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Part 2 of 2: Back from the Brink: My Battle With Brain Surgery


Is this the end? Maybe I'm going to die. Here. Now'.


I thought as I lay still, silently still, in a hospital bed. I'd just been told that I'd need brain surgery and that the chances of death in this procedure were 100/1. The football fan in me immediately thought 'Wait, I'm 50 times more likely to die here than Leicester were to win the Premier League. AND LEICESTER WON THE PREMIER League!


Worry. A brief goodbye to my parents and off to the operating theatre I go.


Just a few days earlier, I'd written Part 1 - The Journey So Far. I'd just cycled to Cardiff and signed up over 50 new rugby supporters (shout out if you're one of them) to the Play Away, Stay Away community. We now had over 200 members and with the Six Nations just around the corner, everything was going well. Yet here I was, wondering if I'd ever be able to cycle again. To walk again. To live again.


To say that this took me by surprise is a bit of an understatement. As most (unless you're that girl I drunkenly gave my business card to a few weeks back) people who know me would say, I'm pretty fit (at least in an athletic way). I was, in fact, on my way to play football, as I do every Saturday, when I noticed something wasn't quite right. My co-ordination on my left hand side was well off (even more than normal, my teammates might say!) and I was struggling to focus. A few hours later, I stumbled my way to my local A&E and spent that night in Resus and was then transferred to Royal London, where they have a special neurological ward.





“Mr Bollard, we've discovered a pool of blood in your brain, we just don't know what's caused it. We'll have to send you down for further scans”.


Immediate shock. Concern. What ifs?


The diagnosis? Apparently I had what's called an arteriovenous malformation (AVM for short) in my brain which had led to an aneurysm forming on one of my veins.

If, like me, you barely know the difference between an artery and a vein, it's essentially an amalgamation of these two without the normal capillaries to act as the body's natural filters. All of a sudden, I sound like I know what I'm talking about. I don't.


Luckily, some other bloke did. Whilst I'd followed the entrepreneurial road and set up Play Away, Stay Away, he'd gone and got a proper job and spent a fair few years studying these things. For my PASA, he had AVM. Where I have community members, he has patients. His trendy co-working office in East London is an operating theatre in the Royal. And here I was, just another patient to him, albeit about 50 years younger than his average. Completely at his mercy.


Confusion. Disorientation. What's this tube doing in my bloody throat?


Long story short, I survived the operation (SURPRISE) and woke to the above bewilderment. They'd managed to partially embolise the affected area by using a catheter inserted through my groin. Yes, my groin on my leg. Don't ask how. I'll have to have another operation in several weeks time, hopefully to cure it for good but in the meantime, I've been recommended to rest up, take six weeks off work (easier said than done) and apparently start a new career on Football Manager.


In a poetic kind of way, all this makes for a very appropriate Part 2 of my Play Away, Stay Away 2019/20 blog. The plan was that this latter part would spell out my plans, vision and strategy for 2020. How I would grow member numbers. Targeting the 6 Nations. Increasing awareness. Managing more host exchanges.


Yet, in business, as in life, we just simply don't know what's around the corner and quite literally, how we'll wake up one morning. If we'll wake up one morning. From the human body to start-up life and indeed, life in general, there are just so many variables and possibilities that would be previously unforeseeable, it would be impractical to make a plan for every possible outcome. Instead, you just have to roll with the punches play the cards that you're dealt and make the best of any situation, no matter how unlikely... Even if it's a 5,000/1 shot!

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