Hairy Biker Si King re­calls his near-fa­tal brain aneurysm, for a se­ries cel­e­brat­ing the Health Ser­vice

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - NEWS - Kathryn Knight

Just over four years ago Hairy Biker Si King went through the most ter­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of his life. ‘Go­ing into the op­er­at­ing theatre, I didn’t know if I would live or die,’ he re­calls.

Two days be­fore, he had been di­ag­nosed with a brain aneurysm which would kill him. Surgery was his only op­tion – but only

10 per cent who sur­vive the pro­ce­dure emerge un­scathed.

‘It’s rare you walk away from that surgery with­out dy­ing or with­out be­ing left with some mo­bil­ity deficit or is­sues with mo­tor skills,’ Si says.

Hap­pily, Si, now 50, made a full re­cov­ery and is able to carry on with his suc­cess­ful TV ca­reer. ‘You’d have to know me very well to no­tice any change in me,’ he says.

‘I do need a gran­dad nap in the af­ter­noon, but at my age, I might have needed that any­way!’

He is in lit­tle doubt that the doc­tors and nurses of the NHS at New­cas­tle’s Royal Vic­to­ria In­fir­mary saved his life – which is why he jumped at the chance to take part in a new five-part BBC1 se­ries which cel­e­brates the NHS in its 70th year.

‘I owe my life to the NHS. I sim­ply wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the care and pro­fes­sion­al­ism every­one showed me,’ he says. ‘This high­lights the amaz­ing work they do, against the odds. It was one way for me to say a very big thank you.’

His trip to visit the emer­gency and neu­rol­ogy de­part­ments at sev­eral hos­pi­tals in the north-east is one of five jour­neys un­der­taken for the se­ries by well-known faces, all of whom have per­sonal rea­sons for be­ing grate­ful to the NHS.

Among them is Fern Brit­ton, who re­turns to Stoke Man­dev­ille Hospi­tal to re­trace the dra­matic story of how the ser­vice saved her life in 2016, when she be­came very ill while re­cov­er­ing at home from surgery. She had had a rou­tine hys­terec­tomy three days be­fore, but then she ex­pe­ri­enced in­tense pain and couldn’t walk.

When she went back to hospi­tal she was di­ag­nosed with an E. coli in­fec­tion and ab­scesses in her ab­domen. ‘I sur­vived, but the bat­tle wasn’t over...’ she has said. ‘A day or so later, I de­vel­oped pneu­mo­nia and my lung col­lapsed. But I pulled through thanks to the in­cred­i­ble NHS team who looked af­ter me be­yond any­thing I could have hoped for.’

Hep­tath­lete Denise Lewis vis­its New Cross Hospi­tal, Wolver­hamp­ton, to re­trace the foot­steps of her grand­mother, who was a nurse there for 40 years af­ter ar­riv­ing from Ja­maica in the 1950s. That same hospi­tal is where Denise’s granny was cared for be­fore she died of breast cancer in 2005.

For Si King, the se­ries gave him ‘a look in the rear-view mir­ror’. Since his ill­ness, in the flurry of film­ing all over the world for the Hairy Bik­ers with his co-star, chef Dave My­ers, he hadn’t re­flected fully on what had hap­pened to him in 2014, a pe­riod when he had al­ready sep­a­rated from wife Jane, mother to their three sons Alex, 28, James, 25, and 17-year-old Dy­lan, and had em­barked on a new re­la­tion­ship with Michelle, a chef from Aus­tralia.

His ordeal was put in per­spec­tive in the se­ries when he met a pa­tient who also had an aneurysm, and is strug­gling to re­cover. ‘Like me, one minute he had a nor­mal life – the next he was fight­ing for his life,’ Si re­calls. Nor was Si en­tirely out of the woods af­ter surgery: three weeks in in­ten­sive care fol­lowed, con­nected to ‘all sorts of pipes and wires’ – though Dave did sneak in the odd pork pie. It took months to get back to any­thing like nor­mal­ity. ‘I was ex­hausted just hav­ing a shower,’ he says.

He hopes the se­ries demon­strates how hard NHS staff are work­ing in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions. ‘It’s beau­ti­fully poignant, high­light­ing the real spirit of the NHS and hu­man en­deav­our.’

As for his own en­deav­ours, Si ad­mits his brush with death didn’t give him any big life lessons. ‘I take it eas­ier now but there’s no epiphany,’ he laughs. ‘I know I’m very lucky.’

Ma­tron, Medicine And Me, Mon­day-Fri­day, 9.15am, BBC1.

Si and (in­set) with a nurse who treated him

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