A sportsman who nearly died after being hit on the head with a hockey ball was saved by the same operation that kept motor racing legend Michael Schumacher alive.
Super-fit Sam Owens, 28, took himself out of the game after the accident as blood came from his ear, despite remaining fully conscious.
He thought of the tragic death of Australian cricket Phillip Hughes days earlier – who was also struck by a ball – and decided he was going to take no chances.
Instead of going home and sleeping it off, Sam sought medical advice – and was rushed in for emergency surgery to remove a blood clot.
Specialists told him if he had gone to bed with his injuries he would never have woken up.
Sam, from Staining, Lancs., said: “It was the same operation that Michael Schumacher had after his skiing accident.
“However, he wasn’t as lucky as me as he didn’t get seen to as quickly as he was in the middle of nowhere.”
Sam was captaining Blackpool Hockey Club’s second team against Bolton in November 2014 when the incident happened.
His team were defending a penalty corner when the ball struck him.
Sam recalled: “It was a short corner. We were trying to defend a penalty corner and I was trying to intercept the ball to stop them shooting.
“I got within a metre-and-a-half of the ball and the player struck the ball and it hit me straight on the left hand side of my head.
“It hit me with some force and it really hurt and I dropped my stick.
“I subbed myself off and my ear was bleeding.
“One of the lad’s girlfriends who was a trainee nurse was watching and she kept my wound compressed and gave me a painkiller and kept me calm.
“After that, I thought I was OK and was chatting to my friends at half time.
“But when they asked if I wanted to go back on, I told them that I didn’t feel right.
“Soon afterwards, I began feeling worse and felt woozy and in a lot of pain.”
he went to Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s A&E with his friend and he deteriorated rapidly.
Sam recalls: “It felt like the left side of my face was dropping and it felt swollen and my eye was closed.
“I was in a lot of pain and it was getting worse.”
A CT scan revealed a massive bleed on his brain so he was immediately sedated and rushed to Royal Preston Hospital.
He underwent a two-and-a-half hour operation was carried out to remove the blood clot and stop the bleeding.
Sam, an office manager at his dad’s window firm, added: “I had a craniotomy and they peeled the skin and flesh back to make a skull flap and stop the bleeding and remove the clot.
“They then put my skull back together and I had around 29 staples in my head.”
He has now made an amazing recovery and is back to full strength – but has given up hockey.
He said: “I’ve stopped playing hockey since the injury as the thought of it makes me feel sick, although it hasn’t put me off cricket which is my real game.
“I want to urge people to take massive care when playing hockey and cricket and to not take a risk and wear headgear.”
He added: “The one year anniversary of the accident has hit me hard as it has brought it all flooding back and made me realise how close to death I actually came.
“I felt very emotional and upset and extremely lucky.
“People are very quick to knock the NHS and they have had a lot of stick this year.
“But if the NHS hadn’t done such a fantastic job, I wouldn’t be here today.”