Abioce Heywood waves ‘goodbye’ to rugby

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Abioce Heywood powers to score a try against Jamaica in Mexico at the RAN 7s Championship.

… Former player talks about slow road to recovery after concussion

SHE was considered to be local rugby’s brightest female star and the player to carry the mantle in the future for the Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU). But now, Abioce Heywood is walking away from the game she loves, by both choice and force.

“As much as I love rugby, I love myself more, so I have to say goodbye to rugby” Heywood said during her exclusive interview on NCN’s 100.1FM Sports Vybz.

When Guyana’s Sevens female rugby team travelled to Mexico for the Rugby Americas North (RAN) Sevens Championship last November, their hopes of landing their fourth title rested on the shoulders of a diminutive 21-year-old scrum-half, Abioce Heywood.
Guyana, behind Heywood’s brilliance, got off to a perfect start, as they managed to upset last year’s champions, Jamaica, 19-12, in their opening game of the tournament.
Heywood scored 10 points (two tries) of her own, while she wowed the crowd with her defensive skillset.

In their second game, Heywood scored Guyana’s lone try in their 5-12 ‘humdinger’ loss to Trinidad and Tobago. Guyana went on to defeat the Dominican Republic 17–12, but narrowly fell to eventual winners Mexico 12–17 and drew 7–7 with Bermuda.
Fans at the Campo Marte athletics ground in Mexico City stood still when Heywood lay motionless on the ground after being tackled. She was admitted to the ICU at a nearby hospital, and subsequently sedated as a neurological protective measure, according to a medical report.

A Computed Tomography (CT) scan was also done on Heywood following her admission and was sedated in order to properly rest. The diminutive but versatile player had remained in Mexico as doctors continued to monitor her progression while the other players returned to Guyana.

It is believed that she may have suffered the concussion injuries during the previous game against Trinidad and Tobago, in which both players remained motionless on the ground for several minutes.

In a video replay of the game, the Guyanese player is seen collapsing to the ground after having gotten up and continuing to play.
The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) player, Heywood, returned to Guyana in the company of team physio, Abiola Blair, also of the GDF, and female team manager, Petal Adams, who also serves as the GRFU General Secretary.

Heywood said that while her injury was unfortunate, she hopes that from it, better awareness is made for the importance of players being properly insured in sports, especially while travelling.
Rugby, she said, is one of the toughest sports out there right now, but it’s also one that she enjoys, along with football, where she represented Guyana at both the junior and senior levels.

Heywood said thanks to GDF’s Chief of Staff Brigadier Patrick West, she was well taken care of since her return to Guyana. Apart from the one time she was treated by the members of her team, she is yet to hear from the top-brass of the GRFU.

“It’s sad because I gave everything to my country and this is how they turn around and treat me. Thanks to the GDF and Chief of Staff, they took care of me. I’ll be back at work this week, but I would be nothing strenuous for the next couple of years, all thanks the GDF,” Heywood pointed out.

The soft-spoken Heywood said that she, along with her family more so her mother, will continue to take their doctor’s advice with regard to her progression to normalcy, since she hopes to lace up her cleats once again, but this time in a return to the football field.
“I am done with rugby, there’s no going back there, not even in the future. I hope to one day play football again but I will let the doctors decide. I hope that proper measures are put in place in the future so that others don’t have to suffer like I did,” Heywood emphasised.

The GRFU indicated that the final cost for Heywood’s hospitalisation exceeded the total insurance the Union had on her. Heywood’s costs for hospitalisation was in the vicinity of some $200 000 pesos (US$10738).