WHAT started out as another day playing the game he loved turned into a nightmare for local sporting identity Jordy Pearson and his entire family.
The 21-year-olds life as he knew it changed forever on Saturday May 10, when he took to the field for beloved Nowra Blues in their South Coast AFL clash with the Albatross Demons at West Street Oval.
A serious collision with an Albatross player during the game left him with severe nerve damage and he has been in hospital ever since.
For his mother Sonya, finding out about the injury and being told to meet the ambulance at Shoalhaven Hospital became the scariest experience of her life.
“I didn’t know how serious it was until we got inside and they could not even put a sheet over him, because the pain was so bad,” she said.
The extent of the damage was still largely unknown when Pearson was taken to Wollognong Hospital, but the picture became clearer when the neurosurgeon immediately recommended he be taken to the spinal unit at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney.
“We didn’t know if he was ever going to walk again, it was a very scary for the whole family.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through to see my child like that.”
During his time in hospital, Pearson has been determined to work as hard as possible at his recovery and is getting closer to the day when he will be back home for good.
While he has had his ups and downs in coming to terms with his injury, Pearson has a positive outlook for his future.
“If there wasn’t light at the end of the tunnel, that’s the day you give up and I’ve never been known to give up at anything in my life,” he said.
“I’ve just copped an unlucky break really, but I’ve got to try and live with it and better myself in whatever way I can.”
To help cover the ongoing medical costs for the Pearson family, the Nowra Blues will hold a fundraiser at the Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemen’s Sports Club at Worrigee on July 4, from 6.30pm.
Tickets are $35 can be purchased from integrity Real Estate in Nowra, while anyone wanting to more information or to donate can contact Sharen Balazic on 0410 634 472.
SATURDAY May 10, in round six of the South Coast AFL competition when the Nowra Blues took on local rivals the Albatross Demons at West Street Oval, was the day Jordy Pearson had his life turned upside down.
During the game, Pearson was involved in a collision with an Albatross player, sustaining a serious spinal injury, which has left him in hospital ever since.
While he can recall going to Subway beforehand, Pearson said he does not even remember playing in the game.
“My first memory is waking up on the ground, not feeling anything,” he said.
“I waited on the ground for what felt like forever, but it was only about 20 minutes and then went to Shoalhaven Hospital in an ambulance,” he added.
He remained at Shoalhaven Hospital until about midnight, before he was moved to the Intensive Care Unit at Wollongong.
Within the next 24 hours, he was transferred again to Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, where he underwent surgery.
Apart from when things brushed over his skin, Pearson said he did not feel much pain and had lost most feeling below the neck.
Initially he had no idea what the extent of his injury might be and the long-term effect it might cause.
“To be honest, the first thing I said was 'don’t tell my mum!'
“I was still in shock and I didn’t really comprehend what it was going to mean.”
Pearson now experiences almost constant pain and the severity of his injury became much clearer during his time at Prince of Wales.
“We got some pretty bad news the other day, the longer it goes on, the more permanent it is.
“Because I got moved around from hospital to hospital at the start and didn’t get my surgery until later, I’m more than likely going to have chronic pain for the rest of my life in some regard.”
PAIN is something he is learning to cope with as best as he can, but the rehabilitation process has also meant teaching himself to do the basics all over again.
Driving a car, cutting his own food and walking on his own are things he did not even have to think about before the injury, but with a lot of hard work, albeit with moments of frustration, Pearson is getting his independence back.
He has credited his progress to the hospital staff as well as his own determination to get on with his life.
“I’m in a specialised spinal ward, so I have physio twice a day, see occupational therapists and dieticians and psychologists and stuff like that.
“So I’m probably with the best teams in NSW, if not Australia.”
It has been a tough time for Pearson and his entire family, but he has always tried to stay as positive as he can, which has been made easier by the level of support they have received.
“It’s just been overwhelming," he said.
“Anyone who can has been giving my mum and dad a hand and have been sending me messages on Facebook and text messages or phone calls late at night when I’m a bit upset.
“You’re going to be upset sometimes, because you can’t be happy all the time up there.”
Pearson has now regained a strong level of movement, is out of a neck brace and is able to walk with some assistance.
“My left side, which is my dominant side is pretty well back to normal, but I’m still restricted on the right, with pins and needles in my foot and constant pain in my arm," he said.
“I told my mum the other night that it could be something I’ll have for the rest of his life and we both had a bit of a cry.
“But if it is going to be something I have for the rest of my life, I need to find a way to cope with it, without being pissed off all the time.”
Although still in hospital, more recently Pearson has been able to make trips back home to be with his family on weekends and expects to be out of hospital for good in the coming weeks.
He will still need to go and see specialists, so it is not quite the end of the road, but he has a positive outlook for the next chapter of his life.
WHILE he is determined to stay involved in the local sporting scene in some capacity, Pearson is coming to terms with the news he will never be able to play footy again.
He said he was shattered when he learned he can no longer play the game he has loved for so long.
“Sport has been such a big part of my life, since I was about five or six," he said.
“I played team sports all through school and I used to try to play every sport I could.
“I don’t think it’s all sunk in yet and I don’t know when it will.”
Away from the sporting field, Pearson has also had to re-consider his future occupation.
He had been working in labouring prior to the injury, but was set to join the navy, receiving a call about his starting date when he was in the operating theatre.
Being on a building site is now out of the equation, as is joining the navy.
It has forced him to change his outlook on everything to do with his occupation, but he already has some new ideas up his sleeve.
“It’s almost like leaving high school again and I’ve got a fresh slate," he said.
"I don’t have everything to choose from, but who knows what this will open up for me?"
While his new career path will differ from his original plan to be a professional sports star, Pearson is optimistic about his future and chooses to look at the positives.
“There’s always going to be negatives; that’s just life," he said.
“But if I dwell on the negatives, I’ll never see a positive.
“I’m only 21, so I’m still young enough if I want to go to uni and I can do TAFE courses or short courses and I can get jobs.
“I’m thinking about maybe teaching and I’m thinking about other avenues.
“Maybe it could even be a blessing in disguise.”
As for his sport, the injury will not stop him from staying involved in some capacity and he is even looking at taking up a new sport, which may be less a of a risk to his body.
“I love my sport, whether I’m playing it or watching it.
“If I gave up on sport, I’d just sit at home and have the shits, so it’s just not worth it.”