10 minutes with Sports Gives Back award-winner John Hambly

John Hambly. Image: Supplied by The Samson Centre

John Hambly. Image: Supplied by The Samson Centre - Credit: Archant

The founder of The Samson Centre in Guildford has released a book about living with multiple sclerosis

Samson Rising is out now, published in hardback by United Writers, RRP £18.95.

Samson Rising is out now, published in hardback by United Writers, RRP £18.95. - Credit: Archant

When did you discover you had MS?

Early in 1999 I started to get strange sensations down one side of my body and was struggling to lift my left leg, which prompted me to go and see my GP. I was referred to the Royal Surrey for a check-up and ended up spending 11 days in hospital being treated for what they referred to as a viral infection to the spinal cord. I slowly improved but three months later had a relapse, which led to the diagnosis of MS. Only after this did I reflect upon similar symptoms that had occasionally shown themselves during and after rugby matches years before.

How has it changed your life?

I have become severely disabled and reliant upon the love and care of my family and massive network of friends and carers. I also had to retire from my work as a surveyor in 2007, which brought to an end a long working relationship with my business partner going back 25 years.

Why did you set up The Samson Centre?

After my diagnosis, I spent a couple of years in denial, but the relapses became more frequent. So, I looked to the NHS for assistance through physiotherapy and neurological advice but these were not readily available. In 2002 I stumbled across

The gym at The Samson Centre Image: Supplied by The Samson Centre

The gym at The Samson Centre Image: Supplied by The Samson Centre - Credit: Archant

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the MS Therapy Group and managed to get physiotherapy for a couple of hours once a week. This was beneficial but very limited because it was carried out in a village hall in Shalford. Putting my surveying hat on, I put forward the bold plan to construct a bespoke MS treatment facility to serve West Surrey. The Samson Centre Steering Group was formed in 2003 and I became chairman of the charity.

What does it offer?

The mainstay of our treatments revolves around physiotherapy within group environments as well as one-to-one treatment. Over the years our treatments have diversified so that we now run fitness programmes in our fullyequipped gym, as well as hyperbaric oxygen therapy in our new oxygen treatment facility. Over the course of a year we carry out more than 10,000 treatments for around 200 people with MS, as well as other medical conditions. Professional sports men and women have

used the oxygen facility for rehabilitation including tennis stars Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and many England and Harlequins rugby players. The centre also provides a focal point for our MS people and their families to socialise and discuss daily issues.

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What was it like to win the Sports Gives Back award?

I was extremely flattered to be presented with the inaugural award, by rugby legends Andy Gomarsall and Simon Shaw, amongst such esteemed sporting icons as Seb Coe, Kelly Holmes and Daley Thompson. I have always said that myself and the trustees at the charity do what we do to make a difference to others but just occasionally it is lovely to get an accolade such as this.

Tell us about your book...

The book begins with my formative years in Cornwall, where there were difficult times because my family were relatively poor and I suffered from a fair amount of bullying. Through sport, mainly rugby, I managed to get through this dark period nd discovered the value of working within a team environment. [When I moved to London] I stumbled across Actonians rugby club in Ealing; the bonds that were created with the players and their families proved to be so important to me when I was diagnosed with MS. The club supported all the fundraising initiatives I put forward in trying to create The Samson Centre, raised hundreds of thousands of pounds and is a prime example of the power of sport and teamwork.

Where is your favourite place to unwind in Surrey?

Anywhere near water; Enton Lakes, Frensham Ponds and Broadwater Lake are close and accessible enough for me to get out for a few hours of fresh air.

Favourite place to enjoy sport?

Harlequins home ground at The Stoop or cricket at the Ageas Bowl.

...place to eat in Surrey?

The Refectory in Milford or The White Hart in Wood Street Village – great food and wheelchair access.

Describe your Surrey life in three words.

Cornwall without sea!

- Samson Rising is out now, published by United Writers RRP £18.95. £1 from every copy sold will be donated to The Samson Centre. John will be hosting a live online book launch for Samson Rising along with former England Rugby players Jason Leonard and Andy Gomarsall on September 23. For more information visit samsoncentre.org.uk

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