EXCLUSIVE: Newcastle Jets keeper Neil Young says doctors told him he was “basically dead” after complications arose from surgery to fix a broken nose earlier this year.
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After Young was booted in the face by Shane Smeltz in an A-League game against Gold Coast United last January, the keeper had blood pouring out of his nose on the pitch.
It was confirmed he's broken his nose but an antibiotic taken following the incident affected the 30-year-old West Australian's internal organs and doctors had to remove his large intestine.
This is when the scenario turned life-threatening and Young's nightmare really began.
"I spent eight weeks in hospital with half that time in intensive care. They basically said I was pretty much dead," Young told au.fourfourtwo.com today.
"My white blood cells stopped producing and my bone marrow stopped, so I was as close to that [death] as I could be.
"Things went downhill pretty quickly. It was pretty scary to be honest with you. Losing all that body weight and not being able to stand up and having to use a walking frame.
"That was the worst part of it, I suppose."
Young wasted away, losing 22kgs during his horror ordeal.
"I'm now through the worst of it," he added after playing a round of golf yesterday.
The glovesman bears no ill-will to the Kiwi goalscorer. In fact, the keeper has a DVD with the fateful incident on it.
"The ball was there, he's gone for it," said Young. "I basically copped it. If I was Shane, I would've done the same thing.
"It's all part of the game. If you don't want to get kicked, don't play."
Young is back in training but isn't anywhere near 100 percent as his Jets teammates began their pre-season preparations this week.
By early July he may be ready to resume full training but at the moment he's helping out the other Newcastle keepers with drills - and just happy to be back with his teammates after his death-defying ordeal.
But he added of training: "The more I get involved, the more dangerous it could be if I cop a ball in the stomach."
Young did not get his chance to become a professional footballer in the A-League until he was 30 years old.
And after years slogging away in the second tier of Aussie football, he took his chance with both hands. He impressed so much before the Smeltz incident, the club extended his contract till the end of next season.
The Jets climbed up the ladder thanks in no small part to the calming influence of Young in goals last season, Young's first as a pro.
But as Branko Culina's side went on their late season finals run, Young was left to fight for his life.
Not that he's letting it get him down. He only sees the positives and the positive for him is it's another test of his character.
He added: "It's not good but it's another challenge for me. It's just a bigger challenge than last year, that's all.
"Like last season, I'm starting from behind and trying to get my spot back [from Ben Kennedy]."
The talented West Australian paid tribute to the Jets and his family for helping out in what was clearly a distressing time at the John Hunter Hospital.
"The club flew my wife and kids over and my sister and dad flew over," he said. "And Branko [Culina] has given me a few phone calls to cheer me up and the PFA got involved.
"And my wife was strong. She was my rock. Without her, I would've been stuffed."
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