We waited one evening in the deserted reception of the beautifully renovated 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg, Cape Town. From the moment the 29 year old Captain Lebogang Ncube came running enthusiastically towards us, his bright smile and happy demeanour enlightened the entire atmosphere. Before I asked a question it was obvious that he is an incredibly passionate human being, filled with hope for the world at large. He was excited to talk about his area of influence namely, specialized nursing in the area of OPTHALMOLOGY.

I asked:

Where exactly do you work?
Lebo led us down the quiet passage to the Opthalmology Department where he spends most of his days assisting eye specialists by performing different eye tests and screenings. He assesses patients, explains procedures, doctors’ prescriptions and treatments, changes dressings, daily educating his patients in personal care.

What made you choose nursing?
And to my surprise he answered:  “I did not choose nursing – nursing chose me!” From a young age Lebo’s heart was set on becoming a vet. He had always wanted to care for the helpless and injured. He heard that he could study through the SA Military, obtained a good pass for Matric, applied and was accepted.    After completing 6 months basic training as a soldier, he joined the queue to register for veterinary science only to encounter a student counsellor who pointed him in a different direction! She explained what nursing was all about and suggested he would make an exceptional nurse. To his amazement he loved nursing from the start!  He then spoke about his faith:  no matter what plans I might have had, God directed me in His path. He mentioned Proverbs 16:9  ‘In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps’.

How did your family and friends respond to your decision to train as a male nurse?
For some of his friends, the concept of being in the military and becoming a nurse was difficult to grasp. Lebo was blessed to have a supportive family and an aunt who is a qualified nurse. She was eager for him to follow in her footsteps. His gran still tells everyone that he is a doctor. When he explains he is a nurse she answers:  Oh it’s one and the same!

Tell us about your greatest personal challenge:
Lebo’s mom took ill in his second year of nurse training. It was during her stay in a public hospital that he experienced first-hand, the tremendous shortage of nurses, basic equipment and medical resources. This motivated him on a very personal level to excel in his studies and become the kind of nurse that his mother needed.  Nothing prepares you quite like personal experience! This gives understanding and empathy, a level of compassion and emotion that few share.

Although Lebo’s mom passed away, sharing her traumatic hospital experience remains his greatest motivation to give quality care to every patient he deals with on a daily basis.  Nothing drives our goals more than realising that those we love the most will benefit from them.

What about some highlights?
After Lebo graduated as a nurse, he went on to specialize in Opthalmology. His second graduation as a nurse specialist stands as a top highlight in his life thus far.   I asked what got him through each day, who keeps him going and inspired? And his answer was simple: gratitude! When a patient says ‘thank you’ and shows appreciation for his service, this makes his day!   Some say very little, but he sees the gratitude in their eyes, it shines through their faces.

Other highlights include working with a senior unit manager/matron who was a great mentor.  He modelled warmth, kindness and a heart to encourage younger colleagues who may follow in his footsteps.

Where to from here for you personally?
Lebo continues to work as an opthalmology nurse at the 2 Military Hospital, and study part-time through UNISA to obtain a further degree in education, management and community healthcare. He feels driven not only to help the visually impaired, but committed to prevent eye disease and infection, to help those at risk through education and early detection of problems. He dreams of opening his own eye clinic one day to help those who don’t have access to good health and medical care.

After meeting Captain Lebogang Ncube that Monday evening I felt inspired and found myself thinking:  That young man is going to change the world!   He is not only passionate about nursing, opthalmology, health education and disease prevention, but passionate about life as a whole. He radiates light from the moment he steps into the room! His positive attitude is contagious, his heart is big and strong and one cannot help but feel the warmth of the fire burning within him. He is not naïve to the difficulties we face regarding rural and public healthcare in our country. He is excited about a future that he imagines to be bright, better and filled with hope.

Lebo BELIEVES he can make a difference and he DOES, touching lives with kindness and compassion every day, one day at a time. Without a doubt, he is certainly an EXCEPTIONAL NURSE!

John 9:25  “One thing I do know:  I once was blind but now I see!”

Written by Shayley Basson