Joost in 'very serious condition'

2009-06-29 08:02

Johannesburg - Joost van der Westhuizen, former Springbok captain and - until recently - rugby commentator for M-Net, is in a "very serious but stable condition" in Sunninghill hospital in Johannesburg, after suffering "either a heart attack or a stroke or both".

Van der Westhuizen's spokesperson, Bridget van Oerle, said the possibility that he has sustained brain damage "can't be excluded".

Van der Westhuizen, 38, had been walking some friends to their car at his home in the exclusive Dainfern suburb late on Saturday night, when he "simply collapsed", said Mike Bolhuis.

Bolhuis is Van der Westhuizen's special investigator regarding the infamous sex tape, which apparently shows Van der Westhuizen in the company of a stripper.

Regained consciousness

On Sunday Van der Westhuizen was under "special observation", and though he has regained consciousness, he apparently can't talk or remember anything, said Bolhuis.

Doctors will only be able to determine precisely what happened to him, as well as what the damage to his body was, during the course of this week. Whether or not he has brain damage will also only become clear then, said Van Oerle.

His wife, singer Amor Vittone, is in severe shock and has received "medical help". According to Van Oerle, Vittone is now in a relatively good condition, considering the circumstances. She did not answer her cellphone on Sunday.

Bolhuis says Van der Westhuizen had been spending time with his guests on Saturday night, even though he had complained of not feeling well several times.

"At times he held his chest. When the guests were ready to leave at about 23:00, Joost walked them to their car. Along the way, he suddenly collapsed. Luckily the people who were there with him know a lot about first aid.

'In laymen's terms, he was dead'

"They did mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while they waited for the paramedics. At that stage, Joost was not breathing. In laymen's terms, he was dead.

"He was taken to the hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit. He was attached to life support machines.

"On Sunday morning his condition had improved slightly, and the ventilator was switched off. Joost regained consciousness, but is not able to speak, and can't remember a thing. To tell you the truth, he's not responding at all yet," said Bolhuis.

When asked whether the pressure Van der Westhuizen has been experiencing since the release of the infamous video in February could have led to the incident, Bolhuis said he wasn't in a position to speculate.

Under enormous pressure and stress

"What I can say, however, is that Joost has been under enormous pressure and stress over the past few months."

Van der Westhuizen's rugby friends, such as former Springboks Naas Botha, Kobus Wiese and Japie Mulder, on Sunday reacted with "shock and disbelief" when they were informed about Van der Westhuizen's condition.

When Beeld was at the Sunninghill hospital on Sunday, none of Van der Westhuizen's friends or family were visible, reports Cobus Coetzee. According to the patient register at the hospital's reception, he was admitted to the cardio-thoracic intensive care unit. But according to reports, he was moved to an observation room on Sunday.