Austin Dale, 13, was playing in goal for Thetford Bulldogs Football Club, Norfolk, in May this year when he was taken off at half-time. He collapsed later at home and after being rushed to hospital it was discovered he’d suffered a stroke due to a narrow blood vessel in his brain.
Austin was originally paralysed on his right side and left with speech difficulties but things began to improve after a few days in hospital. He was discharged after two weeks, and now, his mum Marie Dale, 47, says Austin has regained full mobility, and apart from slight memory loss, is now fully-recovered.
He played his first game back for Thetford Town U14’s against Mundford on Sunday, September 3. Marie, from Thetford, Norfolk, said: "For him it wasn’t a big deal, but for us as parents it was pretty emotional. We were worrying at the start, but once we saw him playing, the nerves disappeared. It was amazing to see him between the posts again."
Marie says when Austin became ill, she originally thought it was a concussion. She drove him home, but his condition got worse and worse until eventually she was forced to take him to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Tests revealed Austin had suffered a stroke, and Marie and Austin’s father Paul Dale, 48, were told to expect the worst.
Marie said: "It’s so out of the blue for a 13-year-old who’s so fit and active to suffer a stroke - it took a while for us to get our heads rounds. He loves all sports - combat karate, running, biking. It was such a shock. We were told recovery could be a long process - either weeks or months. We really didn’t know what to expect."
To help raise Austin’s spirits while he was in hospital, Marie asked for football clubs big and small to send him a card. The family were subsequently contacted by Norwich City goalkeeper Tim Krul and Thetford-born Ian Henderson, who plays for Rochdale FC.
As word spread, other bigger clubs like Manchester United and Manchester City also got involved. After leaving hospital, and undergoing physical and speech therapy, Austin continued to improve and he is now fully mobile again.
And Marie has given a big thanks to the football clubs and players who reached out to Austin to cheer him up in his time of need. She said: "If it wasn’t for the kindness of the football world, I don’t think he’d be out there playing again.
"The cards and messages really lifted his spirits when he needed it most and gave him the motivation to get better. For that I will be forever grateful."