The descent from Steelers stardom to contemplating suicide

Beer monster: Marc Twaite
Beer monster: Marc Twaite
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ROD Sarich’s season-ending injury sent shockwaves across ice hockey. The Sheffield Steeler had to have 15% of a kidney removed following an ice collision.

The accident resonates with former Steeler and GB skater Marc Twaite, whose career was ended by injury a decade earlier. Today, Twaite, 37, who is now virtually homeless, reveals how his own medical problems led to depression, arrest, alcohol abuse ... and snorting pain-killers. Bob Westerdale reports.

Marc Twaite

Marc Twaite

MY thoughts are with Rod today, he’ll be going through a rough time.

Hockey is a dangerous sport and you need medical support, insurance and rehabilitation when things go wrong.

Hopefully, Rod will get all he needs. My own story is different, though.

I smashed my collarbone and ribs in a routine training collison with teammate Scott Allison on December 11, 2001.

Marc Twaite, his shoulder dropped two inches

Marc Twaite, his shoulder dropped two inches

The operation to repair me was delayed as the then owner, Norton Lea, haggled over the price. Eventually I had it.

It wasn’t a complete success, to say the least. I suffered a punctured lung during surgery and for eight months I had my arm in a sling.

My hockey career was over. I was forgotten by everybody. I had no physio and no rehab.

It was to be three years until I got my rotator cuff – the muscle that encloses my damaged shoulder joint - repaired.

Mark Twaite during his Steelers' career

Mark Twaite during his Steelers' career

I had a legitimate £25,000 claim for career-ending insurance, yet never received a penny.

Rod, thank God, won’t have to worry about this, I’m sure.

But I want to raise enough awareness of my case, to help anybody feeling isolated by a lack of care following injury in a sport they love.

Today, it’s still hard to come to terms with what happened to me.

When a doctor warned me that if I slept on my right side my collarbone might push against my trachea, halting me breathing, it was the final straw. That news sent me into a depression, which I’ve suffered ever since.

I had to stop working in the building trade, so my debts spiralled.

I hit the alcohol. I’d sit at home supping two bottles of red wine a night along with the 200mg Ibuprofen anti-inflammatory drug. It numbed the pain, but didn’t really help.

This went on for years, until I was rushed into hospital with chronic stomach pains.

I had an ulcer due to the booze and pills which had burned my stomach lining. I was prescribed more pills.

I stuggled to sleep, lost weight and felt weak.

My behaviour wasn’t great either.

On a night out with the guys I’d be drinking from 4pm to 5am, downing 18 pints, 12 double Jack Daniels and several Tequilas. I was getting into fights, getting arrested.

My father asked me: “What’s wrong with you? You’re not the same person we knew.”

My way of dealing was to go fishing, where nobody knew me.

Sometimes, though, I didn’t even cast my rods; I’d pass out drunk or high on pills. I was the lowest I’d ever been and felt there was no-one to turn to.

There was a time when I wanted it all to end. I had it in my mind my life was only going to get worse.

Yes, I considered suicide.

Losing hockey had hurt me so much. It had been my income, my social life and passion.

At one point, my shoulder blade dropped two inches on to my rib cage. putting pressure on my hip. I went to a back specialist as my discs were under pressure and starting to twist my spine.

Pain-killers weren’t working so I started crushing them and snorting them. I remember getting caught in a club toilet.

I was arrested. I told police: ‘Don’t worry, it’s not cocaine - it’s Ibuprofen.’ They let me go.

Then, after a three-day bender, I collapsed. I remember twitching on the kitchen floor, staring up at the light bulb. I was back in hospital again.

However, fishing was becoming my passion and I joined a gym. I let my frustrations out on the punchbag. It made me stronger and gave me a positive mind.

The smile that had been missing was back and I felt like my old self. I’d been at the lowest possible other than death.

Family, fishing and the gym helped me out the rut. I could see the light.

Now, I look back and think how lucky I was to get through it and how scary it was. I was addicted, out of control and living a nightmare for nine years.

I still have down-days. I suffer pain. I’m scarred for life. I don’t have a place to live. In the freezing winter last year, I was in a caravan. I stay at family, friends ... right now I’m in a tent. But I’ve lived to tell my tale.

And if there’s any advice I can give people suffering in similar circumstances, it’s this: Surround yourself with positive people, exercise is hugely important too, and find a hobby that gives you satisfaction.

Do you have a message of support for former Steeler Marc? E-mail bob.westerdale@jpress.co.uk