Tragic fasting death of raw vegan guru prompts health call
THE shock death of a popular Cairns chiropractor and raw food guru has triggered an outpouring of heartfelt tributes - and a warning about the risks of extreme no-water fasting diets.
Dr Robert Lockhart was a human dynamo.
The 75-year-old chiropractor practised from Trinity Beach and Smithfield with a loyal following of patients and a friend network making him a familiar identity on the city's northern beaches.
He was also renowned in the raw vegan community, having stuck to the rigid diet for almost four decades and running raw food retreats both in Australia and overseas.
The diet seemed to work for him as an energetic man in his 70s, prone to breaking out in dance and handstands whenever the moment seemed fit.
But his diet became more extreme in recent years.
Mr Lockhart drastically decreased his water intake over the past five years, drinking only minimal coconut water or freshly squeezed juice and saying he got all the water he needed from his fruit intake.
He also began dry fasting - no food or liquid intake for periods of up to 48 hours - while also intermittently fasting each day with for roughly 19 hours with only a five-hour eating and drinking window.
Mr Lockhart's daughter Meah Robertson remembered her dad as a caring and dedicated father with a strong and disciplined background that helped him stick to a diet most people would struggle to comprehend.
However, he pushed it too far in the end.
Mrs Robertson said doctors believed dry fasting did significant damage to her father's kidneys over the years, with scans and tests showing atrophy, scarring and significantly reduced function.
With his immune system struggling, Mr Lockhart picked up melioidosis or Whitmore's disease - a disease caused by bacteria found in tropical soils and waters, likely picked up while tending to his extensive orchard at Port Douglas.
Mr Lockhart said the cough was just due to "eliminating" and entered his final fast - 72 hours without food or water passing his lips - which finally tipped him over the edge.
"It's a fine balance and I just pushed it too far," Mr Lockhart told his daughter when she was caring for him.
Mrs Robertson was not discounting the benefits of fasting, saying the body had an amazing ability to heal itself in the right conditions.
"But I think the dry fasting took a toll on my father and his kidneys, then impacting his heart and lung function as they're all connected," she said.
"It's not the best climate to be doing that up here where it's so important to stay hydrated."
Mrs Robertson said there were other contributing factors to her dad's death, but the dry fasting was likely the straw that broke the camel's back.
It was a tragic end to the remarkable life of a man who touched so many people's hearts, but none so much as his daughters Tulani and Meah.
Mrs Robertson remembered her dad taking her on unforgettable adventures as a young girl - paddling out to Double Island, sitting up front on his windsurfer as it sped up and down the beach, and clinging to his waist while he rocketed across their property on a motorbike.
"We would go bushwalking and were forever finding new swimming holes to explore," she said.
"We had a really blessed and unique upbringing, which we are truly so grateful for.
"A lot of people looked up to dad and he was an inspiration to many because of he was a pinnacle of health and vitality throughout the years."
Mrs Robertson paid special tribute to the staff at Cairns Hospital's intensive care unit for their help during her dad's final days.
"The doctors and nurses were absolutely amazing," she said.
"I don't think they get enough recognition."
Mr Lockhart leaves behind his wife Rheana, his two daughters and their mother Mardi, and three grandchildren, Ava, Jada and Leo.
A memorial service for friends and family will be held at 66 Johanna Rd at Trinity Park at 1pm on Sunday.
In a fitting tribute, it will be a party with fruit instead of alcohol.