No wonder I felt dodgy about it. No wonder I vacillated for nearly two years.

The long march towards neck surgery had come to an end and a month later it's a slow amble back to normality.

We had decided to go private. Our medical insurance had just started to cover "existing conditions". Why not? At least I would have a solid date.

Read more: Jonny Wilkinson: Quite outrageous
Jonny Wilkinson: Preparing for surgery, it's weird


Before the surgery I saw a specialist about Botox. It wasn't for cosmetic reasons, I assure you. It was to temporarily tone down my neck spasms for after the operation, to aid my recovery.

He kept on saying, "It's a big operation," which perturbed me somewhat. He also said, "Don't repeat this but I wouldn't have it privately done, I would go public. It's a big operation and if something goes wrong, the public system has all the facilities there and you would end up needing to have an emergency transfer."

I felt even more perturbed.

Well lo and behold, something did go wrong after the operation. I had respiratory failure. I was oblivious to it all. In fact, several days were mashed into a series of delirious images and sound bites.

"You really scared me.'' "You've had some trouble breathing." "Leave that alone, it's an oxygen mask, you need it." "You're in Auckland City Hospital." "Where are you?" "What month is it?"

I remember friends' faces looming up to me. Artists and arty types who I had previously invited to come and draw me while I was still in hospital, Simon, Les, my daughter Chyna, they all seemed to slip in and out of reality and focus.

Well, I could have been in Vietnam in the '60s at that stage, for all I knew. Apparently a combination of the general anaesthetic and the cocktail of benzos and barbiturates another neurologist had prescribed to keep me still, post-operative morphine and an undiagnosed sleep apnoea conspired to make me forget to breathe.

I ended up in the high-dependency unit in Auckland City Hospital for what seemed like an eternity.

I found hospital a totally different environment. I was absolutely dependant on myriad nurses and health-care assistants. The focus from the group of doctors who did the rounds every morning seemed to be on my sleep apnoea as opposed to my neck.

I was waiting to be transferred to Whangarei Hospital where they would give me post-operative physiotherapy. The transfer, however, kept on being postponed because they wanted to further observe my breathing and sleep apnoea.

Finally my transfer came and half an hour after being told I was going, I was lying on a stretcher watching the Auckland Harbour Bridge disappear out of view through the back windows of an ambulance.

I spent a further week in Whangarei Hospital. I felt like an imposter. Although my neck progressively got more painful during the day, there was no real reason for me to be there. I was getting up to the third week of a hospital stay in total and I wanted out.

Don't get me wrong, all the hospital staff were charming and helpful, but I still felt as though I was starring in M*A*S*H or some Vietnam-American War black comedy.

I was on the brink of being discharged when they decided to test me for sleep apnoea again. A day later I was back home. It's taken a while to bounce back, to snap out of those 100-metre stares into the distance and focus on the here and now.

I'm wearing a hard neck brace which is driving me nuts and I'm using a walking frame.
Was it all worth it? At the moment it's hard to tell, but I'm sure it will prove the case over time. It's only been six weeks. Resilience is a virtue both tested and aided by time, and aided by the people around you, whom I have no doubt I tested in return.

* Jonny Wilkinson is the CEO of Tiaho Trust - Disability A Matter of Perception, a Whangarei-based disability advocacy organisation.