Fears for adventurer’s heart

2012-08-29 00:00

PERUVIAN doctors are waiting for test results to decide if they will operate on a Durban man who was shot by jungle bandits while paddling the Amazon.

Davey du Plessis, who was blasted with shotguns by two assailants at the weekend, has a pellet lodged in his heart.

While the rest of his body is peppered with shrapnel, his mother, Robyn Wolff, said yesterday that surgeons were most concerned about the condition of his heart.

“They are monitoring him and they’ve done a series of tests. If they find it is in the muscle of his heart, they will leave it there. But anywhere else and they will operate. They are monitoring to see if [the pellet] moves.”

Du Plessis (24) survived the attack on Saturday afternoon despite carrying several gunshot wounds to his head, body and arms. One of his lungs was also damaged by shotgun blast.

The Associated Press quoted his dad Louis saying his son’s attackers hid in some woods and shot him three times as he came by in his kayak.

“If he had gotten shot with anything other than a shotgun he would not be here with us.

“He is very, very lucky,” Louis du Plessis was quoted as saying.

He was airlifted to Lima and a world-class hospital, where he remains in intensive care in a stable condition.

Wolff, who lives in Umhlanga, said her son was still in pain and unable to talk after a pellet penetrated his trachea. Another one lodged in a nerve near one of his ears, causing him hearing problems.

But, she added, apart from concern for his heart, his other injuries were not considered “hazardous to his life”.

“Last night he ate like a horse, which is a good thing. Before that he hadn’t eaten for about two days. But he is exhausted,” said Wolff.

Du Plessis was born in Cape Town and raised in Durban, having matriculated from Michaelhouse.

He was paddling a kayak down the Ucayali River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon, attempting to traverse the length of the South American river completely unaided to highlight the importance of conservation.

He had already summitted Mt Mismi in the Andes as the starting point of his adventure.

Wolff said the summit, which he did alone, was accomplished at times on his knees as he took the wrong route up, but he persevered nonetheless.

His love for extreme adventures was on full display last year when he cycled with a friend from Egypt to South Africa, a journey that took five months and began in Tahrir Square at the time of the country’s uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.

But nothing could have prepared Du Plessis for the ambush that lay in wait for him on the water, nearly two months into his epic adventure.

After being shot and having all his equipment stolen, he fled his attackers, dragging his wounded body through the jungle as nightfall came.

Villagers eventually found him, and after haggling over payment, finally took him on a four-hour boat ride to the nearest town, Pucallpa.

Du Plessis was treated and then taken to Lima on a chartered flight.

His father, who lives in the United States, arrived at his bedside this week. Wolff is planning to leave for Peru in the coming days.

South African Embassy officials have visited Du Plessis and said they would continue providing assistance.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Nelson Kgwete said: “The SA embassy in Lima visited Mr du Plessis and confirmed that he is stable. The embassy is monitoring developments and is rendering the required consular support.”

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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