Sheffield United: How open heart surgery gave former Blade Kyle Nix perspective in life

Nix with Blades skipper Billy Sharp
Nix with Blades skipper Billy Sharp
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It should have been the worst moment of his life but as boyhood Blade Kyle Nix remembers the day he was released by his beloved Sheffield United, he now knows that it was only the start of his greatest battle.

Nix’s perspective is the kind afforded to him by two mini heart attacks and one bout of open heart surgery while, to this day, a number of tumours - thankfully, non-cancerous - float around his body.

Doctors immediately told him he would never play football again at a professional level and a career that spanned a number of clubs, countries and continents was over.

His body was bruised, his dreams shattered.

But he was alive.

“Talk about putting things into perspective for me,” Nix told The Star.

Sheffield Weds reserves v Sheffield United Reserves
Kyle Nix gets the ball from Andrew Broadbent

Sheffield Weds reserves v Sheffield United Reserves Kyle Nix gets the ball from Andrew Broadbent

“It’s only football after all and although it feels like your life when you’re playing, there is more to life.

“I’m just so happy that I’m still here. I had to sign forms with my parents to say I understood there was a chance I might not wake up from the surgery, and that’s when things hit me.

“I’m alive. And when you look at life like that, everything else is a bonus really.”

Nix now calls the Sunshine Coast in Australia home, running the K3 Coaching academy with brothers Korey and Kallum and coaching at Nambour Yandina United FC.

I’m just so happy that I’m still here. I had to sign forms with my parents to say I understood there was a chance I might not wake up from the surgery, and that’s when things hit me. I’m alive. And when you look at life like that, everything else is a bonus

Kyle Nix

It’s a full-circle turn for Nix, who was actually born in Sydney before moving to Wickersley and signing for Neil Warnock’s Blades, after spells at Manchester United and Aston Villa.

He volunteered to take a penalty on his debut against Shrewsbury in the League Cup - “Myself and Stephen Quinn both made our debuts and Joe Hart saved my penalty,” he smiles - but made only one more appearance from the bench before becoming a casualty of United’s Premier League promotion in 2006.

Spells at Barnsley and Bradford City followed before a serious injury sent Nix’s career into non-league.

Then came the news that ended it. By then, Nix was at PTT Rayong in Thailand and the season was drawing to a close.

Kyle Nix in his United days

Kyle Nix in his United days

“I started feeling tired in games, like I couldn’t get about the pitch as much,” Nix, now 31, added.

“I’d played 30-odd games so I put it down to a hard season, in the intense heat. But then I started getting severe pins and needles in my right foot and hand, and getting severe cramp in my calf even when I walked anywhere.”

Nix was then offered a deal in Malaysia, and flew out last January.

“And in the second training session, I just broke down,” he said.

“I literally couldn’t walk in training, felt like I had no circulation to my foot and my calf was all bruised and swollen.

“In the end, I didn’t sign because my dad and agent said I needed to get home and sort it out. I saw a few physios who said it could be nerve problems or sciatica, but I wasn’t convinced so went to St. George’s Park at Burton and they detected weak pulses in my legs.

Reds' Nicky Wroe stops Blades' Kyle Nix

Reds' Nicky Wroe stops Blades' Kyle Nix

“So from there, they sent me for scans all over my body, including a heart scan and an ECG to check my heart rhythm.

“They found a tumour in the pumping chamber of my heart, the bottom left ventricle, and multiple tumours around my body; in both legs and my right arm.”

Nix pauses as he searches for the right word to describe how he felt after hearing the news.

“The worst moment of my life,” he offers.

“When they phoned and told me, I broke down and my dad had to speak to them. They didn’t know if it was cancer and the next day, I was admitted to hospital for two and a half weeks.

“That’s when they told me I’d had two heart attacks, but that the tumours weren’t cancerous.

“I had open heart surgery on June 3 to remove the tumour from my heart, and the rest are still there, stuck in my main arteries. We’re looking at what we can do with them, but the main thing is recovering at the minute.”

The tumour, myxoma, is rare but the operation was a success. Nix’s doctor told him that his leg was safe, and that further major surgery shouldn’t be required, but his playing days were over.

“I can’t lie and say I wasn’t devastated when he said it’s over,” Nix admits, “but being told my leg was safe brought me up again.

“Football is just football, a bag of wind. People treat it like it’s life or death.

“But I can tell them that it isn’t.”

Nix now runs a coaching company with his two brothers

Nix now runs a coaching company with his two brothers

SHEFFIELD UNITED PHOTO CALL  27.06.07
PIC: MARTYN HARRISON
KYLE NIX - SHEFFIELD UNITED

� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

SHEFFIELD UNITED PHOTO CALL 27.06.07 PIC: MARTYN HARRISON KYLE NIX - SHEFFIELD UNITED � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Bradford City v Morecambe. Bradford's Kyle Nix

Bradford City v Morecambe. Bradford's Kyle Nix