Game Lounge Head of Corporate IT Jonathan Vella has revealed that he has undergone a hectic and “unbearable” few months, both physically and mentally, after he was diagnosed with a herniated disc.
Speaking to MaltaCEOs.mt, Mr Vella opened up about his recent health struggles, stating that the condition could have been “disabling” had he not received the necessary medical treatment.
He recalled how he had initially felt “extreme pain” in his back that would then radiate from his hip to his left leg. “After visiting an orthopaedic surgeon, I did an MRI privately at Saint James Hospital, as it would have taken months at Mater Dei Hospital, and I was later diagnosed with a herniated disc,” he said.
“This was just before last Christmas, and I was also diagnosed with a foot drop, meaning that there was severe damage in my leg nerve, leading to me starting to lose the ability to walk,” he said. He added that another orthopaedic surgeon had said that it is only a small slipped disc and would “heal on its own”, yet the pain would not subside, despite him “overdosing on a cocktail of top anti-inflammatory and pain relief”.
Following that, he was forced to go to Mater Dei twice, yet on both occasions he was asked why he was calling for an emergency.
“Believe me, I had no strength left to fight back. I wished I could just take a pill and die,” he said.
“The pain was so unbeatable that the highest dose of pills a doctor could legally prescribe was giving me three hours out of eight hours. So, the plan was to sleep during those three hours otherwise I wouldn’t cope throughout the day in that agony. I was left in the dark without hope,” Mr Vella said, before adding that he started “overdosing pills to overcome the pain”.
“I ended up in a situation in bed where I couldn’t even lift or turn my neck, as doing so would trigger extreme pain. Breathing, sneezing, and talking were all very painful as well. I felt this was my death sentence,” he stated.
After being told that appointments with some of Malta’s “top spine surgeons” would be in six months, Mr Vella turned to Saint James Hospital, and he managed to get a quick appointment with Josie Muscat. It resulted that the nerve of Mr Vella’s left leg got worse and he could not move his leg at all.
“He examined the MRI and could see that the nerve was severely impinged. Then he immediately ordered me to have a major lumbar spine decompression operation. Due to my urgency, he had to move an appointment to accommodate me, and within five days I was in the operating theatre and pain-free on the same day,” he explained.
Following the operation, he was told that the nerve was “so impinged that it was black”, and while he was on time, chances were that he would not fully recover unless he was courageous and determined “not to give up”.
When asked how he is feeling a few days after, Mr Vella said that he is “relieved”, and despite losing over 12 kilograms in a few weeks, he has been “pain-free since the operation”.
“After the operation, I was given morphine on the go with the press of a button, yet to everyone’s disbelief, I never used it. Both the surgeon and staff couldn’t understand how I was able to resist the pain, yet a reason I came up with is that my body had endured so much pain before that this was nothing,” he explained.
While his left toes are starting to get better, they are still numb.
Over the course of these difficult moments, he was receiving Game Lounge’s “continuous support”, and he highlighted that it is crucial to “enjoy working at a workplace where you are respected, doing what you love, and knowing that your employer is there for you by promoting a real work-life balance culture and being able to work on a hybrid basis or from home for as long as you can”.
He added that Game Lounge “truly values its employees”, as he had their “full backing from the start”. Aside from gifting him a bouquet of flowers, the company also provided him with paid health insurance through which he “was able to get everything done privately”. “The bouquet was like a traditional way of saying ‘we’re thinking of you’, however I was even asked whether I was in need of any financial aid,” he added.
Having only joined the iGaming company last July, Mr Vella was still in his six-month probation period, yet Game Lounge still valued him “more than anything”.
“Okay, I’m Head of Corporate IT and in five months I achieved what has been in the pipeline for the last four year. So, I feel proud of my achievements. I’m very grateful for being able to work with such an entity that has a wonderful human resources team and great mentors, rather than bosses, who don’t believe in micromanaging their staff,” he continued.
Asked how keen he is to return to his normal work routine, Mr Vella said that while he should still be resting for the next four to five weeks, he is “eager” to start.
“At least attending meetings, replying to emails to remove the backlog, and also not to impact business continuity. If you feel respected at work, it comes from within yourself to try to balance your recovery with work. No one is going to tell me don’t go to a doctor’s appointment during work hours, but then it’s within your remit to make up for the lost time afterwards,” he remarked.
While he has worked with various companies over the course of his career, he stated that Game Lounge has been “the best so far”. “I say this not because they did a lot with me, but because you end up feeling the happy vibe inside the office,” he said, before adding that “you feel that sense of belonging, which for me is very important as most of our lives are spent at work”.
Mr Vella is an IT veteran, with experience working in a number of industries, both locally and on a remote basis. He describes himself as a “good listener and communicator”, while also having the ability to remain “composed in critical situations”, which is a skill that has helped him overcome “many obstacles where others would fail”.
Jonathan Vella with a flower bouquet he received from Game Lounge / LinkedIn
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