Redelinghuys: broken neck to new man
It was the scariest moment of his life, but Springbok prop Julian Redelinghuys did the only thing he could do – he prayed.
Redelinghuys now sits halfway on the long road to recovery from a broken neck, a freak injury which happened in last year’s Currie Cup semifinal against the Toyota Cheetahs. He hopes to get back onto the rugby field again.
But the road is long, and Redelinghuys’s path is steeped with obstacles, especially as this isn’t his first neck injury. Since the incident, things have changed dramatically in his life with the birth of his daughter.
Now, in this exclusive video, Redelinghuys talks to Supersport.com about the injury, the turmoil he went through, how his faith kept him going and what the future holds. He and his wife Sumari open up about those moments when he was in the hospital, when he never knew if he could walk again.
Redelinghuys also recounts the moment he knew something was wrong on the field.
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“I can still remember it vividly. I remember catching the ball and seeing the defence come up. I just ducked my head and I think his shoulder hit my neck, and my neck twisted funny, into a range it didn’t want to go to. Probably because of the previous fusion, which limits the range somewhat, but anyway, my neck went. I remember falling on the floor and my whole body was pins and needles,” he explained.
“At first I was hoping it was concussion or something, serious but not that serious. Then I started hearing people speak and I could understand them. From a previous concussion, I remember being confused and in this moment I wasn’t confused at all. I thought maybe it was something else.
"I tried to move my arms and legs, I remember I could move but my left hand couldn’t close. I couldn’t move my left leg at all, I couldn’t move my knee and my toes in my boot. Then I got a fright, and I just started praying. I thought this isn’t going to happen. I was speaking loudly and openly, asking God to help me through this because it wasn’t a great feeling. I don’t want to be paralysed.
"It was scary, when I couldn’t move my feet, my toes or close my hand, it was very scary. I just remember then just starting to pray. Luckily, the whole medical team that side did everything perfectly. We know a guy who played club rugby, and I’m not saying that medical team did anything wrong, but he had an injury similar to mine. But he died a couple of days later.
"I’m not saying that medical team didn’t do things right, but the medical team that looked after me made my chances of not being paralysed so much better. They told me afterwards it was like a millimetre or something - that more movement would have paralysed me. A big shout needs to go out to them for keeping me stabilised and in the hospital as well, the doctors did a great job. Everything worked out perfectly and I’m grateful, especially because I can now walk and I can hold my daughter.
“I was in a lot of pain. What helps is the medication. I can just remember a massive pain going down my arm. I told my wife and dad that it felt like a fire, like someone was burning me on the inside. It was probably the nerves. I couldn’t walk, had to lie still. When I got into the ambulance, the toes started moving, so I felt better but I couldn’t stand up and walk yet.
"I didn’t know if there would be complications. The doctors were clear from the start. They said they don’t know what will happen, they hoped the traction would pull things back in place, and would make things less complicated. There was a lot of uncertainty.
“I remember on the Monday when the physio came in and they wanted me to stand up and walk. I remember everyone’s eyes were in anticipation, when I stood up and could walk. My arm wasn’t working then, but I could stand up and walk. I was so grateful, and especially my family were grateful. Just to be able to walk. That was the one thing I was scared of. How will I play with my daughter if I don’t have legs, sitting in a wheelchair? Thankfully I was very grateful.”
In the video Julian talks about his future, and whether he will be able to return to the field. He faces up to the question he never wanted to have answered – whether he will play rugby again.
And Sumari talks about the moment their future changed in an instant, and what she went through in the process.