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Compiled by Asanda Mbayimbayi

‘I could have died’− Derick Hougaard speaks for the first time since waking from coma

The South African rugby legend opens up about making a remarkable comeback after waking up from a coma in his first radio interview.

Former South African rugby star Derick Hougaard has detailed life after waking up from a coma, admitting he still feels weak and out of breath.

Hougaard battled respiratory pneumonia at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, where he was in a coma for 13 days after he was found unconscious at home.

While the ex-Bulls player continues on his road to recovery, he made his first radio interview on Jacaranda FM.

“I look a lot better than I feel. I still feel a little weak and I am always out of breath. The tube from the ventilator left a bit of damage, but all in all, I am feeling good,” he said.

“Over the past two weeks, it has really hit me that I could have died, so I am processing that. I think it was definitely a lot worse for other people than it was for me. It’s terrifying thinking how this affected my family, my parents, my kids and Nádine [Hoffeldt],” explained Hougaard.

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Hougaard said the first nine days of his coma were a complete blank to him, and came after things had started to look up for him.

Cocktail of meds

Hougaard said nothing sinister happened with the medication that put him in the coma. He said he took the usual dose of medication but just didn’t wake up the next day.

“I have Nádine to thank for my life. She came home and saw that I was still sleeping, which is unusual for me.”

Hougaard says the only ‘toxin’ doctors picked up in his blood was a sleeping tablet he used every now and again. Doctors didn’t even pick up the antidepressant called Trazodone, which he had been using for a long time in his blood. They only picked up opioids, which is pain medication.

Hougaard admits to having used pain meds two or three days prior to being found unconscious, said it did not make sense to the opioids could be the reason for the relapse of his lungs.

According to research from The University of South Carolina, taking certain opioids while on commonly prescribed antidepressants may increase the risk of overdose.

A report by NPS MedicineWise also warns taking sedating antidepressants with opioids can exacerbate drowsiness which can increase the risk of falls and respiratory depression.

Hougaard’s candid documentary project

Hougaard revealed a new documentary series in the works, documenting his life’s story.

Filmed for more than half a year before Hougaard went into a coma, the documentary is scheduled to debut on KykNet in October.

Hopeful of a full recovery

Taking to social media in June, Nádine said she was thankful Derick had opened his eyes and was responsive.

“The infection is down and he is responding to new antibiotics. He is responding to questions and his brain functioning looks good,” she said.

She added he was in pain and fatigued but those close to him were praying for a full recovery.

“A thousand thank yous for all the prayers, faith and love.”

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