It was absolutely not the way Sid saw his 21st birthday going …
Right up until he and his mates decided to go for a dip in the pool it had been a good day. He’d celebrated with whānau and friends, had a few bevvies, then gone home to the flat. Given that this was early January and quite warm, cooling off in the pool seemed a pretty good idea.
Sid remembers diving in, but not a lot from there. His friends will never forget – Sid hit his head on the bottom and sustained a hyperflexion injury to his C3/4 (his head was jammed forward and down, chin-to-chest). He lost consciousness and floated face down. To begin with, his mates thought he was just messing around. Then they realised this was serious… very serious. They whipped him out of the pool, started CPR and called an ambulance. He was raced to Middlemore Hospital and emergency surgery fused the two vertebrae to stop anymore damage.
Sid’s Mum and Dad were told he probably wouldn’t walk again – but no one told Sid. He says there was always something inside him saying that it wasn’t forever. He couldn’t wait to get to the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit (ARSU) and start into his rehab and recovery.
During his first week in ASRU he had a winning at life! moment. His Mum was helping him with leg stretches – he got frustrated and kicked his leg. Wait! What? Yes – he kicked his leg! His Mum asked “Was that a spasm?!” So he tried again and he managed it. Win! It took six more weeks before he felt any movement in his arms – a wee wiggle of his right index finger.
And not long after that the whole country went into Lockdown.
Sid made good use of his time – he had no interest in sitting around waiting for the country to open up. He was working hard on his rehab and when the country came out of Lockdown Sid walked out of rehab to the absolute surprise and delight of his family – winning at life!
In the year since, Sid has continued to work on his recovery and strengthen his muscles. He can now walk nearly 600m with a walking stick. He uses his powerchair for longer distances.
He still has bladder and bowel issues – when you sustain a spinal cord impairment it affects all your internal organs, whether you’re able to walk or not. Sid says he tires out sooner than his mates, but fatigue’s not his biggest problem – he has pain in his hands and feet all the time. Meds help but he doesn’t like to take too many. Putting his feet up helps. But Sid’s never been the type to sit around.
Before his accident Sid was a builder. He loved being outdoors and hands on.
After his accident he wasn’t sure what he was going to do – but he knew he wanted to work. Kate, one of NZST’s Auckland based team, helped him discover and work through options connected to building and using his skill set. Together they investigated training possibilities and what assistance was out there for him. Kate found people to help with his training. Sid’s now working for a new company and rapidly becoming a whizz with architectural drawing programmes – he’s thinking he might train as an architect. “I’m really enjoying it – and I never thought I’d enjoy an office job!” He’s currently working on a project with his Dad in Tauranga and travels between there and his home just north of Auckland. Kate’s staying in touch with him to check he has all the equipment and support he needs to keep moving forward … and custard tarts for morning tea.
Sid’s enjoying fishing again. And he’s getting into kayaking.
Life is busy. Life is different. And Sid is very appreciative that he’s here to enjoy all the new opportunities coming his way.