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Video title: When your child becomes paraplegic

Video duration: 7:37

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Video transcript

[Music playing]

This is Harper Heta. She’s 10 years old. Harper became paralysed in an incident two and a half years ago. Her parents, Lara and Hayden, talk about what it’s been like for them.

[Music volume drops to background level]

Lara: It was two and a half years ago and … the first thing I got was a phone call from my mum = no actually before that I rang to see when the kids were coming home 'cause they were on holiday with my mum and dad in Kaitaia and I heard some screaming and crying and Jett was on the phone, her youngest brother and I said "what's going on, Jett?" and "Oh Harper's had a fall, but she's ok mum she's just, umm... really sore". And then I heard … her screaming quite badly and I thought oh something's really bad.

Hayden: Actually I was at work at the time but, yeah Lara just told me ahh rung up crying saying that Harper was in an accident and umm she couldn’t walk or couldn't stand up.

Lara: And so she gets on the phone and I said “oh what's wrong Harper?” and she said "I've broken my back", and I said “no you haven't, that's stupid don't be ridiculous” and 'cause Harper can be quite dramatic it's in her nature to just be dramatic.

Hayden: They took her to the doctors and then they end up flying her on the Westpac helicopter from Kaitaia to, to Starship which is where we … which is where we met, where we met her, yeah.

Lara: And I didn't panic much because I guess when you're in that mode you just think ok, what to do next? And that's been the whole journey but at that point it was just about talking to the doctors and getting her back to Auckland to Starship where I thought she needed to be.

Hayden: We all shot to Starship at the time and, ahh then when she got there and then we spoke to the doctors, ahh sort of, sorta hit then, ahh doctor said that umm you know didn't give her very gooda ahh chance of actually walking again. It was actually …pretty devastating actually, umm thinking about it now. I remember the day like it was yesterday [Music begins fading in] it was one of the worst days of our lives, yeah.

[Music playing]

Harper was injured while completing a gymnastics move bending over backwards.

[Music fades to background level]

Lara: And she nailed the move… but in the process she'd over stretched her spine, and at the T-2 level which is about here there was an embolism that … umm killed the nerves and in your spine the nerves, they don't grow back, and umm they died and she was paralysed from there down.

Hayden: She was in hospital for a couple of months. She was at the rehab, Wilson rehab centre in Takapuna for another three months there. Just ahh, you know, just so she can adapt to life ‘cause it's all- it’s all changed all new from what she used to.

[Music volume rises]

It’s hard for Lara and Hayden to see Harper in a wheelchair

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Lara: Not being able to walk, it's so frustrating. Her not being able to walk.  I see her friends …running … ahead of her and she can't keep up. It's hard. And here she is just pushing her wheelchair … behind them, trying to be a part of them. … Yeah, it's really hard. I went to a school trip and wore my sunglasses the whole day 'cause I cried all day 'cause I was pushing her to keep up with them. And they were so amazing with her but still you can see the differences. And she lives with that every day, and I had a glimpse of that.

Hayden: Her attitude is, is unbelievable I mean, I look at her sometimes and get a bit, you know ahh, a bit emotional because of the stuff that she takes day to day is a little bit different to able-bodied people but she sort of just umm, sort of gets on with it.

[Music volume rises]

Lara and Hayden have tried to balance Harper’s need with those of their other five children.

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Hayden: Umm Harper's got a lot of different things and we have to catheterise her ahh every four hours, umm just little and- and probably the things you take for granted, we have to turn her at 11 o'clock and three o'clock in the morning every day, umm and I think we turn her, we turn her because umm hopefully so she doesn't get bed sores or anything like that.

Lara: I've got a two-year-old she's 10, and the kids in between. Yeah as long as we stick to her times or around those times she's usually pretty cool. When I'm doing her stretches and rehab, the kids are jumping around her, on her. They're always amongst it actually, they never just go off and be, you know, go away. They always wanna be a part of Harper and, vice versa Harper wants to be a part of what they're doing.

[Music volume rises]

The younger children share some of the responsibility of meeting Harper’s needs.

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Lara: I'm actually proud that Ha- that Harper can call on her younger siblings. You know that's what it's like for them. They know nothing different and … they just call on one another for help and you just do it because I'm so busy with five of them that sometimes she does come second or last and she does have to wait because I don't treat her any different. Unfortunately I just think she has to become normal like them and not… and know that she's not treated as the favourite, or the special one 'cause that's not going to help her in life to come either.

[Music volume rises]

Lara and Hayden have learned a lot through Harper’s accident.

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Hayden: For me,I try and spend as much time with all the kids as possible and umm I sort of cherish it a little bit more, I think than I would … normally.

Lara: It's taught our family that … through everything you just have to love one another. It's taught us more about who Harper is at such a young age she's so determined, she's so strong, she's so resilient it's ridiculous.

Hayden: She's tough. Umm you know she's ahh, she’s got one of those auras that, you know, people like to be around her, she's infectious.

[Music volume rises]

Lara wants people to be more open to those with different abilities.

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Lara: One thing Harper gets is obviously she's in a wheelchair so people stare all the time, … and she kinda likes it [laughs]. She likes the attention but … I don't know, if people actually started talking a bit more and … like don't be scared … and just say, hey, how's it going? What happened to you? You know? Yeah, I think if people were more open to learning about people with different abilities they'd find that there's a whole ‘nother world out there and that … these kids with different abilities are rocking at life like we wouldn't even understand. Umm pff could rattle off so many kids that we know right now that are just so cool and they're in every sport you can think of possible and they're so smart but ultimately they just want to be treated normal … so yeah, if you see them, talk to them … they love it.

[Music plays outro]

Last updated on Monday, 19 August 2019

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