Fast lane on road to recovery doesn't lead to rugby field

Kavanagh College pupil Matt Martin (17) trains at Sky Fitness Gym in Dunedin. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Kavanagh College pupil Matt Martin (17) trains at Sky Fitness Gym in Dunedin. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

A Dunedin schoolboy's road to recovery after a major head injury he received playing rugby has been faster than doctors anticipated.

Kavanagh College pupil Matt Martin (17) collapsed on the field when feeding a scrum in August last year.

The halfback hit his head on the ground after a legitimate tackle and was concussed.

He was later placed in an induced coma.

His memory of the game never returned.

''I'm not too worried about that - it's not something I'd want to remember.''

The year 13 pupil has now returned to classes and is helping coach the First XV.

Despite initially wanting to return to rugby, he had accepted the reality he would never play the game competitively again, he said.

''I'd like to, but I don't really think it's worth the risk.''

It would not be feasible to play competitive rugby anyway, as nobody would want to tackle him, he said.

''I'd get a few tries but not based on skill,'' he laughed.

Matt's recovery was faster than expected.

He stayed in Wakari Hospital's specialist rehabilitation service, Isis, for about a fortnight, rather than the six months doctors had told him to expect.

Numbness in his left leg, which he was told could take up to two years to disappear, had gone and his leg felt normal.

He was still working with a physio and a speech therapist to help his memory recall.

When he woke from his coma, he did not remember his mother, Sharon O'Callaghan, had died from cancer the previous year.

But his memories of her had returned quickly, he said.

He had undergone surgery during his recovery.

A titanium plate had been inserted in his head to replace a piece of skull that had been removed to relieve pressure on the brain.

The only real difference in living with a 10cm by 15cm plate in his head was having to remember he would set off metal detectors at airport security - something he had recently done before a flight to Auckland.

''I had completely forgotten about it and it went off,'' he said, laughing.

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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