Lucky Ntuli
Lucky Ntuli

What I wanted for Christmas

Well, Christmas has come and gone. I did not get what I really wanted. What I really wanted was a good bottle of castor oil! You see, my late mother used castor oil for pretty much everything that ailed the children in the house. You had a cold, castor oil would fix it. There was absolutely nothing in my mother’s eyes that couldn’t be remedied by a good dose of the stuff. My late father’s dogs bit me (three times before they were put down) so to avoid me getting rabies, my mom had me chug the stuff.

When visiting my grandmother in Paulpietersburg, I contracted cholera from swimming in the Pongola River. What did dear mom administer? You guessed it, castor oil. Till this day, I can smell that awful stuff when I think about it and it makes me cringe. I once talked back to a headmaster, castor oil was the solution to remind me never to talk back to teachers. Mind you, I didn’t until I was in high school and the caning fixed that.

You might wonder then why I would wish for some castor oil again. Well, on and off for more than two decades I’ve experienced back pain that would extend into my legs. I just shrugged it off. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post for Thought Leader that never got published because I didn’t get around to finishing it.

The real reason is that I was editing the blog very late at night when I felt a pain I have never felt before in my life. Mind you, I have been stabbed, shot and had a knobkerrie at one point land across my forehead. That was nothing compared to this. It felt like I had been bitten by a conga ant as unfortunately I have experienced. The best I can do to explain the pain is describing it in terms of our red ants. It felt like I had, as my young son would say, “googles” of them having a field day on my lower back and the back of my legs. I tried to get up but could not stand, eventually I called my wife who drove me to the emergency room.

A couple of hours later the doctor on call advised me that the MRI had revealed that I had spinal arthritis as well as an abnormal growth on my L4 and L5 discs, which is pinching the nerves. According to him, this was something that should have been dealt with a long time ago to avoid the current condition. Now they have to perform surgery. To which I scoffed at and got numerous other opinions with the same outcome. So in February I’m having spinal surgery. Yippee!!?

So what is the relevancy of this you might think? Well it dawned on me that if it took me this long, crippling pain, before I acted and got access to private medication, how many of our fellow countrymen are not getting the care and medical attention they need. With the public hospitals in the state they’re in, how many are going without care? And how many breadwinners are ignoring the warning signs just to keep going and put food on the table? I have access and can afford to get treatment. What about our fellow countrymen who cannot?

I obviously ignored the warning signs over the years and am now paying the price. For the past 14 years I have without fail been able to do what I call “soul cleansing” through volunteering at a local clinic and teaching at my former lower primary school. The most frustrating thing about this medical development is that this year I am not going to be able to volunteer. I am saddened by this because we now have computers (which were donated) at the school. I am dying to see the looks on the kids’ faces as they interact and surf the web. I am dying to see how they react to having information from the “interwebs” at their fingertips. More importantly though, I have viewed the volunteer work as a time to reflect and be thankful for that which we take for granted.

I am saddened that I will not be able to interact with the patients at the clinic who need attention, who just want someone to talk to or are knocking at the door of death and need someone talk to them — about anything. The ability to help someone get fresh sheets and be brought out for a walk, to see the joy at being outside or smell the freshly cut grass in summer. This is what I detest the most about this development.

Where is good castor oil when you need it?