In a show of generosity and solidarity, the South African cycling community has rallied to assist fellow mountain biker, Abri Kuhn, who experienced a rapid descent from feeling mildly ill to ending up on life support in ICU within a few days.
By Sean Badenhorst
Thirty-one-year-old Abri, a super-fit, committed mountain biker from Johannesburg began to feel ill on Tuesday 28 July from food poisoning and then on Friday 31 July with what began as a headache. It developed into a fever over the weekend and on Monday 3 August a visit to the doctor saw him leave with antibiotics and pain medication.
His condition deteriorated and on Wednesday 5 August he returned to the doctor with extreme neck pain, severe headache, lack of appetite, weakness and diarrhoea. Tests for Covid-19 and Meningitis came back negative and he was diagnosed with a bacterial infection.
That night, his blood pressure dropped and he lost his eyesight. He then passed out and fell when going to the bathroom, injuring his head. His girlfriend, Stephanie Wohlters, rushed him to Olivedale Clinic where blood tests and scans revealed he had Sepsis and Renal Failure (acute kidney failure) as well as signs of a possible heart attack.
Abri works for Cycle Events and RaceTec, South Africa’s largest cycling events management and race timing company. As has been the case with many companies unable to operate during the Covid-19 Lockdown, Cycle Events retained all permanent staff, but was forced to reduce salaries. As a result of this, Abri decided to temporarily cancel his hospital plan.
Since he was in a critical condition and in need of life support, Stephanie took the decision to have him admitted to Olivedale Clinic, a private hospital. She paid from her own money upfront for up the estimate of what it would cost for ICU treatment for five days.
Aware that the costs are likely to continue to mount, she created a Back-a-Buddy crowdfunding account, setting the fund-raising target at R300 000 (around US$18 000). She shared the link via her social media, as did friends and family. Once the cycling community became alerted, it was shared even more widely.
Within 24 hours over R100 000 had been donated. And within 36 hours it had reached R150 000! At the time of writing (12 August 2020), it is currently at R194 547.29 (around US$11 400). As of Wednesday, 12 August, Abri has been in the Olivedale Clinic ICU for six days.
He is still in ICU, but the good news is that he is showing signs of recovery. By Tuesday night on 11 August, his kidneys were improving their function and the infection rate in his blood was diminishing. His blindness is hoped to be temporary. Should he continue to show signs of recovery and can come off the antibiotics and heart and blood pressure medication, he will be moved from ICU to High Care and then eventually to a normal ward.
By 13h00 on 12 August a total of 125 had made donations ranging from R100 to R10 000, most from the cycling community.
“Abri’s work takes him to events around the country and as a result, thousands of cyclists will have either directly or indirectly interacted with him. If you know Abri, you will know that he is truly one of the nicest, most helpful humans there is. It’s been incredible to see the immense support for him in his time of need,” said Suandi Rakim, a close friend and training partner of Abri.
“Abri is the kindest and most compassionate soul, he goes the extra mile to be of help to anyone in need and it has been extremely overwhelming and eye-opening to see how many people have rallied together to support him in whichever way they can. I have also received so many kind messages, prayers and support myself during this time, I cannot express my gratitude and heartfelt thank you enough to all of those people,” said Stephanie.
If you wish to make a donation, the link to the Back-a-Buddy account is here.