Bhangra legend, Balwinder Safri has been discharged from hospital to continue his recovery in a specialist rehabilitation centre.
Safri spent 86 days in New Cross hospital in Wolverhampton after his family had been told to prepare for the worst when he suffered brain damage after a planned triple bypass procedure.
The 63-year-old was admitted to hospital on 20 April 2022 following concerns about his heart and two days later he underwent a planned triple bypass. Following the operation, Safri suffered complications and was taken back to theatre for further surgery, after which he remained in a coma, with CT scans showing he had suffered damage to his brain.
“It’s a miracle,” said Nikki Davitt, Safri’s wife. “There are no other words to describe it.
“There were so many times when we thought ‘this is it’. I remember a call from critical care one night and they asked me to come to the hospital as soon as I could as they didn’t think Safri was going to make it through the night, but he always pulled through.
“He is incredible – I always knew he was strong, he had a stroke back in 2000 and they thought he would struggle to walk again, however he pushed and pushed himself to walk around his hospital bed and went on to make a full recovery.”
After 27 days in critical care, Safri was moved to ward B8, where his family were told he would continue to be made as comfortable as possible. He continued to defy the odds, however, and Nikki, recalls the emotional moment she heard him say his first words after being by his bedside night after night.
“On B8, they took his tube out and the neurosurgeon was trying to talk to him. He was saying ‘squeeze my hand if you can hear me,’ but Safri didn’t react. I asked the surgeon if they had anyone that could talk to Safri in Indian. He went and found a student nurse who could speak Punjabi, she said to him, ‘ki tusin mainu Uncleji sun sakde ho?’ which means can you hear me uncle?
“I will never ever forget hearing Safri say ‘yes I can hear you’ – I was overcome with emotion.”
From then on, with the help of the staff on B8 and the support of Nikki and daughter Priya, Safri, continued to make progress with his ‘miraculous’ recovery.
“He could understand everything and started to say some words. The doctors didn’t think he would move his hand again, but on Priya’s birthday, he began to move his fingers and now he blows kisses to the nurses when they walk past!” laughed Nikki.
“I have no words to describe just how good the care has been, not only to Safri but to myself and Priya too. The staff have been incredible – I would give them all an award if I could. I never thought I would see Safri leave critical care, yet now he is being discharged to continue his rehabilitation. He has had a new chance at life and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Nikki and the staff on B8 organised a special send off for Safri as he left the hospital to start his community rehab, which brought smiles to many faces and tears to many eyes. Staff lined the corridor to applaud Safri off the ward and he was greeted in the corridor by his friend and fellow The Safri Boyz member, Bhupinder Kullar (better known as Tubsy), who serenaded him and the staff with some music on the dhol drum.
Tubsy, who last saw Balwinder in June said: “His recovery is amazing – he looks so much better than when I last saw him. To see his face light up when he saw the dhol drum was incredible. I can’t thank the staff enough for what they have done.”
Safri will now continue his recovery journey at a specialist rehabilitation centre, which will help with his mobility and his speech and language, and Nikki hasn’t given up hope of seeing him perform again.
“Although we haven’t quite got him home just yet, I know that he will continue to remain strong and wow us all with his recovery. I am certain that I will once again see him back on the stage where he belongs.”