Mystery infection nearly ended Fergo’s career
Blake Ferguson, one of the game's hulking wingers, sobbed uncontrollably as he contemplated his playing career being cut short by injury.
With his body failing him, the Parramatta star feared the worst. Just days after being part of the Blues' series-clinching win in Origin III in Sydney, he checked into hospital for routine knee surgery.
Little did he know he would spend the next four nights in an intensive care unit because of severe allergic reaction to antibiotics, with his kidney functioning at just a staggering seven per cent. There were real fears the winger had played his last game.
While far from fully recovered, Ferguson returned to training last week with the Eels for the first time. He tells Michael Carayannis about his health scare and his path back to the NRL.
Ferguson has been plagued by a knee injury all year. He battled through the Origin decider on July 10 and needed an injection to play for the Eels four days later, scoring a try in Parramatta's 30-18 win over the Tigers.
"A couple of days after that game, my knee blew up like crazy," Ferguson said. "I could hardly walk. I rang the doctor and he took out 38 millilitres of fluid out of my knee. Two days later it blew up again so I had to get a blood test.
"As soon as the blood test came back, the doctor said 'come in for a clean out and wash out your knee'.
"It was going to be a very minor surgery on the Friday. I was supposed to leave hospital by Monday and play that weekend."
After the procedure at Norwest Private Hospital in Bella Vista, Ferguson was given antibiotics to treat an infection. It was his second infection this year after welcoming in the new year in hospital with a serious foot infection.
"I had a very rare reaction to the antibiotics which attacked my kidneys," Ferguson said. "It wasn't looking too good. I slept for like two days and had no energy.
"My kidney creatine levels were going really high - they are meant to be between 0 to 100. Mine was at 780. One of the doctors came in asked if I was taking supplements. I said, 'I don't supplements'."
From there the doctor ordered an ultrasound telling Ferguson his kidneys situation was dire.
"When I went to get the ultrasound I just broke down," Ferguson said. "I started crying in the room. I had an infection already this year and I was wondering what was happening to me. I was scared because of the unknown.
"I had to see the doctor, a kidney specialist, the Parramatta club doctor, an orthopaedic surgeon and another ICU doctor. They were all in the room. I just kept getting mixed messages.
"It was scary for everyone at the club. I went under the knife for a minor operation and then something rare like this happened.".
Ferguson's kidneys were functioning at about seven per cent - which indicates kidney failure.
"The doctor said to me I was one bad blood test away from having a biopsy and dialysis," Ferguson said.
"Thankfully the levels have dropped significantly over the last two weeks. Now they are back to perfect function.
"They still have no idea what caused the infection."
Ferguson genuinely questioned whether he'd ever play again. And had basically given up hope of playing this year.
"It wasn't life or death," he said. "You can function with one kidney.
"The worst-case scenario was I wouldn't play this year. One of the doctors said if my levels didn't drop to the right number, they would have given me a steroid injection to help my kidneys. Because of the knee operation I had, it would've ruined my knee and taken me longer to recover from the knee surgery.
"It would have made it hard for me to get back this year.
"I remember the first time I was home I got crook in the car. I got home and went straight to lounge and I didn't move for four or five hours.
"This is the biggest health scare I've ever been through."
Ferguson's partner Dominique Moraitis was beside him through his ordeal.
"She was there seven or eight in the morning and wouldn't leave until eight or nine, until I was ready to sleep," he said. "She helped out so much and simplified the terms they were telling me."
Ferguson has made his mark as a destructive winger - one of the biggest in the game. But his illness saw him drop eight kilograms and had him feeling fragile.
He returned to the training paddock for the first time last week but is no clearer on when he will play again.
"My energy levels need to be right," said Ferguson, who had his final blood test on Monday. "I need to get stronger. I didn't do much training on Monday and it was tough.
"I have to have a mini pre-season to get back the fitness. I know teams will start targeting me when I do back.
"My return is still indefinite."
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