If Harry Sheppard had not misread a running line during a school rugby game in France eight years ago his life might have panned out very differently.
The tackle made by the then 13-year-old resulted in a hospital visit, where precautionary scans revealed something unrelated to the suspected cheek bone fracture.
They found a blemish on my brain...
“They found a blemish on my brain,” explains Sheppard, who now plays for Bedford Blues in the Greene King IPA Championship.
“But it wasn’t what the radiologists were looking for; this was something that had lain dormant until that moment, and I wouldn’t have known it was there had I not gone for a provisional scan.”
After returning home and undergoing further tests, Sheppard was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and plans were quickly made to have it removed from his right frontal lobe at King's College Hospital.
“The surgeon told me it would be like taking rubbish out of a bin, opening the lid, lifting it out and closing it,” said Sheppard.
The fly half remembers a monotonous rehab process stretching ten months, without knowing if he would ever be able to play again. And he admits a feeling of relief overcame him when told he could return to the game just a year after the discovery of the tumour.
"I was told I could play so long as I wore a head guard, and to this day it is the first thing that goes in my kit bag," he added.
Eight years on, and having plied his trade at Northampton Saints and Wasps Academies respectively, as well as London Scottish, Sheppard arrived at Goldington Road at the start of the 2017/18 season with experience – both in life and rugby – beyond his 21 years.
Bedford currently occupy fifth place in the Greene King IPA Championship standings, having sealed five try bonus points from seven matches, and their back division are the league's top try scorers on 24
“Playing in the Championship is brilliant,” he said.
“Bedford is a real rugby town and on game day everyone from the town comes to watch. They are here early, and as soon as the players turn up they are cheering us on.
“What drives me most is the support I have had from my family since I was a kid, I want to make them proud. "All I've ever wanted to do is play rugby.”