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Paralysed during tag rugby | Philip Caldwell on hope during hardship

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

12:04 25 Nov 2020

On rare occasions, there are stories that just stop you in your tracks, like this one from Philip Caldwell on this morning's OTB AM.

While playing tag rugby in Dublin in July of this year, Philip cracked his spinal cord which left him with temporary paralysis from the neck down.

'The Philip Caldwell Trust' has been established to raise funds for his recovery, including medical expenses and home adaptations. They are organising the 'Fill the Aviva for Philly' campaign - you can donate just €10 here.

Philip Caldwell

Naturally, the emotions of the day are still raw for Philip, and he told OTB AM the story of the day that changed his life.

"I was the last person to pick up the tags, ran out like anybody would, got the ball in my hands, made a few jinks as I often do and crossed over to score the try and just hit the fence.

"I was sort of sprawled out and had a gash on my head from hitting the fence and I vividly remember everybody looking around me. They were worried about the gash on my head because it was pumping blood.

"I knew straight away 'nah, this isn't good.' Instantly, I fell back onto my back and went to ground. I just couldn't feel my legs.

"That was a bit of a shock. I remember just calling out to an old rugby mate of mine Andy Tally, giving a plug out - I remember calling for him because I just needed to see a face as it was such a shock.

"Lansdowne were playing the Royal College of Surgeons that day - there were people on site within seconds. They were making sure that I was in the right position.

"I was very coherent for the whole lot of it. They made sure they got the ambulance and I was rushed off to the Mater Hospital, which is the number one hospital for spinal injuries. Basically, I couldn't have had better care from literally second one."

Battle

"The hardest thing about this is they can't tell you 'Philip, if you follow A, B, C and D'.

"You know that the more that you put in, the more potential you are going to get out. The hardest thing is the not knowing; they can't tell you what is going to come back.

"I get these tiny, incremental gains - these small things that started off in the Mater. It was just twitches in my finger, I had an unbelievable [occupational therapist] who came in and worked an hour with me every single day.

"There were small things coming back, like a small twitch in my finger. All of these incremental things.

"Parts of it have been quite beautiful. If I took everything away from you and just slowly drip-fed you things back, it is amazing how appreciative you become.

"It is going to be a long road - it is a two year fight. They say that you can continue to get gains in the spinal cord for up to two years, it is just about getting in that right mindset."

Perspective

"Everybody is hurting at the moment. Everybody can relate to feeling depressed and a little bit down at this time. It is about not dwelling on it.

"I allow myself to have bad days. That is something I am learning- I'm allowed to have a bad day. It is about how you deal with that.

"The sun comes up the following day and you just have to power on. Everybody is in that same situation with COVID since we have gone to Level 5, we're all thinking 'Is this ever going to end?'

"The big word I would say in this interview is 'perspective'. You can change anything with a good perspective."

After three months in the care of the Spinal Ward Unit in the Mater Hospital, Philip is continuing his slow but steady recovery journey in the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Dun Laoghaire.

Everyone at OTB Sports wishes Philly the best for his recovery and for an amazing response to 'Fill the Aviva 4 Philly'.

Download the brand new OTB Sports App in the Play Store & App Store right now! We've got you covered!

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Leinster Philip Caldwell Rugby Tag Rugby

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