RSD rugby teen who suffered broken neck in African tour defies diagnosis to walk again

A DUNGANNON teenager has had his very own “miracle” after he walked out of hospital unassisted, only months after he was he told he may never walk again following a horrific rugby injury.

Patrick Greeves suffered a broken neck while playing with Royal School Dungannon on tour in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on 2nd August last year.

Doctors told the 19-year-old he had a “complete” spinal injury, meaning it was unlikely he would ever walk again.

But after eight months of gruelling therapy, Patrick stunned his family and medics by walking unassisted out of Musgrave Park Hospital.

The inspirational teenager says he always had “hope” he would walk again, despite his diagnosis.

“I was at the bottom of the ruck and somebody landed on my head, it pushed it down and it dislocated my spine at my neck,” he explained.


“As soon as that happened I heard the crack and felt my whole body just seize up and I couldn't move at all. It was horrible.

“They told me it was probably a complete injury and I would never have much movement below my shoulders,” he said.

“I didn't know how to react.

“It was pretty shocking, but I still had that hope I would walk again.”

He praised the quick thinking of his coach Gareth McClintock, who prevented further harm and a constant source of support throughout his rehabilitation

“He instantly came over and held my head, if I had been moved it could have been so much worse,” he added.

“Even since then he's been visiting every week and he's been absolutely fantastic.”

His parents Julie, 52, and Bill, 53, quickly flew out to South Africa to be at his bedside.

“It was dreadful to get that call,” said Mrs Greeves.

“The morning after Patrick had his operation it didn't look like there was going to be an awful lot of improvement.”

After 16 days the teenager made the 20-hour flight back to Belfast by air ambulance to begin his recovery with 15 weeks of bed rest.

Some feeling remained in his toes, which gave him some hope.

“It was really difficult but I just thought if there's some kind of message going down there then maybe there's a chance,” he said.

“I later got some flickers and spasms in my legs and got into a wheelchair. Once I got that I really started to push forward and my body started to recover rapidly.”

He said finally walking out of hospital “just means the world”. “It shows that all the people who have been praying for me and thinking about me really helped and it can encourage people in a similar situation to hold on to that little bit of hope.”

His mum added: “It felt just like the most enormous weight lifted, it was such a wonderful moment. We've had people in churches everywhere praying for him and now we've got our own miracle, we're so grateful.”

Patrick is now back in the family home and will continue to attend physio sessions as he starts a music technology course in Armagh before continuing the subject at Queen's University in Belfast.

“The hope is I'll be able to walk without any assistance,” he added.


“I still need a wheelchair for long distances, but the hope is I eventually won't need that.”

Last week, Patrick and his parents were special guests at Royal School Dungannon’s annual Spring Concert.

The school’s Rugby 1st XV joined the senior choir on stage to sing a ‘Stand by Me/Lean on Me’ medley in tribute to Patrick’s remarkable will during his recovery.

Speaking to the Courier, RSD headmaster, Dr David Burnett said the school feared the worst following his horrendous injury.

“When we first heard about Patrick’s injury during the rugby and hockey tour to South Africa last August we were all a bit shocked and fearing the worst. The early prognosis wasn’t good. Gradually, as time ticked on in South Africa and then back home in Northern Ireland, we saw Patrick begin his recovery and rehabilitation and to make progress,” he said.

“It was a slow process of course and Patrick, in his usual humble way, always pays great tribute to the medical staff in South Africa, the Royal Victoria Hospital and Musgrave Hospital who have helped him so much. But it is important to recognise also the incredible effort Patrick himself has put into the rehab process for months on end. He is so determined and positive in his attitude and he has refused to be beaten by the injury, a mindset reinforced constantly by his parents, brother and wider circle of family and friends.

“The RSD community has been supporting Patrick throughout and we in turn have been grateful to Ulster Rugby and the IRFU Charitable Trust for the practical help they have provided at various stages. The collective goodwill shown towards Patrick has been a real blessing and we are so grateful to everyone who has helped.”

Dr Burnett said the Spring Concert was a very emotional and memorable event for everyone involved.

“We were delighted to have Patrick and his parents as our special guests. It was truly a memorable day as Patrick had just been discharged from Musgrave and had walked out the door of the hospital. He walked into RSD that night also.


“At the concert, the Senior Choir were joined on stage by the 1st XV to sing a ‘Stand by Me/Lean on Me’ medley. It was a very emotional moment, especially for the players and coaches who had been with Patrick in South Africa. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to rugby coaches, Mr McClintock, Mr Chambers and Mr Lucas, who have done so much to help Patrick, at the time and since. Indeed, our Head of Boys’ PE, Mr McClintock, has been such a constant source of support for Patrick, that he may now be an honorary member of the Greeves family!

“We all know that Patrick’s journey to recovery is not yet complete but he has come such a long way in a relatively short period and we are all determined to continue supporting him in the future. Everyone at RSD will be cheering him on at the upcoming WheelPower Inter-Spinal Unit Games at Stoke Mandeville Stadium and looking forward to seeing Patrick begin his Music Technology course in September.”

A spokesperson for Dungannon Rugby Club said everyone was “delighted” to hear of Patrick’s recovery.

“The rugby fraternity and his many friends were delighted to learn that RSD player, Patrick Greeves left hospital on his feet last week,” the spokesperson said.

“Patrick was seriously injured on the School tour of South Africa last August leaving him in a wheelchair for the past 8 months. 

“His miraculous recovery has stunned everyone and best wishes to him and his family. What great news!”

Leave your comment

Share your opinions on Alpha Newspaper Group

Characters left: 1500