On the day he suffered his stroke just over a year ago, professional rugby player Ethienne Reynecke, 38, was having a perfectly ordinary day. Picture: Supplied
Cape Town - On the day he suffered his stroke just over a year ago, professional rugby player Ethienne Reynecke, 38, was having a perfectly ordinary day. He had taken his children to school, done some training and then spent some time on his computer doing forex trades on the financial markets.

Later that day, after the children were back from school, he decided to have a shower and as he walked into the shower the symptoms hit him.

“I felt like I had stood up too fast and suddenly felt unwell.

"I turned around, still in my towel, and said I was going to sleep a little until the feeling passed. I collapsed on the bed, still in my towel, and that is the last thing I remember.”

He said he was not generally one to sleep during the day, but nobody in the house thought it was particularly noteworthy.

However, when he woke up, Reynecke said his then 9-year-old daughter, Layla, who had come to check on him, realised something was wrong with her dad.

“I literally sounded like Zet, a children's TV character from the 1980s and early 1990s who mumbled and didn't speak clearly. My daughter realised something must be wrong, as she could not understand me, so she immediately told her mom, 'I think daddy must go to hospital'."

Reynecke, who today struggles with Aphasia, a language disorder that results from damage to the portions of the brain that are responsible for language, as a result of the stroke, said that while he got to the hospital too late for treatment that might have saved him, he is grateful his daughter noticed there was something wrong.

“Layla probably saved my life that day. However, because it was already more than four and a half hours after my symptoms started, it was too late for treatment that could dissolve the blood clot that caused the stroke.

"The timeline made it worse. Between when I felt the symptoms and eventually got to the hospital, it was more than six hours. Had I been treated immediately, I'd have been fine. As a result, I have had to learn to speak and write all over again.”

Today he can laugh about his first memory after waking up at the hospital. “When I got up, all I could remember was that I had to leave Durban to fly to Cape Town for work. I am a SuperSport rugby commentator. I got up and ran out of the hospital in a bid to catch my flight on time and it took quite a few people to stop me. From that day I had security at my room door in case I made another break for it.”

Reynecke said he is not recovering as quickly as he would like, but he has no time to feel sorry for himself.

“I have kids and I have to keep going. Medical aid doesn't cover costly speech therapy, which is very expensive and so communication is still a problem for me, but I'll get better.”

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Cape Argus