Kavanagh College pupil Matt Martin was out of hospital
yesterday to celebrate his 17th birthday with his family in
Dunedin. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Kavanagh College pupil Matt Martin (17) awoke from a coma
without any memory of the Dunedin rugby game in which he was
concussed - or of the November death of his mother.
But Matt's memory is returning and he was yesterday allowed
out of hospital to celebrate his 17th birthday with his
Matt's father, Dave Martin (48), said his son was temporarily
discharged from Wakari Hospital's specialist rehabilitation
Matt had lunch in Dunedin and dinner with his father and
three older brothers at the family home in Mornington.
''Living a normal life for a day,'' Matt said.
He was moved from Dunedin Hospital to Isis for rehabilitation
a week ago to work with a physio and speech therapist, and on
restoring gaps in his memory.
''Most of it is coming back. I'll never get that game back
All he remembers about the under-18 grade match earlier this
month in which he suffered a head injury was borrowing his
older brother's boots to play.
Matt said as more people visited him in hospital, more of his
memory returned, but he had not remembered the death of his
mother, Sharon O'Callaghan, from cancer in November.
''I kept asking Dad how Mum was and asking why she hadn't
Mr Martin avoided his son's questions so as not to put
unnecessary stress or anxiety on his son. Then Matt saw a
memorial tattoo for his mother on his father's forearm, Mr
Matt was later able to recall his mother's death.
Mr Martin had stayed at the bedside when Matt was in a coma.
''It was a pretty hard time. At that stage, we didn't know
what was happening; whether he was going to survive or not.
''Whether he was going to walk or talk was the least of our
worries at that stage - we just wanted to know if he was
going to survive.'
'The first moment of relief came when Matt squeezed his
''It was pretty amazing. The first day he woke up, he had
next to no movement on his right side and was like that for a
few days, but it slowly came back.''
The right side of Matt's body was now ''good as gold'' but
there was some numbness in his left leg that could take up to
two years to return to normal, Mr Martin said.
Matt said that he would have an operation in a month to have
a titanium plate inserted in his head to replace a piece of
skull that had been removed to relieve pressure on the brain.
Mr Martin was at the rugby game and he said the tackle on his
son was fair: ''It wasn't the kid's fault; it was just one of
Although Matt will not play rugby next year, he hopes to play
again in 2015.
''I can't remember that game and don't want to finish on
something that I can't remember.''
He intended to help coach the school's First XV next year.
Mr Martin said he would not stop Matt returning to rugby but
would prefer his son play a non-contact sport because he had
been concussed three times previously.
''A future in rowing might be better,'' Mr Martin laughed.
''If he does play, he does. If he doesn't, I'll be happier.''
Mr Martin was hopeful his son would return home in a few
''We expect he's going to get a full recovery. We just don't
know how long it's going to be. But he's way ahead of what
Yesterday, Matt was happy leading a normal life and getting
''I got an iPad from everyone at school - that was pretty
cool - and my dad got me a watch.''
Mr Martin said staff at Dunedin and Wakari Hospitals and
support from the school, rugby team, Otago and New Zealand
Rugby Unions had been outstanding.