Just eight years after suffering a potentially life-threatening brain haemorrhage, a professional rugby player from St Helens has graduated from university.
Declan Sephton-Hulme’s parents were warned that their son may never walk again after doctors placed him in an induced coma when he collapsed after returning home from rugby training.
No wonder then that the 21-year-old Widnes Vikings player’s friends and family were so proud to see him graduate with a 2:1 honours degree in Sport and Exercise Science from Edge Hill this summer.
He was even awarded the university’s inaugural Adam Bell scholarship after being chosen for his “honesty, resilience, hard work and commitment to his studies”.
Declan said: “I was obviously delighted to graduate, but I don’t plan to use my degree for the foreseeable future because I’m hoping to forge a career as a rugby player.
“If that ever fell through, the degree would give me something to fall back on though. And rugby careers don’t exactly last a lifetime!”
Declan was just 13 when he returned home from a Warrington Wolves scholarship audition and collapsed at his parents’ Sutton home.
During the course of an 11-day coma, medics discovered that his collapse had been a result of an undiagnosed, genetic brain condition - Arterio Venous Malformation (AVM).
When his parents asked whether their son would be able to play rugby again, doctors warned them that he would be likely to experience paralysis, cerebral palsies and be unable to walk or talk.
Thankfully, the “worst case scenario” did not materialise and Declan was able to return home after a two-month hospital stay - albeit with speech and memory problems.
Now, despite having to undergo regular treatment and go for annual hospital check-ups, Declan remains largely unaffected.
He said: “Going through something like that does give you a fresh perspective on life. I’m more laid back now and just take life as it comes and I’m more grounded.
“It also instilled in me the motivation to do everything to the best of my ability. If you’re going to do something you might as well do it properly.”
Declan, currently on loan at Workington, recently had his Widnes Vikings contract extended by a year.
He made his Super League debut at the end of last season and hopes to force his way into the Widnes side in his preferred position of centre within the next 12 months.
“But I’d love to force my way into the side,” he said.
. At the moment there are other players at the club with more experience than me - but I’ve enjoyed gaining more experience at Workington and feel ready for a chance.
“Graduating from uni means that I can focus 100 per cent on my rugby now too, which can only help.
“Juggling studying and training has been tough - but it’s all been worth it, both on and off the pitch.”