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Injury nightmare left Cambridge Rugby Club hooker Mike Mayhew in battle to save his leg




Mike Mayhew, centre, has had a traumatic injury battle. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mike Mayhew, centre, has had a traumatic injury battle. Picture: Keith Heppell

Mike Mayhew has revealed the details behind the injury nightmare that led to five operations in 16 days to save his leg.

The 33-year-old Cambridge Rugby Club hooker has spoken exclusively to the Cambridge Independent about how limping off in the win over Sale FC on February 8 ended dramatically.

Mayhew was subbed off after a blow to the quad, and ended up with a prolonged stay in hospital with acute compartment syndrome and the possibility of skin grafts and, in the worst case scenario, amputation.

With haematomas part and parcel of rugby union, Mayhew, a key figure at Volac Park since joining in the summer, has developed a high pain threshold down the years.

But, having made his way across the pitch to the physio’s table, he was still in severe discomfort as he contemplated getting home.

“Jake (McCloud, the Cambridge forward) and his partner, Gracie, saw me sitting down with my crutches in a lot of pain, and offered to take me home,” said Mayhew.

“You usually raise a haematoma to let the blood go away, but it was just not right. I was in agony. I rang up my dad, who is a sports medicine doctor high up in New Zealand.

“He said ‘it could be a lot worse than you think, go to the hospital now’. George (Bretag-Norris, Cambridge’s captain) very kindly picked me up and took me to A&E.”

Mayhew was given morphine to ease the pain, and underwent the first operation, a discectomy, to release the tension and blood in the quad from the knee to the hip.

“I had basically thought that would be it really,” said Mayhew, “but that definitely wasn’t it.”

After a second operation, he woke up one morning in agonising pain.

“They raced me to theatre for an urgent surgery which involved removing over a litre of haematomas which they hadn’t noticed in the operation previously. It was a huge relief and a big moment,” he said, but more operations were required.

“Luckily, Dr Chou who did the third operation ended up doing the fifth.

“They thought I was going to have to have a skin graft to close the wound because the swelling was still so great.

“It wasn’t ideal as it would have kept me in hospital even longer, but Dr Chou managed to remove another 250ml of haematomas, meaning he could close the wound without a skin graft. I was hugely grateful as he did wonders.”

Itwas only on being released from hospital and speaking to his family in New Zealand that Mayhew was able to fully understand the severity of his injury.

“I knew it was quite bad, but I didn’t know quite how serious,” he said.

“My dad didn’t want to tell me. He was a doctor for the All Blacks and knows a lot of people in that field.

“I had a long chat with my mum a few days ago and asked ‘how worried was dad about my leg? Was it that bad?’. She said he was very worried about it, eight or nine out of 10 in terms of saving my limb. I had no idea.

“My partner’s mum is a nurse and also knew it was a limb-threatening injury, but kept it quiet.

“I think a lot of people now still don’t realise how bad it was.

“It was a hugely traumatic event, and I personally hadn’t heard of compartment syndrome.”

Mayhew is extremely grateful for all of the support, including from his partner Imogen, the Rugby Players’ Association and New Zealand RPA, and team-mates old and new, which has seen friends visit from Yorkshire Carnegie and London Irish.

He singled out Ben Adams, Fin Creighton and Matt Hema for their frequent visits and helping where they could, and added: “A special thank you to Andrew Henderson for going above and beyond bringing in his partner Victoria’s delicious meals and keeping my spirits high.”

Mayhew is due to launch a personal training business on March 14, with details to be found on his Instagram page at @Branchie87, but is currently doing contract construction work and so the injury has had knock-on effects.

“It’s been a tough position being on a zero-hour contract and losing income not playing but, at the end of the day, the main thing is your health,” he said.

“I’m hoping I make a full recovery, and I certainly haven’t lost the drive to get myself in the position to play next year. At the moment, I’m looking after my leg and getting that back to full health which is the key.

“They reckon it is normally three to four months for full recovery, so by the start of next season I should be fully ready and firing.”

Mayhew added: “I’m definitely one not to lie around. I went to the gym for the first time on Sunday to do upper body work – I’m desperate to get myself in the best shape I can for next year.”



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