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11 July 2011

A naughty thing called life

by Papa Spyk

Papa SpykI was born in Belgium on the 28th of June 1963 and grew up in Belgium, South Africa, Canada, Florida, Chile and I am now living in Kent, England.

I played Professional Rugby in South Africa for most of my life and after retiring I was offered a lucrative modeling contract to model all over the world. I also acted and did stunt work on a few Hollywood films over the next ten years.

I then moved to Santiago, Chile to be near my beautiful sister, Nathalie, who I missed dearly. I signed up with the top modeling agency and started modeling in South America and then I got a role on a TV show (as the bad guy of course) where I met the lead actress, fell in love and got married. Three months later...

On July 13th 1997, I was cooking dinner in our house, when suddenly it felt as if someone had just stabbed me through the heart with a huge knife.

I had never felt such pain before and collapsed on the kitchen floor. I called for my wife who came running into the kitchen and I told her to call an ambulance, as I thought I was having a heart attack. She thought I was kidding and went back to bed.

Three hours later she woke up, panicking because I was not in bed next to her, and ran into the kitchen and found me ice cold with no pulse on the floor. She thought I was dead. She finally called the police saying "My husband has just died on my kitchen floor". They came with an ambulance and they rushed me to hospital.

At the hospital they discovered that I'd suffered a severe heart attack and rushed me into surgery. They opened me up, taking out my ribcage, in which I still have the staples. They saw that my aorta had exploded in half and had split from my heart all the way down to my legs. The Doctors told my parents that they had to amputate both my legs because they had died due to the loss of blood flow to them. The reason that all this happened to me, was that I used steroids throughout my rugby career and it caused my blood pressure to go through the roof until my heart basically exploded. The steroids along with the recreational drugs, such as cocaine used in the entertainment industry, caused a lethal cocktail, hence my heart attack.

The doctors told my parents if I ever exercised again, I could die on the spot.

When they said they wanted to amputate my legs, my Dad responded by saying "If you do that, you might as well pull the plug.", as I had been a pro-athlete my entire life and would not cope with losing my legs; which was so very true.

So, the surgeons went to work, they cut my legs in eight places and put a by-pass from my right leg to my left leg and flushed the blood through untill my right leg almost came back to life, but my left leg remained paralyzed. I was told I would never walk again. Every organ in my body had apparently died and I went through dialysis every day for two months.

About a week later I took a turn for the worse and they had to re-operate on my heart again. Apparently the sutures they had put in my aorta were coming apart. They ended up taking out my aorta and replacing it with a plastic one. At this point, they told my parents I would never be allowed to exercise ever again as I now have a plastic aorta. If I exercised, my heart would expand and where the aorta joins my heart, would burst and I would die on the spot. Great to know!!!

I was in a coma for a month and twice the doctors told my wife, parents and sister to say goodbye to me because in less than ten minutes I would be dead. They called in a priest. Can you imagine what they went through? Not to mention me. Somehow, by some miracle, I survived how or why to this day I have no idea and neither do the doctors. They thought I was a miracle, because apparently only 1% of the people that have an aortic dissection survive and that's with half the severity of mine.

I personally think that I survived because I was so fit and strong before having the heart attack. I also think, God had other plans for me and for that you will have to wait and find out what they are . . .

During my two months in intensive care on total life support systems of all kinds, I was unconscious in a coma for the first month. Coming out of my coma the first thing I remember was seeing my Father holding my hand with tears in his eyes, and I asked him, "Why are you crying?" to which he replied, "We thought we had lost you." I had never seen my father cry. I then asked where my Wife was and he said, "She's gone. We got a knock on our hotel door, opened the door and there was no-one there. Just a bag and a note saying don't ever try and contact me again". Nice!!!

I have never seen her again to this day.

I also remember seeing some of my friends coming in and out of my room paying their respects, etc. Apparently there were over 100 to 200 people waiting to see me every single day. As I have an extremely rare blood type, especially in South America, type O- negative they had to appeal on the radio and TV for foreigners to come and give blood or I would die. Amazingly enough, plenty did and I thank each and every one of you for saving my life.

The taxi drivers in Santiago also got together and to each of their fares they gave out a flier asking for them to give blood and ‘Save Spyk'. All of the bars, restaurants and clubs did the same. I have now been told that the doctors told my wife that if I did ever come out of my coma that I would be brain dead, never father a child and I'd be a paraplegic for the rest of my life. She obviously could not handle that, and so left me there in hospital on my own. Well, not completely on my own because I had both my parents there, and my so special Sister who gave up her family, to be by my side every second that I was in that hospital.

In 8 weeks I went from weighing 115kg of muscle to 49kg of skin and bones.

I had no money to pay the hospital bill, so they let me go, with me promising to pay it one day. One of my reasons for writing this book is to pay them back with the proceeds from this story. My wife having left me high and dry so to speak whilst I was still in a coma, my parents had no choice but to fly me back to Europe. I was to spend the next two years in bed recuperating with 24 hour nursing, which was also not a cheap option but had to be done.

For this, I thank you mon Papa et ma Maman. I was taken by ambulance to the airport and transported to the plane. They put my mother and I in first class, so we would have more room. The sad thing about that, is that was the only time I have had the opportunity to fly first class, and can't even remember it at all.

My father had flown back on his own, to Belgium, where they were living at the time. The ambulance took us to our home in the country, a beautiful farmhouse, in which I spent the next two years in bed. T he nursing was probably the worst part of my recuperation, not being able to move a bone in my body, as I was way too weak.

I actually went from weighing 115kgs of solid muscle to 49kgs of skin and bones in just eight weeks. I was so weak I was unable to feed myself, or get up and go to the toilet. The worst thing was that I had to be fed and bathed every day by perfect strangers. I lay on my back in a bed that my parents had set up in their TV room, staring at the ceiling for over two years.

It took me two and a half years of the most painful therapy to learn to walk again.

I used to lie there and count every brick on the walls and tiles on the ceiling just to hide the pain. I have also become extremely superstitious with life in general, because I layed in bed for two years without moving a bone in my body after being told I would never walk again or live a normal life.

One morning I woke up and told myself that I would teach myself to walk again. My parents organized a physiotherapist that would help me achieve this goal. It took me two and a half years of 4 hours a day of the most painful therapy you can imagine, to learn to walk again, but I did it. I mean just to lift myself up was a task and a half and to take one step at a time was bad too.

People have no idea how lucky they are to have full use of their limbs and be able to walk at any time they chose. They take walking for granted. I kept praying every waking second, that I would walk again one day, meet the girl of my dreams and get married again and the most important thing was that I have always wanted a child of my own.

Every second of every waking day over the past eight years, I have told myself that I would achieve this. If I went through even an hour of not telling myself all of this I got so worried my life was over. So to this day, I do just that, tell myself all of this. Eight years on, I met a girl on an internet dating site. She fell pregnant, we got married and I am now an extremely proud father of the most beautiful baby girl, called ‘Angelyna' my very own little Angel.

Until I held my own flesh and blood in my hands I had never really lived.

Every night since her birth, I have been up all night changing nappies and wiping dirty bottoms. For me this was a true miracle. I had been told that I would find it very difficult to father a child, due to the entire trauma I had gone through, because of the abuse I put on my body throughout my life.

I had always thought that I had done everything in life, but until I held my own flesh and blood in my hands, I had never really lived, and now I felt truly alive. An experience in itself!

I took months off work as my so called 'wife' went back to work a few days after giving birth. I spent every waking moment with Angelyna, bonding with her and holding her tight. So this is what life is all about. However, I discovered that my wife had had an affair with the builder doing an extension on our house. I left her. She stopped me from seeing my daughter Angelyna for nine months, which absolutely crucified me. We were involved in the worst ever divorce and custody battle. I won, and got my Angelyna back, but it was the toughest nine months of my life without her.

In May 2009 my Aorta split in half again and I had to have open heart surgery again. 13 hours worth. I underwent a major heart operation where they replaced my entire aorta, (3ft worth). I was told I'd have 1 in 10 chance of surviving the operation. If I did, I would be good as new and I would actually feel 25 again. Quite amazing,....ain't life grand!

I had no choice but to go through it again, because Angelyna needs her Papa.

I thank God I survived and had been feeling absolutely amazing of late. However, Christmas Eve 2009, while on holiday in Florida, I suffered a major seizure where part of the heart valve that connects to my heart, broke off and blocked the blood flow to my brain. I was rushed to hospital where I was told I'd have to have open heart surgery again in February 2010, here in London. Since then, I have had more surgery to fix my ribcage which has totally come apart after being cut in half, three times. I also have a hernia which I've developed in my stomach, but they are saying it's too dangerous to operate on because of all the trauma I've been through.

I have had no choice but to go through all this again as Angelyna needs her Papa. Doctors have said though, that if I come out of this operation alive I will be stronger than ever and will basically be bionic. Well, as far as my heart is concerned. They said my heart will be indestructible, so that is all good news. I am just not looking forward to another year of recovery and immense pain. I live in faith that all will be ok and I'll be able to live a normal life again soon.

If I can make a difference to one person's life, I will be one happy man.

The moral of the story is, I never ever did anything in my past out of malice to anyone, or anything, but I have been extremely irresponsible and reckless to myself.

I loved living on the edge. It made me feel alive. My heart and intentions had always been good. As my closest friend says "If you have a good heart, it all works out for the best", though it may take a while. Having been so damn close to death has made me so aware of everything around me. I appreciate all of this and I will never as long as I live, take anything or anyone for granted.

Its amazing how people take such things as walking for granted, and for me, almost having both my legs amputated, made me realize this. There obviously is a God, looking out for us. When you come from a good family, like I do you can be the badest guy in town, do the craziest, stupidest, most dangerous things and still come out smiling.

I feel this will make a very inspiring story and hopefully help many who have given up on life and if I can make a difference to one person's life, I will be one happy man.

Me, Naas Botha & Alan James - Dallas HarlequinsMe in a comaOrlando Rugby Club, 1986Papa Spyk

(click the pictures for larger versions)

Papa SpykPapa SpykPapa Spyk

(click the pictures for larger versions)


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