Desperate for help

Confident Gxalaba, the Phola Park woman who has been bedridden for more than eight years with obesity.

Confident Gxalaba who lives in Phola Park informal settlement is desperate for help to improve her living conditions.

The 61-year-old mother of five has been bedridden for more than eight years following a car accident in 2010.

In an interview with Vukani, Ms Gxalaba said she was unable to leave her bed due to the amount of weight she gained after the crash. Ms Gxalaba said the accident happened while she was on her way to Idutywa, in the Eastern Cape.

She broke several ribs and injured her hip bone. One of her concerns is that she will not be able to escape her home, should there be a fire in the area.

She said her condition was getting worse and that doctors had informed her that they could not help her.

“They told me that would be the end of my life. They first told me I need to slim a bit but have since changed that,” she said. “My only plea now is to get a house and because I foresee a day when I will get fire here. I have applied for a house and I got an SMS acknowledging my application.

“But I feel that will take long. I might die while waiting for that. Houses take years.”

During the day she sleeps and eats, with her neighbours taking turns to wash and feed her.

She has recently been joined by her husband, Thirdman Gxalaba, from the Eastern Cape. Despite being unable to move without assistance and in need of constant help, Ms Gxalaba is hopeful that one day she will be able to walk.

“I do not go anywhere. Since the day of the accident I have not been able to walk. The accident changed my life completely. I used to have my little business where I sold sweets and other goodies. I am not used to sitting and expecting other people to do things for me. But now I must call somebody every time I need something.”

Mr Gxalaba said the incident had caused him and his family a lot of pain. He said after the accident he had had high hopes that his wife would get help but that did not happen until she started picking up weight. “You can imagine somebody who has been sleeping there, doing nothing, only eating. Surely the body will grow. Remember she is not young anymore. I have lost hope,” he said.

He said he would appreciate any help offered to him.

The provincial Department of Human Settlements promised to send officials to investigate the matter to ascertain how Ms Gxalaba could be assisted.

Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, spokesperson for Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela, criticised community leaders for not looking after seniors and sick people in their areas. “It is unfortunate that we learn of her situation from the media while there are community leaders who are supposed to bring such cases to the government’s attention.

“Officials from the Department of Human Settlements will visit her and see how the department can assist. They will also investigate why she is still living in a shack. Outcomes of the investigation will inform us what steps needs to be taken,” she said.