At 14 I broke my neck playing rugby, lay half dead, paralysed from the neck down in a hospital (to this day I can’t remember which one) somewhere in Brighton. 70 odd hours later the specialist plunged a needle into my foot….let’s just say, it was a good pain!
I sat with my family determined to walk again, however, my beloved rugby days were over. With the use of some archaic contraption that started at my head and ended at my waist walking began. Then running. Then serious running. Then competition.
18 months later I was accepted into the Crystal Palace team and from there started training as a decathlete, great times with Daley Thompson, Linford Christie, Dalton Grant, Roger Black, Kriss Akabussi, Colin Jackson and many more. Although the 5am Saturday travel from school was a killer…. Life was amazing…in only two years I had gone from that hospital bed to training four hours a day with the best athletes in the world…..it was the knees that went first.
Multiple arthroscopies led to Mr Patrick England offering pioneering full knee replacement surgery to, not one, but both knees. Knee cap, bone, cartilage, and much more were replaced with the latest tech at the time, carbon fibre, silicone and fibre. Paul Gascoigne joined me in the room next door when he had that horrific knee injury playing for Tottenham, in the FA cup final, I think. We both did the ‘Harley Street Shuffle’ together, round and round the floor! That was the end of that for a long, long while….but again, family bought me through and I was back training.
The 1988 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIV Olympiad, was my target. I trained harder than ever before and everyone was very confident, unless your were a spinal surgeon on Harley Street. A triple spinal problem put paid to that. Mr Henry Vernon Crock, one of the most respected spinal surgeons in the world had been testing a pioneering piece of surgery on race horses, so he asked me to be his guinea pig. The choice was clear, the spine was so bad it was a question of taking pioneering surgery with a 40% chance of success or end up wheelchair bound within 2 years. Crock opened me up. That was the end of my Olympic dream and for many years to come, the end of any dream.
Again family stepped up, pulled me through and nursed me for the two years it took to recover from the surgery….a few obligatory appearances at medical universities to show the thing worked and I was back home, lost.
20 odd years later I set up a production company with a fellow pain sufferer (Eczema), together with the charities we have worked for, our films have raised over 25 million pounds for various charities. We have filmed throughout Africa and South America and I had the privilege of working with our armed service personel in both Iraq and Afghanistan. http://www.pretzelfilms.com
Surgery has never really ceased, neck surgery (double spinal fusion) left me voiceless for 5 months as the guy snipped one of my vocal chords….unfortunately (to some) I worked hard getting the one muscle to work properly, and my voice returned!! Reconstructive shoulder surgery and many many more have been apart of my life for years.
Now, with a new family, the years have piled on the pounds. After the dreams had gone I started smoking. My physical life had died…until the other week..
Ok, so a chat with a dad at the school has left me taking on a very odd challenge. Compete in the Thomas Cook Iron Man 70.3 in Mallorca, May 11th 2013. ‘WTF’, I thought, ‘why not?’. My wife’s thoughts went something like…’your nearly 40, you’re fat, you smoke…it’s been 20 years since you did any sport…bloody fool!’
So here I sit, with all of the above and 11 months to quit smoking, get fit, get sponsored and try to complete this madness!
More nutiness is involved, in a way….I am going to be raising money for Prostate cancer, something my father was diagnosed with last year, and something he kicked the nuts out of and is now clear.
So here I start…well, maybe tomorrow…