TELFORD VICE: Boxing hero of '80s battles heart, snoring
FORMER heavyweight sensation Johnny du Plooy is recuperating at home after veering close to death with heart problems.
But the drama is not over. Du Plooy says he is embroiled in a battle with his medical aid to be able to afford the medical equipment he needs to stay alive.
Du Plooy was discharged from Bedford Gardens Hospital at the weekend after a stay of eight days that started in critical circumstances. "I was feeling very tired, but I didn't think it was that serious," he said yesterday.
"Then my daughter came home and saw that my face was purple. They rushed me to the hospital, and when I arrived my pulse rate was apparently 30. I was almost a goner."
Asked what the problem was, Du Plooy said, "If I understand this properly, the doctor says my ticker pumps too much blood.
"I lost 21kg while I was in hospital because of all the blood they took out of me. How the f**k can that happen?"
Du Plooy is 47, but it seems he has been lumbered with the health of a much older man. However, he remains in good spirits.
"I had a heart attack four or five years ago. So I stopped smoking, I stopped drinking, I stopped going out - I became an old man. But I don't want to die yet. I was a big man for a lot of my years and I hope I have many more left."
To turn that hope into reality, Du Plooy will need a machine to combat a condition he has been diagnosed with: sleep apnoea.
"You start by snoring excessively, then the back of your throat collapses and you stop breathing for anywhere between five and 15 seconds," was how the Du Plooy family pharmacist, Johan van Wyk, described sleep apnoea. "This can happen 20 and 30 times a night. You never enter the phase of deep sleep. It's like getting only two hours of sleep every night, and quality of life deteriorates. People with this condition gain weight even if they eat normally because their metabolism slows down. They are constantly exhausted, and susceptibility to heart attacks and strokes is high."
The good news, he said, was that "after just a couple of weeks using a machine to treat this condition the person's overall health improves dramatically".
The bad news was the machine could cost up to R11500.
"I really do need this thing if I want to live," Du Plooy said. "But, so far, my medical aid does not want to pay for it."
Now overweight and out of shape, Du Plooy is a far cry from the tall, beefy heavyweight who won 194 of his 200 amateur bouts before mowing down his first 17 victims in the professional ranks - all but two by KO or TKO.
Then, at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg in 1987, he failed to answer the bell against former World Boxing Association champion Mike Weaver. Five months later - during which he dealt with James Broad in four rounds - Du Plooy avenged his loss to Weaver by knocking him out in the second round at Sun City.
Du Plooy's booming punches, good looks and charisma made him a natural draw card, and he earned fights against top exponents including James Pritchard, Renaldo Snipes, Corrie Sanders and Pierre Coetzer.
He won 27 of his 33 fights.
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