Matt Dunbabin - ‘I was put into a coma straightaway just to save me, everything was failing’

Matt Dunbabin -  ‘I was put into a coma straightaway just to save me, everything was failing’


Sandiway Golf Club assistant pro Matt Dunbabin has endured an horrific few months but he’s now qualified for the Golfbreaks PGA Fourball Championship final next week.

“The week before I was throwing up and fainting and they said to give it a few days as there was a virus going around but my mum rang an ambulance which is a good job as I wouldn’t be here," revealed Dunbabin.

"They still didn’t know what caused it but my liver and kidneys were failing and I was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary on Christmas Day for a liver transplant. I was put into a coma straightaway just to save me, everything was failing and I had the transplant on the 29th.”

Prior to December 2020 Matt Dunbabin was just your fairly typical 24-year-old who has been an assistant pro at Sandiway in Cheshire for the past five years.

There were no health scares - he had been born without a thyroid gland at birth and has been on thyroxine all his life but that had nothing to do with what went on at the back end of last year.

To prove that the liver transplant wouldn’t be a waste of one the doctors came up with something called Wilson’s disease, which is a genetic disorder that causes copper poisoning in the body.

As it transpired they would later dismiss this but it got Dunbabin the transplant and saved his life. The kidneys recovered when he had the transplant and they’re still doing tests on his old liver – 15 per cent are complete mysteries and, what he particularly went through, is so rare that you might only see it once every 10 years. 

When he came round after the transplant everything of the past three days was news to him.

“It was a 10-hour surgery, I stayed in a coma for three days after the transplant and I didn’t even know I’d had it," Dunbabin continued. "I couldn’t see my parents because of Covid so it took me a couple of days to get my head round what had happened and then I had to learn how to walk again.

"It was my birthday on January 4 and they let parents in for an hour – my dad lives in Spain and he came home on Christmas Day but otherwise they weren’t allowed anywhere near the hospital.

“I was in intensive care until January 5, was then moved onto a ward with 24-hour care and the physios started getting me up around the middle of January. It was like starting life again, if it had been a normal transplant this wouldn’t have happened but I had been so ill before it made it so much worse. I can’t thank the NHS enough and it’s sad that I haven’t been able to go back and thank them in person but I will do.”

By the time he was dismissed at the end of March, after countless blood tests and catching sepsis, he was able to walk 100 yards. He could just about get up a flight of stairs but the wound wasn’t completely healed and was still leaking and he ended up back in hospital in Leeds for another two weeks to insert a balloon to widen a blood vessel.

He required two months of full care at home and, come the end of May, he managed four holes of golf. And, once a week and with the risk of a hernia, he would gingerly attempt a few more holes.

On July 5 he managed his second 18 holes at Pleasington, alongside his boss Gareth Jones, as they astonishingly qualified for the Golfbreaks PGA Fourball Championship final.

He might have lost a lot of speed and has had to rely on newly-learnt half shots but the pair shot a five-under 66, with Dunbabin contributing a collection of pars, a couple of birdies and an eagle, which was good enough for a tie for fifth to comfortably make it to the final at Carden Park on August 24-26.

Dunbabin added: “Sandiway have been fantastic, they’re having a golf day in September for me and Gareth has been absolutely unbelievable. It hit him really hard, there’s never been any rush to get back to work and he’s just let me do a few hours here and there as everything is so tiring – I was in bed for two days after Pleasington. I’m improving every week but you get little setbacks like a chest infection that knock you for six.

“Gareth and I have played in the Fourball the last three years and I spoke to him every day from hospital and that was the aim from the middle of January. They said I might be back playing in six months and that was then – in March they said it wasn’t going to happen but we did it. Gareth was more up for it than me!”


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