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Most people take playing hockey and a long life for granted. For one English hockey player, these things have never been taken for granted but hockey has proved to be his saviour …

 

How Have I Cheated Death Tim WottonTim Wotton has spent his whole life battling the hereditary illness cystic fibrosis (CF) and recently diagnosed type 1 diabetes and four years ago he reached 40; an incredible milestone for CF sufferers. He has also written a book, How Have I Cheated Death? which charts the importance of hockey to his survival.

Tim says, "Without a shadow of a doubt, a large part of my longevity in defying CF can be credited to the amount of sport I have played throughout my life; mainly hockey."

However, exercise is not at all straight forward for most CF sufferers as the build-up of mucous in the lungs means that less oxygen is available which causes problems for breathing and general fitness. It involves a two-hour daily medical regime consisting of 40 tablets, nebulisers, inhalers, injections and physiotherapy which make it an extremely exhausting condition.

But to counter this debilitating condition, Tim has found that regular exercise has become a necessity to keep his lungs 'tuned', allowing him to keep up with his peers and conduct a relatively normal life.

Tim, from a family of hockey players which included his dad and brothers, has played hockey for countless teams and at many levels. As well as playing for club (Trojans, Southampton, Old Kingstonians and now London Edwardians), county and for his region, he had the honour of being selected for England Juniors which toured Germany in 1986, a team which included Danny Kerry, the current England Hockey Performance Director. In 1987 he trained with the British Olympic winning squad at Bisham Abbey, even scoring a goal past the legendary British goalkeeper Ian Taylor!

Indeed, he was playing first team hockey until he was 32 and still plays at a reasonably competitive level for London Edwardians; though this is ad hoc depending on his health and parental duties for his eight year old son, Felix.

His memoir describes the physical trauma of playing in league games, how he met his wife Katie through mixed hockey, touring with his beloved 'Phantoms' team, a near-death experience while playing and how a comment from an umpire about his coughing almost caused him to retire from the sport.

"When I’m struggling on the pitch, the chaps (who know about my CF) ask me if I'm OK, but the opposition jokingly check if I had a night on the town or have a bad cold. It's especially tough in England with the inclement weather. This has been magnified with my diagnosis as a type 1 diabetic. Now just getting on the pitch, let alone actually playing, takes more and more effort" explains Tim.

He adds, "I might not be able to fully make a difference to the outcome of the game anymore as I could in my younger playing days. Plus my coughing at times can be pretty shocking for those on the pitch. But while there's breath in this body of mine, I'll keep playing on for I know it makes a difference to the outcome of my health. I would go as far as stating that it's a matter of my life or death. I'm desperate to still be playing hockey at 50 and to coach my son to play."

 

Tim's book is available to buy now from online retailers including Austin Macauley and Amazon, as well as in WH Smith, Waterstones and Foyles bookstores (ISBN 9781849637190).

Editor: the opinions presented in this article are those of the individual assigned to review this particular book. They do not represent the views of The Hockey Museum.

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