A broken leg during a rugby game led to complications that almost claimed Hayden Anderson's life - but determination and a reality check have transformed his life almost a year on.

The 22-year-old former Thames Valley prop plans to support his old team in the upcoming Heartland Championship, which kicks off next weekend, even though he can no longer play.

In September last year Anderson collided with another player during his first game for Thames Valley and broke his left tibia and fibula.

Anderson underwent surgery at Waikato Hospital and "woke up two weeks later".

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Doctors had to act fast to save his life, putting him into an induced coma, after he developed a rare fat embolism syndrome, where fat leaks into the bloodstream and can cause serious damage to internal organs.

It caused a lung infection and when Anderson's condition deteriorated dramatically he was put on life support. His father Barry Anderson was told he had an 8 per cent chance of surviving.

Hayden, 22, snapped his shin but suffered fat embolism syndrome following surgery, which damaged his lungs and left him with an 8 per cent chance of survival. Photo / Mike Scott
Hayden, 22, snapped his shin but suffered fat embolism syndrome following surgery, which damaged his lungs and left him with an 8 per cent chance of survival. Photo / Mike Scott

"Bone marrow snapped off. They call it a fatty embolism and from that it travelled through my blood system to my lungs and collapsed my lungs. I wasn't meant to wake up."

But after 12 days in a coma and almost four weeks in hospital, Anderson returned home to Mount Maunganui.

"I'm still recovering. My nerve still hasn't recovered. I can't walk properly - I have to lift my knee a bit higher. I can't run."

During the surgery doctors inserted a metal rod into Anderson's leg via his knee. It's unclear how his common peroneal nerve was damaged but he now suffers from weakness in his lower left leg and foot.

Two months after discharge from hospital Anderson walked up Mauao, complaining all the way and feeling sorry for himself.

"I was having a bit of a sulk about my foot and just before I got to the top a man with two artificial legs came down and I was like 'flippin' heck, if he can do it, stop being a sulk'.

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"I got over myself when I saw someone else in a worse situation."

Another inspiration was friend Cody Everson, who was paralysed in an awkward tackle while playing schoolboy rugby in Christchurch, but who now represents New Zealand in the Wheel Blacks.

"For me to still be walking I don't complain about it."

Working out at the gym is one of the only sporting activities Hayden Anderson can do after an on-field rugby collision changed his life. Photo / Supplied
Working out at the gym is one of the only sporting activities Hayden Anderson can do after an on-field rugby collision changed his life. Photo / Supplied

Instead he channels his energy into staying active by working out two hours each day at the gym.

He now bench presses and dead lifts more weight than before the accident, pressing 190kg and lifting 270kg.

Anderson lost 18kg while in hospital, dropping to 102kg. Now he's surpassed the 120kg he was, bulking up to 127kg with upper body cardio training.

Anderson has undergone two nerve conduction tests so far and no one seems to be able to determine a permanent prognosis.

"They can't tell me [if it will fully recover]. It could be another year, they don't know."

However Anderson remains optimistic the damage will be temporary.

His lungs have fully recovered and he was eventually able to return to work as a vocational moulder for ovens and water tanks.

Hayden Anderson as blind side flanker for Te Puke Sports, before he broke his leg in a game for Thames Valley last year. Photo / Stuart Whitaker
Hayden Anderson as blind side flanker for Te Puke Sports, before he broke his leg in a game for Thames Valley last year. Photo / Stuart Whitaker

And while Anderson had another setback six weeks ago he has chalked it up to "bad luck".

"I tore my ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] in the right leg, so I'll need surgery on that eventually. I was just walking down some stairs and it just gave out. It was overcompensating."

Anderson is now focusing on living his life to the full and getting his health back to 100 per cent.

In the meantime he is looking forward to attending his eldest sister's wedding in Perth in October.