Chris Cairns interview: "I know I may never walk again - but I'm lucky enough to be alive"
Chris Cairns lies up in his hospital bed in Canberra but still thinks about cricket. He wants to know more about England and his preparations for Ashes, especially if Ben Stokes will be fit for Brisbane.
On the other hand, talking about hamstring strains and broken fingers feels pretty trivial when Cairns faces the opportunity to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
“I don't know if I'll ever run again, and that's my peace with that,” he says. "Now it's about understanding that I can lead a fulfilling and comfortable life in a wheelchair, but at the same time knowing that it will be different."
It is strange to see Cairns - a giant of a man whose natural bullishness made him appear even bigger in his gambling pomp - so physically weakened. But, as he himself emphasizes, he is simply “lucky to still be here”.
The 51-year-old suffered an aortic dissection - an often fatal rare heart disease - and received life support measures in August. He was saved by four open heart surgeries, but the stress on his body was so great, a blood clot formed and he suffered a stroke on the operating table, paralyzing him from the waist down.
Four months later, he is living in a special rehabilitation facility at Canberra University Hospital while his house is being remodeled.
"It's been 14 weeks since I had my injury and when I look back it feels like a lifetime," he says. “I can't remember the eight or nine days when I had four open heart surgeries. “My wife Mel was with me the whole time and I have to turn to her all the time when it came to that. I was completely wrong.
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“I remember taking children to school that morning. But with an aortic dissection, you're a working time bomb. The rupture in your artery will cause blood to leak and your blood pressure to drop. You are in the haze. I remember getting to the emergency room, vomiting, and then having my blood pressure measured and rushing through.
“They turned me upside down to get the blood to go to the brain. The next thing I remember is that I woke up in Sydney nine days later and didn't know what was going on. "
Cairns is not used to being let down by his body. He played 62 Tests and 215 ODIs for New Zealand and performed regularly for Nottinghamshire between 1988 and 2008, but his sheer strength would have made him a Twenty20 superstar had the format existed.
His huge arms made it routine to clear the ropes, and he was also armed with a slower killer ball that once fooled Chris Read on a test at Lord's.
His pre-eminent reputation in the field extended beyond, and not always, to his merits. His reputation was marred by match-fixing allegations more than a decade ago, which led to a Supreme Court defamation case that he won against Lalit Modi, the founder of the IPL. “I hope to go on family vacation again with the kids, but maybe I'll be wheelchair bound for the rest of my life. At least I have the chance to be here and live life differently when that happens. "