Hope-filled new year plans include marriage

Alex Cottier (21) and Ashleigh Clement (20) are settled back in the Wakatipu for good, and engaged after a life-changing year. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
Alex Cottier (21) and Ashleigh Clement (20) are settled back in the Wakatipu for good, and engaged after a life-changing year. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
A year after Alex Cottier suffered a brain bleed at the National Rugby sevens tournament in Queenstown, causing him to collapse, he is finally looking to move on in his home town of Arrowtown.

It has been a year of ups and downs for the 21-year-old, who now looks at life in a different manner and will marry his fiancee Ashleigh Clement (20) on January 19.

Mr Cottier was given the all-clear from doctors in November after receiving brain surgery at the start of the year and radiotherapy in August.

The news gave him new hope.

''It has taught me not to take things for granted. It has given me the thought that today could be our last and tomorrow it could be all over.''

Last January he was drinking with his friends at the tournament when he vomited and collapsed because of a rare and potentially fatal brain bleed due to arteriovenous malformation. He was taken by ambulance to the Lakes District Hospital where doctors and nurses initially misdiagnosed him and assumed he was simply drunk.

After 24 hours he was eventually sent to Invercargill for a brain scan, which detected a brain bleed.

He was immediately flown to Dunedin Hospital where he had another CT scan and neurosurgery and remained in a high dependency unit for two weeks after the operation.

In September The Southern District Health Board admitted in a report to Vanessa Cottier, Mr Cottier's mother, there had been miscommunication between hospital and ambulance staff.

The report said the miscommunication could have led to the incorrect diagnosis, such as one staff member recording he had consumed 24 cans of beer within two hours.

Mr Cottier had consumed three cans of beer the entire afternoon. He said he had taken positives from the incident and was keen to move on back to Arrowtown after living in Christchurch since May.

''I want to put it in the back of my mind. There is no point looking back ... I have lost a year as it is and I am looking forward.''

Moving forward included getting engaged to Miss Clement, who has gone through a similar life-changing experience. In September 2011 she suffered a stroke. Upon reading about Mr Cottier's incident in the news, she contacted him to offer some advice.

The pair began to talk and in May Mr Cottier moved to Christchurch to live with her.

Mr Cottier will attend the tournament's last show in Queenstown before it moves to Rotorua for 2014, but said he was unlikely to drink any alcohol