Update – February 2016

Happy new year and we can’t believe it’s February already.We have had a lot of lovely messages over the Christmas and New Year period, so thanks to everyone who has made contact with us.

Progress generally has slowed and life has taken on a ‘one step forward, a few steps backwards’ momentum, although it’s always forward generally. It seems that reality is the bed-mistress of hope.

After some deliberation and a lot of research, Matthew decided to proceed with  Targeted Muscle Re-innervation (TMR) surgery which required another trip to the US. Matt and Di travelled to Chicago for 12 days in October/November while our Mum and Dad kept home fires burning. It was a big surgery and took longer to recover than anticipated. The phantom pain was excruciating, and Matthew sought painkillers, which is quite rare for him. Upon return to Australia, Matthew had a reaction to these. Di had to take him to the emergency department when he became too unwell to come to a family party, and he was hospitalised overnight. We all had a few flashbacks and went to a familiar place for a short while, and so had a few quiet moments on our sister Rachel’s back deck. That was short-lived, however, and Matthew rebounded to his usual self after a few days and a change in medication.

As far as we are aware, Matthew is the first Australian to undertake this surgery (let us know if you know otherwise!) and his OPRA Osseointegration surgical team from Melbourne travelled to Chicago to observe the surgery and learn the technique. As a result, it looks like the procedure will be available to others in Australia over the next year which is great news.

2015 Chicago Surgery (15)

Matthew with members of the team at the Rehabilitation Institution of Chicago. He was being tested just after he had the surgery to make sure he still had signals coming out of his muscles. This was to make sure he hadn’t gone backwards after the surgery.

2015 Chicago Surgery (13)

Dr Greg Dumanian, who invented TMR, with Matthew. He led the team at Northwestern Medical Group who conducted the surgery and his enthusiasm and support was inspiring.

Before his surgery, Matthew had the opportunity to travel to New Plymouth in New Zealand and Roma in western Queensland to catch up with his Origin Energy colleagues. The purpose of both trips was to talk about resilience to employees, some of whom are facing an uncertain future in difficult times for the resource sector. Matthew’s trip to Roma was particularly emotional for him as he had been involved in the environmental approval process for the project but became sick before the plant had been commissioned. He said it was fantastic to meet up with some former colleagues and the hospitality was amazing. Matthew stayed at the mining camp, which had wheelchair accessible cabins and he was able to tour the plant because there were ramps everywhere.

2015 Matthew's Origin site visit (9)

Matthew with the Origin team at Condabri Gas Plant in Roma.

2015 Matthew's Origin site visit (2)

Matthew with his Origin friends and colleagues Martin Riley (left) and Brad Robertson (right). Matthew hadn’t seen Brad since he became ill, and Matthew said he was quite emotional about the trip. He has enjoyed the opportunity to continue his association with Origin who have been so supportive of him over the past three years.

In addition to a few trips and speeches, Matthew has finished his company director’s course and is reminding himself of how to study for his final exam and assignment.

And of course there was Christmas. Matthew’s arms have been holidaying in various locations. They needed to be reconfigured to work with his muscles after the surgery. His right arm went to Melbourne over Christmas and after it returned, his left arm decided to go for a break in Utah for a few weeks. Matthew is still only one armed, and he’s expecting to have them both back on and working in a couple of weeks’ time.

Matthew also has a new pair of legs. The new pair has a foot that gives feedback and makes it a lot easier to stand because it provides greater stability. He has only had these for a few weeks, and says he found the transition to this new set very difficult. Some adjustments to position have made a really big difference and now things are going well. His objective is to sit on a chair, so he’s looking forward to jacking himself up a little higher incrementally until he gets to that as his first goal. He continues to be a master of the art of patience.

Everyday life continues to be great – there’s always a lot going on. With all four children now at school, Matthew says one of the bonuses about what has happened to him is that he can supervise homework, which he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do.

Until next time, we hope life treats you well.

16 responses to “Update – February 2016

  1. Great to hear this update, and fantastic news that the TMR surgery has gone ahead. Sorry to hear about the phantom pain, let’s hope that it’s fully under control shortly. I’m still working forwards on our project – will update you when we have the next news.

  2. Hi Matt, Happy New Year. It is always so inspirational to hear about your progress (thanks Kate). Still breaking new frontiers I see. I always had the greatest respect for you at work finding you practical and innovative, these qualities seem to flow to all aspects of your life. Your patience and love for your family is amazing. Hope to catch up again sometime. All the best. Wendy

  3. Thank you for your posts. I have been following Matthews journey and love to hear how he is going. I also live in Brisbane.
    I watched a programme about an Iraqi/Iranian refugee surgeon who does the implant surgery similar to Matthew here in Melbourne or Sydney and does free surgery overseas in poor countries. Sorry I am a bit vague with the details. It was very interesting to watch.
    Keep up the good work all of you.

    • Thanks for the lovely words. The surgeon to whom you refer is Munjed Al Muderis who also does great work with osseointegration. He has an alternative technique so anyone researching options could contact him via http://www.almuderis.com.au/. Take care, and all the best, Kate.

  4. Thanks for the update Kate. Life can feel hard sometimes but getting an update about Matthew sure puts everything back into perspective again.

    I truly admire his strength and resilience. Your whole family is amazing.

    Look forward to the next update and all the best for this new year.

    Take care,

    Neal and Gillian Willmann

    • Hi Neil and Gillian. Thanks for the kind words. I will try to make sure it’s not so long between updates! Take care, Kate.

  5. Kate and Matthew I am so amazed and so in administration of you both and your unending efforts to make the most out of what could have been such a disaster. Kate, your dedication to Matthew and Matthew, your perserverence in spite such seemingly unsurrountable circumstances has been an inspiration to me from the day when I was working as Mary MacKillop Place and heard of your situation and joined in praying for you. God bless you both and your beautiful family and may you continue in your journey to “independence ” with all the enthusiasm of a truly courageous man.

    • Hi Pat. Aren’t you lovely! Thanks for the kind words. The updates have certainly slowed, but they will continue for the time being. We know that we couldn’t have done it without others sharing their story with us, so even if some of the information in the blog helps one amputee make a decision about their care, or helps one family member support their brother/partner/sister in a difficult time, then it’s worth continuing. Cheers, Kate 🙂

  6. What an amazing family you are… the passion and commitment to learning and sharing is an inspiration to us all. Matt I really look forward to reading your updates, and thank you for sharing your journey with us. Kate… thankyou!

  7. Dear Kate, Matthew & all the mob, What a wonderful surprise to hear from you, & in such detail, Thank you as I have been wondering what the New Year would bring. I have been away on a few trips & home helping a friend paint her house ( all inside walls) which makes me feel e little Virtuous!! At present I am staying with my Aunt in Victoria & catching up with my cousins as well, very enjoyable. I hope all is well with you all & Matthew is reunited with his second arm & legs soon, Love to everyone, once again so good to be updated on all the procedures, such clever people we have in that department. Ciao, Merle

    On 15 February 2016 at 23:06, WordPress.com wrote:

    > Kate Ames posted: “Happy new year and we can’t believe it’s February > already.We have had a lot of lovely messages over the Christmas and New > Year period, so thanks to everyone who has made contact with us. Progress > generally has slowed and life has taken on a ‘one step for” >

  8. I have just finished reading the book “Will to Live”. Thank you for your wonderful courage in coming through and fighting on. Thank you too to everyone for making this story available. This is one of the most amazing stories I have had the privilege of hearing about. I don’t know how you have done it, but I stand in awe of Matthew and Diane and their incredible family and friends. Warmly George Buchanan

    • Thanks George for the lovely comment and taking the time to give us feedback. I am well and truly due to post an update and will be doing so before Christmas, so stay tuned :).

      Kind regards, Kate.

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