Intensive battle for Tommy

WHEN Tommy Miller stared at the ceiling of Ipswich Hospital's intensive care ward, football was the last thing on his mind.All that concerned the 25-year-old midfield man was that he made a full recovery from an operation that proved far more daunting than he had dared to anticipate.

By Mel Henderson

WHEN Tommy Miller stared at the ceiling of Ipswich Hospital's intensive care ward, football was the last thing on his mind.

All that concerned the 25-year-old midfield man was that he made a full recovery from an operation that proved far more daunting than he had dared to anticipate.

Miller recalled: “When the surgeon said 'You will be in intensive care so that we can keep a close eye on you' I realised it wasn't going to be anywhere near as straightforward as I had thought.


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“I'd known for some time that I was going to have the op and I didn't think anything about it. I suppose I thought it was going to be a piece of cake.”

Miller's problems started during his time with Hartlepool, when he came off second best in an innocent, but nevertheless ugly, clash with a Carlisle player.

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He was stretchered off in a great deal of pain, his nose broken, teeth smashed and his face

covered in blood as a result of the damage caused by his opponent's boot.

Although he recovered sufficiently to continue his career, earning a £750,000 move to Portman Road three years ago, Miller continued to suffer.

He added: “I would feel my jaw clicking a lot, with occasional pain, and my teeth didn't match up correctly.

“It got to the point last season, when I was wearing a brace top and bottom, that I decided to have something done about it.

“I was booked in for the operation to realign my jaw soon after the season ended and I really thought it would be routine.

“But they broke my jaw, upper and lower, on the right and left - I've got plates and screws that will be there for the rest of my life - and I was really taken aback when they mentioned intensive care.”

Miller was under constant supervision for more than 24 hours and returned home after a total of five days in hospital.

He said: “When I was in intensive care I was really struggling. I could hardly open my mouth because I had this tube in it and I was unable to breathe properly. That was the lowest point.

“Gradually, things improved, but when I went off to Cyprus for three weeks with my girlfriend and other friends I still wasn't 100 per cent.

“I was still only able to have things like milk shakes and soup with no bits in. You can imagine what it was like to see the others tucking into real grub, like steaks, when I was restricted to the liquid stuff.”

Miller lost eight pounds in weight, but he was more concerned with the muscle wastage that had occurred during his rehabilitation.

Several weeks on, with a gruelling pre-season schedule behind him, he is fighting fit and dreaming of a promotion-winning season with Ipswich.

Rejected by the club as a schoolboy, only to be given a second chance years later, Miller's career has been anything but straightforward.

But he believes having the operation will have long-term benefits, not just to his health but also his football.

He said: “I feel so good now that I can see me being a better player. I'll be more relaxed, for a start, and might up my game by a few percentage points as a result.

“It wasn't much fun for a few weeks, but I'm glad I had the op. It has made a huge difference to the way I feel.

“I must pass on my thanks to the hospital staff - the doctors, nurses etc. They looked after me brilliantly and I want them to know how grateful I am. They couldn't have been better.”

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