Jonah Lomu: Rugby World Cup almost killed me

Last updated 05:00 13/08/2013

Jonah Lomu appears during the 2011 Rugby World Cup opening ceremony, hosted in New Zealand.

Jonah Lomu
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TOUGH TIME: Jonah Lomu, left, pictured during the opening ceremony of the 2011 Rugby World Cup at Eden Park.
Jonah Lomu
Jonah Lomu

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All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu has revealed the depths of despair he plummeted to when his health took a dramatic turn for the worse during the World Cup in New Zealand.

Lomu has today released an updated version of his biography Jonah: My Story, and in it he reflects on his health struggles during the 2011 World Cup when he rejected the transplanted kidney that had enabled him to lead a relatively full life for seven years hitherto.

The one-time blockbusting wing, who has been beset by kidney problems most of his life, had undertaken a rigorous schedule of commitments for the 2011 global tournament, and eventually it took a serious toll on his health.

"After the opening match I had been invited by the Tongan team and community to attend a function," wrote Lomu in his updated book.

"It started out as a wonderful evening, but as the night wore on I started to feel unwell. By the time I got home I was in a bad way.

"Over the next few hours I got worse. I couldn't keep anything down.

"I was weak and losing weight. [Wife] Nadene had told me to slow down, but I had so much on at the World Cup, and so many people were relying on me. It came to a head one afternoon when I got the shakes and the sweats and the vomiting would not stop. Nadene rang for an ambulance."

Later in hospital doctors delivered the news he had been dreading.

"The creatinine tests - where they measure how well your kidneys are working - were through the roof. My bloodstream was septic and the doctors were starting to think the worst: that my kidney had failed and my body was in total meltdown.

"It was hard to take in. Seven years had passed since the transplant and I had always known that this day would eventually come. Now, I was going to have to prepare myself for machine time again."

Friend and long-time physician Dr John Mayhew said: "For a while there Jonah was an extremely sick man. There was a distinct possibility he could have died as a result of serious renal failure."

Lomu, now awaiting a second transplant, also writes about an emotional healing of a long-time rift with father Semisi, who died in June. It had taken place, he said, only at the insistence of his wife.

"As I pulled into their street I could see my father out the back. When he turned and saw me behind the wheel, he just began crying. It was awkward and it was emotional. ‘I never thought I'd ever see you again. I thought I would die without ever seeing you again.' We both cried.

"The kids love the time they spend with their grandparents. It's the way it should be. It's the way Nadene told me it should be."

Jonah: My Story (Updated Edition), published by Hodder Moa, $39.99 RRP, available nationwide from today.

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