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Frank and the art of giving dangerously

Would-be soccer star Philippe Bernabo-Madrid with his uncle Frank Madrid... It will take up to 12 months for Frank and Philippe to fully recover from the operations. Photo by Silas Brown

Arts personality Frank Madrid has offered up his tendon for sport. FREYLA FERGUSON reports…

IT was days after Frank Madrid had a tendon removed from his knee to donate to his soccer-playing nephew Philippe Bernabo-Madrid that he asked the all-important question: “So, what did you actually do to me?”

Busy overseas for work, Frank didn’t have time to research what was involved in his nephew’s reconstructive surgery to the cruciate ligament by one of Australia’s leading surgeons in knee surgery, Prof Leo Pinczewski.

But he says it didn’t matter, either way – he would do anything for his nephew.

“There was no question,” Frank says.

“It was an easy decision, not only is he my beloved nephew and we are very close, but the fact that it’s for his career.

“Otherwise we’d forever in life be asking ‘what if?’”

Philippe is a 19-year-old soccer player who is currently a personal trainer at the AIS. Originally from Columbia, Philippe has played soccer since he was four years old.

Frank says there are many happy memories of Philippe as a child on the soccer field.

“Even as a little boy, he had a special relationship with football,” he says.

His talent hasn’t wavered, Philippe has now become one of Canberra’s top scorers in the capital league and last year was selected from 500 aspiring soccer stars from across Australia to be part of the Fox8 reality TV show “Football Superstar”.

Philippe says he was reluctant to allow his uncle to go through with the procedure but “[my uncle] was really pushy about it”.

“It’s the most prized gift I have ever gotten,” Philippe says. “I wouldn’t be able to play without it, I’ll always be thankful.

“[Soccer] is my life, for the past year I haven’t been able to play, I just don’t know what to do.

“I can’t wait to be back.”

This recent knee surgery was the last option for Philippe, who last year had the injured knee reconstructed using his own ligament from his other knee. But it wasn’t successful, leaving him only two choices – an artificial ligament, which was expensive and its success rate unproven, or a live donor.

With both parents unsuitable for the operation, it was his uncle who volunteered to donate his tendon.

“I never would have thought to ask another person because it’s a very big thing,” he said. “So I left it. But then my uncle had a conversation with my mum and he offered.”

It will take up to 12 months for Frank and Philippe to fully recover from the operations. But despite a year away from the football field, Philippe’s soccer dreams are now, thanks to his uncle, well and truly alive.

“It’d be good to play in Australia and hopefully play in the A-League,” Philippe said. “I want to go as high as I can go; ultimately, I’d like to play in Europe by the time I’m 21 or 22 years.”

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