Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Top motorcyclist Shaun Harris battles to beat the odds in recovery after major crash

Shaun Harris suffered severe head injuries. Photo / Getty Images
Shaun Harris suffered severe head injuries. Photo / Getty Images

Champion motorcyclist Shaun Harris has been told he may never be able to return home after a devastating crash left him with severe head injuries.

The 52-year-old crashed during a lap of the Timaru Raceway in January, suffering multiple brain bleeds and broken bones. He had just returned to the sport after a crash at the 2007 Isle of Man TT, in which he broke numerous bones and was in an induced coma for nearly a month.

The Taranaki local is now being cared for at traumatic brain injury centre ABI Rehabilitation in Porirua, where he is making slow but positive progress.

While holding down her job as a registered nurse, his wife Fiona travels from New Plymouth every weekend to be with him, as do his children when they get the chance.

His daughter Anja Gallie told the Herald on Sunday that there was nothing the family wanted more than for Harris to return home.

"We have been told that he probably he won't ever come home so we're going to be looking for somewhere to have him in New Plymouth so he can at least be closer to us.

"But it's hard to say definitively that's what's going to happen because they said he wasn't going to make it and then he did. And then they said that he was never, ever going to eat again and then he did so that tells me there's still a possibility he could make a full recovery."

Gallie said her father's physical health was vastly improved and he was constantly active. However, doctors have told the family he has a "diffuse axonal injury" involving tearing of the brain's nerve tissue.

"Because it's so fine they can't do surgery - there's nothing they can do to release it - so it's just trying to see if the bleeds will go away naturally or if they stay there.

"We're really in limbo. We don't really know where we are and life's just kind of stopped for us at the moment."

Harris was often disoriented and confused because of his injury.

"He goes back to certain points of his life, you know, he might be in 2006 or in 1993 and he'll mention things about where we lived then or where he was working then, like that's where he thinks he is. A lot of the time he thinks he's in a hotel and he tells us that it's time to go home."

He also had trouble recognising his 13-year-old daughter, Petra, because of how much she has changed in the past six months.

The family remains hopeful. Harris has a knack for defying the odds - after the crash, doctors said he had 72 hours to live. If he did pull through he would never be able to eat solid food again, they said. Harris proved doctors wrong on both counts.

Gallie said the family remained positive with a great deal of support from friends, the racing fraternity and the community at large.

Harris is much-loved and respected in the New Zealand racing community, having won multiple New Zealand championships and international titles.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 08 Dec 2016 10:54:14 Processing Time: 244ms