A young engineer suffered a bleed on the brain and two cardiac arrests after taking part in a charity ‘white collar’ boxing match.
Ben Sandiford, 20, was hoping to raise funds for Cancer Research UK when he took part in an amateur sporting event, Ultra White Collar Boxing.
Competitors with no experience of boxing are pitched against each other, often from ‘white-collar’ backgrounds.
Concerns have been raised by governing bodies including England Boxing and Boxing Scotland about the unregulated events, described as “effectively unlicensed with no harmonisation of rules and regulations.”
But after being hit in the head in the first round, and again in the third round, Ben collapsed and was looked over by medics who deemed he did not need to be taken to hospital as an emergency.
The aspiring model had taken part 16 hours of training, but ended up with head injuries so severe that his family believe he would have died had they not found him.
He spent a total of 17 days being treated as an inpatient and had to be resuscitated twice after suffering two cardiac arrests and a seizure.
Ben, from Crewe, Cheshire, said: “I can remember the fight but I can’t remember how many times I was hit.
“He didn’t really go for my body much, I had my head guard on but I think that makes you a bigger target.
“I had contusions at the front of my head and a bleed at the back of my brain.
“I think they could have spotted how quickly I was fading as the match went on. I got passed on to the medical team and they just let me go really.”
Ambulance staff from a private firm were stationed at the event at Crewe Hall, Crewe, Cheshire, but did not recognise the severity of Ben’s condition.
And paramedics from North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) said on the phone it would take two hours for an ambulance to arrive after classing it as a C3 code.
But his mother Kirsty Grosvenor, 43, and grandmother, Rosaleen Andrews-Sands, were so worried they rushed him straight to A&E.
Hours later he suffered two cardiac arrests and had to be resuscitated before having a seizure and being hooked up to a ventilator and transferred to another hospital.
Scans shows a contusion to his frontal left lobe, and a bleed on the brain behind the back of his neck, and his family were warned he could be permanently disabled.
Ben added: “The medics told me ‘go and get checked out in hospital’ but within 24 hours I was in cardiac arrest twice.
“I was lucky the seizures and the cardiac arrest happened in hospital, if it had happened at home it would have taken them time to get an ambulance.
“It has been tough – my mum was warned I might be disabled, or might not make it.”
Mum-of-four Kirsty said: “If I had been a naive parent I would have taken him home, and he would have died in his bed.
“We arrived at the event and found Ben bloodied and stumbling around the grounds.
“I wouldn’t want any other family to go through this.
“To any excitable or challenging young person who is thinking they will be OK – it might not be.
“If two experienced nurses hadn’t been on the ward to revive him, Ben would have died.”
The Ultra White Collar Boxing website advertises itself as a “safe, professional, regulated” event where competitors, often beginners, are “evenly matched”.
It says that all boxers wear 16oz gloves and head guards and receive eight weeks’ training – but Ben’s gran does not believe it is safe and wants it to be banned.
Ben’s grandmother, Rosaleen, said: “He had no boxing experience whatsoever, he was interested in raising money for charity.
“He was given 16 hours training but I firmly believe it was to put a show on.”
She has written to local MP Laura Smith as well as the licensing department at East Cheshire Council to call for an investigation, which Ultra White Collar Boxing is co-operating with.
Rosaleen said: “This unregulated boxing has to be banned. Ben was wearing a helmet but it obviously didn’t work.
“The referee got involved later than he should have done. Ben had been saying he was alright, but it wasn’t for him to decide that.
“There was an ambulance there but they didn’t want to use it. My question was, if there was an ambulance on site why couldn’t they use it?”
Immediately after the fight Ben was taken to Leighton Hospital by his family and treated for concussion.
A CT scan showed nothing abnormal and he was kept in overnight, but had a massive seizure the following morning.
He suffered two cardiac arrests, and was given CPR and put on a ventilator in a critical care unit, where Ben developed pneumonia.
Eventually a third scan showed a contusion to frontal left lobe and a bleed to back of brain.
The distraught family were warned that Ben could be permanently disabled if he survived.
Fortunately an MRI scan showed no permanent brain damage or trauma, but he was kept in hospital for a total of 17 days.
Rosaleen said: “We’ve been told the prognosis is several months’ rehabilitation and his return to work will be in phased stages.
“We are refurbishing a room downstairs so Ben can move in and not have to deal with stairs.”
Ben has suffered memory loss and will be unable to drive for six months following the seizure.
Organisers say that more than 40,000 people have taken part since 2009 without any serious injury.
Founder of Ultra White Collar Boxing, Jon Leonard, said: “Boxing is a contact sport which is scored on punches landed.
“All UWCB referees are fully qualified and take the safety of participants very seriously.
“During our investigation, we have established that it was a fair bout and that Ben was winning prior to the stoppage.
“During the third round, Ben’s opponent landed a punch which caused Ben to become unbalanced, he landed on the mat on his forearms and knees and immediately got himself up from the floor without any assistance and walked to the corner.
“At this point, Ben was pleading with the referee to continue but in the interest of his safety the bout was stopped and the medics were called to the ring.
“The medics were called to the ring by the referee and spent a few minutes assessing Ben, he was fully alert and remembered his name, where he was and that he had been taking part in a boxing event.
“The medics then helped Ben on to a trolley and took him to the ambulance stationed outside for further assessment.
“Ben was assessed and monitored in the ambulance for a further 40 minutes, having his observations regularly checked and his condition was classed as stable as he was alert and thinking clearly.
“During this time, Ben stated that he had no pain anywhere.
“The medics assessed him and decided he should attend hospital for a check up, an ambulance was called and our medics were informed by NWAS that it was coded as a C3 and there could be up to a two hour wait.
“At this point, as Ben was alert with no signs of neurological deficit so his condition was not classed as an emergency by the medics or the NWAS.
“When Ben’s mother arrived at the event Ben was standing outside the ambulance accompanied by the medic getting some fresh air.
“Based on the paramedics report of the incident, Ben was insistent that he wanted to make his own way to hospital and his mother and grandparents agreed that they would like to take him.
“All participants receive a pre bout briefing from the medics during which they are given advice on head injuries.
“In addition to this, participants are given verbal advice on injuries as well as being handed a head injury card following their bout.
“Ben’s mother was also given extensive advice on the symptoms of an injury and what to do in case of his condition worsening.
“Since the event we have been in touch with the family to offer our full support.
“As with all our events, health and safety is paramount and we will always look to put participant’s best interests at the centre of everything we do.”