A Whangārei teenager paralysed in a trampoline accident has started the new year with the first round of a pioneering surgery.
Brandon Fargher, 18, is the first person outside of the Canterbury DHB to receive nerve transplant surgery to restore movement lost in his hands when his spinal cord was crushed at Flip Out Whangārei last year.
The talented rugby player lost movement from his upper chest down when a front double somersault went wrong and resulted in Fargher facing new challenges as a quadriplegic.
An investigation into the February 9 incident was launched by WorkSafe in June last year and is due to be completed near the end of this month.
Just before Christmas surgeons at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital performed a double nerve transplant in one arm and a single nerve transplant in the other.
"It was really good," he said. "I was happy as after the surgery."
That was the first of three major surgeries to help him regain the ability to open and close his hands. The second on March 1 will reconstruct his tricep muscles to allow him to control his elbow and give him control when he reaches for objects.
The third operation is a tendon transfer to give him the ability to close his hands by attaching expendable moving muscles to tendons from muscles no longer working.
Fargher's bucket list, if the surgeries are successful, involves fishing with his old man - the idea of being able to hold and reel his own line keeps the teen motivated.
The duo hope to adapt their fishing boat so it is easily accessible for Fargher. He is also excited about being able to pat and play with two new kittens - Couch and Twinkle - the family adopted over the holidays.
But he was keeping his expectations grounded.
"I'm going along with it and will see what happens. It can be six months to a year before we know whether the surgery has worked and see what I am actually able to do."
A spokesperson for Counties Manukau Health said Fargher is the first patient in Middlemore Hospital's tetraplegic service to have two kinds of nerve transplant surgery on the same limb in one setting.
The success of the surgery could pave the way for more people based outside of Canterbury.
"This would give us more experience and tools to help patients with tetraplegia improve their upper limb function," the spokesperson said.
His dad and best mate, Aaron Fargher, was blown away by his son's sunny disposition and excited for their future.
"He is really positive and has been the entire time - I am amazed. I can't wait for him to get use of his hands."
The Canterbury DHB has performed nerve transplant surgeries for about four years and has presented the results internationally.