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Aaron Shingler

Aaron Shingler in action at the 2019 World Cup

Shingler reaches 200 landmark against all odds

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Aaron Shingler will play his 200th game for the Scarlets on Friday night – a landmark he feared he might never reach 18 months ago. 

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Having overcome a serious knee injury picked up in the 2018 PRO14 final, he battled back to be involved in the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 Six Nations tournament. But then he was laid lock by mystery problem that had him fearing for his career. 

Yet this weekend the resilient 34-year-old will be on duty at Parc Y Scarlets for the home clash with Benetton Rugby. 

“I was about to start pre-season (in the summer of 2020) and I had a little bit of pain in my foot. I had a game of golf and couldn’t walk after it. I came in and saw the physios and they thought that I must have torn something,” recalled Shingler. 
“They treated it and thought it would get better. Then I started getting pain in my ankle, which spread to my knee on the left side. Then it went to my right side, then it was in that knee.  

Next thing you know, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t get out of bed and I had to go to hospital to have an operation to drain the fluid from around my knees. The worst thing was nobody really knew what was going on.  

I couldn’t get out of the bed in hospital and I had to be taken by wheelchair to have a scan. Then my condition was diagnosed  as  reactive arthritis. It took me months to be able to walk pain free and it was all a bit worrying.” 

To make matters even more difficult for the 27-times capped flanker his wife was carrying their third child and had their son, Ronnie, delivered by caesarean at the same time as her husband could barely get out of bed or off the sofa. 
It literally came out of nowhere and it wasn’t looking good for me, really, not just from a rugby point of view, but in general life. After I got out of hospital, I was crawling out of bed and then I was on the sofa all day in pain from this inflammation,” he added. 

“Normally blood inflammation in your body is around a score of five, mine was up to 150. Then your liver is normally around a score of 40 and mine was 650. Not only did I have the issue with my legs, I had some sort of liver problem because I was taking medication. It was all going a bit Pete Tong! 
“I’m still on medication now, a drug called Methotrexate, which is an injection once-a-week. It’s quite strong and it runs me down the day after I take it. 
I was really struggling for about three or four months. It was during the COVID lockdown, so there was nobody coming around the house, and while I was in agony in bed, my wife had just had a cesarean and was trying to look after two kids, a new-born and me.
“It was not good for me, but it was probably a lot worse for my wife. She was meant to be recovering from a cesarean and she was trying to look after me, a newborn and our two girls. 
“It was a pretty rough time and I wasn’t even thinking about rugby. I was thinking: ‘Am I going to be able to walk again?’ 
“I couldn’t go out with the kids, I couldn’t do anything because there was just too much pain. This was six months down the line and I couldn’t leave the house without being in pain. 

At that stage Shingler was “just hoping for a normal life”. He visited a rheumatologist and eventually his medical team managed to sort out his condition.  

The key thing now is ensuring it doesn’t return. If it does comes back, that will probably be me done, he said ruefully. 
The theory about how he contracted the infection that caused his suffering is that he became an unwitting victim of the COVID pandemic. 
“I was having a root canal done during COVID. There are obviously two parts to a root canal and I had the first part done, but then everything closed down,” he explained. 
“I was getting infections in my mouth and wnow believe that some sort of infection went into the bloodstream and attacked all my lower joints. I was having this yellow stuff taken out of my knees to relieve the pain.  

Then it would just come back again, we just couldn’t get rid of it. If COVID hadn’t have hit us, this would have probably never happened. It’s just the fact that the dentist closed – nothing else could have caused it.  

But that was then and this week a fully fit Shingler will join the ‘200’ club at the region. More than anything he hopes to pick up a win to right the wrongs of the last couple of games against Munster and Leinster. 

It was a slow build-up to getting back into the side, but now he is targeting a return to peak form at aa time when the Scarlets need him more than ever. 
“I was having to get to the gym from my car on crutches and then try to do some weights. The boys had to pas them to me to begin with,” he added 

“It was a daily struggle just trying to get from A to B. When I eventually started to run, I was doing 50 metres in 15 seconds rather than my usual eight. Luckily, the medication eventually got on top of it and I managed to get back playing. 
“I’ve forgotten how bad those days were, not just for me, but as a family. It’s been a real challenge to get the last few games in and to get up to 200 appearances. Now I’m here it’s going to be good for my family to come down and watch me play. 
“I used to go down to Stradey Park as a kid to watch Llanelli play and to be able to earn a contract and go on to play for the club has been incredible. I never thought I’d have been here this long.

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