I've been in hell

By Drum Digital
21 September 2010

SHE’S in obvious pain as she lowers herself slowly into an armchair and points with a trembling finger at the pile of documents on the diningroom table – medical bills and letters of demand from specialist doctors who have been treating her for the past 20 years.

Salvinah Mantsina (59) doesn’t know exactly how much she owes the specialists, but it’s a lot – maybe one or two million rand, she says, flinching as though the mere mention of money is a smack across the face.

It shouldn’t be like this, she says. She shouldn’t owe anyone anything. Salvinah was assured her medical bills would be covered by the Limpopo department of health because she was on duty as a nursing assistant when she was involved in the horrific accident that ruined her life.

Now she fears the specialists she still needs to see will stop treating her.

Although the accident happened more than 20 years ago many of her ailments were not diagnosed until years later and were attended to only recently.

Salvinah has been through hell. She sustained severe head injuries in the crash and her face was so badly damaged it had to be reconstructed.

She spent months in Mokopane hospital in Limpopo and when she was finally discharged she had undiagnosed neck, back, arm, leg and ear injuries.

She lives with an unbearable amount of pain, physically and emotionally, which is only made worse by her money woes.

“The doctors, physiotherapist and psychologists have been writing letters to these people in government in Polokwane and to Letaba Hospital, where I worked, to tell them about my plight, but nobody seems to care.

“I too have been talking to the officials, asking them to help me but nobody listens to me. Nobody sees me or hears my crying,” she says, her eyes misting with tears.

A few of her doctors have appealed to the department of labour for workmen’s compensation.

“She is nearing the age where she would qualify as a pensioner,” one of her doctors says. “She is a widow and dependent on others for bathing and properly dressing herself. She served her community for a long time and with distinction under impossible conditions.

“She still needs several medical procedures to correct some of the damage done to her body during the accident. The delay in starting treatment as well as the natural ageing process compounded the damage.”

It was only in 2006 that an orthopaedic surgeon examined her and found she had a disc injury of the neck and a lower-back injury, which needed urgent surgery. She also had spinal cervical fusion that damaged the cartilage in her backbone.

Read the full article in DRUM of 30 September 2010

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