Gifted snooker player Dave Bolton feared he’d never play again after emergency surgery to save his life. Now – after scooping a medal at a tournament in Thailand – he’s thanked the Nottingham medics who made it possible.
Dave, 48, was rushed into hospital with a clot blocking the blood supply to his bowel. He had four emergency operations, removing most of his bowel and leaving him facing a lifetime of intravenous feeds.
This week, he thanked the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS staff that made it possible for him to play in the World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) 2023 World AbilitySport Games in Thailand.
Dave became ill in September 2022, a few months after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. “I woke up in King’s Mill from a coma,” said Dave. “They’d told my wife Michelle that I might not make it.”
The surgery meant Dave needed an intravenous (total parenteral nutrition) feed for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, potentially for the rest of his life. He was transferred to the Queen’s Medical Centre and its Intestinal Failure (IF) team.
“For patients like Dave, eating and drinking like they used to is severely detrimental to their health,” said Helen Kirkwood, Clinical Nurse Specialist. “The TPN replaces everything.”
The IF team worked to build Dave up, and organised a homecare and training package to enable him to go home to Michelle and to some sort of new normality.
When Dave was invited to represent Britain in the WDBS Games in December, the IF team weren’t fazed. Transporting his food and equipment safely – with coolboxes and a 170kg luggage allowance was only part of it; creating a strict feeding schedule around an equally strict playing schedule – and with an eight-hour time difference – was no easy feat.
And Dave made it all worthwhile, scooping a bronze medal.
Dave said: “I am very thankful for the hard work and effort of the IF team – and everyone on F22 - to get to Thailand. Things like this don’t come round very often – if ever.
“Just to get there, I felt like a winner – to come home with an actual medal was a bonus.”
“Dave's ambition is to be the best of the best with his snooker,” said Michelle. “It’s like winning the lottery seeing his smile when he wins. He has gone through so much ... I am so proud to call him my husband - he's an inspiration.”
Dave has been an avid snooker fan since he was eight, inspired by legend Jimmy ‘the Whirlwind’ White, who lived down the road from him in Tooting, London.
“He used to wash my grandad’s car to raise money to play in the local snooker hall. I got a child’s snooker table for Christmas when I was eight – and that was that.”
Dave moved to Nottinghamshire when he was 13. As a top-flight amateur, with a highest break of 142, he played against professionals in pro-ams until he became ill. At the end of last year, he hit 140 for the first time since his surgery.
He said: “I’ve come such a long way – the IF team has put that smile back on my face. I used to have more downs than up, but that has reversed now.
“When I hit rock bottom, King’s Mill nurse Paul Manning made me see the light at the end of the tunnel, reassuring me that the specialists at QMC would get me on the road to recovery. He went above and beyond.”
Clinical Nurse Specialist Julie Murray said: “Dave always had his sense of humour, even in the dark times – he wasn’t hard to look after.”
Scott Shaw, Intestinal Failure Network Coordinator, said: “We are extremely proud and honoured to have helped Dave fulfil his dreams.
“His strength and resilience is exceptional and he is an inspiration to all our patients. He has proved that despite these often life-changing events, when you have the right support, you can achieve great things.”
Michelle said: “From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank all the staff at King’s Mill and QMC; we could not have done this without your continuing support and help – you are all one in a million and should be very proud of what you.”
Dave won the 2023 The Cube UK Disability Snooker Championship in September; the WDBS German Open in October; the World AbilitySport Games in Thailand in December; and the British Open in January. He is now in training for the Belgium Open in March.
"Something really good has come out of something really bad,” said Dave. “I’d been told I’d never play again – but I never give up. There’s a saying – ‘it’s not the size of the dog, it’s the fight in the dog’ – and this is what I live by day to day.”