Former Hurricanes lock Michael Fatialofa is facing a $200,000 medical bill in the UK after recovering from a horror injury, reports The Telegraph's Daniel Schofield.
Michael Fatialofa, who made a miraculous recovery from a severe spinal injury, is facing a six-figure medical bill, the Telegraph Sport understands.
Fatialofa is now walking again after initially being paralysed from the neck down after suffering a C4 vertebrae fracture and spinal contusion playing for Worcester Warriors against Saracens on January 4. However confusion over the liability for his four-month stay at the private Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital has led to him receiving invoices amounting to £100,000 (NZ$200,000). "He has swapped one hell for another," a source told Telegraph Sport.
Fatialofa had only been on the pitch for a minute when he carried the ball into Saracens replacements Jack Singleton and Richard Barrington in a Premiership match at Allianz Park. Although it appeared at first glance to be a routine collision, Fatialofa's neck had bent forward in the contact.
He was moved to the intensive care unit at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, where he recalls people dying next to him. Fatialofa was told to prepare for life in a wheelchair before being transferred to Royal Bucks, a private hospital which has a renowned spinal unit, on February 6.
Under their expert supervision, he made an inspiring recovery and was walking unaided by March. "You are witnessing a miracle that even medical professionals can't explain," his wife, Tatiana, posted on social media. "They are so shook by his progress given his critical level of injury." On June 6, he was discharged from Royal Bucks and was filmed walking back into Sixways, Worcester's ground ten days later providing one of rugby's few feel-good stories of the year.
However his ordeal is far from over. Fees at Royal Bucks are around £8,500 a week for Fatialofa's level of care. The first four weeks of his care, which came to approximately £36,000, were paid for by Worcester Warriors through the Rugby Care insurance scheme. At that point, Fatialofa was due to be transferred to the nearby Stoke Mandeville Hospital, an NHS facility, but no bed was available.
In such cases, Worcester claim to have been advised that Fatialofa's care would be paid for by the Clinical Commission Group which allows NHS patients to receive treatment in private hospitals when no comparable NHS care is available. Yet Fatialofa, who spent 18 weeks at Royal Bucks, has since received invoices that amount to more than £100,000, according to several sources. Despite his recovery, Fatialofa's livelihood as a professional rugby player is over at just 27. His contract with Worcester ended on June 30 and a prearranged move to a French club this summer was cancelled after his injury. A Just Giving Page, set up by the Rugby Players' Association's Restart Charity, has received more than £40,000 in donations but the bills he is facing are far beyond his means. "It has been incredibly stressful for him," a source told Telegraph Sport. "We are talking a sum around six figures which is money he simply does not have. We have been trying to get to the bottom of it, but we still do not have any answers."
A further complication is Fatialofa's visa is due to expire shortly, but he needs to remain in this country for follow-up consultations with his surgeon before he can return to New Zealand. As well as being backed by the RPA, Fatialofa has been closely supported the the Pacific Rugby Players' Welfare group and the management and coaching staff at Worcester Warriors. The club's head of medical Ryan Kehoe has formed a particularly close relationship with Fatialofa, who continues to receive treatment at Sixways even after the expiry of his contract.
Worcester co-owner Colin Goldring promised to ensure that Fatialofa will not be forced to pay the six-figure bill. "If there are outstanding issues, we will do whatever we would work to support Michael," Goldring said. "I have no idea where the penny stops, but the one thing I know is that we will support Michael in finding out and will protect him. He won't be out of pocket because he is one of our boys. He is one of our ours and we will protect to him, we will look after him. If it turns out that Michael is held for it (the bills) then we will not stand for that. We would take advice to try to protect Michael and if needs be intervene ourselves to protect him."