Professional cricketer Solo Nqweni thanks NHS staff for saving his life

By Ben Philip
BBC Scotland

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image source, Solo Nqweni
image captionSolo Nqweni was visited by England cricketer Ben Stokes in Aberdeen

A South African cricketer who became seriously ill in Scotland has paid tribute to the NHS staff who saved him.

Solo Nqweni, 26, was an overseas professional playing for Aberdeenshire Cricket Club when he contracted an extremely rare condition.

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a disorder where the immune system attacks the nerves.

His mind remained intact, but he lost the ability to walk, talk and swallow almost overnight.

"It was like being a prisoner in your own body," Solo told BBC Scotland News. "The doctors said you had more chance of winning the lottery than catching this disease.

"I'm fortunate that I got sick in Scotland because the people were so good."

He would later go on to catch Covid-19 on his return to South Africa.

Solo had been representing Aberdeenshire Cricket Club at its ground in Mannofield in Aberdeen, playing against Arbroath on 14 July last year.

After the match, he returned to his flat unaware that his life was about to change forever.

"All of a sudden I started losing all of my sensation and my speech started slurring and that's literally the last thing I remember before waking up in the intensive care unit", he said.

The sportsman spent more than six months at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, much of that time in intensive care.

image source, Solo Nqweni
image captionSolo was seriously ill and spent six months in intensive care

He said: "I just didn't understand what was going on and why it was happening to me.

"I was just lying there paralysed in bed only able to move my eyes.

"It was a very dark time for me."

His immune system was affected by the disorder and in one week he caught tuberculosis and experienced liver and kidney failure.

Doctors put him into an induced coma for two weeks to allow his body to recover.

Solo has undergone extensive treatment to revive his speech and mobility, and still requires 24-hour care.

'Forever grateful'

He says that he is "forever grateful" to the staff at NHS Grampian who took care of him.

He said: "The NHS took care of me as if I was one of their own."

During his time in hospital, England cricketer Ben Stokes paid Solo a visit while he was in Aberdeen being crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Solo is now continuing his recovery in Johannesburg.

His former team-mates in Aberdeen say they are delighted to see how far he has come.

Kenny Reid of Aberdeenshire Cricket Club said: "Solo is a credit to himself that he is where he is at the moment.

"We would be delighted if he came back to play for us one day - that would be some story."

Solo has set himself a goal of being able to stand unaided by January.

He hopes to make a return to cricket and Scotland in the future.

Solo said: "I want to come back to Scotland for sure, but I don't think I had enough warm jumpers with me last time, so I'll definitely be coming prepared this time around."

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