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Stoneman interview: Son’s heart condition has changed my outlook

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ark Stoneman admits he is a very different man to the one who played the last of his 11 Tests for England three years ago this month. 

“They’re great memories, and the work I put in to get that was a fantastic achievement that I’m extremely proud of,” he tells Standard Sport. “But becoming a father and some of the trials that has thrown up, I was a different person then. I now have different elements to my life and I feel a more complete person.”

A few weeks after he was abruptly dropped by England as Ed Smith looked to make his mark on the team, one match after a winter in Australia and New Zealand that had seen him perform bravely and creditably, Stoneman and his wife Serene discovered – at their 20-week scan – that their first child had a heart condition, Tetralogy of Fallot. 

On the day Leo was born in late October 2018, he was transferred from Queen Charlotte’s Hospital to the Royal Brompton, where he would have open heart surgery just a couple of days later. He spent the first 13 nights of his life in hospital. Nine months later, in the summer of 2019, he was back, for more open heart surgery. 

The experience was humbling for Stoneman. He is in awe of “superwoman” Serene – “she has an incredible knack of looking forward with brightness and happiness, whereas I can sometimes dwell and over analyse things,” he says – and what he has seen at the Royal Brompton. 

Getty Images

“The level of care, and the ability the staff have is incredible,” he says. “And the strength and resilience of the kids is quite remarkable. It gives you a different outlook on life, how fortunate we are to have the services and support we do.”

It has been a bumpy road but now Leo could barely be doing better. 

“We know the journey isn’t complete,” he says. “We pretty much live a normal life with things on the radar for further down the line. But he is the most incredibly happy and joyous little boy, and the energy he gives off to everyone he’s around is incredible. He’s already sport obsessed, playing with a cricket bat, tennis racket, charging around with a rugby ball.

“Kids’ zest and enthusiasm for life is something you can’t avoid being energised by. To see the trials he’s faced and way he goes about life, that puts a smile on my face every morning.”

Along the way Stoneman admits he struggled to compartmentalise what was going on at home and on the field.

“I would liken the experience to a computer,” he says. “If you’ve got a lot of other windows open, they are trying to run in the background, then the main programme you are trying to use is running slower than it needs to be for optimal performance.”

Mark Stoneman takes evasive action during his century against Leicestershire last week / Getty Images

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