Lying paralysed in an Australian hospital, rugby player Seti Tafua was looking at a grim future.
The Wellingtonian was severely injured in June last year after suffering a spinal injury while playing his second-to-last game for Sydney club Northern Suburbs.
After hitting his head on the ground while entering a ruck, he fractured two cervical vertebrae, which shifted position and damaged his spinal cord.
Returning to New Zealand, Tafua spent several months at the spinal unit in Auckland before returning to his hometown shortly before Christmas last year.
He was told that he would probably never walk again. But he vowed to prove doctors wrong, and has spent 2013 working towards stepping out of his wheelchair.
He reached his goal two months ago, when he began walking with the aid of a frame or crutches, and has regained a lot of feeling in his legs.
"At first I think the physio thought the goals were unrealistic . . . but she's been awesome," he says.
"I always thought in my head I'll get back walking, and . . . I've had great support from my family, and it's definitely kept me going."
He took huge inspiration from seeing others in the spinal unit who were not as fortunate, but who still retained a positive outlook on life.
Help from the New Zealand Rugby Foundation, which supports injured players, has been of great assistance, but highlighted a lack of support for those injured in other ways, he says.
He is interested in setting up some kind of support organisation for other people with spinal injuries, but the first step is getting back to normal himself.
When he reaches that goal, he is keen to stay involved in rugby somehow, but may pick up his studies now that his rugby career is over.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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