Ian Paterson was giving it his all on the field. But that’s the way he liked it. Leaving it all on the park is how Ian plays and this game was no different at all. Then came the concussion. What happened next has become a story of true inspiration.
You’ve had quite a year filled with ups and downs. It all started on the rugby field. Can you tell us what happened?
I was playing at the Hermanus rugby tournament and after playing in my second game I left the field with concussion. My mom took me back to Cape Town for a CT scan. The scan revealed a tumour and a cyst which was causing huge pressure on my brain. I underwent emergency surgery on Friday night of the Easter weekend to release the pressure. I then had the tumour and cyst removed on the Tuesday after the long weekend by the Neuro surgeon and his team. I recovered well, gained 17kg’s and felt fantastic. But when we went for my 3-month check-up scan, we found that the tumour had regrown to its original size. So back into surgery I went in July for an 8-hour op to remove the tumour again, this time aggressively. I bounced back quickly and within two weeks, was back at school and in the gym.
A month later I suffered a third setback, picking up Meningitis. This was caused by brain fluid that leaked between my skull and my skin. I became very ill and was placed in ICU for 10 days.
What have been your toughest moments over the past year?
My cricket and rugby pre-season at the start of 2016 was when it really started kicking in. I felt terrible – dizziness, tired, loss of appetite and major weight loss. I’m a person who loves doing things well. With cricket, I became very dizzy, very quickly. I wasn’t able to see the ball properly. I opened the batting and would get out incredibly quickly, scoring about 4 ducks out of 6 games. I began to take my frustrations out on my coach and parents. With rugby came a lot of fitness work and the doctor says that was probably the worst thing I could have done. Again, I experienced dizziness and extreme tiredness. I would get home and sleep 3 hours after nearly every practice. I lost weight and didn’t want to eat. But worst of all, was how I was being affected mentally.
How did you cope with sport at all – it sounds pretty hectic.
I would ask my mom for big bottles of water so that I could keep hydrated. I thought it would help. It didn’t. I would go to physio and then to extra cricket lessons. I would try to compensate by moving as little as possible when batting to help with the dizziness. I remember a rugby fitness session with one of our coaches who always pushes us hard. We had to run 10 x 400meters, each faster than the last. After running all 10 with a group of 20 guys, he told me to run 2 more alone because I wasn’t working hard enough. I ran them, but finished weak and crying in front of everyone. I can’t begin to explain the embarrassment. I was in a vicious circle of frustration.
How have your family helped?
They have been my biggest supporters, always making me feel positive with a ‘never give up’ attitude! My mom stayed with me every single day that she could while I was in hospital. The biggest joy for me was lying in ICU every morning waiting for my mom to arrive. My dad, was supporting me externally like crazy! On rugby days he would make videos of all my mates at SACS, wishing me well. It made me feel part of everything and warm and happy inside. He’d even make home videos every night for me to watch. I would watch them, laughing and smiling before falling asleep.
Team mates and school friends have a pretty big influence on your life. How have they been over the past year?
As soon as I had undergone my first operation in April, I remember waking up at around 11.00pm and seeing my team mate Mikhail Moosa next to my bed. That’s not just what you call a teammate, it’s what you call a real friend. My best friends I could phone whenever I was bored or see them most visiting hours. There support absolutely mind-blowing. I remember having about 40 people in my room during one visiting hour. I shared my ward with 2 other patients, so we had to chase my mates out after a while. But seriously, it’s that level of support that kept me strong and positive because at the end of the day, they were in it with me – I wasn’t alone.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Fabrice Nahimana. We’re very close friends. What he and his brothers have been through as children is really, really tough. He’s a strong Christian and a great inspiration. He is always so positive, level headed and thinks clear in every situation life throws at him.
Which schoolboy rugby player do you enjoy watching the most?
Lance Steytler is someone I want to be like one day – an explosive, hard runner who puts in the big hits.
Which schoolboy rugby player do you think leads by example?
Lucky Dlepu. He always prays in front of everyone before every rugby game, showing true faith anywhere – and he’s an awesome player!
Do you have any plans to play rugby again? If not, do you want to contribute to rugby in any way?
Yes! But the question is when? If all goes really well, I would love to start sometime next year. If I am not able to play again, I will most definitely get involved in rugby refereeing like my brother. Oh, and I’ll play touch rugby.
We’d like to ask you about some of the things you really enjoy in life.
What’s your favourite food?
Who would you like to grow up to be like and why?
Pier Spies. Professional rugby player; brings faith into the end of each game and prays together with the opposition.
Do you have a favourite restaurant?
Forries. Very close to where we live and has a vibe which I enjoy – and excellent pizzas.
Do you have a quotation that you love?
‘’God can make the very worst things that ever happened in your life to work for the best, if you have faith.’’
Jeremiah 29:11 also carried me through this difficult year:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
If you could throw rotten tomatoes at anyone or anything what would it be?
At the nurses that came 3 times a day while I was in hospital to take blood samples – ha, ha!
You’ve been an absolute inspiration and hero to so many people over the past year. Thanks for your time bud! You rock!