Controversial hope for stroke victim
Luke Elliott's stroke left him unable to read, write and speak but he still dreams of reading a book to his two little boys.
Now his family has new hope that might come true as it tries to raise $30,000 for a controversial treatment that could change his life.
The 33-year-old Takanini resident also lost movement down half his body and was lucky to survive the stroke that struck him after cricket practice in 2005. He was 24.
The unexplained attack left the young sportsman with a condition known as aphasia and he required months of recovery in Middlemore Hospital.
For nine years he has battled away with therapy, improving the movement in his body and even learning to change his kids' nappies with one hand.
His wife Kylee says it is the first time since his stroke that there has ever been a glint of hope - but they are moving forward with realistic expectations.
"We're looking for any improvement that we could get from this treatment . . . it's been nine years since his stroke so we're at the point where we're willing to try anything," she says.
"Naturally Luke would be absolutely gutted if it wasn't successful but he's a pretty strong person and if he didn't have the success that we hoped for he'd have the strength to deal with it."
Luke is scheduled to undergo treatment by American doctor Edward Tobinick in Los Angeles at the end of year.
Tobinick uses a drug called Etanercept, normally used to treat acute arthritis, and injects it into the bottom of the stroke victim's neck.
Some patients have experienced life-changing results and regained the ability to speak again. That would be a dream come true for the father of Mason, 4 and Mitchell, 2.
Luke enjoyed his job as a builder before the stroke. Now he has adjusted to life as a stay-at-home dad while Kylee works fulltime as a primary school teacher. Changing nappies is not the only challenge he has had to face.
"He can't take the kids out anywhere because he can't chase them," Kylee says.
"He really wants to be able to talk and read to the kids. Sometimes it's hard because our 4-year-old is starting to read a little bit . . . talking is the biggest."
But Luke has found ways to communicate. He can get some words across and technology has helped a lot - the internet, his mobile phone and Facebook have been important tools.
"It's quite a cruel stroke in a way because it's like he's locked in. He still knows everything that he always knew," Kylee says.
Luke has also continued his love of building by making wooden toys and helps part-time with building classes at Tangaroa College.
The treatment he is hoping for is controversial - it has not been tested by the American Food and Drug Administration and, as a result, New Zealand's Stroke Foundation does not endorse it.
Foundation spokesman Fraser Pettigrew says the organisation can only support treatments that are "based on accepted medical practice and best practice" and it "can't recommend" Tobinick's treatment to patients.
"I strongly recommend people speak to stroke specialists beforehand," Pettigrew says.
Kylee says they have been warned of possible side effects of the treatment, such as infections, but they feel they have nothing to lose.
"You can't live the rest of your life wondering ‘what if'."
So far the family has raised nearly $17,000 from Givealittle donations and says the public response has been "heartwarming".
If you would like to help Luke Elliott receive treatment that could change his life go to givealittle.co.nz/cause/LukeElliottStrokeFund or donate to bank account: 03 0259 0287565 026