The son of a former All Black may never recover from a suspected stroke suffered after an under-21 rugby game.
Grahame Thorne and wife Briony face "terrible uncertainty" waiting for their son, David, to regain consciousness after his collapse on Saturday night.
The Nelson family, at the 20-year-old's bedside in Christchurch Hospital's neurology ward, has been told by doctors that he will "never run again".
"We've got to keep positive. I keep crying. I've been bawling my eyes out," said Thorne, who played 10 tests at centre and wing for the All Blacks between 1967 and 1970.
The Tasman Rugby Union is investigating a tackle against David Thorne during the second half of a match between Waimea and Huia in Motueka on Saturday.
He continued playing for Waimea after the tackle, but said he felt "weird" after the match and has not spoken since collapsing at Nelson Hospital's emergency department about 8.30pm on Saturday.
Doctors told the family they believe a blow to an artery in the neck resulted in it being squeezed "like a tube of toothpaste" before rupturing, leading to the collapse.
David Thorne was moved to Christchurch Hospital on Sunday. On Tuesday night, when his blood pressure rocketed, causing his brain to swell, he was given a 70:30 chance of survival.
He has since improved, but neurologists have been unable to tell what damage his brain and nervous system have suffered.
"He's conscious at times. He just wants to sleep. They have to wake him every two hours to stop him slipping into a coma," said Grahame Thorne.
He waited with his son for up to two hours before being seen by a specialist at Nelson's emergency department from 5.45pm on Saturday.
The Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board confirmed David Thorne was categorised as a non-emergency on arrival.
"We said he'd got pins and needles and he couldn't feel his arm, and we just sat there for two hours," said Grahame Thorne.
He was in the Nelson waiting-room when his son, who played for the Marlborough under-15s and was headhunted by English team Leicester in 2004, suffered a seizure while having an X-ray.
"He was lying down and he was gone," Thorne said.
"He couldn't move. He was trying to get up, but he couldn't, they said."
He said he immediately knew his son had suffered a stroke when he saw his face. "When I looked at him, I thought, `That's a stroke'."
Speech therapists and physiotherapists were on standby, but so far his son, the second-youngest of five, had not responded.
Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Lee Germon said referees and players were being interviewed as part of an investigation into the incident which resulted in a penalty being awarded.
The player who made the tackle was not sin-binned or sent off at the time, Germon said