RE­BUILD­ING JOSH MAN­SOUR’S FACE

‘There were so many things that could’ve gone wrong with this surgery. I was petrified’

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - MICHAEL CARAYANNIS

JOSH Man­sour burst into tears.

Be­fore he could even open his mouth, he was over­whelmed.

“I re­mem­ber when I woke up I just broke down,” Man­sour said.

“The first peo­ple I saw were my wife and daugh­ter. When I could see them with my own eyes, words could not de­scribe the re­lief that I had. It gave me goose­bumps.”

More than seven hours ear­lier, the Pan­thers winger had been anaes­thetised for an op­er­a­tion to re­pair what his sur­geon de­scribed as the worst sport­ing in­jury he had ever seen. The doc­tor said the in­jury re­sem­bled that of a car crash vic­tim or a sol­dier.

Man­sour suf­fered five fa­cial frac­tures from the knee of a fly­ing An­thony Don while try­ing to catch a high ball (pic­tured, right).

“I was on the ground clutch­ing my face and I could feel a hole in my face,” Man­sour said.

“I had no cheek­bone. There was a big hole there. It was painful. The phys­ios wanted me to turn around but I didn’t want to show them be­cause I was petrified of their re­ac­tion.

“The worst-case sce­nario was los­ing my eye.”

Man­sour went into the op­er­a­tion know­ing he could wake up mi­nus an eye but also with the real prospect of hav­ing dis­torted vi­sion for the rest of his life. His play­ing ca­reer was at risk but, more im­por­tantly, so was his abil­ity to

clearly see his young daugh­ter Siana’s smile.

“It’s been the most chal­leng­ing cou­ple weeks of my life,” said Man­sour, who has 18 screws and three plates in his face. “So much stuff has gone through my mind.

“When it first hap­pened I was feel­ing sorry for my­self think­ing, ‘Why me?’

“I was think­ing about my footy ca­reer, life af­ter footy.

“Af­ter the surgery I was sleep-de­prived for 48 hours be­cause they did vis­ual ob­ser­va­tions to see if I lost my vi­sion.

“There were so many things that could have gone wrong. I was petrified. I don’t re­mem­ber the last time I was this ner­vous.

“We had two op­tions for surgery. One was a small op­er­a­tion with mul­ti­ple in­ci­sions; the other one was a big op­er­a­tion where they would cut me from the bot­tom of my left ear and go to my op­po­site ear and then peel my face for­ward. I would have lived with a mas­sive scar for the rest of my life.

“The sur­geon didn’t know un­til he saw what was go­ing on. Luck­ily we went for the first op­tion. I’ve thought of the worst-case sce­nar­ios but I’ve been very lucky.”

The swelling was so se­vere that it took two weeks be­fore the sur­geon could op­er­ate.

Un­able to chew solid foods, his wife Daniella was puree­ing food, just as she was do­ing for the cou­ple’s six-month-old daugh­ter.

“I was think­ing of my daugh­ter, that this is what it feels like to have this crap food,” Man­sour said.

It is the sec­ond time in Man­sour’s ca­reer that a freak in­jury has struck. He missed a large chunk of last sea­son af­ter rup­tur­ing his an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in an Aus­tralian train­ing ses­sion in Eng­land dur­ing the Kan­ga­roos’ 2016 Four Na­tions cam­paign.

Man­sour bat­tled to re­gain con­fi­dence. But the off-con­tract Pan­ther re­turns to train­ing on Tues­day aim­ing to re­turn by round 19.

“I feel like I’m cursed,” Man­sour said. “Af­ter all this, it still doesn’t tell me that this is the end. It’s an­other ob­sta­cle.

“Things don’t go per­fect for ev­ery­one. I feel this in­jury is com­pletely dif­fer­ent. I’ll be much more con­fi­dent get­ting among it. With my knee it was dif­fer­ent be­cause the legs are the tools of the trade.

“It did scare me (be­ing of­f­con­tract).

But I know this club can do what it can to keep me here.”

Josh Man­sour af­ter surgery for the hor­ri­ble face knock he suf­fered against the Ti­tans. Pic­tures: David Swift

Josh Man­sour in hos­pi­tal be­fore surgery, and with wife Daniella and their daugh­ter.

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