One year later
We have just passed the first anniversary of Conor’s Spinal Cord injury – 1:10pm on 21.7.19 – and the purpose of this communication is to bring everyone up to date on Conor’s progress.
Conor was discharged from hospital in February 2019 after an 8 month stay in the Princess Alexandra Hospital Spinal Unit. He had begun to attend school just prior to being discharged and, once out, began attending school (Terrace) four days out of five.
So far, thanks to the efforts of school staff, Conor’s mates and the broader Terrace community, grade 12 has been everything it should have been – he’s gone to the year 12 retreat, to rugby camp and he is currently managing the 1st XV rugby team, including post-match video analysis to assist the coaches.
He continues to work on maximising his physical recovery through regular physio (thanks to Ange and Raj at GARU), exercise physiology (thanks to Alex and Jack at Making Strides) and competitive sport. Currently Conor can walk short distances – good enough for moving around at home or, as anyone who went to House Choir would know, for a little slow-dancing with Lady Gaga.
However his strength/endurance is still insufficient for walking around school, going to the shops or out with friends.
He can also get up and down stairs with assistance, an ability that is extremely handy because entry via stairs is still the only entry in a surprising number of venues. His balance is improving but remains poor and his increased muscle tone is still being treated via stretching and Botox (true story – nothing to do with Lady Gaga or show-biz though).
His hand function is still affected and tasks such as doing up buttons / shoelaces, writing and using a keyboard remain very challenging for him however, with persistence, he is definitely becoming more proficient. Due to Conor’s inefficiencies he has a Personal Carer each morning to assist in his preparations for the day. Activities that appear to be most affected are any chores in the kitchen and laundry – his progress in these skills is suspiciously slow.
Conor’s love of team sports has led him to wheelchair rugby, a tough, team game that, remarkably, he tried for the first time only nine weeks after he broke his neck. He now plays a few times each week and loves mixing with the boys from Sporting Wheelies at the Bowen Hills YMCA.
In June he played in his first Wheelchair rugby competition which required him to be officially classified. Every wheelchair rugby player receives a classification from 0.5 (most disabled) to 3.5 points (least disabled). All teams are required to have a mixture of high-pointers and low-pointers on the court at any given time, ensuring competing teams are evenly matched. Class also determines the role of a player – high pointers have more attacking roles and low-pointers more defensive. Conor was classified as a 2-pointer, which is right in the middle of the scale, giving him some direction as to the sort of skills he has to work on and the sort of chair he needs to play his role. How far he ends up going remains to be seen, but having the chance to compete again in a team environment has been super-important.
Regarding our accommodation, we sold our family home earlier in the year as it became obvious it was not suitable for modification. We found somewhere to rent close to his school and close enough for Conor’s carer to push him to school each morning. Where we end up living remains uncertain but we have put off this decision until 2020, when Conor’s physical recovery has stabilised, he has finished grade 12 and, hopefully, settled on a post-school option.
In addition to the educational, emotional and spiritual sustenance we continue to receive from the school and wider community, we remain extremely grateful for the fund-raising conducted during 2018, and in particular from Conor’s Long Lunch.
The funds remain largely untouched at this point but really permit us to do things and give us options that we would never have had without the funds: Bec has been able to work less so she is able to transport Conor to, and attend, on-going medical assessments, source equipment, get quotes, coordinate carers, monitor medications etc etc; we can rent close to the school and still be in a position to buy/modify a home when the time is right; it puts us in a position where we can take advantage of break-through medical treatments and/or cutting edge assistive technology, should they become available; and it gives us confidence that we will have the resources to manage any on-going or future issues Conor may have with mobility, self-care, modification of accommodation and help with accessing education and employment.
Out of all of us, Bec found the 12-month anniversary of Conor’s injury difficult, especially with the 2019 GPS rugby season underway. We are aware of the positive changes made by ARU to make rugby safer and we wish everyone an injury-free season. In contrast, Conor still loves rugby as much as he ever did and would return to play if he could (**sentiments not endorsed, or even really listened to, by his mother).
We look forward to seeing everyone on 7 September at the Terrace Long Lunch. We especially look forward to attending as regular Terrace parents without being in the spotlight. We love the two charities being supported for 2019:- Eddies Van and UQ Para START.
The first charity is already close to the heart of many at Terrace. The latter is an arm of Sean’s research program which is investigating the therapeutic benefit of sports participation for people with more severe disabilities. At the lunch you will hear about plans for the newest recruit – Conor . Thank you to everyone for getting behind these worthy causes.
Finally, thank you again for the ongoing messages and support. We are enormously grateful, it has made all the difference and carried us forward during the past year.
Bec and Sean