Holsworthy footballer John O'Donoghue talks about horror injury
AS HE continues his recovery from a life-threatening injury, John O'Donoghue knows "what an amazing thing hindsight is".
It will be a month on Saturday since the Holsworthy captain suffered a punctured intestine during a match at Helston Athletic.
After a collision with his own goalkeeper, Chris Pearce, he had emergency surgery at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.
"That weekend I could have been safely tucked up in a VIP box at Loftus Road having a few beers," said John.
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"I declined a complimentary offer to watch QPR against Manchester United because I had a big football game at Helston."
John, from Shebbear, has expressed his gratitude to the medical staff who helped save his life.
An 11-0 defeat for Holsworthy in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League was painful but the importance of football has been put in perspective.
"When you have had 15 or 16 years of football, your whole life revolves around it," said John.
"You never think about having an afternoon off to go and see friends and family.
"(The injury) has given me a new lease of life and made me open my eyes. It's only a sport.It's only a hobby.
"It was a serious injury and it's hit me quite emotionally. You've got a job. You're only 27.You've got a house and a wife and close friends and family."
Football has been part of John's life since he started out with Holsworthy under-12s.
He has represented Launceston, played at Loughborough University and was player-manager for Black Torrington before rejoining Holsworthy in 2010.
Initially, after colliding with the goalkeeper, it was thought he was merely winded.
"I was struggling to slow my breathing down," said John.
"After five or ten minutes I knew I wasn't winded because it wasn't getting any easier. The pain was getting worse and worse and I was projectile vomiting."
John will forever be grateful to Ashley Stidwell, a Helston player and paramedic, who recognised the seriousness of the problem.
Richie Full, the Helston assistant manager and a medic with RNAS Culdrose, also came to his aid.
"I sat on a bench outside the changing rooms," said John. "I had my head in my hands. I couldn't calm myself down. The paramedic said, 'You were hyperventilating and going into shock'.
"He was squeezing my hand so tight but I couldn't feel anything. Both my arms, from my shoulders down, had pins and needles.
"The paramedics were there in eight to ten minutes. They were phenomenal.
"It was about 10 or 15 minutes before they could get any morphine in me because it wouldn't stay in. I was just being sick."
John's wife Beth travelled down from North Devon and his friends Chris Ward and Hayley Jack stayed with him.
John said: "Apparently, on my drugs (in hospital), the only thing I could keep going on about was, 'Am I going to get home for my fish and chips and bottle of wine?'
"Then the radiologist pulled the curtains round and said they had got to operate. That's when it hit home how serious it was."
John was in surgery from 1 to 6am on the Sunday morning and initially felt great when he woke up.
"We laugh about it now," he said. "It was about half past seven in the morning. I was on cloud nine and said, 'I need to get some money in the TV because Match of the Day is starting in a minute'."
After the operation, he was unable to eat for five days and finally returned home on the Thursday evening.
"I felt pregnant," he said. "I had a massive belly from where they empty the intestines and blow you up to try and find where the hole is – like a punctured tyre."
John hopes to return to his job as a PE teacher at Launceston College after Easter.
He thanked the college and Monkleigh Primary School, who gave Beth time off from her teaching job.
In April, the couple will celebrate their first wedding anniversary with a trip to London.
"Life has got back to normal as much as it can," said John. "I'm just getting tired really quickly. Having people coming around, and the cards, e-mails and phone calls have been much appreciated. It's helped me get through it."
The story of another footballer who suffered a life-threatening moment on the pitch, has helped him come to terms with the accident.
"Fabrice Muamba was on TV the other day and that was the first time I opened up and let a few tears go since the event," said John. "You go out on Saturday morning for football and you expect to be home for tea and Match of the Day."