The story of one man’s intense ordeal after a sudden health scare, and how Mediclinic saved the day.
Marcus Viljoen at home in Cape Town.

It was a normal Thursday morning for Marcus Viljoen, a graphic designer in Cape Town. “I start at 5:30am and my routine consists of a 10km run,” he explains. “I got home, showered and dived straight into work. But seemingly out of nowhere, I suddenly went pale and clammy. After a while I started feeling a stabbing pain in my gut.” Marcus initially thought he simply needed some rest. But his wife, Maryke, could tell he needed a great deal more. She insisted they seek medical assistance at the closest hospital.

“I wasn’t looking forward to the 150 steps I had to walk down to get to the car,” Marcus recalls. But that would be the least of his problems.

Among the wounded

Once there, a GP ordered X-rays that didn’t reveal much, and prescribed morphine for the pain, which made Marcus delirious. Doctors concluded that his intestines were the problem but referred him to another, more appropriate hospital in Cape Town.

“Here the Emergency Centre was full of gunshot victims and other severe cases,” Marcus recalls. “I know it has many capable specialists, but it also had more gravely ill patients. My case seemed like a paper cut in comparison and I was probably triaged as green, meaning I wasn’t in a serious condition.”

“Dr Coetzee didn’t know what he would find, all he knew was he had to act fast.”

Marcus Viljoen

High on morphine, Marcus couldn’t speak up for himself, and the situation got worse because the scans and file from the first hospital had been mislaid. This meant no one yet knew what was wrong with him, and he wasn’t being successfully treated. To make matters worse, it was the height of lockdown, meaning no visitors (not even Maryke) were allowed. After two days, he chose to be discharged.  

Near-death experience

Marcus may have been out of the hospital, but he wasn’t out of the woods. He couldn’t keep food down and still had severe stomach pain. The next day, he saw another GP who immediately contacted bariatric specialist Dr Pieter Coetzee at Mediclinic Cape Town. He was rushed straight there for emergency MRI and surgery.

“Dr Coetzee didn’t know what he would find, all he knew was he had to act fast,” Marcus says. It turned out his intestine had swollen to roughly 10 times its size, due to scar tissue that had tightened around it, clamping it almost closed. “It was so swollen, it was close to bursting, which is a life-threatening condition,” he adds. Thanks to the fast-thinking Dr Coetzee, the issue was resolved in time. “He needed to remove the scar tissue but at least he didn’t have to cut a piece away and reattach the intestine,” the plucky patient recalls.

Marcus resting at Mediclinic Cape Town.

Although most of his experience at the other two hospitals are blurry because of the morphine he was prescribed, Marcus has a clear memory of his Mediclinic experience. “I was looked after with great love and kindness, and the bed was incredibly comfortable,” he says. “I spent four days at Mediclinic Cape Town recovering from surgery, before being sent home.”

Back to health

On a surfing holiday in Kilifi, Kenya, just 10 weeks after life-saving surgery.

Within seven weeks, the young fitness fanatic returned to his running routine. “Because I was in such a healthy space before the incident, I healed pretty fast,” he says. “I also spent some time with a physiotherapist at Mediclinic Constantiaberg, and 10 weeks after my operation I was able to travel to Kenya for a much-needed surfing holiday!”

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