Ian Skaife suffered a serious brain injury in 2012. Here he talks us through his journey from paralysis to 100 parkruns, including learning to walk again and sadly losing his mother.
During the Olympic summer of 2012 I was training for my first short triathlon, having been a ‘slow plodder’ for about 30 years. I was never competitive and my motto was ‘when the going gets tough…..it’s time to slow down or even walk if needed’.
I woke up one morning with a splitting headache and some numbness in my right foot. Putting it down to ‘man flu’ and an old back injury I carried on. But later in the week I woke up and could barely move my right side and the headache was excruciating.
By the time we got to A&E I could barely stand unaided. I’d suffered a serious brain injury.
After a CT scan revealed it could be a cancerous brain tumour, I was sent to a specialist hospital.
They confirmed that it wasn’t a tumour but a large amount of infection. My condition deteriorated, and they did an emergency biopsy. My wife Alyson was told that I might not make it, and when our two sons arrived from their homes in the south, they had what we now refer to as ‘the organ donation conversation’.
Memories of the next 24 hours are sketchy. When I arrived back on the ward from intensive care, I still couldn’t move my right side and although I understood what people were saying I couldn’t answer at all.
So began treatment. The days were endless. I started intense physio and speech therapy. Eight weeks in I needed a third operation as infection was still collecting in my brain. This resulted in a small improvement in my symptoms; I managed to move a toe then bend my ankle.
Mum visited me one Saturday and, as she left we hugged, and she said ‘Love you son, keep getting better and see you soon’.
These were the last words she said to me. The next day she had a heart attack and was put into a coma on a life support system. I was allowed out of hospital for one day to travel to her funeral 150 miles away and managed to stand using a frame to give part of her eulogy.
I had my laptop back by then to write and plan my escape! I was in a rehab hospital until my condition improved enough for Alyson to take me home in a wheelchair.
Eighteen months of hard work to recover started. I had the hip replacement that I needed before going into hospital, and it was through this that I met Annette, a brilliant physio specialising in hydrotherapy.
I had another 18 months of physio and learnt to walk correctly and slowly. Six months later I decided to try running a few steps. I did a short route around our home. It took me 30 minutes to do a couple of miles with intense concentration on my foot placement and staying upright. I had to sleep for an hour afterwards.
In April 2016 I arrived at Delamere parkrun with my barcode and did the whole 5k without stopping. It was very emotional.
The welcome I received at Delamere means it is still my ‘home’ run, even though there are newer ones nearby in Crewe and Northwich. I am a regular volunteer. I would encourage anyone to do so as it is a great way to help others and get a different perspective of the event no matter where you usually finish.
Alyson used to come with me and walk the course before we started, then meet me at the end. But, two weeks before her 59th birthday, she announced that she fancied running it. As someone who has asthma and has never run before I was amazed.
She did her first run in 37 minutes, beat my PB the next week and after 5 more successive PBs she now runs around 30 minutes. She even fell over once and after dusting herself off for a short while still beat me by four minutes.
So the next part of my story, God-willing, is to do my 100th parkrun back at Delamere.
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