Popular Johannesburg doctor and DJ, Sindi van Zyl was “in between” medical aids when she was admitted to hospital in February, battling to breathe.
Before she could decide on a medical aid, she was fighting for her life on a ventilator in a private hospital, with her family battling to pay the bills and unable to celebrate her birthday yesterday.
A crowdfunding campaign for the doctor’s medical bills gathered steam this week, with R956,000 donated by late yesterday, nearly half the R2m target.
Van Zyl’s husband, Marinus, said he was overwhelmed by the response from the public and corporate entities.
“The truth is she was in between medical aids. She didn’t have medical aid when she fell ill. She was still trying to decide which one was best, and she’s the doctor in the home so we all left that to her,” he said.
Van Zyl gained popularity through her activism and talk shows, the most recent of which was Sidebar with Sindi on Kaya FM, during which she discussed everything from mental health to sexuality. She announced her resignation from the show last month on Twitter, sharing a photograph of herself on a ventilator. She has been a long-standing columnist for Bona magazine, writing a column called “Dear Dr Sindi”.
Van Zyl is also well known for her use of social media to raise awareness about HIV-related issues, as well as her Twitter thread on the health implications of abusing headache tablets.
Marinus said the family initially thought they would manage her hospital costs, but as time went on the bills mounted and became overwhelming.
“We thought money from mortgaging some of our properties would assist but it wasn’t enough. We needed help. This whole thing makes me so sad I want to cry, but I’m an Afrikaans man raised to be strong and that’s what I’ve been.
“Seeing her like that, not able to speak and breathe on her own, is traumatising for me because I know nothing about that part of life. She would have been able to handle it better. I can’t,” he said.
The family is relying on prayer and faith to keep going, he said. “We are not unrealistic. She is very ill and we are aware of the possibilities. We want her back home but we know we might not get that. My kids and I are always praying, and we hope to see her again on earth, not anywhere else.
“The children know it’s possible she may pass on, but they have not given up hope. We want her back home with us; we miss her. Luckily, we have a good support system. We managed to re-arrange our lives to allow for the void. Our helper has also stepped up and helps with the kids a lot.”
Marinus said contributions to the crowdfunding scheme had been overwhelming and reaffirming for the family.
“The generosity has blown us away; it makes us positive. We are an embodiment of the rainbow nation in my family, I mean, me marrying a Zulu woman is what South Africa is about. To see people responding in such a way shows the potential we have as a nation. She needs to get well. It would p*** a lot of people off if she didn’t.”
Van Zyl was diagnosed with Covid-19 at the beginning of the year and has spent the past six weeks in intensive care — at a cost of up to R200,000 a week.
In a statement on the Quicket fundraising page, Marinus said his wife had “suffered several complications related to a long stay in an intensive care unit, and we need more funds to pay for her continued stay in hospital until her lungs can cope without the ventilator. We will use any funds raised to pay the hospital bills, to enable Dr Sindi the chance to survive.”
Van Zyl also received help from Woolworths, which in a Twitter post on Friday said it had pledged R100,000 towards the fundraising campaign. “Dr Sindi is part of our Woolies family and we want nothing more than to see her back to full health,” read the tweet.
Other corporations that have reportedly pledged money include 1Life Insurance, Ndash Food Popup, DStv, Kaya FM, Le Creuset and Ford.
According to her website, Van Zyl was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. Her mother was from KwaZulu-Natal and her father from Zimbabwe. She moved to SA to study medicine at the University of Pretoria.
“Today Dr Sindi is multi-passioned with medicine as her first love, radio broadcasting her second love and a combination of social media and writing a close third,” her website declares.
– Sunday times