Hoani Macdonald urges Fruean to take it easy

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2014
Hoani Macdonald

IN TROUBLE: Medical staff rush to the aid of Hoani Macdonald after his collapse during a NPC semifinal in 2012.

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Hoani Macdonald has urged Robbie Fruean to remember that rugby is only a game.

Macdonald, 35, suffered a near-fatal cardiac arrest while playing for Southland in the NPC championship semifinal against Counties-Manukau in October 2012.

This week the Chiefs confirmed ex-Crusaders centre Fruean, who last winter had his second open-heart surgery to replace a faulty valve, requires a procedure known as an ablation for abnormal heart rhythms and could be sidelined for up to two months.

Macdonald, who retired after his brush with death and now works for Rugby Southland, hopes that Fruean does not rush his return.

''There's nothing more important than your health and your life and you have got to trust the specialists because they are the ones who know what they are talking about,'' Macdonald said.

''I was lucky to get an extra chance and there are so many other factors that come into it. You have to think about your family - if something goes wrong, you have to think about those you left behind.''

Fruean's condition is not life-threatening and Chiefs coach Dave Rennie was adamant that the player hadn't returned to playing too soon.

But Fruean's professional playing career, which began with the Hurricanes in 2009, has always had to factor-in his heart issues.

Macdonald, an ex-New Zealand Maori lock who represented the Highlanders, Rebels and Newport Gwent, knows how tempting it is for players to push themselves back before they are fully fit.

''People love the things that they do and obviously Robbie is really passionate about his sport. You just have to weigh up those things and how important it is.

''My situation was totally different to Robbie's in that I was at the end of my career and he has a lot left in him. But you have to weigh-up all the variables and at the end of the day you can have another career.''

After being put in an induced coma after the Pukekohe incident, Macdonald awoke several days later and wondered why he was in hospital with many tubes hanging out of him.

He cannot recollect the match.He has since had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) inserted into his chest.The ICD, a small battery-powered electrical impulse generator, probably saved his life when he fell ill during a basketball game several weeks ago.

''I was ripping into it and then thought 'something isn't quite right here','' Macdonald recollected.''My heart started racing again and it got up to a phenomenal amount of beats-per-minute and I knew I had to get my breathing under control.

''Then all of a sudden, whack, I thought some guy had come over and hit me. Then I realised the defibrillator had given my heart a jolt. It slowed everything down and I got my breathing under control.

''I was very lucky that I had it in there. So maybe that other incident [in Pukekohe] wasn't just a one-off deal.''

Family had always been a priority, but Macdonald now treasures his wife and their two sons even more. Planning for the future, especially since he is no longer earning the big salary as a professional player, was paramount.

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''My whole thing, more than ever, is providing security for my family in case something went wrong. At least, then, they will be looked after. That's my mission.''

- Fairfax Media

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