Jamaica football legend ‘Skill’ Cole says medical episode was ‘scary’
Jamaican football legend Alan “Skill” Cole is recuperating after a major health scare in early December that required an emergency procedure at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in Kingston.
The 73-year-old Cole, who was treated for a bleeding ulcer, had been hospitalised for one week after collapsing at his east Kingston home.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, he described the episode as “alarming and scary”, crediting the medical staff at the UHWI for his recovery.
“I want to thank Dr [Carl] Bruce an’ all di nurses. They showed a lot of interest an’ made sure I was comfortable,” said Cole.
He was taken to the UHWI after experiencing stomach pains for several days. Cole said the most frightening part of the ordeal was when his blood count fell precipitously.
“I was losing blood an’ my pH went down from 13 to 11, then 9 to 6 an’ 4. When it gets to 4, it’s very scary an’ that’s what was alarming,” he disclosed.
As part of the procedure to improve his health, Cole said doctors “pumped lots of blood from my system”, which had gathered in his upper abdominals. He then received multiple O-positive blood transfusions to rebuild his strength.
Throughout his treatment, Cole was told his vital organs were in good condition, which he credits to the healthy lifestyle he has maintained even when his football career ended. To prevent a recurrence of an inflamed ulcer, he has been advised to “eat on time” and avoid acidic fruits such as oranges and pineapples.
From Woodfork Park in Central Kingston, Alan Cole has enjoyed folk hero status since he attended Kingston College and Vere Technical during the 1960s. His star shone brighter a decade later with Boys’ Town and Santos in the domestic National League, and Nautica in Brazil.
As manager for reggae king Bob Marley, Cole had a presence in the music industry and Rastafarian circles.
That enduring adulation was evident during his medical challenges. The UHWI was flooded with visitors; well-wishers appealed for blood donations on social media.
Denzil “Dipstick” Williams, his friend of over 50 years, said admiration for Cole transcends the class divisions still prevalent in Jamaica.
“I know Alan from him used to come to Trench Town an’ check [former Jamaica cricketer and footballer] Les Brown an’ [Rasta elder] Mortimo Planno. Him check fi people from all sectors of society, but never leave him roots,” Williams told the Observer.
Cole, also, never forgets his friends, many of whom were there for him in a rough period.
“Bwoy, mi have some good bredrin who step up to di plate an’ look out fi mi. People like [former Boys’ Town striker] Ali [McNab], Mickey Haughton James, Bram Bram King. Wi give God thanks an’ things will only get better,” he said.