Bay opens hearts, wallets for rugby star

2017-05-24 06:00
; Jonah Draai with his swollen jaw before his surgery last week.Photo: ZELDRÉ STRAUSS SWANEPOEL

; Jonah Draai with his swollen jaw before his surgery last week.Photo: ZELDRÉ STRAUSS SWANEPOEL

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WHEN she put a post on Facebook out of pure desperation, Marysia Potgieter had no idea of the overwhelming response that was to follow to help a young rugby player who needed financial assistance for and operation after an injury.

Potgieter wrote about talented Jonah Draai (16), who lives with her and who had suffered a severe injury while playing rugby in Cape Town.

Young Draai, who attends Framesby High School, plays wing for the school’s second team and had also recently represented his school on a tour to Japan.

During the rugby match Jonah’s jaw was fractured in three places and he needed urgent medical intervention.

The knock against his jaw was so hard that his wisdom teeth were pushed back in. Potgieter had him flown back to PE and because he has no medical aid he was taken to a state hospital.

The family felt that because of the severe pain he was enduring, Jonah needed to be operated on as soon as possible. Potgieter approached private hospital Netcare Greenacres Hospital who had said that the operation would cost an estimated R40 000.

“I had no idea where all that money would come from, so out of desperation I posted on Facebook and asked people for donations to help Jonah. I never would have thought the post would be shared and read by so many people. My phone was ringing non-stop and I was just overwhelmed by the people of Port Elizabeth’s kindness,” she said with tears in her eyes.

“I never expected the fundraising effort to get so big. I have a school, Bonzai Primary, and I started by asking the parents if they could assist with a little donation. Many of my learners are from less fortunate families, yet they contributed. Everyone wanted to help Jonah and it is so heartwarming.”

In the days leading up to the surgery, Jonah could not attend school and had to live off soup and soft noodles owing to his swollen jaw.

Jonah had been living with her for the past four years.

“I got to know Jonah when he went to primary school with my sons, Grayson and Monray. He lived with his single mother in North End and used to visit us a lot. He was always polite, proud and always neat, despite his circumstances.”

The boys then all moved on to Framesby High School – Jonah on a scholarship.

“In the first term he was robbed at knifepoint on his way to the taxi rank. The phone I bought for him was taken as well as all his school handbooks. That’s when his mom, Annie Draai, and I agreed that he could stay with us in Framesby to be closer to school.”

Draai and the Potgieter boys are like brothers and the whole family is rugby crazy.

The surgery took place at Netcare Greenacres Hospital on Thursday and according to Potgieter, they managed to pay 90% of the bill thanks to the donations received.

“I would like to thank everyone who contributed, especially Debbie Pike from Sunridge who donated R10 000, all Framesby learners and parents, and the Southern Kings. Each and everyone made a difference, no matter how big or small the donation, and we are so very grateful.”

Jonah, who was named after New Zealand All Blacks rugby legend Jonah Lomu, is passionate about rugby. His rugby idol, however, is Malcolm Jaer of the Kings.

“I would like to play rugby professionally one day. If that is not possible I would like to become an accountant,” Draai said.

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