Page last updated at 06:32 GMT, Friday, 11 May 2007 07:32 UK

Rugby amputee thanks well-wishers

Ray Gravell
Ray Gravell said he initially felt "very gloomy" after the amputation

Rugby legend Ray Gravell has spoken for the first time about the "phenomenal" support he received after part of his leg was amputated.

The former Llanelli captain was admitted to hospital with a diabetes-related infection.

At first, two toes on his right foot were amputated, before the decision was taken to remove his right leg below the knee.

Gravell said he was "humbled" by the messages of support he had received.

"People from all over the world - Australia and New Zealand - players I played against in the seventies, have been sending their best wishes - it's been phenomenal," the father-of-two said.

The BBC presenter returned to his home in Mynydd y Garreg, near Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, after the operation last month.

He said the pain he felt before the amputation was torturous.

"My emotions have been stressed and pulled to the furthest most possible limit.

Ray Gravell interviewed by Gareth Charles
Gravell has been to the artificial limb centre in Morriston hospital

"I felt frightened, but I gained strength from my wife Mari, she was like a rock.

"If it hadn't been for her at that particular time, I don't think I would have coped."

The former Wales and Lions player said one of his main concerns was for his two daughters, Gwennan and Manon, and how they would react to the changes.

"It worried me immensely - but they hugged and kissed me and looked at the leg and the youngest, Gwennan asked 'Will it grow back?'.

"I thought it was a wonderful question and it caught my imagination."

The operation came as a "shock" to Gravell and his wife as they had gone to West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen to get a clean dressing after two of his toes were amputated.

"It had deteriorated, poison had set in and immediate action was needed. The leg had to go," Gravell explained.

Initially after recovering from the operation Gravell admitted he felt "very gloomy".

Ray Gravell in his playing days
Gravell was a key member of the Wales team which won Grand Slams

"But since that things have changed dramatically. I've been to Morriston hospital to the artificial limb centre.

"There is a full life to be led after such an operation. I'm going to take one day at a time, whatever tomorrow brings, we will face and accept and go forward."

Gravell praised and thanked staff at the West Wales General Hospital who he said saved his life.

But he added that watching his beloved Scarlets play in the Heineken Cup had lifted his spirits during his operations.

"I watched the Scarlets play Munster and beat them at Stradey Park. For an hour and a half it was a pain-free zone. Sadly we didn't reach the final and the pain came back!"

After 10 years, one mantle Gravell is passing on to another former Scarlets player is his role in the gorsedd ceremonies at the National Eisteddfod.

Robin McBride will now be carrying the sword of peace in the ceremonies.

Gravell, a key member of the Wales team which won Grand Slams and Triple Crowns in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said the "rugby fraternity" had been a great support to him.

"It's been immense. I've got a million 'thank yous' to say."

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"There is a full life to be led after such an operation"

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