When I saw Barry* recently I could tell that something was wrong; he had dark rings under his eyes, his face was gaunt, cheeks sunken and every now and again I heard him groan in pain.
When I asked him discretely if he was OK, Barry at first looked away but when I persisted he showed me.
Barry had a large, inflamed abscess on one of his lower front teeth and some of the others looked in trouble too.
Barry said he could hardly eat or drink anything without terrible pain, was struggling to sleep and said the only way he was coping was by taking pain killers every four hours day and night.
When I asked Barry if he’d been to see the dentist he replied: “I can’t afford such luxuries anymore.”
Barry had to let his medical insurance lapse a few years ago when he couldn’t afford the monthly payments anymore and as times got harder and harder for him and his wife, every cent he has goes towards rent, food and utilities.
“There’s never anything spare for doctors, medicines or dentists,” Barry said.
Barry survives from one week to the next by doing deliveries and odd jobs for people; fixing a cupboard, unblocking a drain or pruning a fruit tree in a garden.
A gentle, softly spoken man, Barry has such a kind heart that he often gets paid for his work not in cash but in kind: a pawpaw or cauliflower, a tin of home baked biscuits or jar of home-made marmalade; all very necessary for the survival of Barry and his wife but not for a visit to the dentist.
A few more days passed before I saw Barry again and gave him an envelope with a few dollars in it, enough for a visit to the doctor and an antibiotic and a week later I gave him enough to have his tooth extracted.
The dentist said a number of Barry’s teeth had to be extracted but he had made a start on the worst one.
“How can I ever thank you,” Barry said, “I’m pain free for the first time in two months . Bless you! Please accept this small gift.”
Barry handed me two big avocados picked from the tree in his garden and gave me the receipts from doctor and dentist.
For pensioners who have lost their life savings in Zimbabwe’s economic collapse, getting sick is their worst nightmare and they need help.
If you would like to help Barry or others like him please contact ZANE where every dollar is accounted for and nothing is wasted.
* Names have been changed on grounds of security