Inyathelo in the Headlines

Women we admire - 01 July 2012 - Fair Lady

FAIR LADY 01 Jul 2012 Page 13

My youngest son, Zach, went into acute renal failure when he was seven months old. He was admitted to a private hospital and I was told he would die. But people close to me suggested the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, so I turned to them as a last resort.

In a 28-bed ward, there wasn't a single chair for parents to sit on, so I slept on the floor for two months, shattered and exhausted.

Paint was peeling off the walls, there were holes in the floor and only one bathroom. The hospital was built in 1956 and hadn't been touched since - First World expertise was being delivered in Third World circumstances. I began comparing private and public hospitals, noting the differences in facilities and staff, and I placed a page outside each ward for staff to write a wish list. There were all sorts of requests, from can-openers to expensive equipment.

I wanted people to realise that this hospital is the last bastion of hope for the sickest of the sick - so I wrote a letter explaining the poor state of the hospital. In the end we raised an astounding R3 million, which allowed us to provide the wards with curtains for privacy, foldout beds for parents, trauma counselling rooms and a laundry room for parents to wash their children's clothes.

Over nine years, Linda Givon and I have hosted an annual art auction that raises millions of rands for the hospital.

My most recent project was renovating the Burns Unit, and I'm supporting the Trust in rebuilding the Radiology and ICU wards. I have just become an associate for Inyathelo: The South African Institute of Advancement, which encourages philanthropy, but I am just one cog in the wheel; without each and every cog, the wheel won't turn.

Being able to give is a privilege and a joy. In fact, I model myself on my late grandfather, who was a Holocaust survivor and went on to become incredibly successful - but he never forgot the kindness of strangers who took him in.

I'll never stop thanking the hospital until the day I die. Zach, now 11, made a complete recovery, but still goes for kidney function tests several times a year. He gets cross when I say this, but his illness was the greatest gift I've ever received. What started off as a lit candle has turned into a roaring flame.

* Amanda Bloch has raised about R100 million for The Children's Hospital Trust.
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