Simon Bridges reveals trauma from almost losing son prompted decision to quit politics

Former National Party veteran Simon Bridges has revealed that the recent trauma of nearly losing his young son Harry prompted his decision to quit politics.

The former leader of the Opposition and his wife Natalie were frightened they would lose their now 8-year-old boy, after he was hit by a swing in the school playground on December 2.

The swing struck Harry in the liver, causing severe trauma and internal bleeding, and hours after being rushed to Tauranga Hospital he was flown to Auckland’s Starship Hospital for further urgent medical attention.

“I’m almost embarrassed to say this,” Bridges explained together with his wife Natalie in a joint interview with Women’s Weekly.

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“I couldn’t really comprehend how serious it was until he had nearly 20 medical staff all around him. They were just swarming around him. I thought, ‘this is not good,’ and he was in Tauranga Hospital for only a few hours before doctors made the decision to transport him to Auckland.

The family is grateful that Bridges happened to be in Tauranga instead of Wellington, where he is based most weekdays. After receiving word of his son’s accident he quickly cancelled his scheduled appearance alongside National leader Christopher Luxon – who was announcing Bridges’ appointment as the Opposition’s new finance spokesperson – and rushed to the school to be with his son.

“He went straight to the school and I was closer to the hospital, so I met them there. Your whole world just melts. Nothing else really matters,” said Natalie.He was just running past and it hit him in the liver. He had the second-to-highest grade liver injury. It was almost destroyed.”

After the accident, Bridges tweeted: “Today my son Harry had a bad accident with a swing at school. Natalie and I want to thank all the amazing staff at Tauranga and Starship hospitals for all they’re doing.

“While it is serious, Harry should be OK. We are also very grateful for all the kind messages and prayers.”

Bridges says the frightening experience was the catalyst for him to last week announce his retirement from politics and begin a new chapter in his life together with his family, which also includes his young daughter Jemima, and son Emlyn.

Simon Bridges has revealed the frightening experience around his son Harry’s serious injury was behind his decision to retire from politics.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
Simon Bridges has revealed the frightening experience around his son Harry’s serious injury was behind his decision to retire from politics.
“It did change everything because life had to stop,” he told the Women’s Weekly. “We haven’t really had that before with anything else – where that was all that mattered. That was the start of us knowing that we had to change our life and priorities.”

Harry’s ordeal was not over, however, with Natalie staying by her son’s bedside for seven nights as doctors hoped his liver would stop bleeding to prevent the need for them to operate.

“It was a watch and wait situation,” said Natalie. “Thank God he made it through and he did very well. The bleeding stopped by itself.”

Harry’s condition eventually improved enough for him to return to the family home in Tauranga, but his injury meant the family had to limit his activity and enjoy quiet time together throughout the summer holiday season.

“Harry was in a fragile position. He’s a lively character and he couldn’t really do anything because he couldn’t run any risk of injuring himself,” said Bridges.t of time to work and think through things. There is no doubt the family factor is the biggest reason I’m leaving politics.”

The former Crown prosecutor and politician says the whole ordeal gave him pause to reconsider his priorities in life.

Nearly four months on from Harry’s accident, the Bridges are on the cusp of making some major lifestyle changes, as they look to sell their Tauranga home and relocate to Auckland.

“I don’t want to look back and have my kids in their 20s with problems because I was useless. I’m choosing my family and that’s going to give me a new lease on life,” said Bridges.

“I’m sad at some level because there’s a lot I’m going to miss about this place. I still love politics, but I’m not going to regret leaving… I think I’ll look back from time to time with a little bit of envy and a little bit of a sense that I could do it better!”

Bridges, 45, is anticipating he will resume full-time work with Women’s Weekly reporting he may take on a television role, while Natalie, 39, plans to further grow her business Blink PR.

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