Fatialofa: From agony to walking again

Former Hurricanes lock Michael Fatialofa has revealed his journey from his body ‘shutting down’ and his terrors in the ICU to being able to walk again.

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The 28-year-old outlined how his horrific, potentially life-threatening injury left him without feeling from the neck down in his first interview since the incident during the Worcestor Warriors’ English Premiership fixture against Saracens in January.

‘From my neck down, I couldn’t feel anything or move anything,’ Fatialofa told 1 NEWS.

His body shut down but he remained conscious.

‘It was pretty scary, and I was really short of breath because, what I did, was the spinal cord was compressed and anything below the spinal cord is affected and that includes my lungs and I was just kinda trying to breathe.’

His injury – a fracture in his C4 vertebrae as well as a spinal contusion – left him in the ICU at London Hospital for two weeks where he was unable to move, talk or cough.

Fatialofa has only now found the strength to talk about that time.

‘It’s a time that’s tough to think about,’ he said.

‘My roommates were victims of gun violence and stabbings and I could hear everything going on. Just all the beeping and no sleep. It’s something I don’t really like thinking about now that I’m past it. I heard some people die next to me. It was quite traumatising. All I could hear was a beeper go off, everyone rush in and then I have a new roommate the next day.’

His first month was a nightmare with little sleep as nurses moved his body every two hours while former teammates, Loni Uhila and Sam Lousi, spent time massaging his limbs.

His rugby career was over and he was told to prepare for life in a wheelchair.

Then movement returned to one of his fingers. It ignited the spark for the fight which has had him spend the past month in a specialist spinal clinic continuing his treatment and making progess.

He has left the medical team astonished as he is now able to walk unassisted but the road ahead is long and paved with adversity.

‘Walking is the tip of the iceberg with these types of injuries. My hands are probably the hardest thing for me – getting my hands functioning. My left hand pretty much does nothing.’

For now, the hospital where he stays is locked down due to Covid-19, meaning he can’t see his wife. But he does plan on taking her on their postponed honeymoon when he achieves his next goal … leaving his hospital bed.

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Wade Pretorius