Former Springbok Derick Hougaard 'off ventilators and breathing on his own'

Former Springbok Derick Hougaard 'off ventilators and breathing on his own'

After spending more than two weeks in a Pretoria hospital, former Springbok flyhalf Derick Hougaard's recovery is continuing and he is breathing on his own now.

The 40-year-old, who played in eight Tests for South Africa between 2003 and 2007, was found unconscious on June 10 and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria where he was diagnosed with respiratory pneumonia.

Last week, Hougaard, who played more than 100 matches or the Bulls and also had stints with Leicester Tigers and Saracens in the Premiership, woke up from his coma and his ventilator has also been removed.

According to a News24 report, there are no signs of brain damage and he is also able to talk. No alcohol, drugs or sleeping pills were found in his system.

Hougaard's partner, South African singer Nadine, said only slight traces of pain medication were found in Hougaard's system.

"He is off the ventilators and has been breathing on his own for the past 36 hours," Nádine told News24 on Tuesday morning.

"He is still getting oxygen support, but he is breathing on his own. It is difficult for his lungs having been on a ventilator for more than two weeks, but that is part of the process. He said to me yesterday that it was hard, but we are extremely grateful.

"They'll do scans, but Derick is communicating. He can't speak properly because his voice has been affected by the pipes for the ventilation, but he is whispering and communicating. His short- and long-term memory seems to be intact. I asked him to recite the alphabet to me and he smiled, and he did. He still has his sense of humour."

Nadine said there were "quite a bit of false reports" on which substances were found in Hougaard's system and what led to his condition.

"With all the reports and tests they have done in hospital, there was no trace of alcohol in Derick's blood," she said. There was no trace of any sleeping pills or any drugs in his blood. It's always nice when you can confirm that according to all tests done, and we won't allow any false publicity regarding that.

"What exactly happened, we are not sure and we are still trying to understand all of that. But this is not something that never ever happens. Aspiration pneumonia is not uncommon and it does happen, although it came to us as a huge shock."

Meanwhile, former Springbok, Bulls and Leicester Tigers boss Heyneke Meyer, the man who gave Hougaard his debut at the Bulls said he was shocked when he learnt of the former playmaker's serious illness but backed him to bounce back.

"I was obviously very close to Derick. I started coaching him as a schoolboy, when I first met him, and he joined the Bulls soon after that," Meyer told News24 from Houston, where he is the director of rugby of Major League Rugby outfit Houston SaberCats.

"I've known him for most of his rugby career and knew most of his family. I was shocked when I heard the news.

"We have a long relationship, and we kept contact even after rugby.

"We are quite close and I was very, very shocked. But I always believed there was hope when I read that he's got a 50% chance [of survival].

"I truly believed that he would make it - not to be arrogant, but [the news] was such a blessing.

"I prayed for him and I knew he would fight until the end. He's a champ and he'll always fight one more round. I hoped he'd get the courage and strength to fight and it's great news to hear that he's better at the moment.

"There's a long journey and battle ahead, but there's always hope. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family."