Blaenavon rugby man 'lucky to walk' after playing through spine injury

South Wales Argus: UNAWARE OF INJURY: Bryan Wright, who says he is lucky to be able to walk again after suffering a prolapsed disc in his neck UNAWARE OF INJURY: Bryan Wright, who says he is lucky to be able to walk again after suffering a prolapsed disc in his neck

A RUGBY player is “lucky to be able to walk again” after playing rugby for 18 months with a prolapsed disc in his neck which could have severed his spinal cord on impact.

The doctors told Bryan Wright his injury was similar to that suffered by Superman actor Christopher Reeve when he fell from his horse, only Mr Wright had been lucky his prolapsed disc, also known as a slipped disc, had only pinched and rubbed on his spinal cord, rather than severing it altogether.

But the injury has left the active 32-year-old from Blaenavon hospital-bound for the last three weeks, with many more weeks of medical treatment ahead of him before he can get home and see his one-year-old daughter, Ruby, and wife, Bethan.

The self-employed window- cleaner still has constant pins and needles down his left side, has suffered muscle wastage from the injury, and has lost his co-ordination as a result of the injury, meaning that although his legs are strong enough for him to stand, he still finds it almost impossible to walk.

Tighthead prop Mr Wright explains: “It happened about 18 months ago when I was playing for Abergavenny against Pontypool United.

“We went down for a scrum and on the hit of the engage I got what we call a stinger on my neck.

“I went to Nevill Hall Hospital because I was getting pins and needles in my left index finger and little finger, but the doctors said they thought it was a trapped nerve.

“So I just played on and went to see a physio and things like that.”

Mr Wright joined Garndiffaith RFC after Christmas this year, partly in tribute to his brother-in-law, Dale Llewellyn, the 25-yearold Garndiffaith second row who died in January.

He was making his debut for the club away at Fleur-de-Lys on February 9, the same day as Wales’ Six Nations clash with France.

“I played the game with no problems, had a shower and went into the clubhouse bar with the boys.

“I started to get sharp pains in my neck but I just thought ‘bloody trapped nerve’, and had a few drinks, which numbed it. When I went back home later on, though, I felt like I had metal boots on and had to literally drag myself up the stairs.

“My wife said I should go to hospital but I said I’d wait until the morning because I’d had a couple of drinks.

“On the Sunday morning my father-in-law, Chris, took me to Nevill Hall and that was it.

“Straightaway they put me in a neck brace and strapped me down and I was like that until Monday. I had a CT scan and MRI scan and they called up the Heath (in Cardiff) for me to be transferred there.

“The doctors said I had a prolapsed disc at C6-C7 [two vertebrae] and that by the look of the scan it wasn’t new.

“I had emergency surgery to remove the damaged disc and replace it with a titanium one. It was a hell of a shock.” Doctors are happy with his progress at the University of Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff, and the next goal will be for him to move to Rookwood, in Llandaff, a spinal specialist unit.

And that challenge is driving Mr Wright on; he feels he needs to get home to look after his wife and daughter.

“My daughter has a very low immune system from having a lot of complications when she was born nine weeks early, which means we can’t let her come to hospital in case she gets an infection.

“I’ve got an iPad here, but it’s very hard as she won’t be two until May, that’s why I’ve got to get home - to see her. We need a bit of luck in our family.

It never rains, it pours, doesn’t it?

“My wife has been like a rock looking after the baby, looking after her sister and obviously looking after me.

“You know what they say, a good woman is hard to find, so when you find one you’ve got to hold on to them,” he jokes.

“I’ve had loads of messages of support and some of the guys from the rugby clubs have come down.

Rugby is like a big family like that.

“I will miss it but the doctors say that’s it for contact sports for me or I could be paralysed. I would like to take up coaching or refereeing, maybe, but I won’t watch many games. I’m a terrible spectator, especially when the scrum is going backwards, I would just want to get on there!

“To all my customers I haven’t rung, sorry if your windows are dirty but I’ve not disappeared. I’m in hospital,” he laughs.

And his message to other rugby players in the area: “Keep playing while you can, go out there and have a run because you don’t know how lucky you are.

“And my advice to anyone would be, if you feel like you’ve got a trapped nerve or stiff neck for a long term go and get a bloody scan. Don’t wait.”

Factfile

THE neck is made up of seven vertebrae with discs in between each of them called C1-C7 (numbered in descending order).

The discs are made up of a tough outer fibre with a gel-like nucleus inside.

A cervical prolapsed disc, or slipped disc, occurs when some of the outer layer wears away, allowing the gel to leak out.

This can then cause pressure on the nerves which make up the spinal cord, and if not treated can cause paralysis.

Premature daughter’s months in hospitals

RUBY Jasmine Wright spent most of the first months of her life in hospital.

Born nine weeks premature on May 5, 2011, she weighed just 2lb 11oz and required ventilation within hours of her birth at Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny, before being transferred to the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

She suffered multiple medical complications including a bowel infection.

While the infection was treated Ruby was ventilated, and as a result of that her lungs suffered, causing her to develop chronic lung disease.

She was one of the first babies in Wales to be treated using a pioneering transport system, Cymru inter-Hospital Acute Neonatal Transfer Service (CHANTS) which allowed her to receive expert neonatal care at Nevill Hall, the Royal Gwent and University Hospital of Wales, in Heath, Cardiff.

At the time Mrs Wright, 24, said: “At one point, the most senior consultant team had tried every possible way to open Ruby’s lungs and had no more options, there was nothing more they could do.

“Thankfully, Ruby’s lungs reacted to a course of steroid treatment and she soon started on the road to recovery.

“All the transport teams have been great, very controlled, very organised and thorough, and as parents we were kept informed all the way.

“They’ve certainly helped to save her life, and now we can’t wait to get her home.”

Brother-in-law died suddenly

TRAGEDY hit the family in January this year when Mr Wright’s brother-in-law, Dale ‘Dulky’ Llewellyn, died suddenly at the age of 25.

Mr Llewellyn had recently got married to Mrs Wright’s sister, Rio, when the super-fit second-row died on the same day as fellow Pontypool area rugby stalwart Keith ‘Beefy’ Jones.

Hundreds attended Mr Llewellyn’s funeral, with representatives from Talywain RFC and Garndiffaith RFC, who he played for, turning out to pay their respects.

Mr Wright got to enjoy a number of battles on the pitch with his brother-in-law when Abergavenny faced Talywain, and latterly for Abergavenny against Garndiffaith.

A tribute match will be played on March 15 to honour Mr Llewellyn and Mr Jones.

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