“I remember there was a fizz noise, it was like looking directly at the sun and I felt blinded, and then, two minutes later, the headaches started.”
Former Bath, Gloucester and England flanker Steve Ojomoh is simply “glad to be here” as he continues his recovery after suffering a stroke last October.
The 48-year-old, who won 12 senior international caps, spent time in intensive care.
But after making “good progress”, he was able to watch Wales’ win over England on Saturday.
“When I came round and they said I’d had a stroke, I was so shocked,” he told BBC Points West, as he recalled his time at Southmead Hospital.
“It was a massive scare. I just remember being in the ambulance and just saying to myself ‘hang in there’ and at some stage it will get better. Hang in is what I did.”
Ojomoh helped Bath win five league titles in the 1990s, before joining Gloucester in 1998.
After three years at Kingsholm, he went on to play for Italian side Parma and Newport in Wales, before moving into coaching in 2003.
‘I crawled upstairs and asked my son to take me to hospital’
Ojomoh, who was told that his systolic blood pressure was as high as 220 at the time of the stroke, says he feels extremely lucky to have survived the episode.
“I had crawled upstairs on all fours to my son’s room and said ‘you need to get me to RUH’ [Royal United Hospitals Bath]. They acted straight away, and an ambulance took me to Southmead.
“I was in good hands. The care I had saved me. There was a bleed to the brain, so I was very, very fortunate,” he said.
“Moving forward, I have got a blood pressure machine that I check twice a day. I was shocked. It [blood pressure] was the last thing on my mind.
“The well-wishes I’ve had from people have just been amazing. I’m just grateful for the love people have shown to me.
“It’s been difficult for the people around me. But in our sport, the friendships you make, they’re incredible.”
‘I hadn’t changed my eating habits after retiring’
Ojomoh is now making changes to his diet and lifestyle, but admits he found it difficult to adjust his eating habits after his retirement.
“When you retire your life does change,” he added. “I was eating as if I was still playing sometimes, eating a lot of carbs and not burning them off.
“Now [since the stroke] my lifestyle has changed. My gin bar is now obsolete! That’s the first thing that’s had to change. And I’m eating a lot more vegetables.
“I’m walking a lot more, not just relying on the car. It’s about exercise and eating the right food, plus no more bingeing.”
Four months on from his stroke, he says one of the “shining lights” of his recovery is being able to watch his son Max play rugby.
Max Ojomoh signed a long-term deal with Bath’s academy in January.
“We share the same name but in terms of attributes, we’re totally different. He plays in the centre,” Ojomoh Sr added.
“I preferred to run through people – he would rather sidestep and run around them. He passes – which I never did.
“He’s a thinker. He enjoys training. He’s currently with the England Under-18 camp and it’s the start of a very long road for him. I’m proud.”
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