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Progress Report On UK Student Shot In Head

4 September 2008

Progress Report On UK Student Shot In Head

Matthew working out at his rehabilitation centre in Dorset


(The family of Matthew Purchase asked me to forward this update to the New Zealand news media because of the interest in his case - picture attached of him )

Matthew Purchase, 22, the British agricultural student shot in the head during a rabbit hunt in the Waikato last year, has settled in well into a new rehabilitation centre in Dorset not far from his parents' family farm in Wimborne.

A bullet from a .22 rifle entered his head at a Puketurua farm, west of Putaruru in December. He underwent surgery at Waikato Hospital with noted neurosurgeon Venkataraman Balakrishnan. The bullet shattered the skull and destroyed part of the right side of the brain, but missed the brain stem by about 2-3cm.

In February, Matthew flew home to Poole Hospital where he learned how to reuse the left side of his body with a team of specialists including a physiotherapist and a speech therapist.

His father Ian Purchase said from the UK this week the improvement since was slow but steady.

"The rate of his progress has slowed somewhat but there are still encouraging signs to take away at the end of each week of his therapy.

"His standing has improved as has his core body strength which is going to be so important if he is able to ever walk again.

"However we are now all aware that despite his miraculous recovery so far that he can never regain all that he has lost but he seems to be dealing with that in a much more positive way than we seem to be able to do at the moment.

"His positive attitude is still a source of inspiration to all that have had anything to do with his recovery," said Mr Purchase.

One side affect is his epilepsy, which first occurred in New Zealand only days before he returned to the UK.

"This is still one aspect of his recovery that has not improved since he has been back in the UK.

"That has been holding him back as have the drugs that have been used to try and control the seizures."

Mr Purchase said his son's personality and sense of humour were the same as they were before the accident.

"No one dared to predict that, especially in those dreadful early days in New Zealand when there appeared to be no hope at all.

"His memories are mostly intact but some events over the last 12 to 18 months are a little hazy. He does remember some of his time in New Zealand including most of the people that he met while he was there.

"In fact when we have shown him photos he has been able to identify everyone and when he had a surprise visit in hospital from a Canadian friend he met in New Zealand, he knew who she was straight away which amazed her and us.

"The doctors had told us that those most recent memories would be lost."

When Matthew returned to the UK, he had virtually no movement in his left side and was unable to sit without considerable support.

"He had poor head control and still had major problems with his swallowing. He now eats a normal diet, is able to sit himself up and to maintain a sitting position with no support and to even stand with minimal assistance.

"However he is still a long way from being able to walk and it is by no means certain that that will ever be able to dispense with his wheelchair but he remains ever hopeful and his positive attitude will take him a long way.

"In fact his attitude to this whole affair has amazed us and all of his therapy staff. He has remained remarkably positive and has rarely allowed himself to wallow in self," said Mr Purchase.

Danish tourist Bjarne Jensen, 48, will stand trial in November on a charge of careless use of a firearm causing injury.


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