Jack Carty: 'I was stuck to the bed because the pain was excrutiating'
Playmaker recalls the waterslide accident that cost him his spleen and four months of last season
Jack Carty lost 13kg in just ten days when his relaxing holiday became a living nightmare last February. It took just one wrong turn to change Carty's life forever when he ruptured his spleen on a waterslide at the Atlantis Waterpark in Dubai on a beautiful Friday morning.
The 24-year-old out-half now has a scar running from the top of his chest to his belly-button as a sharp reminder of just how fragile life can be.
The incision was made for the removal of his spleen and now he takes antibiotics on a daily basis to fight off the possibility of any infections from the outside.
The Athlone native played a huge part in Connacht's drive for their first ever piece of silverware, when they won the Pro12 title in 2016. But little did he know it would be eight months before he started a game at the Sportsground again. And so much has changed since Friday, February 5.
"It was a slide where you are just standing and the floor goes from underneath you. It was a bit of windy one and it goes downwards," he explains.
"On one of the turns I took a knock to the side. The sensation was something like a kidney punch. So I was winded for about 30 seconds and then it eased off. I was grand for the day then, and we went on a few more slides.
"But then we went to a brunch. As the day went on I felt much worse and I had deferred pain up in my shoulder. So I originally thought it had something to do with high blood pressure."
Carty had gone to the waterpark with his Connacht team-mates Dave McSharry and Dave Heffernan. There were a number of other rugby players at the meal afterwards, including Fionn Carr and his girlfriend Claire, who is an anaesthetist.
"I said it to Fionn's girlfriend that I wasn't feeling too good and she said to head up to the room," Carty recalls. "I was feeling grand up there for a while but when I woke up it was awful.
"I couldn't move - I was stuck to the bed because the pain was so excruciating."
Carty was unaware that he had ruptured his spleen on the slide. He went to the hospital in the hotel and underwent an ECG which came up inconclusive.
The players were due to fly home the next day, and that could have caused major complications if he had left it at that. But he was still feeling unwell and rang his mother Susan.
"It was maybe an hour later and I rang my mum and I said I wasn't feeling well, and she suggested that I try a different hospital," he says.
"I went to a hospital outside of the hotel and got scans done there. They said I had fractured a rib but then Fionn's girlfriend said I should get an MRI with dye done.
"They did that and then they realised there was a lot of internal bleeding in my stomach."
Carty was in ICU for two days after that and his parents flew over on the Sunday.
The doctors monitored his haemoglobin levels and when they began to deteriorate he was given the choice to keep his spleen or have it removed.
It was a no-brainer for Carty. If he kept his spleen it would mean two years off the pitch, and there would be no guarantee the spleen would ever heal correctly.
He had it removed on the Monday after the incident.
"The pain for the few days before I got it out was terrible. I was literally bed-bound and couldn't move," he says.
"The first thing I thought about was I wasn't going to be playing rugby for a few weeks. But it wasn't until they sat me down and talked me through it that I realised the severity of it. It is a major operation to get.
"To be fair though, the doctors over there were brilliant with how they looked after me. Once my parents got over it was much easier. I spent a week in hospital and then got the flight home."
But Carty was a pale shadow of the man who left for Ireland a couple of weeks previous. He had to get vaccinations to boost his immune system and had regular medical check-ups.
"When I got back to Connacht it was a gradual return to contact. I went out to Prof Joyce in the Galway Clinic," he says.
"I was getting routine scans with him, and the first scan I got, I was still having pains at this time, I still had a fractured rib when I went back training. So obviously it was the rib that nicked the spleen and that's why it happened the way it did.
"At that stage when I came back they gave me ten or 11 weeks to get back fit. Thankfully AJ MacGinty was fully fit at the time because he was such a fundamental part of Connacht winning the Pro12 last season.
"It was a case of too little too late for me but I was happy with my contribution throughout the year."
Carty finally graced the Sportsground again at the beginning of this month against Glasgow Warriors. The result may not have gone to plan but he was delighted to be back out playing in front of his family and friends.
Now, after successfully battling a health scare, there is a new rival battling for his No 10 shirt.
Springbok out-half Marnitz Boschoff will arrive on these shores shortly and Carty is looking forward to the extra competition.
"When Marnitz arrives he will be coming with a big reputation and obviously the fans will call for him to start," he says. "But hopefully I can back up my performances in the next few weeks and make it difficult for him when he arrives."