Broken Dreams: Life after a Spinal Cord Injury – Part 2

Broken Dreams: Life after a Spinal Cord Injury – Part 2

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V/O: Late morning Ben’s mother arrives for
her daily visit. Ben is the oldest of seven kids, she finds it hard to talk about the
accident and the long-term impact it will have on her entire family. Interpreter For Mum: It’s very difficult
to look after Ben from now on; it’s very easy to look after her kids rather than Ben
because he’s a good rugby players so it’s very difficult for him and because it’s
been caring for him like a baby when he was born now. V/O: Mum talks of her own big dreams for Ben
to play professional rugby and money he would have earned. The family pinned their hopes
on the talented young player. Interpreter For Mum: Sometimes she’s happy
but she’s sad he’s lying like this on the bed, it’s very difficult for her to
imagine how Ben was very fit and he was elected to be the under 20’s for Samoa and she is
very very sad and is feeling emotional. Dan: Meeting his mum was… yeah it was pretty
tough, it was seeing Ben’s reaction to what his mother was saying as well and just knowing
it’s the same feeling as any parent, him just being completely helpless and just wanting
to do everything and not being able to do anything. V/O: I came away from that feeling pretty
much like a white boy who couldn’t really offer much at all. I think I went into it
knowing his level of injury but not realising how disabled he is compared to me and coming
over to Samoa with all my knowledge and experience I thought I could offer something but really
I just came away feeling to helpless and not really being able to do anything at all. V/O: Ben will have financial security, the
Trust fund established in his name has provided things that others don’t have, there’s
even a new home under way designed around Ben’s needs that will ensure he can return
home to his village – that’s huge when many people here affected by the Tsunami still
haven’t rebuilt their homes a year on. Dan: Heading out to Ben’s village – you
know I’m a little apprehensive about what it’s going to be like for him, you know
he’s had a long eight months in hospital and as tough as that’s been there’s a
lot of hard times ahead as well as there is with any spinal cord injury patient or anyone
who has had a serious injury – you know life is still going on around them and a part
of it is sort of in their face the whole time, it’s what they used to do and it’s what
they can’t be involved in any more. Ben has got a specifically designed house in the
process of being built, he’s just seen the floor plans and seen where it’s at –
I’m just really looking forward to that and hoping that it’s going to be a place
where he can live and make the most of life and enjoy life. V/O: Ten members of Ben’s family live here
as communal living. A few small sleeping fales and one large central kitchen. They raise
their own animals and crops. V/O: There are no pathways here, just grass
tracks. I’m glad it’s been trampled because grass isn’t the easiest to wheel through.
Ben’s injury is so severe that there’s no way he’d be able to wheel himself. Ben’s
new fale is under way but at this stage it’s a few posts and roof struts. V/O: The plan is to run electricity for a
hoist and electric bed. Dan: How does he get all the way up the road
to the building? Uncle Soma: Ummm they’re going to make the
route from over there to down here towards house. Dan: Two rooms? Uncle Soma: One room and a toilet and shower. Dan: What other equipment will he need? Or
does he have? Uncle Soma: Yeah he has lots of sheets…. Dan: A bed? Uncle Soma: A bed. Dan: What sort of wheelchair? Uncle Soma: The electric wheelchair. Dan: How’s he going to drive a power chair
without the use of arms? Uncle Soma: I’m the one who is responsible
for him. Dan: They’re still learning what Ben might
be able to do, I’m already thinking Ben could control an electric wheelchair himself,
they just have to rig it so that he can control it – maybe with his chin. Dan: A manual chair as well? Uncle Soma: Yes. Dan: How’s Ben about all this? He must be
excited; he must be hanging out for it? Uncle Soma: Yes, he just wants to come home
and enjoy in his fale. V/O: Any bit of independence will be huge.
Soma’s already told me Ben’s depressed. Uncle Soma: It’s kind of hard but the thing
is we talk sometimes and I ask him how he is coping since the accident happened and
he said “all I want is to walk again and I don’t want to play rugby anymore”. V/O: Ben’s Uncle Soma has young children
of his own but he takes his family duty very seriously – Ben’s his focus now. Uncle Soma: I was his caregiver from the beginning
till now and to the future. The thing is that boy lying on his bed just lie there and do
nothing and I feel sorry for him, even if he’s not walking we’re really happy to
have him back home still talking and laughing and all those things. Dan: He’s still the same Ben? Uncle Soma: yeah still the same. V/O: When I first arrived I couldn’t imagine
someone with Ben’s level of injury could live here. Dan: I’ve sought out a bit of shade because
I’m cooking and I’ve been here for a couple of hours and I’m really struggling to handle
the heat and it’s not because of coming from New Zealand or coming from winter this
is part of my injury, you know being a tetraplegic I just cannot handle the heat anymore, I can’t
regulate my temperature – that’s going to be the same for Ben and I really don’t
know how he’s going to handle it or if he knows about what to expect once he gets back
home. V/O: Taking care of Ben back home is going
to be a full time job for Soma, someone with Ben’s level of injury requires round the
clock care. Dan: From the outside looking in it could
be easy to say that once Ben gets out of hospital he should stay in Apia, with his level of
disability it would just be easier and you could even say that with the money that’s
been raised for Ben that should go to a registered nurse to look after him so that his Uncle
Soma can go back to work but being here and being in the village and meeting his family
you quickly realise that he’ll be going home to the right place. V/O: Back in town at the Marist Rugby Club
Ben’s old team is training. Dan: Behind me that’s Ben’s team mates,
they’re the ones that were with him on that day and this is the very field where he broke
his neck. V/O: These guys know all about doing their
stretches and warming up for a match but they never realised the impact those crunching
tackles could have … until Ben’s accident. Andrew: Every time I could to this field I
always think about Ben’s case – it’s very sad that day so, especially that kind
of injury. Contact games right now, you can’t go in and expect that you’re not going to
get injured… yeah… so the most important thing now is you have to insure yourself first
before you go into contact games so safety is the most important thing right now in world
rugby. V/O: As we talk another awful reality emerges,
the minutes immediately after an accident are crucial for anyone who has a spinal injury,
the rule is don’t move them. Team mate Andrew was the one who took Ben to the hospital,
at the time no one knew Ben had broken his neck and the guys thought they were doing
the right thing, they helped him up, bundled him into the car and headed off to find a
doctor – that movement could have further contributed to the damage of his spine. Andrew: I was crying that day because I was
the one that was with Ben the whole time when we found out the story about him and when
we found out that the spinal cord is gone we just stand there and look at each other
and Ben was just lying there and didn’t know anything, he didn’t know anything and
then I asked him “Are you OK?” and he always says yes every time – he’s a strong
young man. Dan: Aside from the obvious physical limitations
of getting around Samoa in a wheelchair the big thing I’ve noticed here is I’m a bit
of a curiosity, I think there’s a general lack of awareness just because people don’t
see anyone or know anyone in a wheelchair – this will be part of the challenge for
Ben as he starts to rebuild his new life. V/O: Ben is still in a major phase of adjustment,
he lies in bed watching reruns of rugby but he knows the sport he’s so passionate about
put him here. Dan: Do you still think about what happened? Ben: Yeah every day. I don’t want it to
happen again. V/O: Too few people here in Samoa realise
that playing rugby has dangerous consequences. Helping Ben is a wonderful thing but what’s
really needed is a change of focus on the football field. Hitting hard isn’t the be
all and end all, Ben now knows this only too well. Dan: Spending time with Ben had huge impact
on me, he’s such an incredible guy and I’m really looking forward to seeing him again
soon.

19 thoughts on “Broken Dreams: Life after a Spinal Cord Injury – Part 2”

  1. My island brother, my son has the same injury as you and lives life more after gathering INFORMATiON from expirence disable if you like to talk please email me [email protected]otmail.com. My son now plays wheelchairugby look it up on YouTube

  2. There definitely needs to be more education on tackling in Samoa. I was just there a few weeks ago and at one training session there were about 25-30 boys on each team, full on tackling each other. The natural skill is there but knowledge of safe tackling needs to be improved 🙂

  3. My first time watching this, so sad looking at this young man hope the Samoa Government is helping him physically especially financially for his family and his poor siblings..Faamalo ma faafetai foi i matua o loo fiafia pea e tausi ia Ben..God Bless you and your family…

  4. It really upset me to watch this..and listening to Dr. Emosi speaking of the incredible needs and shortages in the hospital…Especially when I personally have offered over and over and over..year after year..to bring containers of donated medical supplies to them. I've tried begging the Health Dept to allow me to bring 75 different specialists to Samoa so they might offer assistance…knowing that once they visited Samoa and fell in love with the people, they too would feel inspired to assist me in bringing more aid to people in need. This…… proves my entire offer (s) fell on deaf ears. The country needs to organize a group of educated, concerned citizens who will rally together to pressure those in power to work more effectively with entities who ate willing to assist…..

  5. Hi Ben you can better soon !!did you remember me to say hi to you I'm Leta Koneferenisi my Mom is Matalena Telea !!!God blessing you and all love family too ,and god prepare with you every day and you strong man too Love you Ben and your family forever love Leta Koneferenisi come from New Zealand Christchurch

  6. I don't know, but don't think it's a good idea to watch rugby everyday…it only reminds him of what he can't do know…his mother sitting them, crying, because she's reminded her future cash cow is now broken…we all know he should be in physical therapy everyday.
    Ben you'll walk afain, but you have to do the HARD work to get there.

  7. I think about this man from time to time, such a beautiful young man who had such potential in the rugby world, but still has so much potential. And he has such a beautiful smile.

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