This is the speech Lunga gave at the Sultan Bahu fundraising dinner on 17 November, 2017.
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen and thank you for inviting me to this beautiful gathering.
I don’t know anyone in this room but I feel at home here. The energy is incredible.
My name is Lunga Njikazi, I am 25 years of age and I live with Chronic Kidney Failure.
I live in a small rural village in Botha’s Hill with my granny and my sister who has a two-year-old baby girl whom I dearly, dearly love and i pray to God every day that my condition is not hereditary and that God will spares her from ever having to experience this condition where a vital organ of your body shuts down completely and you become dependent on a machine for the rest of your life.
As a result of this illness, I make what I call a three times a week pilgrimage by taxi to the Albert Luthuli Hospital where I am attached to a machine for four hours and all my blood is drained out of my body, cleansed of all the toxins and waste material, and re-circulated back into my body and then I am ok the next day, and the following day I undergo the same ritual again, and so it will continue for the rest of my life.
Three times a week, 12 times a month, 144 times a year for the rest of my life.
A debilitating illness you will agree, but, let me tell you my dear friends, I am blessed, God has blessed me.
I am not bitter. I am not angry. I am surrendered to the Will of God and I love God.
Not a day goes by, not a moment goes by where I am not in the remembrance of God for this precious thing called life and this miracle called a kidney.
How often do you remember God with your perfectly functioning kidneys?
Remember Him now before God sends you His business card in the form of kidney failure.
I am going to pause now for you to take a moment.
Raise both your hands and bring them down to your back just a little above your waist.
Touch your Kidneys and say Thank you God.
As an audience it will be hard to believe or you will take it lightly, but I understand, the blessings God has showered me with are very difficult to believe and for you to comprehend. What you are touching is a Miracle.
Outwardly I appear broken; inwardly I am whole and in Love with God. A kind of Love you will not acquire even if you spent your whole life in a church or mosque. Life in the raw, in the poverty-ridden streets of Botha’s Hill, in the taxis and the over-crowded corridors of Albert Luthuli Hospital is my Church and my Mosque and my Temple.
This illness can make you go down on your knees with pain and despair and hopelessness,
But I tell you I am Blessed.
In this dark night of my soul, God sends two people into my life. One, a lady called Dr Rose Richards, an academic, and the other, a man called Ahmed Akoob from your organisation, Sultan Bahu Centre. Dr Rose Richards and Ahmed Akoob are friends and fellow activists who battle the Government on behalf of Kidney failure patients. One day, Dr Rose in Cape Town calls Mr Ahmed Akoob and tells him about me and together they are now working as though I were their son and they my parents and they work together to help me find solutions, not only for my dialysis, but also for my life. Mr Akoob deals with my illness and my career aspirations dream to move to Cape Town to be with my family and Dr Rose now helps me with my creative writing because she believes I have a talent for writing.
I am blessed. I have Dr Rose Richards and Ahmed Akoob of the Sultan Bahu Centre with me on my long road to freedom.
I have never met Mr Akoob in person, have no idea what he looks like, but he calls me regularly and when I see his name on my screen, something lights up in my soul. His call bring hope, it brings love and now I know that all of you are behind that call and I no longer feel like an invisible and anonymous person in the world. Dr Rose and Ahmed treat me with great tenderness and humanity. My humanity and my dignity has been restored. Just know your invitation to me today says I am alive and life is worth living and waking up every morning to celebrate another rising of the sun.
Through my kidney failure, I found God and through this pain this I got to meet Dr Rose Richards who in turn is a friend of Mr Ahmed Akoob of the Sultan Bahu Centre. Rose introduced me to Ahmed Akoob and there begins another chapter of my life. Meeting Mr Akoob is turning out to be a turning point in my life and a blessing I just don’t know how to describe.
Mr Ahmed Akoob of the Sultan Bahu Centre stretched his helping hand across the phone and offered me dialysis in Cape Town without expecting anything back in return so that I can be reunited with my family. Try to imagine this. This kind voice on the phone offering me dialysis worth R 200 000 for a year in private hospital. I asked him why and he said simply, “Every life is precious”.
The first plan Mr Akoob proposed was that he would get me a slot in one of the dialysis clinics he works with in Cape Town where I wanted to move to be among family.
Mr Akoob made enquiries in Cape Town government hospitals and then advised me to stay in Botha’s Hill as he said there would not be any continuity of care for me in government hospitals as I was a renal patient transferring from Durban and that it was too much of a health risk. I took his advice and continued at Albert Luthuli. And then Mr Akoob called me with a Plan B.
He arranged for me to go onto a medical aid plan with Discovery and he said his organisation, Sultan Bahu, would cover the premiums for 12 months and after the 12 months I can move to Cape Town where I would be able to access private medical care and dialysis after my medical aid activates.
My first month’s premium for November has already been paid and now 11 months to go and Mr Akoob and Dr Rose are networking to get me a job as a chef in Cape Town so both my dreams of reuniting with my family and working at my dream job becomes a reality. I really am blessed.
Thanks to Sultan Bahu Centre I now have a medical aid membership with Discovery and the future looks brighter because it means I can go to wherever my profession calls and I won’t have to worry about paying for it. I really am blessed, don’t you think?
Even standing before you today I take as a blessing because after I was orphaned at the age of 13 I fell sick with such a disease and saw many of my friends die with the same condition, but here I am and I still have life in me to live my dreams that is heading a successful restaurant kitchen and becoming a dj.
I might not be as good as Gordon Ramsay, but Mr Akoob and the Sultan Bahu Centre have given me a chance to study and practice my craft and who knows, I might leave the face of earth with a Michelin Star Award for Culinary Excellence someday too.
I know I will also die one day—we all will—but I would like to have changed the state of organ donation first. I wish to change the perception among my people who think organ donation will end their lives, or like how Africans think they won’t be accepted by their ancestors when they pass on.
People as young as kids aged two I have seen dying from kidney failure and that is why I will keep repeating to say I am blessed to have people like Mr Ahmed Akoob and Sultan Bahu Centre and Dr Rose Richards in my life. With them still on this face of earth you can bet on it, the future of our nation is even brighter. I am not the only one blessed. We all are.
Before I conclude I would like to thank the management and founders of Sultan Bahu Centre for your generosity and also thank Mr Naushad Motala for his kindness in getting me here. It seems kindness is the trademark of Sultan Bahu Centre.
May God bless you all. May God protect you from harm and keep you in good health and every
time you think of or feel your kidneys, think of God and you will draw closer to Him.
I thank you. I will go home rejuvenated in body, mind and spirit and as a potential Master Chef, I can’t wait to sample the Indian Cuisine tonight and learn about who this man, Sultan Bahu, is. He must be special.
Viva Sultan Bahu Viva.
I thank you. God bless you all.