Naka Drotské on his life-and-death ordeal
Former Springbok Naka Drotské says his brush with death has changed him
HE’S never been the kind of guy who cries easily but the memory of the night he almost died – without so much as a goodbye to the people he loves – is enough to reduce the former Springbok stalwart to tears.
Naka Drotské (47) struggles to keep his emotions in check as he sits next to his wife, Marzanne (42), on the couch in the TV room of their Bloemfontein home.
“One moment we were talking about what to have for dinner and the next I’m waking up three days later in ICU,” the former Cheetahs coach recalls.
The 1995 World Cup legend has been to hell and back since four armed robbers stormed into his brother’s home in November and shot him twice.
What followed were two hospital stays – and two brushes with death. “My heart stopped twice,” he says. “Within days my fighting spirit dwindled. Minutes became hours, hours become days and without even fully realising what I was doing, I asked God to take me.”
But 37 days after the home invasion Naka smiles as he relaxes at home with his wife by his side and his beloved dog, Rocky, dozing at his feet.
“I’ve been given another chance at life,” he says.
The bandages on his right arm and the hum of a portable machine that keeps his wounds clean are the only signs of his ordeal.
“It’s hard to believe so many people had been praying for him to live just a week ago,” Marzanne says.
But he can believe it, Naka says. “Once acceptance came, my fighting spirit returned with it.
“That’s when I realised I was experiencing a miracle. Now, sitting here in my Naka Drotské underwent lifesaving surgery after being shot in an armed robbery, then five days after being discharged he was back in ICU with pneumonia. lounge next to my wife, I know I’ll never take anything for granted again.”
NAKA wasn’t supposed to be at the smallholding of his brother, Tinus, at Kameeldrift on the outskirts of Pretoria when the robbers burst in on 29 November. He was meant to arrive later.
He’d just dropped his sons, Allen (15) and Tristan (11), at the airport for their flight to America to visit their mom, Liske.
Naka had planned to hang around for a little while longer in case the flight was cancelled but instead decided to leave for the smallholding where he was due to have dinner with his brother and old friend and fellow former Bok Os du Randt.
Shortly after 7pm he let Tinus know he was almost there.
He’d been at the house for “five or 10 minutes” when four men in balaclavas charged into the garden where Os, Tinus and Naka were sitting.
Without a moment’s hesitation the burly former rugby star hurled himself at the intruders – and they opened fire.
One bullet struck Naka’s right arm and chest and the second hit him in the stomach. Tinus’ son, Wessel (13), pressed the panic button and the attackers fled.
He still doesn’t know why he tackled the men, Naka says.
“I remember thinking we probably wouldn’t survive anyway,” he says, his voice cracking. “And that made me angry so I stormed them.”
A frantic Os rushed Naka to the nearest hospital and in panic drove over a traffic island, bursting the car’s tyres. Os managed to flag down passersby Mtatheni Mudau and Pretty Nedoboni and asked them to drive him and Naka to Netcare Montana Hospital. From there, Os called Marzanne. “There was an urgency in his voice,” she remembers. “He said, ‘Get in your car and come’.”
She left Bloemfontein for Pretoria at 10pm for the 500km trip. During the seemingly endless hours on the road, she didn’t know if she’d make it in time.
“I was in shock,” Marzanne recalls. “I couldn’t even cry. I prayed that if Naka was going to die I’d at least get the chance to say goodbye.”
By the time she arrived at the hospital Naka was out of theatre – and alive.
“We couldn’t say anything to each other,” Marzanne says. “Naka couldn’t speak anyway. He was in terrible pain, but an immense gratitude that he was alive enveloped both of us.”
He spent three days in ICU, undergoing another operation on his arm and on his small intestine. On 7 December, doctors gave him the all-clear and Naka was discharged.
But just five days later Marzanne noticed he was deathly pale and feverish and rushed him to Mediclinic Bloemfontein.
“Doctors said he had a high fever and pneumonia and without further explanation they wheeled him away,” she says. “I stood there in the hallway, wondering if my husband would come out of theatre alive this time.”
Afterwards, doctors told them Naka had gone into hypovolemic shock – losing more than 20% of his blood or fluid supply – because of internal bleeding. His fragile body also struggled to cope with the pneumonia.
“When I woke up three days later, I was on a ventilator,” Naka tells us. “I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move.
“Marzanne fought for me but I wasn’t interested. She told me to fight for my sons’ sake, that I should stop staring at the ceiling and fight.”
“I may have been a bit hard on him,” she admits, but Naka shakes his head.
“How do you let the person you love most just give up?” she says. “You don’t – you fight with everything in you to get them to fight too. For me, for my sons, for so many others.”
Marzanne’s determination and prayers gave Naka the will to push on.
On 27 December, after 16 days in ICU, he was transferred to a regular ward. And just over a week later, he was finally allowed to go home.
THE men who nearly killed him haven’t been caught but Naka bears no grudges, he says. “I can’t exactly lie in that hospital bed and ask God to heal me so I can return to my wife and children while I harbour hatred in my heart. I have peace – I don’t even have nightmares about it.” Naka is set to start rehabilitation soon to regain the use of his right arm. Doctors believe he’ll make a full recovery. Naka’s sons and Marzanne’s daughters, Jeazanne (19) and Annica (15), were all due to arrive the next day to be with the couple – the first time they’d all be together since the attack. Naka interlaces his fingers in Marzanne’s, then rests his head on her leg, tears welling in his eyes again. “This woman is my rock . . .” he says. “Day and night she watched over me, took over for me when I wanted to stop fighting, and made me believe when I felt like I had no hope left. “Before the attack I wasn’t someone who spoke a lot – now I can’t stop talking because I want everyone to know how almighty God is. “I never want to forget that I almost wasn’t here anymore. From now on I have to make each and every day count.”
‘I remember thinking we probably wouldn’t survive anyway’
FAR LEFT: Naka’s wife, Marzanne, dressed up as an angel on Christmas to lift the spirits of her husband and other patients. Naka says Marzanne is his pillar of strength and has been by his side day and night during his recovery. LEFT: A recovering Naka with nurses Yolandi Bekker and Tshebo Masitsa at Mediclinic Bloemfontein.