Aaron Jones-Evans is overjoyed to be back playing football after a battle which threatened to end not just his sporting career, but also his life.
The 33-year-old from Abersoch is well-known in women’s football for his coaching role with Bethel, but has also made his mark as a player with Nefyn United and Pwllheli in the past.
After a long absence due to illness, he recently returned to the game with Llanberis and was delighted to get on the scoresheet for the Darans’ reserve side in Tuesday’s 4-2 victory at Porthmadog.
But 18 months ago life took a dramatic and almost tragic turn for the popular sportsman.
He said: “In July 2018 I started having severe headaches while I was in a training session with Bethel Ladies.
“I thought nothing of it, took some pain killers and got on with it. It carried on over the weekend and gradually got worse until the Sunday night where I couldn’t handle the pain any more. I was having cold sweats and ended up going blind.
“I was rushed to Bangor hospital and referred to the Walton Centre in Liverpool where I underwent an angiogram which usually takes 45 minutes to an hour. Ten minutes into the procedure, I was told that I’d suffered a massive brain haemorrhage – also known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage – and if they didn’t operate right away I would lose my life.
“During the operation I suffered three strokes and because of this I lost the ability to talk and my cognitive brain function was massively impaired. I spent the next 6 months working hard on my recovery, learning to talk again and bettering my cognitive skills by reading and problem solving.”
It was not just whether he would ever play football again that concerned Aaron, his issues went far deeper than that.
“I would question whether I could work again or even hold a conversation for more than 5 minutes,” he said.
“So at the time it was difficult to think about getting back to doing what I love – which is playing football, and this took a massive toll on my self esteem and confidence because all I’ve ever known is playing football.
“I spent most of my younger years playing for Nefyn United, playing under some great coaches like John Mynydd (John Gwynfor Jones) and Jason Jones.
“I’d say the years I spent playing for Nefyn were the most enjoyable and it’s where I learnt my trade. My time came to an end at Nefyn when they decided to drop down the leagues and start afresh so I decided to sign for Pwllheli FC, I had a good few years at Pwllheli and really enjoyed my time there but the bond the players had at Nefyn United was one of a kind.”
The road to recovery has been far from straightforward, but all along the way for Aaron was the support of the Bethel Ladies team which has become a massive part of his life.
“Throughout my recovery, the hard times, the good times, the self doubt there has been one constant in my life – and that was the Bethel Ladies team.
“Without the support of those group of girls and the positive impact they have had on my life I don’t know if I’d be where I am today if it wasn’t for them, I owe them a lot and I’ll never forget what they’ve done for me, the ladies, the club and the coaching staff.
“It was the one place I could go where I’d get no pity, no sympathy and of course plenty of banter and to be honest it’s exactly what I needed. They made me feel normal again without even trying, they helped my speech because of team talks without even trying, they cared so much and for a team so young to show that much maturity is so refreshing. My love for that team and club is so much more than football.”
Aaron is now growing increasingly confident he can return to playing football again on a regular basis.
“I’ve obviously been out of action for more than 2 years so naturally I’m going to be a bit rusty and off the pace, also I’m going to be questioning myself for a while as I’ve had major surgery that’s impacted my life, but I don’t feel I’ll be restricted at all when I’m back in full flow, hopefully my confidence grows and it’ll feel normal to me again.
“I’m hoping to just get back into it, have some banter with the Llanberis lot, who are a lovely bunch of lads and just enjoy my football again. I’m putting no pressure on myself or not setting any goals this season as I’m just hoping to get some confidence and sharpness back into my game.”
And he insists Bethel Ladies, who have started the season well again after finishing joint champions of North Wales League Division One last term, are his chief priority.
Aaron said: “Bethel Ladies come first 100%. They’ve given me so much over the past two years so it’s only fair for me to give my all back to them. I also have a five-year-old son who is my world so for now I’m going to concentrate on my son and Bethel Ladies and treat my comeback as a hobby as I need to start enjoying it again before I get to any sort of level where I’m setting myself goals.
“The season with the ladies has started very well, as I’ve said we’ve got a very young team and it’s still very much a work-in-progress but you can’t deny the talent that this group of ladies poses, at times it’s frightening. So we will take it game by game as we’ve always done.”
Grassroots North Wales spoke to Aaron on Tuesday night after Llanberis Reserves’ 4-2 success at Porthmadog.
He said after the game: “I’ve recently signed for Llanberis Reserves and played my first competitive game in over 2 years against Colwyn Bay. We drew that game 2-2 which was frustrating, but it felt so good to be back.
“My second game was tonight against Porthmadog which I scored in, and it was such a relief to know that after the trials and tribulations, the hurt and the pain I can still find the back of the net. Positive signs.”