He was eventually rushed to a neurology unit in Sheffield, with doctors concerned the 46-year-old had a potentially fatal aneurysm.
However, Whitbread was diagnosed with bleed on the brain, not requiring an operation.
As a consequence, the ex-Pompey captain made a complete recovery, returning to full-time work within a month.
Whitbread told The News: ‘The way they describe bleed on the brain is that it’s like a thunderclap going through your head. That noise of thunder and lightning jerks your brain.
‘I’d never known pain like it. I’d had knee injuries and everyone relates to pain in a different way, but the pain that day was something else.
‘It was the most extortionate pain going through my head. I thought maybe if I went to sleep it would go away, yet even on a soft pillow it was banging.
‘I called our physio and somehow managed to drive my car the five minutes to the stadium to meet him.
‘I can only describe it as when you stub your toe on the door or hit your elbow, you try to grab something else to take the pain away. You hold it or squeeze it.
‘I was squeezing my head so hard to try to get rid of this pain and he immediately knew I had to go to Chesterfield hospital.
‘Medication didn’t work, they kept me in overnight and ran tests, then took me in an ambulance to the neurology department in Sheffield.
‘I had arrived in the dark. When I woke up the next morning, I was in a ward with six other people and now I could see them. Some had staples round the side of their head after operations.
‘I guess I got a little lucky, a scan showed there was no aneurysm, but bleed on the brain. It meant I was kept in a week, but no operation was needed.
‘When I got home, I broke down in tears, I cried my eyes out, that nearly was it. I was nearly not here or spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair.
‘At my final check-ups in Sheffield, I asked why it had happened.
‘I was told “We have no idea, it can happen to anyone. The likelihood is it will never, ever happen again”.
‘They never mentioned anything about being an ex-footballer and heading the ball. It just happened.’
During his recuperation, Whitbread spent two weeks at the home of Chesterfield manager and former Pompey team-mate Martin Allen.
Within a month, he was allowed back into work full-time – and to this day there have been no further health ramifications.
Whitbread added: ‘Martin wouldn’t let me stay in my flat on my own after coming out of hospital.
‘I would stay at his home and look after his dogs during the day – while he looked after me. He wouldn’t let me do anything!
‘One Sunday, Martin said “Right, we’re going out this afternoon, we’re going to have a roast dinner and a couple of beers at my local pub”.
‘I was thinking “How is this going to work out?”. But you just get back on the bike, two bottles of red wine later it was great.
‘I’ve been as good as gold since it happened, I don't even think about it.
‘As a footballer, when you get back from an injury, you think “Can I kick the ball? Can I make a tackle?”.
‘You just get on with it.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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