live with became excruciating and, on top of that,  all the medication he took to manage his pain was causing stomach ulcers.

Sanette had to treat these ulcers with home remedies because they could not afford more medical expenses. The pair had only Koos’s small disability pension to live on before home-maker Sanette, out of desperation, found a job. Even then, money remained tight and after Koos having spent five years on a waiting list for a hip replacement at Steve Biko Hospital, the Moolmans had lost all hope of ever living a normal life again. 

When Sanette’s sister told her about OHH, Sanette, for the first time in five years, saw some light at the end of the tunnel. She applied to our program and in September this year, Koos received his left hip replacement at Zuid Afrikaans Hospital. * (Koos had his right and final hip replacement on 25 November 2019.) 

Since his first operation, Koos is already up and about cooking, washing dishes, visiting with friends and even talking about traveling to see the kids in New Zeeland next year- the kids offered to pay for the trip.  

And Sanette is hopeful. She might get her husband back. 

The strong confident guy that once loved camping and caravanning to The Kruger National Park with her. The man who married a widow with two small kids and adopted them as his own thirty years back. The father who, jokingly, called them his kids when they misbehaved and her kids when they were behaving well. 

“You know he still kisses our grown-up sons every time he greets them,” Sanette says, and the love and adoration in her statement, despite the nightmare she has been through, is not lost on us.

Not to take anything away from Koos.  Let’s face it. He is the real hero of this story. 

This one time, however, we want to dedicate this #StoryOfHope to all the Sanettes of this world. The ones who look after our patients for years before they get the help they need from us and who stand by them through thick and thin. 

The ones we never talk about.

We salute you.

Article by Yolande Strauss (Edit Magriet Stander)

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