Slice of life: Now I have two birthdays

I was on dialysis for four years. I was perfectly healthy before that. But then I caught a bad flu. And the doctor told me my blood pressure was too high. Sometimes it’s our fault. We neglect our health. I didn’t take the doctor seriously. Until I collapsed. That high blood pressure caused my kidneys to fail.

I had to do dialysis three times a week. My whole life changed. I learned to value my health and look after myself. But I also learned to be patient.

I was on dialysis at Baragwanath hospital; there were three of us. We were all told that there was a possible kidney for us. But then they told us that there’s a small child who also needs a kidney. And it will secure this child’s future. So, we said, “Okay, we’ll wait for our turn.”

I was in my early 40s then; I can’t remember exactly how old I was then. I wasn’t disappointed because I knew, one day, my day would also come.

And then it eventually came.


I was on my way home from Bara one afternoon. I had just done dialysis. My phone rang. They told me they needed me at Charlotte Maxeke hospital, there’s a kidney for me. They told me they wanted to do the transplant on that day, the 9th of October. Then that night they told me they would do it the next day. And then it happened.

They came to me with a small box and said, “There’s your kidney.” Just like that.

The next thing I remember is waking up in the ward, lots of drips and pipes, but the nurses told me it worked. I had a kidney. I was so happy. That was eight years ago. Now I have two birthdays, October 10 and November 2.More than anything, now, I respect life.Jackson Mandla Kgwetla, 53, as told to Khadija Patel

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Khadija Patel
Khadija Patel pushes words on street corners. She is the editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, a co-founder of the The Daily Vox and vice chairperson of the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI). As a journalist she has produced work for Sky News, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Quartz, City Press and the Daily Maverick, among others. She is also a research associate at WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Witwatersrand) and has previously worked in community media. In 2017, she was among 11 people from across Africa and the diaspora who were awarded the inaugural Africa #NoFilter fellowship from the Ford Foundation and in 2018, she was awarded honorary membership of the Golden Key Society. She is passionate about the protection and enhancement of global media as a public good.

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