Surgery a big step on slow path to recovery

By Hannah Norton

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When Alicia Kissick fell through a wooden plank at a party in Canada while on her OE, she could not have known how far her journey to recovery would be. The 25-year-old is now battling to stand upright, and eventually walk again.

UPRIGHT: Whangarei tetraplegic Alicia Kissick (pictured at home in her standing frame) is flying to Christchurch this weekend for an operation to transfer muscles from her forearms into her hands, a procedure which is now funded by ACC.
PHOTO/JOHN STONE
UPRIGHT: Whangarei tetraplegic Alicia Kissick (pictured at home in her standing frame) is flying to Christchurch this weekend for an operation to transfer muscles from her forearms into her hands, a procedure which is now funded by ACC. PHOTO/JOHN STONE

An operation transferring muscles from her forearms to her hands is pegged to be a game-changer for 25-year-old Whangarei tetraplegic Alicia Kissick.

Ms Kissick fell through a wooden plank at a party in Vancouver while on her OE last year, injuring her spinal cord and rendering her a tetraplegic.

On Tuesday February 18 she's heading off to Christchurch for bilateral tendon transfer surgery, with the goal of increasing grip and flexion in her hands.

The surgery, and most of her other costs associated with her injury, is now funded by ACC. Initially, when she arrived back in the country in March last year, her case was declined on the basis her injury was overseas. After extensive media coverage, and proving to ACC that Ms Kissick was a New Zealand citizen on her OE who had not permanently migrated, her case was approved on July 13 last year.

ACC now provides funding for dressings, equipment, a physio and rehabilitation therapist, an occupational therapist, and a caregiver - "everyone I could ever need," she said.

Ms Kissick can now move her arms and wrists, but has a little difficulty with her hands, which should improve dramatically after the operation.

"They take muscles from your forearm and put them into your hands, in the hope they will grow into tendons," she said. "It's going to be a big change. Being without your hands and legs is really quite tolling. It's going to make heaps of difference.

While she still can't move her legs, she can feel them. "And the feeling keeps on changing, which keeps me hopeful."

"I [also] see muscles moving in my legs all the time. My core muscles have come back - I'm just hoping that moves down," she said.

"I've been kneeling and if I'm on the ground, I can get my legs around. I've been building up strength, doing a lot of hydrotherapy classes. My spasms are still a problem, [I'm hoping to be able to] pick things up without dropping them [after the operation]."

On the same day ACC funding was approved, Ms Kissick picked up her new best friend, a bichon shitzu called Marley, who has been by her side since. "He's my little cherub. He keeps me company. If I'm having a bad day, he stays with me in bed all day."

Her goals include getting her restricted licence, and getting her own house. "After the hand surgery, I'll see how much I can do for myself," she said. Ultimately, her aim is to stand upright and walk again.

- Northern Advocate

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