Page last updated at 01:54 GMT, Monday, 12 April 2010 02:54 UK

'Doctors said I would never play bass guitar again'

By Jane Elliott, video Anna-Marie Lever
Health reporters, BBC News

Phil Blake

Bass guitarist Phil Blake looks back at a savage attack as a defining moment in his career.

He was shot in the leg with an air rifle and slashed in the head and arm with a meat cleaver in an unprovoked attack.

But despite the assault three years ago leaving him unable to move two fingers on his left hand, the bass guitarist with the three piece band Redtrack says he looks upon it as a positive experience.

"There is no way I would ever want to turn back time and not make it happen," he said. "I just don't have that way of thinking.

Knocked to the ground

"I have gone from strength to strength.

"At the time I was not really sure what I would be doing with my life, but having the ability to perform music taken away from me just makes me realise how much it was my dream.

It is difficult playing the guitar, but I just get on with it
Phil Blake

"I was on my way to a party when three guys came up behind me. They asked me the time and I got my phone out to tell them the time.

"One of them pulled out a meat cleaver and one of the other guys pulled out an air rifle.

"As I ran away the guy with the air rifle shot me in the back of the leg so I turned around and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck.

"And the guy with the meat cleaver then hit me with it. I put both arms up above my head to defend it and he hit my arm. I got knocked to the ground and then stumbled and I ran to safety."

After the attack Phil, aged 21, needed nine staples in his head and hours of surgery to a deep cut in his arm.

"It was cut almost to the bone. I was in hospital for five days," he said.

Six months of intensive physiotherapy followed and Phil, from Southend, needed to do hourly exercises to stretch his fingers. He had to take a break from the band while he recuperated.


Phil Blake, bass guitarist: "I feel very lucky to be doing what I'm doing."

Steps forward

Mr Asit Khandwala, plastic and hand surgeon at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, said constantly evolving medical advances had made a recovery such as Phil's possible.

"Technology is improving," he said.

"The microscope, fine sutures and glues have arrived.

"Now, we have artificial tubes to join nerves. These can be used instead of borrowing nerves from other parts of the body and leaving a deficit or numb area there.

"These are still not proven to be as good as human nerve, but research and our understanding is progressing."

Three years later the nerves in Phil's arm have still not grown back properly. Apart from playing his guitar, there is little he can do with his left hand and he says he has no strength in his wrist.

Future hopes

Phil's attacker was jailed for four-and-a half years and Redtrack have been signed to label Fandango. They are set to release their first single a 'Perfectly Fine Intellectual' on 31 May.

"The doctor said I wouldn't play again, but there was no point where I thought I would just give up the band.

"When the doctor was reading out a list of damages he even said you should be thankful you are not a musician.

"I had a lot of muscle deterioration in my left arm, but I had the determination to do it.

"It is difficult playing the guitar, but I just get on with it."

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