‘I feel extremely lucky to be alive today’

Sam Owen, 28, who had his life saved by brain surgery after being hit in the head by a hockey ball pictured at his Staining, Blackpool, home
Sam Owen, 28, who had his life saved by brain surgery after being hit in the head by a hockey ball pictured at his Staining, Blackpool, home
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A hockey match almost killed a Blackpool sportsman after it led to a massive bleed on his brain.

When a hockey ball struck Sam Owen on the side of his head with force, he felt intense pain and subbed himself off the pitch.

However, although his ear was bleeding, he was fully conscious and around 10 minutes later at half-time he was chatting to his team mates and they even asked him if he wanted to go back on for the second half.

But Sam declined as he felt sickly and had a headache and the death of cricketer Phillip Hughes after being hit in the head by a cricket ball only days earlier was playing on his mind.

Sam, 28, who lives in Staining, admits that it was Phil Hughes’ death that made him seek medical advice when he did as ordinarily he might have been tempted to go home and sleep it off.

But specialists at Royal Preston Hospital who carried out emergency brain surgery to remove the blood clot and stem the bleeding say if Sam had gone to bed with his injuries, he would never have woken up.

Sam was captaining Blackpool Hockey Club’s second team in a match against Bolton at Stanley Park in November 2014 when the incident happened.

Sam, also a keen cricketer, played hockey during the winter months and his team were defending a penalty corner when the ball struck him.

Sam explains: “It was a short corner.

“We were trying to defend a penalty corner and I was trying to intercept the ball to stop them shooting.

“I got within a metre-and-a-half of the ball and the player struck the ball and it hit me straight on the left hand side of my head.

“It hit me with some force and it really hurt and I dropped my stick.

“I subbed myself off and my ear was bleeding.

“One of the lad’s girlfriends who was a trainee nurse was watching and she kept my wound compressed and gave me a painkiller and kept me calm.

“After that, I thought I was OK and was chatting to my friends at half time.

“But when they asked if I wanted to go back on, I told them that I didn’t feel right.

“Soon afterwards, I began feeling worse and felt woozy and in a lot of pain.”

Sam went to Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s A&E with his friend and he deteriorated rapidly.

Sam recalls: “It felt like the left side of my face was dropping and it felt swollen and my eye was closed.

“I was in a lot of pain and it was getting worse.”

A CT scan was carried out revealing Sam had a massive bleed on his brain so he was immediately sedated and rushed to Royal Preston Hospital where specialist brain surgery is performed.

Doctors had alerted Manchester and Liverpool hospitals just in case Preston didn’t have room to admit Sam, but he luckily managed to get the last bed.

Sam was taken straight to the operating theatre where a two-and-a-half hour operation was carried out to remove the blood clot and stop the bleeding.

When Sam came round from his induced coma, he discovered his hair had been shaved and when he touched his head, he could feel metal and staples.

Sam, who is an office manager at his dad’s firm Macdale Windows on Mowbray Drive, says: “I had a craniotomy and they peeled the skin and flesh back to make a skull flap and stop the bleeding and remove the clot.

“They then put my skull back together and I had around 29 staples in my head.

“It was the same operation that Michael Schumacher had after his skiing accident.

“However, he wasn’t as lucky as me as he didn’t get seen to as quickly as he was in the middle of nowhere.”

Sam recovered well but being an active person, he found it difficult at first being told to take things easy.

Sam, who has played cricket for Blackpool for about 17 years and is captain of the Second XI as well as coaching the junior team, explains: “I was used to always being on the go and I wanted to keep fulfilling my responsibilities.

“It was frustrating at first as I wasn’t allowed to drive.

“I was used to going to the gym five times a week and I coached children in cricket a lot of evenings and weekends.

“I just tried to get on with things as best I could and slowly built my fitness back up.”

Sam has now made an amazing recovery and is back to full strength.

He has played a full season of cricket this year and the under 17s team he coaches won the Palace Shield for the fifth year running.

Sam says that since his injury and surgery, he gets startled very easily.

He describes: “Even if I know something is coming, it will still make me jump.

“For example, if I see an ambulance, I will still jump when the sirens go off.

“When I play cricket, I feel that maybe my reactions in terms of fielding on the left hand side weren’t as sharp.

“But apart from that, I have been doing really well.”

Sam says he hasn’t given his injury too much thought all year, but he found the one year anniversary tricky to come to terms with as he suddenly realised the enormity of coming so close to death.

Sam says: “The one year anniversary of the accident hit me hard as it brought it all flooding back and made me realise how near death I actually came.

“I felt very emotional and upset and extremely 
lucky.

“People are very quick to knock the NHS and they have had a lot of stick this year.

“But if the NHS hadn’t done such a fantastic job, I wouldn’t be here today.

“I am so grateful to Mr Golash and his team for saving my life.

“It is fantastic that we have people like this making such a difference to people’s lives.

“My accident has changed my philosophy in life and I appreciate things more and take my time.

“I want to urge people to take massive care when playing hockey and cricket and to not take a risk and wear headgear.

“I have stopped playing hockey since the injury as the thought of it makes me feel sick.

“However, it hasn’t put me off cricket which is my real game.”