St John Brigade ambassador, Ferdinand Kemoneilwe Mongae from the 21stTransport shares his story:
In April 2017, a former brigade member, who is now a social pensioner, asked for a brigade volunteer to assist her personally as she had gone bling because of “optic neuritis” and she spent three weeks in the St John Eye Hospital at Bara. Most of her sight had not been recovered. I volunteered to help her. This involved many hospital visits, including a weekly one to the St John Eye Hospital at Bara. I checked her BP and sugar on a regular basis, and helped her with her mobility challenges.
I learned a lot about the problems of the visually impaired person. She was unable to read signs directing her to basics like toilets, and crowds of people were very frightening for her as she could easily lose me unless I was careful to make my presence known at all times. Little things like the visually impaired person taking my arm, rather than me taking her arm, help to give the visually impaired person a sense of control. Uneven surfaces and stairs are a challenge to visually impaired people. I also learned a lot about wheelchairs!
After her eyes settled, arrangements were made to get her a temporary pair of glasses, from the St John Eye Care at Bara. She was so happy, but she still did not see well enough to drive. The visits to the St John Eye Care at Bara were a pleasure because the staff members there knew us and went out of their way to make the whole experience easy for the visually impaired person.
Many clinic appointments later, she was on the list for cataract operations. Another member of the St John Brigade assisted with getting the admin done and pushing the former brigade member to the top of a long waiting list. The operation were carried out at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital.
It was a miracle! She once was blind, but now could see again! Once again, St John Eye Care made her new glasses, this time one for reading and one for driving. Yes! She was once again allowed to drive.
I still help her with her hospital visits and shopping, and trips to government buildings, amongst other things. I is a privilege for me to be able to help old people, and people with disabilities. I now understand the difficulties of blind and visually impaired people and would love to be the Ambassador for St John Eye Care for World Sight Day onwards
All proceeds will go towards St John’s work in providing quality and accessible eye care to South African communities.