Back from the brink

By Drum Digital
04 August 2016

A stress-induced health crisis put Boom Shaka’s Theo Nhlengethwa in hospital. But now he’s back on his feet – and behind the mic

By Khosi Biyela

At the height of his fame he was part of the poupular, pioneering ’90s kwaito group Boom Shaka.  At 18 he had the style and looks that made him every young girl’s dream back in the day.

And who can forget those dreadlocks? Now former child star Theo Nhlengethwa (41) is all grown up.  He still has the looks, but gone are the dreadlocks of his youth.

Instead, we meet a man who’s been through some troubled times. After the death of Lebo Mathosa, who was the lead singer of the group and died in a car crash in October 2006 near Germiston on the East Rand, Theo’s life went south.

He’s lost weight and is a shadow of his former self. He attributes this to his battle with stress, anxiety and depression. “I would pray every night that I would make it through the night to the next morning,” he recalls. “And every morning I would thank God to have made it.”

Almost two years ago, the singer spent two months in hospital and the public ruthlessly concluded he had HIV. They were not the only ones who made an incorrect diagnosis – doctors made similar mistakes.

At first they said he had symptoms of meningitis, and later he was told he had thrombosis (clotting of the blood in a part of the circulatory system) with a sign of a stroke. In the end, it turned out to be stress that had taken an unbelievably terrible toll on him.

In December 2014, the singer woke up feeling dizzy at his mother’s house on the East Rand of Johannesburg. “I had this unbearable headache,” he recalls. “I screamed for my

mother because the house was spinning and I could not see. I was rushed to a clinic and they put me on a drip and released me shortly afterwards. But I could feel I was not well.”

When he got home, his condition deteriorated and he was rushed to Far East Rand Hospital. Because of the lack of facilities at the hospital, he had to wait a month for scans. “I had to hold onto things when I walked. It was like someone was hitting my head with a hammer,” he recalls. “I spent Christmas in hospital and that was the most painful thing for me, but I was home for New Year’s Eve.”

In January last year, he was sent to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital ( formerly Johannesburg Hospital) for the long-awaited scans, but his world crumbled when he was told he had thrombosis with evidence that he’d had a stroke.

Read more in August 11 issue of DRUM

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