Durban - Discharged from Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban yesterday, a still weak Tian van Rhyn, 12, sobbed uncontrollably when told his sister, Lianja Fourie, 8, had died.
A witness said the boy “was absolutely bereft. He and his sister were very close”.
The two children, from eManzimtoti, were flown from a holiday resort in Mozambique when they developed breathing problems after being hospitalised for an unidentified illness. Their father, Attie van Rhyn, was also ill in Mozambique but recovered without needing to be transferred to the Durban hospital.
The children were to have spent three weeks with their father, who had collected them from their mother’s home in Durban and driven to the Mozambican resort.
While it has been widely reported in the media that the siblings and their father were infected with a drug-resistant strain of the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, a medical microbiologist at Durban’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine yesterday said: “No test results have come back yet and this is pure speculation.”
Despite the best efforts of the staff at Albert Luthuli, Lianja died last Sunday
It was initially thought the children and their father had contracted mumps from their stepsister.
Family members said Van Rhyn realised he was ill when he and his children reached Mozambique. He was diagnosed with mumps by a doctor and given painkillers. Tian soon became ill, then Lianja.
Both children’s conditions deteriorated rapidly and emergency tracheotomies were performed to allow them to breathe. A decision was taken to airlift them to Durban. They were reportedly put onto powerful intravenous antibiotics, but ultimately nothing could save Lianja’s life.
Tian’s condition improved gradually, but his sister’s death was kept secret for fear he would have a relapse. Although very weak, he is well on the road to recovery. His sister was cremated on Tuesday and a memorial service is expected after the New Year.
According to our source, the results of the postmortem conducted on Lianja have not yet returned from the laboratory. “The media will be informed in due course of the findings. This is a very tragic thing, but the children could not have received better care anywhere in the world,” he said.