Teen with broken neck battling for life after bike accident

By Amy Wiggins

Mum Kim Ostern with son Cooper Snowdon before he broke his neck. Photo / Supplied
Mum Kim Ostern with son Cooper Snowdon before he broke his neck. Photo / Supplied

Cooper Snowdon knew it was bad as soon as he came off his bike.

The 16-year-old was mountain biking with his older brother, Geordie, at Kowhai Park in Whanganui on March 21 when he went over a jump wrong, landed on his head and broke his neck.

A week later he is still in a critical condition on life support in the intensive care unit at Christchurch Hospital with uncertainty surrounding whether he will ever breathe on his own again, let alone walk.

"They'd been mountain biking all day and had an awesome day. He went over a jump and fell off," mother Kim Ostern said.

"I just happened to call [Geordie] then and he answered the phone and said, 'Coops had an accident'. He said, 'it's bad, it's really bad'."

Ostern raced to the park to be by her son's side.

"He said to his brother, 'I can't feel my legs or arms'. He knew. He just knew.

He kept telling me he was scared."

Cooper Snowdon was flown to Christchurch Hospital after breaking his neck while mountain biking. Photo / Supplied
Cooper Snowdon was flown to Christchurch Hospital after breaking his neck while mountain biking. Photo / Supplied

Cooper was taken to Whanganui Hospital by ambulance, where he was rushed in for scans and the decision was made to fly him to Christchurch Hospital for specialist treatment.

Doctors told his family his C3, C4 and C5 vertebrae were damaged in the accident which would affect his ability to move any of his limbs or even breathe.

"They don't know if he's going to be able to breathe for himself, he might have to be ventilated for the rest of his life," Ostern told the Herald.

"It's really early days but they've been extremely clear with us that his paralysis is permanent and it's full paralysis from the neck down."

He has already had an operation to put plates into his neck so he can be moved without further damage and today had a tracheotomy so doctors could remove the breathing tube from down his throat and slowly wean him of the sedatives to find out how bad the damage is.

Cooper and Geordie had moved from Tauranga to Whanganui to be with their mum just four days before the accident.

Cooper Snowdon and his brother Geordie. Photo / Supplied
Cooper Snowdon and his brother Geordie. Photo / Supplied

Ostern said her son was not particularly interested in academia but was always active and loved to be biking, skating, snowboarding, fishing and swimming, so she worried about how he would cope.

"It's devastating. I'm worried about how my boy's going to manage. How do you ever accept that in a human being like that? If I could be in his place I would be. I can't even imagine what it's like for him.

"He's so active that it's just huge for him," she said. "He's tough. If anyone can do it, he can do it."

Ostern said he was a popular but strong-willed young man who always insisted on doing things his way and refused to wear a helmet despite her best attempts.

"He's full of life and active and just does things the opposite way to everyone else," she said. "Coop's just full of life like you wouldn't believe. He's got a wicked smile.

"He's the sort of kid who could go and have lunch with the Queen then go to dinner with the president of the Mongrel Mob."

Ostern was committed to staying by her son's side for as long as it took but the financial burden was also weighting on her mind with her paid leave only expected to last a few more weeks.

It was for that reason family friend Antonia Rogers set up a Givealittle page for the family.

It would help pay for living and travel expenses for the family - who all lived in the North Island, so they could be by Cooper's side to support him.

Rogers said Cooper was a "beautiful kid".

"He was just starting out in life. He was definitely living life to the fullest."

The Givealittle page, created on Sunday, had already raised more than $2000 for the family.

- NZ Herald

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