Eye Health

04 July 2012

Netcare sponsors corneal transplant for Joburg man

Thabang Nkambule's eyesight has dwindled to less than 10% of normal capacity,but he will soon be undergoing a corneal transplant at Netcare Optiklin Eye Hospital in Benoni.


A 21-year-old young man’s humble wish to lead a normal, fulfilled life came true in the studio of a Johannesburg radio station.

Thabang Nkambule, whose dreams were placed on hold while his eyesight dwindled to less than 10% of normal capacity, was overwhelmed when he heard that he would soon be undergoing a corneal transplant at Netcare Optiklin Eye Hospital in Benoni. Thabang’s greatest aspiration is to become a chartered accountant and to work in a bank. Though practically blind he persevered with his matric and financial management studies.

Thabang is the nephew of Emma Kubeka, housekeeper to the Kilbourn family in Gallo Manor. His life started changing for the better when Michelle Kilbourn Louw wrote to the Talk Radio 702 Birthday Wishlist, a three-week long drive that led up to the 32nd birthday celebration of the radio station. The aim of the public service initiative was to bring together individuals in dire need with organisations which have the ability to assist them. 

Urgent corneal transplant needed

In a stirring letter to the Talk Radio 702 Birthday Wishlist, Michele Kilbourn Louw tells how Emma took Thabang under her wing after his mother, Maria, was caught in crossfire, and disabled by a stray bullet that hit her. “Emma funds Thabang’s food, housing and education while also caring for her own son and a niece.

It therefore came as a bitter blow when Thabang’s eyesight deteriorated and he was diagnosed with Keratoconus, a degenerative disorder of the eye which affects the cornea, resulting in a distended eyeball that drastically reduces vision. The only possible hope of restoring Thabang’s vision is an urgent corneal transplant.”

According to Michele, hard contact lenses initially led to a 40% improvement in Thabang’s eyesight. But the reprieve was temporary, as further degeneration of his eyes has rendered the lenses to a curvature and texture that cause considerable discomfort and pain and easily fall out.   

Ever receptive to the plight of individuals such as Thabang, the radio station knew that the organisation to approach for assistance was Netcare, a company that, according to morning talk show host John Robbie, “has never not answered Radio 702’s call to render assistance when it was needed.”  

Operation to take place soon

The radio station was not disappointed as Mande Toubkin, General Manager Emergency, Trauma, Transplant and Corporate Social Investment for Netcare broke the news to an overjoyed Thabang that his corneal transplant would soon be taking place.

“Netcare is happy to partner with Talk Radio 702 in changing Thabang's life for the better,” said an emotional Toubkin. “Our core value at Netcare is Care and our involvement with projects such as this demonstrates just how deeply we care about the needs of South Africans like Thabang. This is not the first time that Netcare and Talk Radio 702 have worked together to improve the lives of those who have been the victims of misfortune, and it will certainly not be the last!” 

According to the General Manager of the Netcare Optiklin Eye Hospital in Benoni, Alan Abrahams, the team at the hospital will make every effort to fulfil Thabang’s dream of obtaining his financial management certificate by restoring his sight. Abrahams thanked the surgeons and anaesthetists at Netcare Optiklin Eye Hospital for volunteering their free services to assist Thabang.

“Thabang’s disability and the resulting difficulties he has faced over the years have not only impacted on the quality of his life, but also prevented him from being independent. For Thabang the cornea transplant holds the key to a normal, fulfilled life and we are pleased to play a part in making his dream come true,” concluded Abrahams.

(Press release, July 2012)

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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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