Groom Mike, 36, nearly died from a horrific infection he picked up after breaking his knee on his wedding day – doing the dirty dancing lift.
Mike had just walked down the aisle with his new wife cerise, 28, when they hit the dance floor with their family and friends. The dad-of-four requested the dj play the classic ‘time of my life’ track – made famous by the epic overhead lift – so he could have a romantic dance with his new bride. But he was astonished when his wife’s work colleague unexpectedly ran at him, thinking the new groom would lift her up just like baby in the 1987 movie.
The electrical engineer wasn’t prepared and his arms gave way, causing the pair to fall to the floor, and his knee to bend sharply in the wrong direction. He tore almost every ligament in his left knee and ended up in hospital for a knee reconstruction instead of going on his honeymoon to Jamaica.
The unlucky groom went on to pick up an infection in hospital which was so severe he nearly died from blood poisoning. A year after his mishap, unlucky mike has only just got back on his feet – just in time for his first wedding anniversary.
Just before a family holiday to Tunisia in 2011 we decided to finally pencil our names in for a ceremony and reception at a hotel near our home in Basingstoke, Hampshire.
Jetting off I dreamed of our big day and as I sunbathed by the pool I had my head in the clouds thinking about colour schemes, flowers, wedding dresses and the cake. There was so much to organise. But after a phone call from the venue, I was bought back down to earth with a bump.
We’d only just landed back on British soil when my mobile rang, as we dragged our suitcases through the front door. ‘I’m afraid I have some bad news,’ the receptionist told me. ‘Our wedding co-ordinator has been away and somehow we’ve accidentally double booked. ‘The other couple have already put down their deposit so I’m afraid we can no longer accommodate you. I’m really sorry.’
‘Not again,’ I sighed, as I hung up the phone. ‘What now?’ Mike asked. ‘The wedding’s off,’ I huffed. His jaw dropped and he gasped: ‘But why?’. I explained the mix up, before bursting into tears. ‘As if I didn’t have enough of the holiday blues already!’ I sobbed. There was nothing we could do.
It wasn’t the first time our wedding had been called off. Mike and I had originally planned on tie the knot in Jamaica back in 2006. But my dad, Mark, 53, said he wouldn’t be able to fly that far so we decided to re-think our plan to wed abroad. I couldn’t imagine him not being there to walk me down the aisle, so instead Mike, the kids and I went on a break to Egypt and the wedding took a back seat.
We had our hands full with our young boys and getting hitched was the least of our priorities. But before we went away again, we thought we’d give it another shot and we visited the Apollo Hotel, Basingstoke, putting our names down in the diary. Only it wasn’t meant to be. The other pair beat us to it.
‘Third time lucky, eh?’ Mike soothed, rubbing my back and trying to cheer me up. Mike and I had known each other since we were children. He lived with his parents, Linda and Mick, and older sisters, Rosie and Victoria, at number 4 Mullins Close, Oakridge, Basingstoke. While my mum and dad, Margaret and Mark, and brother, Hayden, and I were neighbours at number 3.
Our families spent evenings and weekends together, having BBQs and karaoke nights. Mike’s sisters loved to sing at the top of their voices. With the racket bellowing through the walls, mum would say: ‘If you can’t beat them, join them!’ and we’d all pile next door.
At 13, Mike was seven years older than me. A silly six-year-old girl, he found me annoying and wasn’t interested in playing, he was always out with his mates on his bike. But when I hit my teens, Mike started to look at me in a different light. We got together and I quickly fell pregnant with our first child when I was 17.
Still living beside each other, with our parents, they didn’t react too badly when we broke the news to them. I had only just left school and was working full-time in a florists. Mike had a job with a vending machine company at the time. Our son, MJ, now 11, arrived, and soon after another little boy, Taylor, now 10, followed.
With our plans in motion, there was no holding us back this time. Mike and I chose a dusty pink and grey colour scheme, we drew up a guest list of 50 people for the ceremony with an added 150 for the reception and went back to the hotel to re-book.
Every other weekend mum and I would trawl bridal boutiques in the search for the perfect wedding dress. ‘Do you know what style you’re looking for?’ the shop assistants would ask me. ‘Something that covers my chest,’ I replied. Whenever I was nervous or excited a red rash would flare up. I knew I needed a gown that would hide it.
Slipping into a strapless, lace number, I twirled in front of the mirror and smiled at my reflection. As I whipped back the changing room curtain, my mum turned into an emotional wreck. ‘You look beautiful Cerise,’ she cried. ‘You approve then?’ I teased, as she nodded. ‘That’s the one,’ mum smiled.
With the dress ticked off my to-do list, I was starting to feel like I was almost there. Mike and the boys had ordered matching grey suits and I’d found cream gowns for my bridesmaids, my nieces, Courtney, 12, and Scarlett-Rose, three. Our youngest, Logan, kept excitedly asking: ‘Is it time for our wedding yet?’ ‘Soon,’ I told him, ruffling his hair. But things didn’t run smoothly.
Four months before the date we’d set, we had problems with the venue again so we asked for a full refund and swapped to Audleys Wood Hotel, Basingstoke, at the last minute. A few weeks before, I finally got my hands on an engagement ring – but only as it came in a set with our wedding bands.
When our day rolled around, I hadn’t expected it to go without a hitch so when the photographer forgot the kit and had to dash back for it I couldn’t help but laugh.
Mike and I finally became man and wife in an intimate ceremony. At our reception our first dance was The Pogues ‘Love you to the end’ from the romcom P.S. I Love You – one of our favourite films. We’d hired a DJ for the evening do and after a few hours Mike marched up to the booth with a request – hoping for a romantic dance with me.
I was outside chatting to guests when I heard ‘Time of My Life’ come on and a loud shriek. ‘What is all that commotion?’ I thought to myself, as I started to head indoors. Mike had been saying goodbye to one of the guests, but after hearing the tune, my excitable work colleague, Gemma Barratt, unexpectedly bounded towards him.
She thought he would lift her up just like Baby in the 1987 movie. But he wasn’t prepared and his arms gave way, causing the pair to fall to the floor, and his knee to bend sharply in the wrong direction.
Gemma thought Mike would be able to sweep her up into the air, but he wasn’t ready so they both collapsed in a heap on the dance floor and Mike felt his knee snap.
I dashed over to see what had happened and spotted friends helping Mike back on to his feet. ‘What are you like?’ I giggled, not realising the severity of his injuries. ‘I hope someone caught that on film,’ I joked. ‘We could send it in to You’ve Been Framed.’
Poor Mike hobbled off to the bar and numbed the pain with countless drinks. I called it a night early on. Unable to get out of my wedding dress, I crashed out on the bed in it. While Mike was helped upstairs at 5am. His legged had doubled in size and he couldn’t even get his trousers off, so we both slept fully-clothed.
The next morning, I rolled over to find Mike groaning in pain and clasping his leg. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. ‘It’s my knee,’ he winced. Glancing down, I noticed it was three times its normal size. Mike tried to get out of bed, but the agony was too much he started getting tunnel-vision so he laid back down. I ordered him breakfast in bed, before collecting all our presents and bringing the car around to the hotel entrance.
After guiding Mike downstairs, barefoot as he couldn’t put on his shoes, I drove him straight to A&E at North Hampshire Hospital.
Grabbing a wheelchair, I pushed him inside. The doctor performed an x-ray and we waited for a few hours, before we were given the results. It showed no broken bones – but medics diagnosed fractured or snapped ligaments – including the anterior cruciate, meniscus and medial collateral. ‘I’m afraid everything that could have gone wrong, has gone wrong,’ he told us.
Mike’s leg was put in a brace to keep it straight and he needed it to be elevated too. He was sent home with painkillers and crutches and told to rest. ‘I guess that’s our honeymoon out the window then,’ I sighed. We had originally planned on going to Jamaica.
Mike had to have hospital treatment every two weeks for three months to reduce the swelling. He had physio sessions, but after no improvement months later the consultant explained Mike would need reconstruction surgery. They rebuilt his collapsed knee during a four hour op in September last year, which involved drilling metal into his bones, and making new ligaments from his left hamstring.
The operation was initially a success, but a month later he was back in hospital with an extreme infection. It was so severe he nearly died from blood poisoning and had to have a series of operations to flush it out. Medics told me the infection was so bad if Mike had been an older man he wouldn’t have made it.
We thought he was on the mend, but just weeks ago we found out the infection had eaten away some of Mike’s replaced ligaments, putting him back in hospital again. He was released – just in time for our first wedding anniversary on 20th June – but faces having another complete reconstruction at Christmas.
A year after the mishap, Mike has only just got back on his feet.
If I had any advise for wedding guests it would be to leave the groom to his bride – and the moves to the professionals! Mike said: “Now I can’t even hear that song or see Dirty Dancing without hearing that snap of my knee. If I never hear ‘Time of My Life’ again I’ll be a happy man. Gemma is a beautiful person and a great friend, but she just ran and jumped at me before I knew what was happening. The last thing I really remember properly was her landing on me and then hearing my leg snap about three or four different times.
“I was lying on the floor and she was saying ‘are you OK Mike?’ and all I could say was ‘get me to the bar’ and that was where I stayed while my leg got bigger and bigger. Whenever I go to the hospital, I’m a legend there – they call me ‘The Dancing Guy’. You’d never think something like this would happen from dancing.
“Although Gemma caused the accident we don’t blame her at all it was an accident after all. But I can’t listen to that song now – no way. I get a flash back, and if I hear it I just block it out.”