PAUL ROBINSON EXCLUSIVE: It felt like I was being stabbed in the chest, this blood clot almost killed me
By Sam Cunningham for the Daily Mail
Paul Robinson stared at the splashes of blood he had coughed into the washbasin at his North Yorkshire home. The Blackburn goalkeeper was struggling to breathe. His chest was tight and his energy had evaporated.
‘At the worst point it felt like someone was stabbing a knife into my chest and twisting it repeatedly,’ he recalls, mimicking pushing a blade beneath his right breast and turning it.
Revealing his struggles to a national newspaper for the first time since he was diagnosed with a potentially fatal blood clot brings it rushing back to him. The corners of his eyes crease into a wince at the memory.
On his mind: Paul Robinson spoke for the first time to a national newspaper about his blood clot
At the time, Robinson, capped 41 times by England, did not know half his right lung had collapsed. Neither did the first set of doctors he visited back in March. Luckily when the pain persisted Blackburn’s club doctor, Duncan Robertson, who had diagnosed the problem over the phone, bludgeoned him into being checked again. Taking his urgent advice, Robinson went to hospital again the next morning.
‘I can’t speak highly enough of Duncan. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gone back,’ Robinson, 34, says. Because he did, his life was saved.
It all started shortly after a routine back operation to sort out his sciatica — an ‘unbearable’ pain in his hamstring which would force him to stop driving and get out ‘almost crying’.
Painful: The former England goalkeeper revealed how the blood clot was almost fatal
The first set of medics sent him away, reassuring him the blood he was coughing up was due to the pipes put down his throat for surgery. In relief, Robinson returned home but the problem worsened that night.
‘I was gradually coughing up more blood,’ he recounts. ‘I was coughing up three or four teaspoons in one go. Proper clotted blood.’
He rang Robertson a second time and was told to get straight down to Leeds General Infirmary. He waited alone, not wanting to worry his two young children, Lucy May and Jack.
‘It’s hard with the kids, you don’t want to scare them,’ he says. ‘They see you in hospital, but don’t know what’s going on. I don’t think any of us realised the severity at that point.’
International: Robinson had 41 caps for England to his name when he was diagnosed with the clot
This time he was given tests and diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. After a sleepless night on the casualty ward he was referred to a blood specialist. The doctor sat the goalkeeper down in his office, shut the door, and asked if he knew how serious the problem was. Robinson replied that he had been told he had a small blood clot.
‘The doctor said to me, “It’s a big one, it’s halfway down your lung. At this moment you’ve lost half of your lung”. They call that infarcted, when a whole section of the lung collapses. We needed to shift the clot quickly. With the clot and the infarct, I was prevented from travelling, flying, doing anything in the following weeks.’
The doctor said the dead tissue was like a big ball of cotton wool clogging the lung. Shreds needed to be gradually pulled away until it was all cleared out. To thin the blood, Robinson had to have injections into his stomach and blood tests for 11 days. Just walking from the car park to the hospital entrance would leave him gasping for breath.
Goal: Robinson is now focused on becoming Blackburn's No 1 again sooner rather than later
‘It was like I’d done a week’s training all in one go,’ he adds. ‘I actually couldn’t do anything. It was an achievement after the first month to go out of the house and walk.I was housebound, mostly confined to the bed, for three or four weeks. It was a case of a trip to the hospital, back home, bed.’
Text messages and calls of support poured in from players and managers across the game. Until last month, Robinson was on Warfarin to help free that ‘big ball of cotton wool’ from his lung.
It has been a long process. When his 92-year-old grandmothervisited, they went for a walk and he couldn’t keep up with her. He felt like an asthmatic who had been smoking his entire life.
‘It prevented me from any kind of contact,’ Robinson reflects. ‘If I had a nosebleed it wouldn’t stop. Daft things like if I cut myself shaving it would last for four or five hours because I couldn’t clot. We went to Alton Towers for my daughter’s birthday and I had a huge bruise across both thighs where the barrier on a ride had come down.’
At the top: The highlight of Robinson's club career was a four-year spell with Tottenham
It is the longest time he has had away from football. He has enjoyed being able to do normal things, like take part in his children’s school assemblies. Importantly, it has also given him time to research theillness which almost killed him.
‘There are 25,000 people inEngland who die every year from misdiagnosed or undiagnosed blood clots,’ he says. ‘Frequently there aren’t any warning symptoms.’
He urges other players to be cautious about their health. ‘The medical care we get is phenomenal so you can’t complain. We get special treatment. Clubs ensure you have the best of everything. At the same time, what happened to me, not to mention Fabrice Muamba — and his is far more serious than mine, a completely different league — goes to show no-one is immune.
Safe hands: Robinson was part of England's team that was fancied to win the 2006 World Cup in Germany
‘It is usually caused by long- distance flights. You would normally get swelling in the leg, it would be hot to touch. I got nothing. No leg pain. The only thing I got was the chest pain and the coughing up blood. The doctors have said it could possibly have come from my pelvis where I’d lain on my front for the operation.’
So what lies ahead? First he wants to get back to being Blackburn’s No 1. He is in full training and wants to be playing regularly in the Championship by Christmas. This man once had a phenomenal record for England. He kept clean sheets in six out of nine qualifying matches for the 2006 World Cup. In Germany, he did not let in a goal in four of five matches until defeat on penalties by Portugal in the quarter-finals.
Now he wants one more crack at the Premier League by helping his club get back there after relegation last year. It would complete something of a double resurrection.
Interview courtesy of Impact Sports Management LtdShare
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