We still remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting in front of a neurosurgeon as he told us that our infant son had a condition called hydrocephalus – a word we’d never even heard of before. Our son Mathieu (affectionately known to all as Matty) had cerebral spinal fluid pooling in his brain.
We were both numb. We had to ask the doctor to repeat himself many times because we just couldn’t understand the words coming out of his mouth. This was not in our family plan. These were not the dreams we had for our son.
Matty underwent surgery to alleviate the pressure and drain the fluid in his brain when he was just nine months old. Although the swelling would diminish, the damage was done. Matty was left paralyzed on one side and partially sighted.
The next few months felt like a fog: mourning the dreams we’d dreamt for our baby boy, not knowing if he would ever walk or talk, or why this happened.
When we were accepted to the MAB-Mackay for physiotherapy, we had no idea what we would be a part of or how it would change our lives and the future for our son.
Alison was the first therapist to work with Matty. She focused on basic movements to help him strengthen his weak left side. With the use of toys and active therapy, she had him pushing himself beyond our expectations. Alison was so reassuring, and her many years of experience helped guide us in this new world of raising a special needs child.
Over the course of the next two and a half years, we would add occupational therapy, speech therapy and aqua therapy to our bi-weekly visits to the MAB-Mackay. Our team of therapists had a definite plan: that Matty would be able to talk and walk – and very well!
Every milestone in Matty’s life started at the MAB-Mackay – from talking and walking, to swimming and even biking – they all started with therapy. Every challenge that he’s faced, we’ve mapped out a therapy plan, set goals, and worked with our team to achieve them.
Matty is nine years old now and in his fourth year of regular elementary school. Thanks to all of the support we have at the MAB-Mackay with classroom set-up, including the visual organization of the classroom and ergonomically fitted chairs, Matty has the ideal learning environment at a school in our neighborhood. It allows him and his teachers to bring out the best in him.
Last year, the MAB-Mackay gave Matty one of the greatest experiences of his life. He was invited to represent the MAB-Mackay in the Défi Sportif, a sports competition for children with disabilities. He competed in the 50m run and the 50m trike, and for the first time in his life, he was actually ahead of the pack!
Watching our son run his little heart out was unbelievable. Many long years of therapy, countless tears, and lots of uncertainty were all rambling towards the finish line, with the focus and determination of the most seasoned athlete. With tears of pride and joy streaming down my face, I cheered Matty on to a Bronze and Gold finish. All this from a child that wasn’t supposed to ever be able to walk! If you asked me eight years ago if I ever thought I would witness this moment, I couldn’t have imagined it.
While Matty has come so far, there is still so much work ahead to prepare him for real life. Will he be able to do many of the everyday tasks that we take for granted – like putting toothpaste on a toothbrush, or go to the bathroom alone? How will he learn to make his own food? Take public transit? Or transfer to high school at the same time as his friends? These are our next challenges so he can be the best self-sufficient Matty for our ever-changing world.
With our heartfelt thanks,
Christine and Phil
Matty’s very proud mom and dad