Si King, who suffered a brain aneurysm in 2014 and was close to dying, remembers that fateful day as he celebrates the NHS and meets staff and patients....
Best known as one half of adventurous cooking duo, the Hairy Bikers, Si King has been a regular on our TV screens along with his colleague Dave Myers. But four years ago he was at serious risk of dying when he suffered a brain aneurysm.
"The consultant told me afterwards if I hadn’t got myself straight to hospital I wouldn’t be here now", says 51-year-old Si speaking from his home near Newcastle.
Now in a new series, he and other famous faces including Fern Britton, Denise Lewis, CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell and Dr Rangan Chatterjee, share their very personal stories and reveal why they owe so much to the NHS, which celebrates it’s 70th anniversary this year.
Here, dad of three, Hairy Biker Si King , talks exclusively to TV Times about his terrifying ordeal and how he will forever be grateful to those who saved him….
TV Times: Rewinding to 2014, when did you first realise that something was very wrong?
Si King: "I was sitting at home in my little cottage, watching an England rugby game and I had this terrible headache that just wouldn’t go away. I put it down to tiredness because Dave and I had just come back from Australia on a book tour. I was going to take myself off to bed and have a lie down but then, something very strange happened with my vision. It looked as if all the rugby players were sliding off the screen."
TVT: What did you do next?
SK: "I knew then that something was very wrong. I called a cab to take me straight to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and arrived at A & E where I saw a fantastic triage nurse. They ended up doing a lumbar puncture and found blood in my spinal fluid which was a sign I’d had a brain haemorrhage. I was rushed straight in for an emergency operation."
TVT: Did you think you were going to die?
SK: "It wasn’t until afterwards when I had a conversation with the consultant that it struck me. He told me that if I’d gone back to bed to sleep it off like I was planning, I wouldn’t be here now."
TVT: In the show, you go to an A&E ward and also a neurology department where you meet people who suffered aneurysms like you…
SK: "Yes that was tough because I was one of the lucky ones. Only 15 percent of people who have aneurysms survive and of that 15 percent, 13 percent have permanent problems with their motor skills. I meet a wonderful guy called Andy who had been one of Britain’s top climbers. After his aneurysm he couldn’t move or speak and it was very poignant meeting Ian, who has been left unable to walk and who was going through physio after he had a stroke."
TVT: You were in hospital for four weeks after your surgery. As a chef, how did you find hospital food?
SK: "It is what it is. I would never criticise it but when I woke up in the Intensive Therapy Unit and saw Dave sitting there, I said, ‘Dave, I’m starving!’ He said, ‘Well you’re on the mend then!’ He tootled off, like the good mate he is, to buy me a pork pie which is exactly what I fancied."
TVT: What do you think about the NHS and it’s staff?
SK: "They are just so skilled at what they do. It takes an incredibly special human being to work under those pressures. The care I received was amazing. The staff were gentle, kind, they took time to listen and the critical emergency departments we have in this country are second to none. If it wasn’t for the NHS I wouldn’t be here."
TVT: How has your outlook on life changed since having you aneurysm and going through such a frightening time?
SK: "It hasn’t. I don’t want to tell you a fib. I had a pretty good outlook anyway on life and all that’s happened is I want to embrace life even more really and not let the brain haemorrhage define me or what I do from this point on. I definitely think it helped that I’d lost almost 4 stone in weight before the haemorrhage - that was an enormous help, I don’t know what position I would have been if I hadn’t lost that weight."
TVT: How was your recovery?
SK: "I’d been used to working 14 hour days when we were making some of the Bikers programmes, the schedules were pretty heavy, but after the brain haemorrhage I just couldn’t. It would take me all my time just to make a cup of tea. By the time I’d made it, dragged myself back to the settee, drank it, I would fall asleep for hours on end. So for my recovery I was very sedentary, I put nearly two stone of the four stone I’d lost, back on. I wasn’t having a particularly pleasant time in my personal life either so it was tough. I had to push myself through some real fatigue, but bit by bit I got stronger."
How do you try and look after your health now?
SK: "I’m a middle aged man and I love food. I’m going to want to drink beer and eat pies so the whole ethos of Dave and mine’s diet books was great tasting food that happens to be less calorific. When I find myself piling on pounds I go back to the cookery books and just have to be more disciplined with myself."
TVT: What else have you got coming up this year?
SK: "I’m going to be visiting my partner Michelle in Australia over the summer and then Dave and I are going on another book tour and there's another TV series in the offing. We're also going to be doing a charity motor cycle trip across Canada for ChildLine Rocks in September. I went to Canada last year with my son and we went fishing in a place called Big Bear Lake which was amazing. It's fabulous countryside. Dave and I will be teaming up some road crew from Iron Maiden and various other lads so it’s going to be great. There's lots going on! We’re going to be as busy as ever."
Matron, Medicine and Me starts on BBC1, Monday July 16 and is on all this week
Main pic: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock
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Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and WhattoWatch.com She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.