Updated: Jun 25, 2020
He keeps tripping!
One minute we’re walking alone, the next he’s on the ground. What’s wrong with his legs?....
I seemed to spend my life asking this question what’s wrong with...?
At age 11 while taking a gentle stroll around our village one minute we were walking along and singing. The next he’s on the ground.
At first we thought Matthew was being difficult - not wanting to walk anymore or just maybe putting his foot down in this unusual way. Eventually he would rise from the ground and continue walking. We took no notice of this until it started to happen more frequently.
Matthew loved nothing more than to walk outside listening to the birds and feeling the wind and sun against his face. This was one of his favourite past-time. My mother (angel in disguise) taught Matthew how to ride a scooter, he had a bike which he loved to ride, Matthew loved to climb, in fact we would often say that his mobility was his strength.
The GP thought I was seeing things. Being a health specialist and having a sound knowledge of anatomy and physiology, I was convinced there was some neurological dysfunction going on with Matthew. To me the obvious signs of dragging his left leg, regular falls and tripping were all signs enough for me to know he had a neurological disorder.
We were “too paranoid and fussy, pushy parents” were the responses we received when we desperately tried to find an answer to why Matthew should be walking so well up to age 11 and now be walking in this way.
Within two months after seeing specialist after specialist - oncologists, orthopaedics, haematologists and Matthew now crawling on the ground and using his hands to get around, we were referred to a neurologist who after a series of tests agreed that Matthew had an undiagnosed neurological condition leaving him paralysed from the waist down. ‘He would not walk again’ were the words of the neurologist, Matthew went from walking to paralysis into a wheelchair in less than 2 months.
One more plea to see another specialist resulted in Matthew undergoing a 9 hour operation to place a metal cage in his spine thereby stop the progressive curvature in his spinal column. This, they believe might be the source of his paralysis - as the spine continued to curve they thought it was pinching on the spinal chord leaving Matthew in intense pain and eventual paralysis.
I think the hardest thing for me as a Mother to have to bear, was the inability to do anything to help Matthew. We just watched him deteriorate and most of all, could do nothing for what we understand must have been the most excruciating experience he was going through. We would see him sometimes sitting on the settee, bashing his legs with his hands and tears running down his face, no moaning or groaning just streams of tears. Remembering this just brings tears to my eyes to know there was nothing we could do but cry ourselves.
‘If there is no sensation at least a week after the operation, I am afraid he will be paralysed for the rest of his life’. These were the words ringing in my ears pre and post-surgery so the following week post -surgery, I remember the surgeon coming into Matthew’s hospital room. I looked up at him after he had carried out his examination on Matthew’s legs and asked, ‘is he OK, is there any sensation?’ He looked back at me and said ‘no, there is no signs of movement or sensation’. With that, I remember sinking back into the hospital bed I had spent the best part of a week, yearning for some solution to this painful situation. Painful for Matthew and emotionally draining and painful for us as a family. I did not want to believe this. This was the only strength Matthew had which had given him so much independence. Now he was to be paralysed?
Come on God what’s going on? Another question!
The prayers of his family, friends and more prayers, exercise, and more prayers resulted in a miracle…yes.,. I can only claim it to be a miracle because, this was not meant to happen. I am only really coming to terms with the fact that God performed a miracle in Matthew’s life and I nearly missed it. How do I know?
Every specialist, we saw said Matthew would never walk again. They said it was not possible but we believed he would. If we did not know what caused it, there was a chance, we thought. that it might ‘get better’ on its own? At least this is what we believed.
It took Matthew one year to recover from the surgery. He developed a chest infection which left him weak and helpless. We had the house completely reconstructed to accommodate the wheelchair, we adapted our car in fact, our whole world changed. Then….
After 3 years, one evening while my mother was massaging Matthew’s legs, we both decided to pull the hair on his big toe because we thought we saw movement in the toe and low and behold, after pulling the hair, the toe actually moved. I could not believe it. I must say, I did pull the hair again just to make sure I was not seeing things. It moved, it moved…I think I immediately called Nigel and we all celebrated the potential of the movement of the big toe! I knew if there is movement there must be some sensation.
It took the best part of 1 - 2 months of massage hydrotherapy and other therapies to remind Matthew’s nervous system that it was OK to FIRE! And fire it did.
The staff at the respite centre, the staff in school and all the specialist could not believe it. The tears in everyone’s eyes when Matthew took his first steps out of the wheelchair was overwhelming. ‘I thought they said he would never walk again?’ For us, the adaptations to the house, the adaptations to the car, the struggles, the pain and prayers were all worth it to see the moment, Matthew stepped out of his wheelchair and on to the walking frame… and the smile on Matthew’s face when he realised that he could have his independence back made it all worthwhile. It was a miracle and I nearly missed it.
Are there miracles in your life that you may have missed? Is there something that is happening or may have happened and now it has resolved or seems to be resolving? You can now see a light at the end of the tunnel? ‘This too shall pass’ and when the joy comes, hold on to it!
In his book, The Road Less Travelled, Morgan Scott Peck states “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult.
How true! The apostle Paul in the 2 Corinthians 1:3 also said.. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
Our experiences with Matthew is the reason we set up ASNA and why we find speaking and sharing our story with others who have been through similar experiences so encouraging for us and we hope comforting for others. We have received comfort and want to share this with others who also need comfort, encouragement and joy. We did not understand at the time we were going through the storm as we were blinded by our tears, lack of sleep and anxiety. We did not realise as we were going through our storm, we could not see the light at the end of the tunnel but.. this too shall pass and on the other side is your miracle.
I could not see how Matthew’s situation could be miraculous but looking back I can see it now. He should still be paralysed according to the specialist. He is not only walking again, he is running!
In 2016, Matthew and our family and friends and members of ASNA took part in the first ever all-inclusive fun run where Matthew literally ran the first 10 meters with his walking frame. He then walked the rest of the 100 metres multisensory track till the end! This was truly a miraculous thing to see. We were all excited to see him back up and walking and yes…running!
Don’t miss your miracle today!
It might not be as dramatic as Matthew’s story. It might be a gentle smile that turns away an angry challenge, a helping hand to a neighbour, a listening ear…. the list goes on.
As we come out of lockdown, let’s not miss an opportunity to see and be miracles in these difficult times. You could change someone’s life for the better so go get your miracle in this moment…its free…. Don’t miss your miracle, claim it today!