Belfast Telegraph

Snooker hero Dennis Taylor's taxi dash to A&E for appendix op

I thought it was food bug, says sporting legend following emergency surgery

By Claire McNeilly

Northern Ireland snooker legend Dennis Taylor ended up having emergency surgery because he dismissed potentially lethal appendicitis as a mild bout of food poisoning, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The former world champion said he realised it was something more serious when he awoke in the early hours of Friday, April 22 in excruciating abdominal pain.

Dennis - who lost a close friend to a perforated appendix - immediately called a taxi and was taken from his hotel to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield for emergency surgery.

The Coalisland native recovered in time to resume his duties as BBC commentator on the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.

"Initially I thought I had come down with food poisoning, and initially I wasn't overly concerned," said the 67-year-old.

"I started to realise that it might be something else when the pain started to move around the abdomen area. And when I woke up in agony at 2.30am there was nothing else for it; I got up, jumped into a taxi and told the driver to get me to A&E as soon as possible.

"Luckily I did, because when the medics did a scan they found I had a gangrenous appendix -which could have been really bad news for me."

He added: "Afterwards I was informed that the surgery had taken two hours instead of the normal 45 minutes because it was a bit more serious than they had first thought."

The standard treatment for appendicitis is an appendectomy, normally a straightforward surgical procedure with a short recovery time.

But if doctors don't remove the appendix within 24 to 72 hours after symptoms begin, the organ may rupture. When this happens, potentially lethal septicaemia can occur.

"I had a good friend who was misdiagnosed and he died a few hours later when his appendix burst," said Dennis. "Thankfully that didn't happen to me. The surgeons and medical staff were all brilliant. They diagnosed it pretty quickly and did a terrific job."

The twice-married father-of-four spent over 48 hours in hospital before rejoining his BBC colleagues in time for the latter stages of the tournament, which was won by Mark Selby on Monday night.

"I feel like a million dollars now - all green and crinkly," he quipped, adding that he wanted to thank everyone at the Northern General, including surgeon Mr Chapple, for looking after him.

"They took the appendix out on the Friday, let me out on the Sunday and I was back in the commentary box on Tuesday," he said.

"I didn't want to miss the World Championship so I took it easy in the hotel for a while. They brought me back to work gradually, so it was no problem at all."

Taylor, who is famous for his "upside down" oversized glasses, is probably best known for defeating hot favourite Steve Davis on the final black ball of the final frame of the 1985 championship.

This year marked the 31st anniversary of that dramatic showdown on April 29 at the Crucible in Sheffield, which has hosted the World Snooker Championship since 1977.

Over the course of 35 frames the Co Tyrone man had never once been ahead of the then 27-year-old from Essex. But - at 12.19am that Monday - the final ball, of the final frame, of a nail-shredding final that had lasted a record 14 hours 50 minutes - changed all that, and became a defining moment for the then 36-year-old Dennis.

The famous encounter was watched by 18.5m viewers and it remains the UK's largest post-midnight audience for any programme on any channel.

A keen charity worker, amateur golfer and dancer (he finished eighth in Strictly Come Dancing 2005), Taylor may have retired from competitive snooker 16 years ago, but he's still actively involved in the game.

He's also hoping that 30-year-old Mark Allen will follow him down the path to becoming world champion soon.

Currently ranked world No 10, the Antrim native's boyhood dream of emulating compatriots like Taylor began after he secured the World Amateur Championship in 2004 and entered the main tour in 2005, winning the Jiangsu Classic in China, his first professional title, in 2009.

"I want Mark Allen to be the first player since myself to lift the world title. It's time we had another world champion from Northern Ireland and nobody else is in the same league as Mark," Dennis said.

"There's no reason why he couldn't win the world championship. Hopefully he'll do it in the next two or three years."

Taylor, who lives near Wrexham with second wife Louise and their children Cameron and Amber, has two grown-up children, Damien and Denise, with first wife Pat.

by claire mcneilly

Belfast Telegraph


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