Former All Blacks team doctor John ‘Doc’ Mayhew has opened up on the challenges surrounding his care of Jonah Lomu before the rugby legend passed away.
During his time with the All Blacks, Mayhew cared for Lomu throughout his debilitating kidney disorder which eventually saw him undergo a kidney transplant in 2004.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Martin Devlin, Mayhew reflected on the challenges which came with the patient confidentiality around Lomu’s condition.
He said the hardest time was during a game Lomu played for the Barbarians after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
“Jonah was incredibly sick before that game and should never have played and no one knew about it,” Mayhew said.
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“I said to him ‘Jonah don’t play’, and he said ‘No I’ve got to, there’s people here to come and watch me play’ because that was so soon after the 1995 World Cup, and he was right, he wasn’t being arrogant.
“He didn’t want to let people down so he played and played a pretty average game and the English press got into him. He felt like saying, ‘if they only knew.'”
Mayhew was one of the only people who knew of the full extent of Lomu’s rare condition.
Even then-All Blacks coach John Hart was in the dark about Lomu’s sickness.
“John Hart, at the time, didn’t know about it,” Mayhew said. “I think he is still a bit annoyed that I didn’t tell him for a couple of years but that was the way it happened.”
Lomu passed away in 2015 aged 40 after a cardiac arrest. He was at his home, surrounded by family.
Mayhew, who became a close family friend of Lomu, said it was an incredibly sad day.
“My children grew up with Jonah because he spent a lot of time at my house and they thought he was part of the furniture at times,” Mayhew said.
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“He used to give my kids his boots and on the one occasion he played at North Harbour Stadium and my son was playing the next day in the finals against Rosmini and Jonah said ‘Do you want to wear the boots I wore yesterday?’ which he’d worn in an All Blacks test on the Friday night.
“It’s fantastic little things like that that people remember and it was a great relationship with Jonah and absolutely tragic that he’s passed.”
Lomu played 63 tests for the All Blacks after making his debut as the youngest ever to play in the black jersey, at just 19 years old in 1994.
He was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007 and holds the All Blacks all-time World Cup scoring record of 15 tries.
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