Derby County striker Steven Davies has revealed how close he came to suffering brain damage following a sickening head injury in the game against Southampton.
Davies will be sidelined until January after fracturing his skull in the 1-1 draw with the Saints in October.
Davies BBC Radio Derby: "The surgeon said how close it was to my brain. He said you have two layers of the skull and the first was completely shattered.
"He said I was millimetres rather than inches from suffering brain damage."
It was initially thought that Davies would only be out for around six weeks.
But the injury was much more serious than first feared and the surgery saw Davies have 10 metal plates and more than 20 screws put in.
The scars across his eyebrow will stay with him for life. And the diagnosis has left Davies in no doubt as to where his priorities lie.
"It's a shock," added Davies. "It's been a hell of scare and I'm just thankful to be okay. The surgeon said that football has to be secondary."
At the time Davies, who has five goals in 11 games this season, was more concerned with getting back to his feet and trying to help the Rams beat Southampton.
"I thought I had just had a bang on the head and thought I was going to be able to get back up and carry on," he explained.
But the realisation that he came perilously close to suffering a life-changing injury soon began to hit him after surgery.
"My first thought was that I have a wife and two kids at home and what will they do if this doesn't turn out to be the result we wanted," he added.
"As for the football, I have to take it easy and get back to full health whenever I can get back.
"It could have been a lot worse. I could have been sitting here thinking "that's me" and I wouldn't have been able to play again."
But the operation should mean Davies returns stronger than ever in the new year. He will have a further scan this week to ensure all is well and remains optimistic.
"The surgeon said it's as strong as it going to be," said Davies.
"I've had 10 metal plates and around 20 screws put in just to secure it and, if that doesn't hold up, then I don't think much will.
"Hopefully it should be stronger than a normal skull. By the time I come back to playing football I'm sure I'll be fine."
The 23-year-old, who has been blighted by injury problems during his time at Pride Park, has said his two young children have stopped him dwelling on what could have been.
"I'm just trying to forget about it and looking forward to enjoying a bit of family life," he said.
"My little boy understands daddy has had a little bit of accident and he is more acting like a nurse but my little girl has been straight in there and has already caught me a couple of times. But it's just good to be home."