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Boeta Cassiem sees clearer now after eye op

“I can see my shoes. I feel great.” Some of the first words from Boeta Cassiem after his much-needed cataract operation on Saturday.

Boeta Cassiem and his sons Yusuf (left) and Sieraaj Cassiem (right) outside Newlands Cricket Stadium, Cape Town. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN

“I can see my shoes. I feel great.” One of the first words Boeta Cassiem said after his much-needed cataract operation on Saturday.

Cassiem, Cape Town’s famous ice cream seller, underwent the first of two operations sooner than expected, such was the generosity of people from across the country and overseas. Donations and good wishes flooded since it was reported on Monday June 8 that he needed to remove cataracts from his eyes, but couldn’t afford the operation.

Cassiem, who lives in Mitchell’s Plain, can now use the lockdown to recover in time for live sport to resume, soon he hopes.

“I was a bit nervous when I got here, but I’m feeling better now,” Cassiem said, before the operation. The 66-year-old had been waiting for more than two years to have surgery done at a public hospital.

Thanks to the benevolence of strangers and old friends Cassiem was able to have the life-changing surgery.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on businesses and vendors like Cassiem, who rely on live sport to make a living. It has forced some business to consider closure, and there is no sign of fans returning to stadiums anytime soon.

Without work, Cassiem depends on his children, and his old age grant to make ends meet. Thanks to the kindness of strangers who donated money towards his procedure, Cassiem and his family is able to pay it forward and give one deserving patient the gift of sight.

"It's nice to help someone else out because the people of the world help me out so I must take out my heart and give it to them," Cassiem said.

It was an early, and dark start for Cassiem and his sons Sieraaj and Yusuf. The winter sun had yet to rise when they arrived at the Life Peninsula Eye Hospital in Claremont.

“I’d like to say thank you to all the people from all over the world. I didn’t think I had so many fans or people that liked so much,” he said. “Thank you for supporting me and standing behind me. I want to send you blessings.”

A nervous Cassiem stepped out of the car and smiled behind his face mask. He had only ever been for surgery once before in his life, to amputate a toe.

After the mandatory Covid-19 health and safety checks, Cassiem was led to the operating rooms for that life changing surgery.

While Cassiem was in theatre his sons visited one of Cassiem’s biggest admirers, Scott Arendse, who is ran for six hours around his yard, carrying a cooler box, in honour of Boeta Cassiem.

"Just his infectious smile, and the way he carries himself with people. He's the same with everybody, from kids to the older people. He's just cool with everybody, and it's amazing to see," Arendse said.

Just over an hour later, Cassiem emerged from the wards after he operation, with the same broad smile and two thumbs up. “I can see. I feel great. I feel like a young man,” he said out aloud.

Cassiem will undergo a second and final operation to his right eye next month. "I'm going to take it one step at a time. I'm going to relax a bit," he said afterwards.

Cassiem's son Sieraaj said his dad couldn't contain his excitement on the way home. "He was like a kid again, saying he hadn't seen this colour for a while, and he can see things clearer now.