Rugby League star Adrian Purtell has marked the first anniversary of his heart attack by meeting children undergoing heart surgery on the children’s ward at Leeds General Infirmary.
Adrian, who suffered a heart attack after Bradford Bulls “Magic Weekend” game against Leeds a year ago, has made a full recovery and is back playing in the Super League.
He’s also become an ambassador for Yorkshire-based national charity Heart Research UK and is keen to pass on advice about people living heart-healthy lifestyles so that they reduce their chances of having heart disease - still one of the UK’s biggest killers with nearly 80,000 deaths a year.
Adrian has had mixed emotions during what has been a momentous year. “I’ve really gone from not knowing whether I was still going to be alive, through to doubts about whether I was going to play again, and finally to being given the all-clear to resume my career. That is certainly an extreme set of emotions.
“In between I had to get myself mentally prepared for either not playing again, or going flat out to get back to full fitness. The support I have had on the way from the fans, players and my family has been tremendous and it was my own drive and determination as well as harnessing that wonderful support that has carried me through.”
The emotions couldn’t have been higher as he stood on the touchline at Odsal Stadium on 17 March waiting to come on as a substitute against Hull Kingston Rovers. He got a standing ovation when he crossed the white line for the first time since his heart attack.
Adrian was unsure how he would fare on his return to action earlier this season. “There was obviously a little bit of doubt about pulling on the jersey again and whether I could handle playing, but I had spent months training really hard so I guessed that the hard work and preparation would see me through – which it did,” he said.
He’s been back in a Bulls shirt since March and recently scored a vital try in the 18-18 draw with arch rivals Leeds Rhinos. He hopes to continue playing and improving and helping the Bulls to success during the rest of the season.
During a visit to Leeds General Infirmary, Adrian met one of the cardiologists – Dr John Greenwood – who treated him last year, as well as visiting the children’s heart unit. “Seeing children and babies in hospital brings it home how grateful I am to be so healthy again,” said Adrian. “These youngsters and their families have been through a lot and are an inspiration to us all.”
Barbara Harpham, national director of Heart Research UK said: “Having a heart attack doesn’t have to be the end of the world as you know it - it can be the thing that makes you live a healthier lifestyle and get back on your feet to be as good as you were before or better.
“Adrian is a wonderful role model for us all. Even though he is a top sportsman, he has made changes to his lifestyle to keep his heart healthy and that is a lesson for us all. We are delighted that he is a Heart Research UK ambassador for healthy lifestyles and I am sure he will be an inspiration to others.”