A CHARITY leader from Winsford has praised the NHS staff who helped save his life after he was rushed to hospital with five undiagnosed abscesses on his brain. 

Martin Blondel is the general manager of the Steve Prescott Foundation (SPF), set up in 2007 by his friend and former St Helens rugby league player Steve, who died from cancer in 2013.

Well known across the rugby league community for his tireless work at the charity's helm, Martin was taken ill after the 2023 Pride of St Helens Awards, organised by the SPF and our sister title, the St Helens Star.

This year while setting up for the event at Saints' Totally Wicked Stadium on November 24, Martin had a migraine and swelling, which became so bad that it completely closed his left eye.

Northwich Guardian: Martin with Claire Simmon and Koby Prescott at the Pride of St Helens AwardsMartin with Claire Simmon and Koby Prescott at the Pride of St Helens Awards (Image: Martin Blondel)

Martin, who has been posting updates on social media from hospital, is keen to share his story.

He said: “For two years I’ve not felt right and been back again and again to the GP who told me I had sinus problems and gave me antibiotics. But it never went away.

“The Sunday before Pride of St Helens I had a different event for the SPF to go to and I told my wife Karen that I felt awful but carried on and then went to see the doctor on the Wednesday who said I had gastroenteritis.

Northwich Guardian:

“Pride of St Helens is such a big event and important to us all so on the Friday I felt even worse and had a migraine all day, but I carried on, but by the time the event started my eye had completely closed.

“It was only the next day after Karen and I stayed over at The Eccleston Arms that I finally agreed to go to Whiston Hospital and from there they rushed me in an ambulance to Aintree Hospital.”

Once there the staff fought to stabilise Martin for four hours and scans revealed five individual abscesses on his brain.

The biggest of these was pressing on the left front of his brain and onto his optic nerve, causing his eyelid to swell and fully close over.

Northwich Guardian: The abscess at the front of Martin's brain pushing on his eye and optic nerveThe abscess at the front of Martin's brain pushing on his eye and optic nerve (Image: Martin Blondel)

The 54-year-old, who in 2021 was awarded the MBE for services to the St Helens community during the Covid-19 pandemic, added: “Once they stabilised me, they told me that I could not have come closer to not being here.

“After that, I went in for a six-hour surgery to treat the brain abscesses and then I had to spend 12 days in isolation in ICU at The Walton Centre as I also had Covid, which I didn’t know, and they had to keep me apart from everyone else.

“For five of those days I was completely bedridden, my only visitor that was allowed was Karen and she had to have the covering and gown on. Two members of staff stayed with me.

Northwich Guardian: Martin after his surgeryMartin after his surgery (Image: Martin Blondel)

“The experience stripped me of my dignity, but I remembered Steve and everything he went through and his strength and the memory of that got me through: what the mind believes the body achieves, so I didn’t give in.

“Four days after surgery they wanted to operate again but felt the abscesses remaining could be better treated with intravenous antibiotics.”

Martin, who has been in hospital for a month, will remain at The Walton Centre into the new year due to his ongoing treatment.

He is expected to be there until January 20, though he is allowed to go home on day release before returning for treatment.

Northwich Guardian: One of the other abscesses in the centre of Martin's brainOne of the other abscesses in the centre of Martin's brain (Image: Martin Blondel)

He said: “I’m incredibly grateful to be here; the Pride of St Helens Awards and the preparation of the event pushed me so far that my symptoms worsened and that’s ultimately saved my life.

"If it hadn’t [happened then] I may have collapsed at home and I probably wouldn’t be here now.

“I’m sad obviously having to stay in hospital but fortunately I can leave in the day and return in time for the antibiotics at 10pm, so I did go out for the day on my birthday.

"I will [go on day release at New Year], I’ll just have to be back here early, which is a small price to pay to still be here.”

Martin credits the memory and strength of his friend Steve Prescott in keeping him going as well as the 'brilliant and dedicated NHS'.

Northwich Guardian: Martin wearing his eye patch in hospital in recoveryMartin wearing his eye patch in hospital in recovery (Image: Martin wearing his eye patch in hospital in recovery)

He added: “This has been a completely humbling experience, with what I do for the SPF I obviously know what our NHS does for others, and I’ve done a lot with others to thank them.

“But when it’s yourself and you see first hand the incredible work our brilliant and dedicated NHS do - from the cleaners to the surgeons - then it’s phenomenal.

Northwich Guardian: Martin says Steve Prescott's legacy and the incredible NHS helped him throughMartin says Steve Prescott's legacy and the incredible NHS helped him through (Image: Martin Blondel)

“And of course Steve, he’s not here anymore but his legacy is. He was with me all the way in his own way giving me his strength and courage and I’ll forever be grateful for that and for everyone at the SPF.

“We have plenty lined up in the New Year and I’ll certainly be back at it, with help from everyone else, doing more for our NHS and the town of St Helens.”