Bucks Athletes Case Studies

Alistair Patrick-Heselton – The Background story

Footballer Alistair Patrick-Heselton’s whole world fell apart on September 10 2006 when a car driven by his best friend crashed into the central reservation on the A40.

Alistair, who was aged 23, woke from a coma several weeks later to find the crash had killed his friend, Simon Patterson, a former Watford FC striker.

The pair had been ‘best mates’ from the age of five when they were at school together in Harrow.

Belgium-born Alistair, whose own life had hung in the balance, was told he may never walk again.

But six years later, he had recovered sufficiently to play for GB at London 2012 and scored against Argentina. He is now happily married with a young son and works as an athlete mentor and inspirational speaker.

All this is a far cry from his days as promising young footballer hoping for stardom as he played in the QPR reserves alongside the likes of Peter Crouch.

Alistair, who lived in Harrow at the time but has since moved to Milton Keynes, takes up the story:  “I was a schoolboy at Wycombe Wanders between the ages of 12 to 15. I then signed for QPR and had a great time there, before going on loan to Oldham and playing in their first team in League 1.

"I was all set up for a decent career but then suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury when I was at Oldham.”

The injury set him back to such an extent that, aged 21, he found he was unable to get a renewed contract.

“I have always been philosophical about these things. Some things are meant to be the way they happen. I decided to train to be a quantity surveyor and went to Kingston University where I was predicted to get a first class degree after the first year.

“Football hadn’t worked out for me because of injury, so I went semi-pro and played in Holland in the Dutch First Division, just before going to university. I also played for Northwood and Bishops Stortford and then signed for Wingate and Finchley with my mate Simon Patterson, the ex-Watford striker. We both decided to go to Wingate and Finchley in 2006 and try to push our football careers again.”

But their lives were torn apart in the early hours of September 10 2006 as they were driving home, with another friend, from a night out in London.

“All I can remember is waking up and being told that Simon had a bad crash and I had come out of a coma, and that Simon had died at the scene. I have retrograde amnesia and lost a year going back from the accident.

“Simon was driving the car and I was in the front passenger seat. I went through the windscreen." The friend in the back, who also survived the crash, went through the back window.

Alistair credits the strength of his parents for getting him through.

“It had got to the stage where my parents were told they could turn the life support machines off – it was touch and go. I had pneumonia and head trauma, a compound depressed fracture of the skull which led to two brain haemorrhages and injuries to the wrist, jaw, shoulder and skull.

“I lost a year in terms of memory – it was very surreal. The injuries were on the left hand side of the body, and the whole side of the body dropped. It was similar to a stroke. I now suffer from cerebral palsy symptoms – and a condition called Ataxia which affects my nervous system and means my co-ordination is not what it should be.”

Initially, Alistair’s family was told he wouldn’t walk again.

“I didn’t realise it was that bad – for a long while you don’t even want to do anything. I was comfortable in my bed. My speech valve needed to be activated because I couldn’t communicate because I had a tracheostomy.

“Being fit and healthy helped the recovery. Being an athlete and being young helped and I started walking after six or seven weeks.”

Although he played football for fun the following April, Alistair retired from the game never expecting to return. He set up his own car design business for footballers, and later bought a franchise with vehicle wrapping company Totally Dynamic, based in Newport Pagnell.

“I felt very fortunate. I had retired and said I would not be playing football anymore and would go about my life.”