Faan Botha

I am an ordinary farmer from the south of Gauteng, in a region called Bloemkomspruit. I live with my wife Elmari, we have no children due to cancer earlier on in our marriage.

In November 2013, during sowing season, I had a cold and promised my wife that I would go to the doctor once we had finished sowing. During the sowing, I was exposed to insecticide, and with the combination of the flu, it resulted in my immune system shutting down. A virus called Staphylococcus Aureus attacked my heart, this caused my heart to enlarge and I ended up with cardiomyopathy.

I went from an active 45-year-old farmer, to a bedridden old man in the span of two weeks. All the prognoses I received from the doctors and surgeons were bad, suggesting that I needed to put my name down for the heart transplant list. My heart was weak, a normal heart must have a fraction of 50% with each heart chamber, and mine was only at 15%.

In early 2014, we went to see Dr. Stanley, and he suggested I must get a CFG pacemaker. He said that sometimes, if the heart got bad, very fast, a pacemaker could get the heart to repair itself, but it only happened seldom. For the first time, Elmari and I received reasonably good news, which I was excited about. This excitement only lasted until I received the news that our medical aid, Fedhealth, could only to pay R20 000 of the R180 000 needed for the device. We were devastated; we could not afford to pay it ourselves. I was not ready for a heart transplant, I was too young, and the odds of the transplant were not good. In 20% of cases, the body rejects the hearts, and there are no second chances.

One of my friends, Charl Blom, then got a hold of Biotronik, and a woman named Lourina came to see us. She suggested that we use a Biotronik device, and it would only cost us 50% of the amount. That was however still too high, we were desperate. Then the CEO of Biotronik SA, Robbie Nel, became involved and he eventually donated the device to me, without any cost. We could not believe the amazing thing that happened to us. Elmari would cry while I was trying to tell the story to our friends and family. We were so blessed, our faith and positive outlook on life kept us going, until this miracle happened.

In March 2014, Dr. Stanley, free of charge, inserted the device. I felt like a man for the first time, since the virus attack. Elmari and I could go for a walk with our dogs every afternoon; I could carry things around again and could do most of the normal daily activities on the farm again. IT WAS HEAVEN. Farming is physical work, something I was told I could not do again. I was told I would only be able to manage my farm from a chair in my house. Everyone that knows farming knows that farming does not work like that.

Six months after the operation, I went to Dr. Stanley for a follow-up. My heart was improving rapidly and I was feeling stronger every day. We were still battling with our medical aid, for they still did not want to cover all of the medication and doctors’ visits. So again, Dr. Stanley helped us with some payments we could not make. The worst part of this whole things now, is that I must drink a hand full of pills every morning and night – but if that is the burden I have to carry, I will do so for I am feeling like a brand new man.

Robbie, Lourina and the entire team at Biotronik: we will forever be indebted to you, because of this unselfish act that you made possible. Dr. Stanley, thank you for always being my doctor and thank you for your unselfish act of trying to help where you can. I believe in miracles, I believe in the good of people and the support of family and friends. Thank you all for giving Elmari and myself a second chance in life – we are going big!

There is life after heart problems, and heart problems can happen to everybody: young or old, overweight or fit. There is stigma towards people with heart problems: they believe that it only happens to people who have cholesterol, like braai kwaai, overweight and old. That is complete nonsense. I have seen that it can happen to anyone, but community and medical aids do not see it like that.

We want to let everybody know that there is hope, even if you feel hopeless. The technology is there, the professional are there and they want to help. You just have to get in contact with us and we will help, because I was in that dark, where there was no hope. But now I have a second chance, and believe me, we are going all the way. There is hope in my journey.