Chris Keogh, 27, was rushed to St George’s for emergency surgery after dislocating his neck playing football in April.

Chris describes the match as a ‘typical Saturday league game’ when he went for a header and landed awkwardly and lost sensation in his lower half, leading to an ambulance bringing him to St George’s for urgent treatment.

Following initial scans confirming the injury, a team of nine – two neurosurgeons, three anaesthetists and four nurses – carried out the five hour operation to realign and fuse the bones together using titanium bolts to save Chris. He is now paralysed from the chest down from the injury, but has use of his arms, hands and shoulders.

Liam Palmer, Healthcare Assistant, worked closely with Chris during his stay on McKissock Ward.

He said: “Chris initially stayed in the Intensive Care Unit while he was recovering from surgery before being moved to McKissock Ward.

“He was always really positive – even starting his very own positive list while on the ward.”

Chris’s positive list acts as a starting point to his new life. It includes things to look forward to or to achieve such as setting his sights on winning a gold medal in the 2024 Paralympics for swimming or wheelchair football.

He said: “Of course I have my down days, but I want to stay positive and make the most of what I have. That’s why the positive list came into place.”

Chris – known as ‘our Peter Crouch’ at his club AFC Ewell – has always been passionate about football, playing four times a week and within a few days all 22 of his teammates had visited him.

Following the news of his injury and positivity, footballers from across the globe – including Jose Mourinho, Eden Hazard, Peter Crouch and Michael Owen – sent Chris uplifting and supportive messages which he said have been a “great source of comfort” to him.

Matt Crocker, Neurosurgeon at St George’s, said: “Chris’s injury was particularly unusual as you don’t often see this happen through football. We knew that we had to operate quickly and that the results would be life-changing for him.

He added: “I’m delighted that he’s recovering well. He’s a great example of someone who looks for the positives in any situation and I wish him well for achieving his goal of competing and winning a gold medal in the 2024 Paralympics – if anyone can do it, Chris can do it!”

Chris said: “I’m so thankful to so many people – my teammates, friends, family, my girlfriend – and of course the team at St George’s.”

Notes to editors

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