’Worst case scenario was losing my eye’
JOSH Mansour burst into tears. Before he could even open his mouth he was overwhelmed with emotion.
"I remember when I woke up I just broke down," Mansour said. "The first people I saw were my wife and daughter. When I could see them with my own eyes, words could not describe the relief that I had.
"It gave me goose bumps."
More than seven hours earlier Mansour surgery an operation had begun that was described by the surgeon described as the worst sporting injury he had ever seen.
The surgeon said the injury resembled that of a car crash victim or a soldier who had been hit by fragments after Mansour suffered five fractures thanks to the knee of a flying Anthony Don while trying to catch a high ball.
"I was on the ground clutching my face and I could feel a hole in my face," Mansour said.
"I had no cheekbone. There was a big hole there. It was painful. The physios wanted me to turn around but I didn't want to show them because I was petrified of their reaction.
"The worst case scenario was losing my eye."
Mansour went into the operation knowing he could wake up minus an eye but also with the real prospect of having distorted vision for the rest of his life. His playing career was at risk but more importantly was the inability to see his young daughter Siana's smile clearly again.
"It's been the most challenging couple weeks of my life," Mansour, who has 18 screws and three plates in his face, said.
"So much stuff has gone through my mind. When it first happened I was feeling sorry for myself thinking 'why me?.
"I was thinking about my footy career, life after footy. After the surgery I was sleep-deprived for 48 hours because they to do visual observations to see if I lost my vision. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. I was petrified. I don't remember the last time I was this nervous.
"We had two options for surgery. One was a small operation with multiple incisions the other one was a big operation where they would cut me from the bottom of my left ear and go to my opposite ear and then peel my face forward. I would have lived with a massive scar for the rest of my relief.
"The surgeon didn't know until he saw what was going on. Luckily we went for the first option.
"I've thought of the worst case scenarios but I've been very lucky."
The swelling was so severe that it took two weeks before Mansour could be operated on. Unable to chew solid foods, his wife Daniella was pureeing food like she was doing for the couple's six-month-old daughter.
"I was thinking of my daughter that 'this is what it feels like to have this crap food'," Mansour said.
It is the second time in Mansour's career that a freak injury has struck. He missed a large chunk of last season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in an Australian training session in England during the Kangaroos 2016 Four-Nations campaign. Mansour battled regaining confidence.
He returns to Panthers training on Tuesday, off-contract, with an aim to return by round 19.
"I feel like I'm cursed," Mansour said. "After all this it still doesn't tell me that this is the end. It's another obstacle.
"Things don't go perfect for everyone. I feel this injury is completely different. I'll be much more confident getting among it. With my knee it was different because the legs are the tool of the trade.
"It did scare me (being off-contract). But I know this club can do what it can to keep me here."