South African model and actress Charlbi Deanhas been ruled an accident by a coroner.
The 32-year-old, whose full name is Charlbi Dean Kriek, died suddenly on August 29 after waking up with a headache. She had just gotten engaged to her model boyfriend Luke Volker in April.
At the time, her brother Alex Jacobs told the media that the cause of her death was not yet understood.
Now, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed to People that Dean died of the bacterial infection sepsis, which was related to the removal of her spleen.
Dean reportedly had her spleen removed 10 years ago after getting in a serious car crash. The impact of the crash broke her back and ribs and left her with significant trauma to her midsection.
Without a spleen, Dean was more susceptible to complications from infection.
A coroner subsequently ruled the South African model’s death an accident.
According to People, Dean developed sepsis after she was infected with a bacteria known as Capnocytophaga. Spleen Australia explains that Capnocytophaga is a bacteria that “lives harmlessly in the mouths and claws of some animals such as cats and dogs.”
The bacteria is particularly harmful to people without a functioning spleen, and can lead to serious infection.
Signs of infection with Capnocytophaga are nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, chills and confusion. The medical advice is to seek urgent medical attention if these signs appear.
It has not been revealed if Dean was bitten or scratched by an animal prior to her death.
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Dean’s death came just four months after her boyfriend, Volker, 26, proposed to her.
On the day of Dean’s death, the model woke with a headache, fell asleep, and then woke again but this time asked Volker to take her to the hospital. She died hours later.
Following Dean’s death, a devastated Volker shared a heartbreaking video to Instagram.
“Hi, everyone. I wanted to just post a picture of Charlbi, but it’s a bit hard,” he said. “And just wanted to let you know I see all your messages, all the love, and I appreciate it. I really do. It’s just I can’t really reply to them right now. But thank you, guys. I appreciate it. I love you.”
In a more recent update to fans, Volker shared another video, which he called a “proof of life”.
“I cry every day,” he said. “I think about Charlbi most of every day, but I’ve recently started working out again. Daily. And I’m going to get my career together, and I’m going to be OK.”