He was active all his life. He played first team rugby at school and took part in Craven week. He went on to play in the Varsity Cup when he was at the University of Johannesburg and was even invited to the Blitzbokke’s training camp.
But Andries Oosthuizen’s life came to a sudden halt when he fell ill with a respiratory infection and things got so bad he ended up in a comatose state.
His wife, Tamzyne (30) from Roodeport, Gauteng, says she and the couple’s three-year-old daughter, Tamia, are still struggling to come to terms with their new reality.
Tamzyne and Andries, who tied the knot in 2017, have been together since high school.
“We were happy,” she says. “I had the perfect family that I always wanted. Now I have to be dad and mom to Tamia. It’s hard.”
Andries, who owns a borehole drilling company, first started complaining of feeling ill in November last year. He had a dry cough and a fever and, worried it might be Covid-19, he consulted his GP who referred him to Life Wilgeheuwel Hospital. Doctors there ruled out Covid and diagnosed him with bacterial pneumonia and sent him home to recover.
But he didn’t get any better and returned to the hospital a week later for treatment for his chest as by now he was struggling to breathe.
“He received physiotherapy throughout the week but his chest just didn’t improve. The physio then referred him to a pulmonologist and they did a lung test and ECG,” Tamzyne says.
“The pulmonologist said he was suffering from severe heartburn, which had caused cuts in his throat. A bug had got into the cuts and that was why he was so sick.”
Andries was sent home again along with reassurances from doctors that he’d recover – they just needed to give it time.
But things went from bad to worse in the next few weeks. Andries was rushed back to hospital after struggling to breathe and doctors said he had a severe bronchospasm – an abnormal contraction of the smooth muscle of the bronchi, resulting in an acute narrowing and obstruction of the respiratory airway.
“Doctors said it’s strange for such a young man who doesn’t smoke to have such severe bronchospasms,” Tamzyne says.
Andries then suffered a seizure which caused a lack of oxygen to his brain. An MRI has shown the young dad has a severe hypoxic brain injury as a result of oxygen deprivation.
He’s since been fitted with a tracheostomy as he cannot breathe by himself and is currently being fed through a tube. Andries is immobile in bed, unable to move his hands, his feet pointed inwards.
“He can open his eyes and look at you but that’s about it,” Tamzyne says.
Doctors now also believe a toxin could have entered his body while he was drilling at work or from chemicals on the golf course he regularly visited.
“But they can’t pinpoint what the real cause was,” she says. “The only part of his brain that isn’t damaged is the part that regulates your blood pressure and heart rate.”
The respiratory bug in Andries’ body is becoming drug-resistant, which isn’t a good sign.
“He’s got continuous infections because of his lungs, so every time he gets an infection it puts him one step backwards.”
Tamzyne now has the tough job of comforting her daughter, who’s seeing a psychologist to help her deal with the absence of her dad.
“Tamia is struggling, she and her dad were inseparable. My husband was this typical big rugby player, sitting and doing our daughter's nails, and she misses that,” she says, holding back tears.
She also has the added worry of trying to provide for her child on her own and paying for Andries’ outstanding medical bills. She’s an HR specialist and is having to put in extra hours to try to cover all their expenses.
“I’m trying to be supportive of everyone and hold everyone together when inside I’m empty and struggling.
“I had to move out of the house we’re in due to financial constraints.”
Andries is now in a rehab facility and will soon be moved into a frail-care facility but Tamzyne is hopeful he’ll make a recovery one day.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, I don’t even know what’s going to happen today,” Tamzyne says. “We’re praying for a miracle because we do need one.”
Extra source: Healthline