Hockey player makes his come-back with a crushed skull

When a hockey ball caused 50 fractures to Andrew Hofmeyr’s skull, double vision and an almost complete loss of taste and smell, most people thought he was out of the game forever.

But this weekend, he made his first re-appearance for the Wits Men’s first team since 2009. Hofmeyr was hit in the face after a defender from the University of the Cape Peninsular miss-cleared a hockey ball into the Witsie’s path. He was representing Wits Hockey in a South African Students Sport Union tournament, held in Bloemfontein.

He broke his nose, suffered a collapsed sinus and fractured cheekbones. Two pieces of his skull had penetrated the first membrane of his brain. He leaked brain fluid from his nose for 10 days after the game. “I remember everything. I didn’t see the ball coming. After I got hit, one of my teammates just said, ‘Lie down Andy’. The umpire was saying that I must get off his turf and that I was bleeding all over it.”

“The doctors took an x-ray and said that I had broken my nose and would suffer from a minor concussion.

They gave me some pain killers and a splint for my nose and sent me back to the tournament.

“I spent the week in Bloem drinking and partying. We didn’t know anything was wrong.”

This was where the problem started, said Hofmeyr.

“After a week with the double vision at the tournament, I had to walk with my head sideways and wear an eye patch in order to see properly.”

When he arrived back in Johannesburg, Hofmeyr was sent to a brain specialist. “The doctors said that the alcohol I drank saved my life. It thinned my blood and prevented any clotting, which could have caused severe brain damage.”

Hofmeyr underwent two surgeries. The first removed the fragments in his skull, added a metal plate to reinforce his fracture and reconstructed his nasal passages. The second removed the fragments obscuring Hofmeyr’s vision. The operations cost just under R250 000, of which Wits covered R15 000 and his hospital plan the rest.

“They [doctors] said that I stood a 10% chance of ever regaining my sense of taste and smell…” Six months later, Hofmeyr was back on the hockey field. “When I arrived at trials everyone thought I was mad. I played the entire season with double vision,” said Hofmeyr.

This year, Hofmeyr, now studying Health Sciences at the University, decided to compete with the men’s side for the first time since his injury. He underwent a final surgery to fix his eye sight in 2011 and now has complete vision.

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