‘It’s hard to see him like this’: Joost gets a visit from his first wife

By Jana van der Merwe
29 November 2016

Joost van der Westhuizen’s high school sweetheart and ex-wife, Marlene Duvenage, recently paid the former Springbok a visit.

Marlene (44), who’s been divorced from Joost for 15 years, told YOU her visit on Thursday wasn’t the first time – she’s been to see her ex a number of times in the past.

“Shô, it’s hard to see him like this. I’m always shocked, because every time I go to see him, his condition has deteriorated further,” says Marlene, who would’ve been married to Joost for 21 years if they hadn’t divorced.

“But he’s just as positive and humorous as always. He communicates with me on his EyeTracker and then I finish his sentences – he knows how that irritates people who stutter, but Joost just laughs at me. I have to, otherwise it takes too long.”

Joost, who lives in Midrand, Gauteng, was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease (MND) five years ago and is now confined to a wheelchair. He communicates by using an EyeTracker-computer which follows his eye movements, allowing him to type messages and speaking on his behalf in a computerised voice.

Marlene – who’s been married to Japie Duvenage (51), a stock broker, for the past six years – says she’s been to see Joost at his home five or six times. He’s also met her children, Janie (4) and Daniel (2).

PHOTO: Facebook PHOTO: Facebook

“I went without them this time and he asked that I shouldn’t visit again without bringing the kids,” she says.

Hennie van Deventer, a friend of the family’s and one of her husband’s clients, on Tuesday wrote about Marlene’s “shining Christmas deed” on Facebook. “We admire your big heart and your empathy, Marlene. It must have meant a lot to Joost,” Van Deventer wrote.

Marlene also admitted on Facebook this past visit to Joost was an emotional one. “A bit nostalgic today after a week of emotional journeys. First went to visit Joost and, although it’s shocking to see him like this, one feels – despite the tears and lump in one’s throat – almost dumbstruck by his positive attitude.

“He was full of jokes and stories again, even if it’s in a strange robot voice. He and my dad exchanged jokes and laughed together.” Marlene works part-time as a personal instructor on an estate close to where she and Japie live. For the rest her kids, dogs and horses on their smallholding keep her busy. She’s also involved in animal welfare organisations such as Wet Nose. Due to Joost’s weakened condition she never visits him for more than 30 minutes at a time.

Read more: 

Judge rules on whether Joost gets trust fund money back

Joost application is ‘a case of life and death’, says judge

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