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My life as a sick ex-miner during covid-19

“One day l collapsed onto the floor and my wife had to pour water on me to help me gain consciousness. I am sure that l almost died. That is how bad the lung disease l have is, “says Joseph Makoti, a former Sasol employee.

He has tried everything, from doctors to herbal medicine, to try and clear his chest of the coal dust, which is saturated in his chest, but to no avail. His sickness has caused him and his family great distress.

Makoti was also diagnosed with a chronic lung condition while he was working in the coal mine. As a result, he could no longer continue working.

His condition does not allow him to stand or walk for long. It would be better for him to sit or lie down most of the time. But this is not possible as he must find means to look after his wife and children.

“My health is at risk because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am easily affected by a flu or cold. Contracting the virus is the last thing l need but my family has to survive somehow,” says Makoti

Immediately after being diagnosed with the lung disease in 2008 he stayed in the Pretoria hospital for more than a month where specialists tried to clear his chest of coal dust. When he got discharged, he had no money, or a place to stay. His first wife left him because she was sick and broke. Luckily, a good Samaritan offered him the house he is currently living in.

“ l owe Pretoria  hospital a large amount of money. I may never be able to pay the bill,” Makoti says.

Today he stands as the founder of a union which represents former mine workers’ rights.

“Working with coal is a serial killer. There is no cure for the disease. Specialised medical care is for those who have money.”

When Makoti started his venture of fighting for the rights of former mine workers, he says there were 22 people in his group who had chronic lung diseases. Five of them have died from  disease. One person is currently hospitalised and is in a critical condition.

“l lie awake at night, in pain and thinking about my family and what will happen to them if l die like the others. But l pray for God to see me through,” he says.

He tries hard to stay strong and positive for his family’s sake. However sometimes he is just too weak and sick to stay hopeful.

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