Arsenal academy player who woke up paralysed and alone in hospital after drink 'spiked' speaks out

·5-min read

A former Arsenal academy footballer woke up paralysed and alone in hospital after his drink was "spiked".

Daniel Cain told Sky News how he was forced to spend his 21st birthday apart from friends and family due to COVID restrictions.

He was rushed to hospital after having a cardiac arrest and suffered devastating spinal cord injuries when his brain and spine were starved of oxygen, after his drink is believed to have been spiked on a night out on 9 June 2020.

The "avid footballer", then 20, was in a coma for 25 days as medics warned relatives he would not survive or could have severe brain damage.

But Daniel defied doctors' expectations - despite his mother being advised to switch off his life support.

He spent a year in hospital speaking to family on the phone or through a screen during the pandemic, before finally returning to his home near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, two and a half years later last December.

Daniel, now 23, relies on a wheelchair and is completely dependent on relatives for round-the-clock care - but he is determined to never give up.

Recalling the moment he woke up in hospital, Daniel told Sky News: "The two weeks before are just a complete blank.

"The first thing I remember when I woke up, I had had a dream I was in Barbados.

"When I woke up (in hospital), it was sunny, so I thought I was in Barbados.

"Then I found out what had happened."

Daniel experienced a "rollercoaster" of emotions after what relatives have described as a "life-changing travesty".

But he told Sky News: "I didn't want to act like a victim or feel sorry for myself.

"I couldn't move my arms and legs, I had to have speech and language therapy.

"I spent my 21st birthday alone and spent a year speaking to relatives on Skype and on the phone.

"But I'm quite a positive person, I had to look at the silver lining and get on with it really."

'Where there is life, there is hope'

Daniel's mother, Tracey, 51, said the family had been including Daniel in conversations about going on holiday to Barbados when he had recovered, before he woke up.

She told Sky News how she longed to "hold his hand, give him a hug and hold him close" while he was in hospital during the pandemic.

She said: "I just refused to accept he wasn't going to recover.

"At one point [the doctors] said, 'there's nothing more we can do', but where there is life, there is hope.

"I refused to give up. I brought him into the world but I can't take his life away, it's not my choice to switch off equipment, he needed every chance he had."

Tracey hailed her son's positive attitude, telling Sky News: "He is just amazing, he has always been stubborn and determined, if he sets his mind to do something, he will achieve it.

"He has just carried on, he just keeps getting better and better, he is always so positive, I have never once heard him complain or feel sorry for himself."

Daniel had taken codeine to relieve wisdom tooth pain however doctors said there was not enough of the painkiller in his system and identified "other chemicals", Tracey said.

"We are just looking to the future, we are not dwelling on the past, we are focusing on getting Daniel back to his self again," she added.

Fundraising campaign to help Daniel 'restart his life'

Daniel is now undergoing treatment to help him regain the use of his legs, stand and walk and ultimately achieve independence.

His family have launched a fundraising campaign to pay for the treatment - provided by Neurokinex, a charity which helps children and adults living with partial or complete paralysis.

Daniel completed six NHS-funded sessions of intensive rehabilitation but must pay £63-an-hour for further treatment.

He will require between four to eight sessions a week, costing more than £24,000 a year, for a minimum of three to four years.

A GoFundMe page set up in February by his sister, Natalie, smashed its £20,000 target and has now hit £80,000 towards its £100,000 goal.

Natalie said her "baby" brother - who played for Comets, Hemel Aces and Hemel Town youth clubs as well as in the pre-academy development centres for Barnet FC and Arsenal FC - had been "incredibly fit and healthy".

He was also "thriving" in his career as an electrical service engineer, which saw him travel the globe.

Now, despite his "agonising journey of recovery", he is determined to "restart his life", Natalie wrote on the page.

Read more of Sky News:
Breakthrough spinal cord implant 'could allow paralysed people to walk again'
Justin Bieber shares update after face paralysis forces him to cancel world tour

Daniel - who still has some sensation in his leg - and Tracey have expressed their heartfelt gratitude for all the donations, which have come from as far as New Zealand, the US, Portugal and Poland.

"We were not expecting anything like that at all and I could never have imagined that, it is just amazing," Tracey said.

Daniel added: "I am really grateful to all these people willing to give up their hard-earned money for me."

Now the family are focusing on a "new normal".

Daniel told Sky News: "The advice from the hospital is that life after an injury isn't better or worse, it's just different, and it's better to look forward rather than dwell on what might have been."