This page contains graphic imagery of a man on life support after ongoing 100 hours of abdominal surgery, which some individuals may find distressing.
Paul was in a critical condition with multiple organ failure and urgently needed life-saving surgery.
All his life, Paul has suffered with Crohn’s Disease, which is a chronic inflammation of the bowel that affects the lining of the digestive tract.
He grew up just outside of London, and watching football was an important part of Paul’s weekend. In 1978, when he was seven years of age, he recalls watching Tottenham Hotspur play Liverpool on the TV. Even though the Spurs lost by a mighty 7-0 that day, there was something about the team that drew him in, and he’s been a loyal supporter ever since.
When Paul started having a family, he and his Australian-born partner decided to emigrate to Australia from the UK in 2002 to raise their children.
In May 2015, an ulcer which had formed from previous surgeries on Paul’s stomach lining perforated, allowing gastric juices to leak into his abdominal cavity. With the highly acidic fluid digesting his organs, Paul was critically unwell. In addition to multiorgan failure, a major artery was haemorrhaging. Paul was initially treated at his local hospitals on the central coast of NSW, but as his condition was rapidly declining, he was urgently flown to Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) for life-saving medical treatment.
Paul refers to it as a perfect storm of the right people and the right support he received all at the right time.
“I was on life-support for a few weeks and in the intensive care unit (ICU) of Royal North Shore Hospital for a month. Initially I was in hospital for five months solid and had about 100 hours of abdominal surgery,” said Paul.
As he was in ICU during the whole of Spurs’ four-day football friendly tour in Sydney in May 2015, he was unable to be part of the crowd at their game against Sydney Football Club. However, his two youngest children were given a wonderful opportunity to be in the Spurs mascot group and run onto the field with the team.
“At the time I was intubated and sedated, but my wife Jacinta wanted to bring a TV into my room to watch the kids. She pulled out a plug on the wall to connect the TV and my life support machine started screaming – she’d unplugged my life support machine! Thankfully it had back up, so I was all good!” laughs Paul.
After he was discharged, he was reliant on a total parenteral nutrition (TPN) bag which provides your body with nutrients while bypassing the gastrointestinal tract for 12 months.
A year after his hospitalisation, the Spurs visited Australia for the International Champions Cup, and Paul was able to travel to Melbourne to watch them play. “It felt like it was a milestone in my recovery, and it was great to be part of it,” he said.
Paul was in and out of RNSH for three years with over a dozen admissions. Whenever he knew his condition was becoming serious, rather than presenting at his local hospital, he would drive from the Central Coast to RNSH’s emergency department and notify them he was on his way.
He credits the incredible staff who supported his wife and family in addition to his amazing surgical team led by Professor Anubhav Mittal at RNSH for saving his life. His TPN nurse practitioner Kath has been a constant source of knowledge and support over the years, and always willing to give her time. Even though he is no longer an outpatient, he still stays in touch and visits Ward 8B whenever he’s in Sydney where he is warmly welcomed.
“It’s nice for me to see them, but for them to see how well I’m doing,” said Paul.
It took Paul an additional three years to fully recover, and while it’s been eight years since he was first admitted, he still gets emotional talking about his near-death experience. However, he says that talking about it helps take the power away from it.
He admits that his mental health suffered and there would probably be one or two times that he just didn’t feel he had the mental strength to cope if he had a setback in his recovery.
“I did see some mental health practitioners and they helped me,” said Paul. “They arranged for me to have an assessment with a psychologist. I’ve come to terms with it all now and realise my time just wasn’t up.”
His staunch support for Tottenham Hotspur hasn’t waived. He has since become the President of OzSpurs, the official supporters’ club in Australia and is incredibly proud of the growth of the club. He enjoys the loyalty and sense of belonging it brings to those who, like him, are passionate about Tottenham Hotspur.
“I’m fortunate that OzSpurs gives me a little bit of the community feeling back,” said Paul. “That moment of being with people who think and feel the same as I do.”
When Tottenham Hotspur visited Perth for the Asia-Pacific Tour in July 2023, Paul was given an opportunity to raise funds and give back to the RNSH for the high level of care he received. He was able to access merchandise and tickets to exclusive open training and signing sessions which raised an incredible $4,500 towards ICU at RNSH.
Paul is an example of Tottenham Hotspur’s motto “To dare is to do” and doesn’t let his illness stop his lifestyle and he enjoys playing football for his local club. His Crohn’s Disease is currently managed with Infliximab, an immunosuppressant drug which he receives via an injection pen every two weeks.
Looking back on his experience and how close he came to losing his life, Paul is philosophical. Besides saying it helps to have a sense of humour he proudly says, “It made me the person I am today, and I like that person.”
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