Sport

Du Toit thanks doctors for saving his leg

2020-03-22 17:36

“It’s bad that something like this has to happen so you can rest, and I would never wish for an injury just to be able to rest because the road you have to walk back to health and fitness is not easy.”

So said World Rugby’s player of the year for 2019, Pieter-Steph du Toit, after nearly losing his leg after an injury he sustained during the Stormers’ Super Rugby match against the Blues at Newlands last month.

“But I would never trade my injuries for anything because I have learnt so much from them. It’s made me the person I am today and I’m proud of that.”

However, the 27-year-old player did not realise just how serious his injury was when he was taken off the field that day.

He was not aware that a hematoma had developed into acute compartment syndrome. If doctors don’t act fast, blood no longer flows to the leg and a patient can lose it as a result.

Du Toit, who has been awarded as SA Rugby’s player of the year three times, has won the junior and senior World Cup and has captained the side. He was singled out as rugby’s best after the World Cup final.

“I had previously had a similar injury to the same leg. So when I felt my leg swelling up, I didn’t think it was too serious at first and that it would get better.

“But when I got to the hospital, I was experiencing unbelievable pain that I almost couldn’t handle. They put me on very strong medication and that didn’t even make the pain go away. The only thing I wanted was for them to do something to fix it. But I didn’t realise how serious it was, because the previous [injury] hadn’t been that bad.”

Luckily for Du Toit, the Stormers’ medical team reacted quickly. Their team doctor, Jason Suter, told Netwerk24 that they realised there was a risk of his losing his leg within 15 minutes of his leaving the field. They accordingly rushed him to the Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Pinelands, Cape Town.

Pieter-Steph du Toit. Picture: Johan Orton

“The doctor performed surgery on the Saturday night,” said Du Toit. “During the operation, he tested some of the muscle’s nerves. At that point, he thought it was too late because the nerves didn’t react to the tests.

“He took me back in on Monday and tried to close the wound, but he was unsuccessful. He later told me he had just wanted to see if the muscle was better and, luckily, it was.

“Then I was in hospital until Friday and, after that, I went home. On Thursday, he operated again, but this time he had help from a plastic surgeon.

“They still weren’t sure they would be able to close the wound. When they started and saw the wound, they told each other they wouldn’t be able to close it. It was only when they started working that they saw it would be possible and they managed to do it.”

Netwerk24 quoted Suter as saying that there were only 43 recorded cases of the syndrome in medical literature. It will keep Du Toit off the field for seven months.

Suter said the injuries sustained by Stormers players, such as Du Toit, Steven Kitshoff (a torn pectoral muscle, four months), Bongi Mbonambi (torn hamstring, four to five months) and Herschel Jantjies (broken leg, three months) were, without exception, traumatic.

Nothing could have been done to prevent these injuries, he said.

Du Toit, who has been awarded as SA Rugby’s player of the year three times, has won the junior and senior World Cup and has captained the side. He was singled out as rugby’s best after the World Cup final.

He has previously shown that he has the ability to fight back after serious injury.

But I would never trade my injuries for anything because I have learnt so much from them. It’s made me the person I am today and I’m proud of that
Pieter-Steph du Toit

After a series of knee injuries and various operations in 2014 and 2015, there were fears that it might be the end of his rugby career, but he returned to the playing field, stronger and better than ever.

Before last year’s World Cup, Du Toit had to recover from a shoulder injury in time to make sure he booked a ticket to Japan.

Du Toit’s latest injury is serious, but it would be surprising if the tough farm boy wasn’t back in a Springbok jersey later this year. This is thanks, in part, to the medical professionals who treated him.

“I have to say thank you very much to the doctors who were involved, because they did an incredible job,” said Du Toit. “Two days ago, I received an email from a young boy who had a similar injury. When I saw what his leg looked like, I realised how grateful I should be.”


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March 29 2020