St Albans footballer's fight back to fitness after brain tumour left him part-paralysed

Shay Emerton collapsed after being hit in the head with a football, only to discover he had a brain tumour.

Shay Emerton collapsed after being hit in the head with a football, only to discover he had a brain tumour. - Credit: Brain Tumour Research

A young St Albans footballer who suffered a seizure and stopped breathing after a ball hit him in the head was saved by a player in the opposing team - resulting in a diagnosis for an undetected brain tumour.

Shay Emerton, 24, felt completely fine when he started the game on April 11, and had even scored one of the goals putting his Old Parmitarians FC team 2-1 up against Old Kingsburians FC.

But after a football hit him hard in the head and knocked him down, his head went fuzzy and he struggled to get up.

"I felt as if I was on the verge of passing out and when I tried to stand up, my legs were shaking and I couldn’t.

“The first thing I worried about was having a brain bleed and I called out, saying ‘Dad, I’m in trouble’. Then my whole body started shaking and I had a 10-minute grand mal seizure, during which time I went into respiratory arrest and stopped breathing.”

As luck would have it, an anaesthetist was standing in for a friend on the opposing team and rushed to Shay’s aid. He revived him on the pitch and took care of him until an ambulance arrived to take him to Watford General Hospital where scans revealed Shay had a brain tumour.

On July 12 he underwent an operation to remove 98 per cent of his grade 2 glioma, but he suffered supplementary motor area (SMA) syndrome which left him with temporary paralysis down his right-hand side and meant he had to learn to walk and talk again.

Shay Emerton underwent an operation for a brain tumour.

Shay Emerton underwent an operation for a brain tumour. - Credit: Brain Tumour Research

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Shay, who co-owns a landscape gardening business, suffered a further setback when his head ballooned with fluid after developing an infection which required three weeks of IV antibiotics followed by another two weeks of oral antibiotics taken four times daily.

Having accepted that his tumour will return one day, Shay has decided to share his story in order to offer hope to others in similar situations and to raise awareness of the need to find a cure for brain tumours. He has even signed up to run the London Marathon in 2022 in aid of the charity Brain Tumour Research.

He said: “If I hadn’t been hit by the ball on that fateful day, I could still be living my life without knowing about my tumour so in that sense I’ve got a head start on it. I’ve decided that I don’t want to live a compromised life because I’m worried about what could happen; I want to make the most of it.

“When I was first diagnosed, I was looking for hope and now I want to be able to give that to other people with a brain tumour diagnosis who have had their lives turned upside down.”

Shay Emerton underwent an operation to remove 98 per cent of his grade 2 glioma.

Shay Emerton underwent an operation to remove 98 per cent of his grade 2 glioma. - Credit: Brain Tumour Research

He added: “For me, to go from being paralysed down one side and unable to walk to running the London Marathon next year will be a great achievement.”

Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: "Shay’s story is a stark reminder that brain tumours are indiscriminate and can affect anyone of any age and at any time. It’s also a reminder that the interventions for brain tumours can have serious consequences, which is why we remain committed to increasing funding in research to improve treatment options and, ultimately, find a cure.

"Shay has been on an incredible journey and shown great resilience and determination, qualities that will stand him in good stead for his marathon training. We’re grateful for his support and look forward to watching his progress.”

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.

To find out how you can support Brain Tumour Research, visit www.braintumourresearch.org.