The day my life changed - 'Remember me, Sir?' Then he hit me so hard my friends heard my neck crack
It was Shrove Tuesday two years ago. I had arranged to go and watch the England v West Indies cricket match in a local pub and then go for a curry with two headteacher friends. The cricket was very entertaining and at 11.30pm we walked round to the local curry restaurant.
As I entered, a young man approached me and said: "Hello Sir. You're Mr Heakin, aren't you? Do you remember me from school?" He was in a joyful mood and seemed pleased to see me. I said "give me your first name and I will give you your surname". He said "Jermaine with a J". I said "Jermaine Bullen". It was 20 years since I had left that school. He was 26, so he must have been in Year 1 when I left. We spoke briefly about what he was up to and other pupils in his year. I then sat down and joined my two friends.
The next thing I remember was hearing the ambulance doors slamming shut. I was in the back of an ambulance and my friend Damian sat with me. I asked him what had happened. He said that I had been attacked by Jermaine Bullen. I was taken to the local hospital and transferred to the maxillofacial unit at North Manchester General Hospital.
I had to wait five days for the swelling to go down and then I had a four-hour operation. I had four titanium steel plates attached to my upper jaw to rebuild my face. I also had metal ties attached to upper and lower jaws so that my jaws could be wired together.
I was eventually able to piece together what had happened. Jermaine was a big, stocky lad who did kick-boxing and cage-fighting. He went out, had too much to drink and took his anger out on me when he met me. He came up behind me and knocked me out with one savage blow. It was so hard that my friends heard my neck crack and thought I was dead. He picked up my head and then started to pummel my face. Then he threw me on the floor and started kicking my face and ribs. I was left for dead on the floor in a pool of my own blood.
After the operation I had painful breathing problems until my broken ribs healed. My jaws were wired together for six weeks, so I was on a liquid diet and ate everything through a straw.
I was off school for three months and when I returned I was given a great welcome by all the staff and children.
Jermaine was arrested and remanded the day after he attacked me. We went to an identity parade a month after the attack. None of us could pick out Jermaine. We later found out that he had refused permission for his picture to be used in an identity parade, so the police had to use a picture from when he was last arrested two years previously. You can imagine how he had changed over the two years.
In April last year he was jailed for a minimum of three years. I am left with no sense of smell or taste. I am deaf in my left ear and have a blocked tear duct which means I cry a lot. I have problems chewing food so I am mainly on a soft diet. I had further surgery last year to remove one of the plates from my head. During that operation my sinuses were removed as well.
After the assault, my wife Angela had 10 weeks off work to help my recovery. My daughter Rebecca and son Damien also had extensive time off work. My son Edward had to return from university in Liverpool when he was in the middle of his final examinations.
I have chosen to forgive Jermaine, but my family struggle to do the same. I get on with my life. I refuse not to go anywhere in my own town, I have even been back to have a curry in the same restaurant. The worst news was finding out that England drew that match against the West Indies.
By Kieran Heakin. If you have an experience to share, email email@example.com.