The Newcastle United goalkeeper Shay Given has talked about the lucky escape he had after suffering a bowel injury in a collision with the West Ham striker Marlon Harewood.
The 30-year-old Republic of Ireland international was rushed to hospital and underwent emergency surgery after being left in agony following the incident in his side's 2-0 Premiership win at Upton Park on 17 September. However, he said he did not want to think about what might have happened had the extent of the damage not become clear until he was on the plane flying back to the North-east with his team-mates.
"That would have been pretty scary," he said. "I do not know what would have happened if I had been in the air. I suppose it would have been 10 times worse. Luckily enough, it did happen while I was still on the ground. You do not want it to happen, but I suppose I was lucky in the sense that it happened where it did."
Given was carried off on a stretcher after treatment on the pitch, but he was hoping the injury might be little more than a serious winding or, at worst, a fractured rib. However, after showering, he was left screaming in agony, prompting the club doctor Roddy MacDonald and his Hammers counterpart to call an ambulance.
"I felt a lot of pain as soon as he [Harewood] hit me," Given said. "I was very badly winded and I was struggling to breathe, to be honest. But eventually I was stretchered off and thought it was easing. I got my breath backand felt it was just a bad knock and I was winded.
"I had a shower and when I got out, I got hit by pain I have never felt before in my life in my lower abdomen. It is hard to explain how that pain was, but I passed out for nine or 10 seconds, probably from my body shutting down.
"The surgeon said it was like someone pouring acid into your stomach, that is the sort of pain I was feeling. I have had injuries before, but never pain like that before, so it was pretty serious. I thought I maybe had a fractured rib or something along those lines, or maybe had been really lucky and only been badly winded.
"But when I got out of the shower and started feeling cramps, and it turned from cramps to excruciating pain in the space of two or three seconds, then I knew there was obviously something a lot more serious involved. I just wanted to try to get the pain away. I was screaming at the doctor to give me something to try to take the pain away."
Even scans at the hospital failed to identify the problem, and it was not until the surgeon operated that he discovered a one centimetre tear in Given's bowel. The Irishman spent a week in hospital, before being allowed to return to Tyneside to begin his rehabilitation. He is likely to be out of action for another five weeks or so, but he is happy just to be on the mend. Given said: "I remember most of it, but the best part of the day for me was to get knocked out for the operation because the pain started to go away. For three or four hours, it was pretty bad."
The Newcastle manager, Glenn Roeder, is confident he will bounce back. Roeder said: "Shay is fortunate because he is such a tough person, and we saw that more or less straight after the initial shock of the incident at West Ham. He has been back to see everybody and I did not notice any difference between how he acted before the injury and how he is now. He is strong mentally and physically and I am sure he will be back going for those brave challenges again, just as he has over the past 10 years."
"Shay's starting to come back to the training ground, but it is only to give him a feel for the environment again. The wound he has following the operation is simply not ready for him to come back into training. And knowing Shay and the lifestyle of footballers in general, they never want to be stuck at home. So by coming into the training ground at least he is involved."
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