‘Why me’ changed my life

I’m from a township in Pretoria called Soshanguve. Growing up, there were a lot of gangs and violence. As a boy, you have to choose your friends and your path very carefully. But it’s difficult when you’re young and lack the opportunities.

When I was 12 years old, I contracted pneumonia. I almost passed away. I’ve been an asthmatic all my life, but when I got pneumonia it was really bad. I couldn’t breathe. I was vomiting and struggling with a fever.

When you go through an event like that in your life — when you feel like you’re dying — there’s a lot of things that change. I was constantly struggling with questions like “Why me?” and “Why am I struggling with this?” I think I realised the value of life and what it means to be human. I was only 12 but I grew up very quickly, which was really important.

With the support of my parents, I pulled through after two weeks in hospital. During my time in hospital, I found the medical industry fascinating.

I grasped on to every opportunity that came my way after that. Unlike a lot of my friends at the time, I took education seriously. I ended up going to med school in 2006, finished in 2011 and moved to Jo’burg.

I practise as a doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology today. I’m probably delivering about 20 babies a week. I love it. I really do. It’s one of the most extraordinary feelings you’ll ever have, seeing someone coming out of the ward with a big smile on their face. — Dr Thabang Kgatle, as told to Jacques Coetzee

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Jacques Coetzee
Jacques Coetzee
Jacques Coetzee is the Adamela Data Fellow at the Mail & Guardian, a position funded by the Indigo Trust.

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