Bradley Donaldson thought his summer switch to Livingston was just the platform he needed to kick-start his career – but little did he know he would be rushed to hospital fighting a life-threatening infection just weeks later.
The former Hibs player was among the mass exodus at Easter Road following the club’s relegation from the top flight in May, Terry Butcher informing the lifelong supporter his services were no longer required at a club he had been with since the age of eight.
However, the despair of finding himself unemployed was brief, as an offer of a one-year deal put forward by Livingston boss John McGlynn was a proposition he duly accepted.
But Donaldson, who had encountered an injury-ravaged final season at Hibs before departing for the Energy Assets Arena, was rocked by the news he had contracted septicaemia hours after a pre-season game with Dunfermline in July.
“After the game I felt fine,” the 20-year-old explained. “I had a blister on my foot that I thought might have become infected, but I didn’t think much of it. I had a bath to rest my legs and then I just deteriorated so quickly ... I couldn’t really walk and felt so faint. My mum phoned NHS 24 as my breathing started to change – it went really heavy so I was rushed into hospital by ambulance that night.
“I was initially discharged at 3am on the Sunday morning but woke up feeling worse than I was the night before and was straight back in the following day. The doctors weren’t sure at the start what it was, but I was then kept in for almost a week and put on intravenous antibiotics after they discovered it was septicaemia. At first they thought it might have been meningitis. After being released I was still required to go in and was on a drip each day for a week.
“It could have been so different and it’s only when you hear about how many people in the UK contract it in a year and die from it – it puts the fear into you. But the strange thing was that the blister wasn’t even bothering me at all – that day, during the game, nothing. It was only after the game it felt a wee bit sore.”
Things went from bad to worse for Donaldson. He was fit enough to take part in the warm-up at Easter Road for their league opener, but then an injury from last season flared up to put any return on hold.
“It was a case of trying to ease myself back into it after the illness which I had been doing and then I get hit with this,” Donaldson said. “My ankle just ballooned from where I had lateral ligament damage and I also injured my tibia and fibula as well. I’m restricted to upper body strength work at the moment so it’s not good.
“It’s a waiting game just now until I have seen the specialist – it’s really frustrating because I want to get back out on the pitch. I started every game in pre-season up until the Dunfermline game and the only thing I can do just now is support the team from the stand. Until I’ve seen the specialist, I can’t put a date on it when I’ll be back.
“I’m trying to stay as positive as I can and get myself fit before working my way back into the team. I was playing right-back in pre-season but Kyle Jacobs is playing really well there just now so it will be hard.”
Donaldson doesn’t shirk from the emotions he experienced from sitting in the West Stand at Easter Road last month as he cast an eye over his new team-mates in their Championship opener.
He said: “It was very strange from being in the away dressing-room to wanting Hibs to get beat. But things had changed at the club and it was just the way it turned out. Terry said to me that the budgets were going to be different this year and that we had too many defenders, but I wasn’t one of them they wanted to keep.
“Being relegated was heartbreaking because I’ve got memories of it happening in 1998 when I was just a kid – it was a horrible day. But Hibs will come good, they’ve got the players there to do so.”