“Do your little bit of good where you are, it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ~Desmond Tutu
LIFE-ALTERING OPERATIONS PUT PRO-ATHLETES BACK ON TRACK
When sports are your passion, and you happen to be really good at it, it can be soul-crushing to not be able to participate. Until very recently, two of South Africa’s star athletes were in this position.A pillar of the soccer community Ruth “Troublemaker” Luthuli (46) was a Banyana Banyana soccer star. Not only did she play brilliantly for the national side, but she was also the first woman ever to be trained as a coach for the national team. To give back to the community who had given her so much, Ruth even started her own soccer academy for children in 2011.
31- year old Manie Blom is a rising star in the Paralympic community. The fact that he suffers from a genetic eye disorder that left him with only 8% sight, has never held him back. As a shot-put and discuss athlete, Manie is a gold medalist and South African record holder bound for the 2020 Paralympic Games.
From success to sadness
Neither Ruth nor Manie could have anticipated the tragedy that struck their lives and promising careers. Ruth developed a massive cancerous growth on her face which not only destroyed her upper jaw, but also her promising career.
Manie developed hip-dysplasia in his right hip, making him unable to practice his sport without immense pain.
These conditions convinced both athletes that their careers were over and that they would have to give up on their dreams – simply because they could not afford the medical care required to get them back to doing what they love.
Operation Healing Hands, a non-profit organization based in Pretoria, caught wind of Ruth and Manie’s struggles and jumped in to help: free of charge! Ruth underwent a grueling six hours of surgery in which the growth was removed from her face. Even when complications, which left Ruth with a gaping wound in her face, required further treatment after the surgery, Operation Healing Hands did not let her down.
Surgeons of the Operation Healing Hands team also performed hip replacement surgery on Manie and supported him in every step of his rehabilitation journey thereafter.
A new face and a new future
Less than a year ago, Ruth Luthuli and Manie Blom had all but given up on their athletic dreams and aspirations. Now, thanks to Operation Healing Hands, they are back in business. With a custom-made prostheses, Ruth can show her face in public again. Her smile is different than before, but her soccer skills are just as spectacular. Manie, with his new hip, is training hard to represent his country, and win gold, at the 2020 Paralympic Games – pain free!
~ Article by Magriet Stander
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