Mad Butcher Sir Peter Leitch says every day is a great day after almost dying from complications from heart surgery. As he recovers from his near-death experience he thanks those who worked to save his life and who offered his family support.
Sir Peter Leitch has spoken of his near-death experience after suffering complications after heart surgery.
Leitch — lovingly known as The Mad Butcher — almost died in mid-April.
The 75-year-old initially went public about his health scare in a post on social media while still in hospital where he revealed he was "just bloody grateful I woke up today".
The comment was in reaction to criticism of his beloved Warriors' fortunes in the NRL, posting: "I'm not gonna comment individually as I was not at the game ... but I've been [in] hospital after battling for my life the last few days".
Now, in his first interview after his near-death experience, Leitch told the Herald on Sunday he was thankful to be alive.
"I was in a dark place," he said.
"I only remember being in my room being readied to go down for my first operation and then I woke up in an [ICU] recovery room [several days later].
"I have always said the two biggest things in life are the gift of time, it is the best thing you can give someone, and that if you wake up in the morning then it is a beautiful day. That really resonates with me now. So many people die in the night, so if you wake up, it's a beautiful day."
Leitch initially went into Auckland's Mercy Hospital for heart valve replacement surgery.
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But complications later saw him receiving two further valves and he spent more than a week in an intensive care unit.
He was later transferred to Auckland City Hospital where a pacemaker was fitted to his heart.
Given the delicate state of his health, when he was finally released from hospital he had to have a family member with him around the clock for a week.
Leitch had a check-up mid-week, where doctors said they were pleased with his progress.
"It is just a matter of time now," he said.
Leitch said both he and his family wanted to thank two different groups of people; medical staff who cared for him and the wider community who rallied around him and his family with well-wishes.
"I have to say a huge thanks to all the staff at Mercy Hospital and Auckland City Hospital," he said.
"The staff were outstanding. They do so much and were constantly coming in to make sure I was okay. I was blown away. The medical staff were unbelievable."
He described the support the Leitch family had received from caring Kiwis – including scores of posts from concerned Kiwis online – had been "humbling".
"I just do what I do and like sharing the love out there. So the support was great," he said.
"And also at times of adversity it brings your family together. There were a lot of people out there sharing the love with us."
At his sickest, his family didn't spend a lot of time looking at the messages of support being sent Leitch's way. But he said the family were still very aware of the kindness and love directed to him.
"To be blunt, they were focused on me," he said.
During Leitch's hospital stay, his son-in-law and owner of the Mad Butcher stores Michael Morton said the former butcher and league fan had suffered "major complications" after a surgery and ended up having several other operations.
"Then he had some more complications that come with it," Morton said on April 23.
"It's a stressful time for everybody but he's in very good care and everybody is pleased with how he is starting to progress."
I was out walking yesterday as part of my recovery and I sat on a bench on the beach and Listen to the sounds of the waves coming in so peaceful so tranquil I wanted to share it with you have a fantastic dayPosted by Sir Peter Charles Leitch on Monday, 27 May 2019
The Warriors – who Leitch has supported since their inception in 1995 – were among well-wishers while Leitch was in hospital.
"On behalf of our staff, players and fans we wish him a speedy recovery," Warriors chief executive Cameron George said.
"He is a massive part of our club and culture and we can't wait to have him back fighting fit again."
While he recovers, Leitch has been involved in the organisation of a charity event to raise money for the family of former Kiwis legend Quentin Pongia, who died last month after battling cancer, aged just 48.
These are SOME OF THE items we’ll be auctioning off on the 7th June. If you’re unable to attend, you can still phone bid by contacting Viv Hunter on +64272020639 OR firstname.lastname@example.org HOWEVER YOU MUST REGISTER prior to the event and we will phone you on the day. I apologise for the rough video still working on getting my health back.Posted by Sir Peter Charles Leitch on Tuesday, 21 May 2019
All funds from the event will go to the Quentin Pongia Trust, which will help support the league star's 2-year-old daughter Maia.
League greats including Jerry Seuseu, Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki and Stephen Kearney will all talk at the event, with a raft of league memorabilia also to be auctioned off.
The Quentin Pongia Tribute Luncheon will be held at the Ellerslie Event Centre on Friday. For those not able to attend, phone bid offers will be allowed on the wide range of donated playing jerseys.
"The event will be a celebration of life and we'll be raising money for his 2-year-old daughter," Leitch said.
"There is a lot of love for Quentin. He gave a lot to the game of rugby league and a lot to a lot of people."
Leitch was knighted in 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours for his services to business and philanthropy and also was the subject of an episode of This is Your Life.
In 2008 he released his autobiography, titled What a Ride, Mate! The Life and Times of the Mad Butcher.
The heart surgery complications are not the only major health battle that Leith has faced over the past decade.
In 2010, he announced he had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. He went into remission in 2016.
In 2011 he was hospitalised with chest pains and discharged several days later. Last year he underwent reconstructive knee surgery.
For details of the Quentin Pongia Tribute Luncheon, visit: https://nzrl.co.nz/special-invite-from-the-mad-butcher/