Saturday, May 14, 2011

Paralyzed rugby player's brilliant surgeon: "90% is in your head"

Taieri teenager Austen Haig remains positive, despite a serious spinal injury suffered in a club rugby match last month.

Haig (19) injured his spine while playing hooker for the Taieri Colts side at Peter Johnstone Park on April 16, and is now in Burwood Hospital, in Christchurch.

His prognosis is not clear yet, and his mother Helen says it could be six to eight weeks before the exact damage, and whether he can walk again, are known.

But good news had come over the past couple of days.

"Yesterday [Sunday] he managed to move his right foot, just wiggled it a bit. Then today they managed to get him out of bed and into a wheelchair for half an hour and that will be gradually increased this week," she said from Christchurch.

Haig, an accounting and chemistry student at the University of Otago, injured his back five minutes into the game, when he was hit at a breakdown.

An ambulance was called and Mrs Haig, who was not initially at the game, also came racing to see what had happened.

"It looked pretty awful. His body was lying there and his legs were all skewed off to the side."

Haig was taken to Dunedin Hospital where it was discovered he had dislocated his C6 vertebrae and his spinal cord had been crushed.

Through the use of weights on a halo brace, the dislocated vertebrae was put back in place at Dunedin Hospital. He was flown to Christchurch Hospital the next day, where his C5 and C6 vertebrae were fused together.

It would take another few weeks before the swelling of hids spinal cord came down, and there could be a clear prognosis.

"We're just at the waiting stage at the moment but the good thing is the spinal cord is still intact."

At the moment, he was a tetraplegic but Helen Haig said her son's attitude had been amazing and he kept everyone thinking positively.

"He mentioned to me how he is keeping everyone together. His attitude is just great, just thinking totally positive. There is none of that 'poor me' sort of stuff.

"He's telling me we can get through this. When he had the first operation the surgeon said that 90% of the recovery is in your head and he has remembered that."


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