Gareth Duncan - MyPlayers.co.za
Johannesburg - Springbok and Lions tighthead prop Julian Redelinghuys says doctors had initial fears that he would never walk again.
Redelinghuys has been one of the standout performers in South African rugby in recent seasons. He has excelled for the Lions during Super Rugby and the Currie Cup, which saw him play his way into the Springbok squad. After making his Test debut in 2014, the 27-year-old has been building a career full of promise.
However, nightmare struck when he suffered a neck fracture during the Lions’ Currie Cup semi-final against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last month.
Redelinghuys said he’s experienced bad injuries in the past, but never felt anything like that incident before.
“I remember laying on the field and having this weird feeling. It felt like ‘pins and needles’, with a bad burning sensation around my nerves. I couldn’t feel anything on the left side of my body too,” Redelinghuys told MyPlayers.
“It was definitely a scary few days that followed. After a few medical scans, doctors feared that I would never walk again. They said they’ve seen similar injuries and scans before and many times those victims ended up being paralysed. There were concerns that I’d be paralysed from the waist down.”
They say you can’t keep a good man down, and Redelinghuys proved this when he surprised doctors after getting back on to his feet a few days after successful surgery.
“There was so much relief when I started walking again,” said Redelinghuys. “My arm movements are improving and I’m sleeping a lot better these days.
“Personally, I was just relieved to be up and about. My wife and I are expecting our first little one in February. I couldn’t stop thinking about not being able to pick her up properly or not being able to run around with her when she starts walking. I’m blessed to be back on my feet again.”
At this time, doctors have confirmed that Redelinghuys is en route to a full recovery. However, it is still unknown when the front-rower will be able to return to rugby.
“I’m working hard to get back to full fitness. I’ve already started with a bit of training,” said Redelinghuys. “However, we’ll just have to monitor my progress during rehab. My recovery could take anything between six weeks to nine months… it depends on how my body reacts to the treatment. So it’s a waiting game at the moment.”
Fans and players have sent a flood of messages to Redelinghuys since he suffered the injury in October, especially on social media. He said every message added so much positivity to his life.
“I was really overwhelmed by all the support and I’ve tried my best to reply to everyone. It’s so easy to be negative and demotivated during serious injuries, but that support kept me optimistic,” said Redelinghuys. “The support from my family, friends, team-mates and other players was really great too. I even had strangers walk through the door at the hospital to check on me and to pray for me. I guess those prayers worked!”
Although focused on his recovery on the sidelines, Redelinghuys is still keeping a close eye on the Springboks.
“I’ll definitely be glued to the TV over the next few weeks. I watched the game in my living room last weekend and found myself supporting the team with so much passion! I have this good feeling that the guys will do well in Europe. It’s an important tour for the Springboks,” said Redelinghuys.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing that I’m not able to be with the players at this time. We’re buy building a good culture among the players in the national squad and the coaches are implementing some positive changes. It’s not going to be easy, but I believe some good will emerge from these plans. We just need to be patient and believe in the process.”
When Redelinghuys is not focused on rugby, he’s just as passionate about his family. And he’s especially excited with fatherhood fast approaching.
“Living in Johannesburg’s West Rand, my wife and I are lucky to have so many family members around us. Her mom lives nearby and we see her often, while my family are in Krugersdorp, which isn’t far away,” explained Redelinghuys. “It’s an exciting time as my wife’s sister and her cousin recently gave birth, so with our little one coming in February, the 'niggies' (cousins) will all be a similar age.”
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