'A cold sponge was no good for a fractured skull'
by Warwick Jarvis
Warwick Jarvis was a keen and talented sportsman. These skills helped him to secure a sought-after place at prestigious Vincennes University in the USA. He was loving life and had a bright future ahead of him. But all his hopes and dreams were shattered by a clash of heads in a ‘friendly’ football match back home in the UK.
“I was never what you’d call an academic at school,” said Warwick. “To me, school was all about the opportunity to play sport, which I was lucky enough to excel at. So securing a football and tennis scholarship at Vincennes University was a dream come true.
“It was amazing – everything I could have hoped for. My daily routine comprised two hours of playing football, two hours of tennis and the rest of the time was left for partying! As an 18-year-old living his dreams, the academic side of things just didn’t seem important.”
After enjoying the best year of his life, Warwick returned to the UK for the summer holiday. Then 19, Warwick was invited to play in a local charity football match. In his own words, Warwick was ‘a bit cocky’ at the time, and jumped at the chance to showcase his improved skills to his old mates.
Sadly, one of his old teammates, who was playing on the same team as Warwick, took exception to his bravado and decided to take him down a notch or two by putting in an aggressive challenge – one which almost cost Warwick his life.
Warwick had jumped to head the ball following a goal kick. As he met the ball, his teammate clattered into him, with the two players’ heads colliding at force. Despite the initial pain, Warwick picked himself up and tried to continue playing.
However, he was unable to finish the game and instead watched the remainder of the match from the sideline with a wet sponge pressed to his temple in an attempt to numb the pain. “Apparently, a wet sponge isn’t much help when you’ve fractured your skull!” Warwick dryly said.
Although he went out with friends after the match, he left the party early. The pain intensified and Warwick lost consciousness. He was rushed to hospital where doctors warned his family that they didn’t expect him to survive.
He immediately underwent surgery to remove a blood clot the size of a golf ball from his brain. He spent six and a half weeks in a coma following the surgery. When he finally began to wake, it took him a further week to fully regain consciousness.
“It’s not like it is in the movies,” said Warwick. “You don’t suddenly wake from a coma and spring into life. It was a strange and confusing time. I understood that I’d missed a sizeable period of time and I couldn’t make much sense of the snippets of information and fleeting recollections of people coming to see me while I was awaking from the coma.
“It must have been hard on those around me, too, as while there was relief that I’d come round, the doctors couldn’t say whether I’d be able to walk again or if I would be cognitively impaired.
“Thankfully, my cognitive abilities weren’t affected, but it took 18 months of gruelling rehabilitation before I could walk again in any manner and far from what you would call normal. It was clear straight away that my sporting life was a thing of the past. Even today, 20 years later, I have balance problems and I need a stick to help me get around. When I do fall, as I often do, I find it very difficult to get back up again unaided.
“But I was determined to make the most of my life. Put bluntly, when you’ve been kicked in the privates, metaphorically at least, you have one of two choices. You can either give up and spend your days feeling sorry for yourself or pick yourself up and get on with it. I chose to get on with it.
“I decided to return to the US to continue my studies there – albeit without the sport. Although I longed to be able to play again, I was now able to concentrate all my efforts on getting a good degree, which I did. I then returned to the UK and began a further law degree, this time an LLB (Hons).”
Today, 40-year-old Warwick has two children – Daniel and Luke – and is married to Nicola, with whom he runs his own business, Jarvis Costs Consultancy. The firm specialises in legal costs drafting for serious personal injury cases, particularly those involving head injuries.
“I’ve always believed in the phrase ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’,” said Warwick. “I’ve never taken myself too seriously, and I believe this has helped me achieve all that I have.
“I have to put things into perspective, I was lucky to survive and things could have been much worse.
“Life doesn’t always go the way we plan it. But there’s always a way forward.”