Oldham assistant coach Brendan Sheridan says he will never be able to fully thank the Rugby League community for its support after he spent two weeks in intensive care with Covid-19.
Last month Sheridan went from feeling “9/10 fine” to being rushed to hospital within a matter of hours, having shown none of the coronavirus symptoms before struggling to breathe one afternoon.
The otherwise healthy 41-year-old was placed on a ventilator and later needed to be packed in ice to reduce his fever while his family had to rely on updates from the hospital.
Messages of support flooded in from around the sport with a host of players, coaches and fans running a #MileforShez and posting on social media.
And the former Dewsbury Celtic coach, who spent time at Sheffield and Batley as a youngster before serious injury saw him return to the amateur game, says that made a huge difference to him and his family.
Sheridan said: “When I saw all the bits on social media with people running a mile for me it really gave me a lift.
“It was started by Tony Dunford, who was a team-mate at Dewsbury Celtic who I coached, and my son said he saw people in America, Australia and all over doing it.
“Chris Hamilton at Oldham was in constant touch with my mum and family. He’s been absolutely fantastic and I can’t stress the level of help he’s given me mentally and emotionally.
“He put me in touch with Steve McCormack at Rugby League Cares, who put me onto Craig at Sporting Chance, and I can’t thank those two enough.
“Rugby League is such a great sport and it brings everybody together. Being in and around such great people helped save my life.
“If I could meet every person that got in touch I’d want to shake their hand and give them a massive hug to say thank you.”
Sheridan revealed last week how the experiences he went through have left him struggling to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, which he has spoken to Sporting Chance about following the help of McCormack.
He has been having difficulty sleeping and said: “I’ve been really struggling with how to cope with it.
“A lot of people go into hospital with it and tragically don’t come back, and if that had happened to me I would never have been able to say a proper goodbye to my family.
“That haunts me, and every day I ask myself why I’ve survived and others haven’t.
“Physically I feel fine now. I’ve walked a lot since I came out and they’ve even been telling me to slow down.
“But it’s hard to process everything else at the moment.
“As rugby players you shrug off bruises, breaks and torn muscles, but you can’t see the tears on the inside.
“I’ve been carrying some mental baggage with me all my life and what this has shown me is that if I live for another 41 years, I don’t want to be burying it every time I put my head on the pillow.”
Sheridan says he owes his life to the NHS staff at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, and recounted one particular story about the physiotherapist who helped him recover.
He added: “I was a bit cranky with her at one point when I wanted to go home and I apologised to her.
“I just wanted to do whatever it takes to get back to normal, and she ended up crying when I left.
“She said that with all the bad things happening and people not making it, it was a miracle how I’d pulled through.
“It was surreal having such an emotional moment with somebody you don’t know.
“The NHS are under massive amounts of stress, but their work ethic is unreal.
“Those NHS staff members have become people’s families when they’re not allowed to see their loved ones in hospital.
“Then they have to take what they’re seeing to their own families and carry the mental baggage of so many people dying every day.
“They are unbelievably special people and I can’t thank them enough.”