Gabisile Ngcobo and Dries Liebenberg

2012-06-09 00:00

IT was a poignant tribute posted on Facebook, 67 minutes after doctors switched off the life support equipment for popular Underberg farmer and renowned canoeist Graeme Anderson yesterday.

His sister Kerry Venniker wrote: “My brothers were reunited today — love them so much and am honoured to have had them in my life — proud of you guys xx”.

It was a reference to the twin tragedies that have struck Kerry and her parents, Mark and Trish Anderson, in less than a year.

For while the family had to deal with Graeme’s diagnosis with rabies five weeks ago, they were still trying to come to terms with the death of his brother, Guy, who died a mere few months earlier.

Although Graeme (29) was declared braindead on Wednesday, his loved ones wanted to give family and friends time to say their farewells.

Doctors were given permission to turn off his life support equipment at the Pietermaritzburg Medi-Clinic yesterday.

“It was a very difficult decision to switch off the machines that were keeping him alive,” family spokesperson Dr Grant Lindsay said.

Anderson’s family were devastated at having to make the decision.

Anderson was surrounded by loved ones, including his father, Mark, brother-in-law Jeremy Venniker, his best friend, Ross O’ Donoghue, who travelled form Zambia, as well as Lindsay.

Gospel music played in the background and Anderson was declared dead at 2.52 pm.

“We held hands and said a prayer,” said Lindsay.

Anderson’s mother Trish, sister Kerry and girlfriend Karen Crouch were not present.

“Graeme was a fighter. He wasn’t going to survive this long if he wasn’t,” said Lindsay.

Yesterday marked five weeks since Anderson was first sedated. He was the first person in South Africa to receive treatment for rabies under the Milwaukee Protocol, which involved keeping him in a coma for some time to try to limit the damage to his brain and nervous system in the hope he could recover from the infection.

Earlier this week, Lindsay said that the Anderson family was fortunate to be able to afford the treatment, the cost of which was equivalent to that of innoculating 250 000 dogs in Thailand, a hot-spot of the disease.

Anderson was well known in agriculture, as well as in canoeing circles as a “daredevil” extreme sportsman.

He contracted rabies from a dog he picked up in Underberg village and took home about three months ago.

Friends have previously described Anderson as an “adrenaline junkie” and one of the top extreme sportsmen in South Africa.

Along with O’Donoghue and Tim Biggs, he was involved in kayaking in the Amazon and in February 2008, he was the winner of the sixth Thrombi X-Fest in Thrombosis Gorge on the Umzimkulu River — an annual extreme sports festival.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalised.

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