Fighting back with charity wrestling match

18th October 2017

A Merseyside teacher is taking on a professional wrestler to raise awareness of and funds to fight the disease that nearly took his life

Dave H blog

Dave Hemsley, 38, was laid low by pneumococcal meningitis two years ago. But the head of science at Christ the King Catholic High School in Southport has refused to give in to the disease and is now training hard for the charity match in November as part of his ongoing recovery.

The father of one and former rugby player from Formby thought he’d been kidnapped to have his organs harvested when he first woke up in hospital unable to speak or move.

He’s since been told that if he'd slept all night at home rather than being admitted to hospital he would have died, perhaps within the hour.

Started to feel ill

It was two years ago when Dave, then 36, his wife Sarah and young daughter Holly returned from holiday. After a relaxing weekend he started to feel ill on the Monday.

“I am an incredibly well person, having never missed a day of school or work through illness since at least the age of 11,” Dave said. “I popped to the shops in the morning on Monday and around lunchtime I started having a headache. I decided to have a nap to feel better. I woke up later and began vomiting and felt extremely cold. Food poisoning no doubt I thought."

“I went back to sleep. Then I woke up in hospital unable to speak or move."

“I thought I had been kidnapped to have my organs harvested and vaguely recall trying to convince the doctors I was a doctor and knowing they were not telling me the truth!”

Quick action

The quick action by Dave’s wife Sarah in calling an ambulance saved his life. 

“I have been told if I'd slept all night at home I would have died, perhaps within the hour,” Dave added. “I was put into an induced coma on a ventilator for two days before they woke me, a terrible time for my family and friends.” 

By the Thursday he was able to get out of bed with help, and by Friday was holding onto things to slowly walk around. On the Saturday he moved to a ward and stayed there for the next nine days. 

“It took a slow and long four months to get back into work as a science teacher at Christmas on a phased return, which built up to a full timetable by Easter. I eventually took back my full role of Head of Science in September. My school, the staff and pupils were very supportive throughout the whole process,” Dave added.

Blow away the lethargy

But the keen sportsman, who had managed to start playing doubles tennis just before Christmas, became frustrated with his inability to get back to normal, the after-effects of the disease and with his weight also going up through enforced inactivity. 

“I decided to try and blow away the constant headaches and lethargy and push my boundaries and began to run and consider aiming to play rugby before the end of the season."

“A great target for me to aim for came around in January - I signed up to do eight weeks’ wrestling training at Preston City Wrestling’s Training Academy and then have a wrestling match against a professional in November, 10 months away!"

“I was confident this was doable and was assured by doctors I could do nothing to make my head worse in terms of my meningitis after-effects. I started wrestling training early twice a week in June to make sure I could indeed do it.”

Dave hopes to raise £1,000 for us from the match. You can support him through his JustGiving page

“I want a lot after all this effort!” Dave added.

Every day a blessing

“Every day is a blessing I value. My daughter is now 4 and I would have not seen her develop into a lovely little girl. I also have had over 650 extra days with my wife and the ones I love, and hopefully many more! I'm not letting meningitis leave me wallowing in self-pity! I choose life.”

For more details on the White Collar Wrestling event in Preston on 18 November visit Dave's Facebook page.

Read Dave's story.