Life as a Quadriplegic: Sophia Malthus
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Life as a Quadriplegic: Sophia Malthus

October 24, 2019

when I was 7 years old. I loved being outdoors
with my friends. All I wanted to do was get
on a horse and go fast. It was a way that I could feel free. I got the idea that
I should become a jockey. I started working towards
my apprenticeship. About 15 months ago,
I had an accident at work. I was out on the track
with the horse, and then
he spooked at something. He bolted, and I couldn’t
hold him back, and that’s when
I fell off and broke my neck. The phone rang, and they
did not try and sugarcoat it. They told us that she was
a complete tetraplegic, which means that there’s
no messages coming down from
the point of injury. (GENTLE PIANO MUSIC) Ready?
Yep. Today we are going
to the racing stables… where I started and ended my career. Hi! Thank you for coming. I haven’t actually been
there since my accident. I’ve got a vague idea
of where I had the fall. Yeah,… I think I fell off here.
(SNIFFLES) So I broke this part of the fence. That’s where it broke.
Yeah, it broke.
That bit there. Oh, wow.
So the horse broke that,
or I broke that? You broke that. Looks bad. You right? Must have been hard for you,
I guess, as well?
(SNIFFLES) Kind of. (SOMBRE PIANO MUSIC) This is the horse I fell off. (SOMBRE PIANO MUSIC CONTINUES) I don’t have anything
against the horse. I just won’t put my
money on him. (CHUCKLES) I think I can do it. Life is definitely
very different now. How are ya? Good.
OK. I broke my neck at
my C4-5 vertebrae. So, as a result, I can’t
feel or have any function from
about the collarbone downwards. Has the,… do you know if the
pressure sore’s changed at all? And I have partial
paralysis in my arms. And then both of my hands,
I have no hand function. I have 24-hour carers.
In the morning, that’s having
a shower, getting dressed. So every move that I make, I’ve
got someone there supporting me. It’s very good;
I’m very grateful for it. But it can get really hard to go
from living such an independent
life, being 19 years old, to being 20 years old, constantly being looked over,
constantly having to ask for things,
can’t go anywhere by myself. (EXHALES) Just got some… high tone in my legs. Um, like, the muscle spasms,
so they can be… quite hard. At the moment, it’s not moving.
Um,… yeah, so the tone makes the muscle
really hard to move, and then
also because I’ve got weak arms and no stability from…
having no core muscles. Every day, I’m working towards
becoming more independent, because I just cannot see myself
living a life where I have people
doing everything that I need done. I think that nobody is put
into this position and thinks, ‘Gosh, I just want everything
to be done for me.’ Every day,
there are small wins. Toes. (CHUCKLES) What’s the point? I might put a sock on faster
than I did the other day, or I might be able to wash
more of my body in the shower
than I did the other day. And so it’s really important to me
that I do try, because, ultimately, what I want is as much
independence as possible. All done. Oh, it’s amazing. I love watching
Sophia get to the next level, eh? Sometimes she tries to ask me
to do the impossible, and I say
‘No, I can’t do that,’ and she thinks that
I’m just being lazy, so—
(LAUGHS) ‘No, you can do it!’ And I’m like,
‘No, I don’t have the muscles.’
Gilly tells me to push her, so… I push her. That’s her physio. Physiotherapist. What is it? Yeah.
Yeah, physio. So I listen to her. I mean, there’s
things that we could definitely work
on, but, you know, that’s just me. Sorry, when did you last
have a spinal cord injury (?)
(LAUGHS) Hey. You’ll get to know her…
her funny sense of humour. I mean, ever since the injury,
we’ve made jokes about it, because, you know, the injury’s
either gonna make you or break you. There’s no point letting it break
you, because I’m not gonna sit
around at home all day, so… just keep going. Here. Up, up! Good girl. Come on. Good morning. She does this every morning and
I ask her if she’s had a good sleep,
and then she gets me very dirty. Good girl. (GENTLE ACOUSTIC GUITAR MUSIC) Sophie amazes everybody
with how strong that she is. The sense of humour that she’s
used to carry her through, um,… right from day one. I was in the spinal unit for
three months, and then I was in
Laura Fergusson for eight months. I was actually in rehab
for my one-year anniversary. James, he’s been in my life
for a long time, and I couldn’t
ask for a better stepdad. JAMES: OK, exhibit A.
It’s not a phony.
It’s an apricot. A real one.
From her beautiful mother. Watch this. The doctors never
expected her to do anything.
Just work with what she’s got and strengthen the muscles
that she does have and learn
to use them in different ways. That’s good. You’re
doing amazing, Soph! Far out. Martha! Martha! When I left the spinal unit,
I had to go back to the
support of my parents. There was so many logistical things
at the start. We had a five-level
townhouse that we had to sell, because no way it was
wheelchair accessible. We knew she wanted to move to
the country, because she’s always
wanted to move to the country. Basically, we’re at the point
where this terrible thing
happened to our daughter, and we just want to give
her a beautiful life. So this is my little house
that I’m living in. My cabin
next to my parents’ house. So that’s just the lounge. Go on. This is my bedroom and my kitchen. I have a cabin behind this place
for my carers to hang out in,
which is good. It means I can try to become as
independent as possible, and just
get some alone time, which is nice after, you know, a week’s
full of physio and therapy. Living here has been really good,
because I can do whatever I want, have my friends around whenever
I want, have more control
over my life. Gotta angle everything right.
Otherwise I don’t get very far. Coming.
Can I please have… broad beans and tomatoes?
Sure. When you’re in the spinal unit,
they give you these — they’re called palmar bands, and
it’s like a handle for everything,
so it makes everything big. Kind of like this. It’s like a rubber foam, and it’s
got a hole in it, so you, like, put your knives and forks
in there, or whatever. And they got really angry —
they didn’t get angry — they were disappointed in me,
for not using… them. I was letting other people feed me. Because I didn’t want to eat anyway,
so it was like, I don’t want to eat,
so I’m not going to try eat… you know, go to the extra effort
of feeding myself. And, um,… And then one day,
Mum made me some food. And she just put it in front of me,
and then she sat down and, like,
started checking Facebook. And I was real hungry, and so
I just picked up the fork and
I started eating — like this. And then I was like, ‘Oh… Whoa.’ I was like, ‘Mum, look.’
And she was like, ‘Oh, cool.’
You know, she was on her phone. And I was like, ‘No, Mum, look.’
And then she was like, ‘Whoa!’ But Mum’s got a big
veggie garden, so… Um,… she’s learning. (UPBEAT ACOUSTIC GUITAR MUSIC) I never, ever have had any desire
to live in the country. But this is close to town,
and it’s not a farm. So I’ve become a full-time gardener,
which I did not have green thumbs. It’s a complete learning curve,
but I’m really enjoying it. And it gives me the flexibility
if Sophie needs something or I just
want to pop in and visit her. I harvest for her daily. Saves her
a fortune on vegetables. (LAUGHS) My days are full of appointments. Especially for the first one
or two years of the injury. You’ve got reassessments, and
you’ve got really intense physio. And I am pushing for as much
therapeutic input as possible. It’s been up to us to find
alternative therapies. We have a really
awesome neurophysio. And she’s got her whole life
ahead of her. Why wouldn’t
you try everything? I’m a neurological physio.
It is a very specialised area, so spinal cord, Parkinson’s, MS,
head injuries, and what I’m
essentially doing is trying to reconnect
the brain with the body. What I know is that,
if we try to aim for walking,
we’re gonna get something else. We’re gonna get some better core,
we’re gonna get some better
shoulders, we’re gonna improve
functions somewhere, and
that makes someone happier. Good. And lift, Soph. Beautiful. Good, and now take the weight
over the foot — good. And then, Sophie, you go.
Pick, pick, pick, pick, pick.
Now wait there, Flick. Neuroplasticity is happening all the
time, and if you learn very quickly
for the first three months after your injury that you
can’t move from down below,
then you’re going to adapt, and your brain is going to adapt
that it doesn’t believe it’s there. And stop there. Are you gonna help?
I am gonna help you
when you need to be helped. Progression with a spinal-cord
injury — it’s slow. But Sophia’s potential to
transfer by herself was there. Her problem is her triceps,
because that’s what we use
to push ourselves. Good try. Take your top part up.
Up, up, up, up, up.
Try and go up. Try and go up. Good. I’ve got that. So, that is coming on fantastically. Cos it wasn’t that long ago that
you needed help to actually do
the slide part, whereas now, you can do
a slide part by yourself! So, when you first have your
injury, they assess you,
and they give you a grading. The ASIA scale is ASIA A to ASIA D. People that are walking are ASIA D,
and so ASIA A means you’re complete, which generally means they have
no hope in you walking again.
So, I was ASIA A. Can you feel what I’m doing?
Yep. Can you describe what you feel?
Pins and needles. Where at?
On the ball of my feet. Can you feel that now? Yep.
Yep. OK. Find it, push it away. Push it away, push it away,
push it away, push it away,
push it away. Good. Now bend it. Bend it.
Bend it. Bend it. Personality and motivation is
absolutely massive in neuro rehab,
and it’s those people who are always looking for the
improvement; they’re the ones who do
well, because they’ve got the drive. Knees are gonna bend.
(EXHALES) Good girl.
Can you feel that?
Yep. ‘Having a support team is massive,
and this is where Sophia’s in a
fabulous position ‘that she has got an amazing
mum, amazing stepdad, ‘who are absolutely 100%
behind her, supporting her,
will do anything for her.’ Good. Shoulders down. Nice. Beautiful.
Push through your arms. OK, let your knees bend.
Now, push through your heels.
Heels. OK, down you go. (GRUNTS)
It’s tiring. (INSPIRING ACOUSTIC GUITAR MUSIC) (MOTOR WHIRRS) James has been amazing.
He is always looking at equipment
and therapies that I can be doing. He’s very involved in my rehab. (MACHINERY WHIRRS) Good. Have a little rest for a mo.
Phew! Done.
(LAUGHS) I could do with this some days.
(LAUGHS) Yeah, I reckon. Morning!
How are ya? Yeah, good.
Good? How did, um…
How did she go? Yeah, yeah, she was fine.
She was all good. One of my carers noticed a red mark
on my bum. Because I sit all day,
I have to be wary of pressure areas. Martha. Martha, up. ‘Being so skinny means there’s
not much fat on my bones. ‘The bony protrusions
can irritate the skin. ‘The skin breaks down, which means
you can get infections, and they
can be pretty dangerous.’ She’s warning me — not
like I can do anything. ‘The only cure is bed rest.’ (BED WHIRRS) (EXHALES) Um, I just feel a bit nauseous
cos I haven’t sat up for four days. So, I’ve just got quite
low blood pressure. (DRINK BOTTLE SQUEAKS) You got to remember that, because
I’ve been lying down for so long, my balance and everything
has kind of… not been practised,… so I’m a bit… Thanks. I’m a bit, um,… all over the place, really. It’s really hard for me
to do everyday tasks, so working on my balance
and what I can do with my hands
is obviously therapeutic. I know that a lot of people,
when they have disabilities, whether it’s from birth
or an accident or something, a lot of people will stop taking
pride in their appearance. My mum wouldn’t let me do that. So, like, three weeks into
my injury, Mum and I were just
sitting in the spinal unit, and she was like ‘Let’s do
some therapy’, and I was like,
‘OK. What do you wanna do?’ And she goes,
‘Let’s put mascara on.’ And I was like,
‘Oh, of course that’s what
you would want to teach me.’ Like, that is such a, you know,… My mum takes a lot of pride in her
appearance and stuff like that, so, yeah, that was her input
to my recovery. Bless her. (GENTLE GUITAR MUSIC) Just teeth. FLICK: She’s determined
to be more independent. Every little bit that you can do is
doing something. It’s just digging
a little bit more of that pathway. (ANNOUNCER READS
RACE DETAILS OVER PA) Even though I’ll never be a jockey,
I still love going to the races. It’s such a good energy, and
it’s just something that I love. Oi, Gripper! Gripper!
Hey! Hey, how are ya?
How you going?
Good, you? Good. I haven’t seen you in a while.
Yeah. How you been?
What’s been keeping you busy? Oh, well, you know, rehab, and…
Looking good.
Yeah, you too! Thanks!
Good stuff. Look at the biceps,
mate, eh? Looking great. Thank you.
Oh, good.
Should we go? Yep. Oh well, we’ll get
you around to the start. ANNOUNCER: Number nine, Silver Cloud
at 3.20, 1.30, ahead of one, Breezon
at 4.60, 1.70, and…. You got it. Beautiful. Look at that.
Thank you very much.
All right in there? You’ll be able to do it
all yourself soon.
(GRUNTS) And we’re off, racing! I was a pretty active person;
I was a jockey, and pretty
lucky to ride around the world, and then, having a car accident,
it changed my life. I was paralysed from the neck
down for a couple of months, and then I slowly got a little
bit of feeling back. I was asked by one of
Sophie’s friends if I’d
come and help Soph along. She told me about her accident,
and I’ve never met a young lady
with such an attitude. FLICK: Good girl! No problem. She’s really grown on to be
like one of my daughters, really. I’ve got Sam Spratt, Sam Collett,
all your girls. They’ll all say,
‘Hi, Soph!’ ANNOUNCER: Loading away. 100%
Appliances 1200, Breezon about
to go into line, Full Of Talent— Gripper’s job is making sure
they start exactly to the second.
It’s all live. She’s one of New Zealand’s
best jockeys. I had some desire to
get back on a horse. I contacted Riding For The Disabled. But there’s no attraction
for me to be sitting on a horse,
surrounded by equipment. (GATE ALARM BLARES)
ANNOUNCER: That’s it, now.
Gates open, they’re off. As I grew up, I had known that
to be a thing of freedom and
an escape, rather than held in. It’s All Fake News is next,
and further back in the field,
too, Blue Breeze. Three lengths away, Corporate Raider
is last of all, down by the 850m
mark. I’d love to stay in the
racing industry. I think
it’s really energetic. There’s always something to do. Corporate Raider, Silver Cloud.
Corporate Raider will beat
Silver Cloud. Third over, It’s All Fake News
and then Breezon. I’ll give you a hug.
How are you? Good.
I love your necklace.
Oh, thank you. It’s my Mum’s. (LAUGHS) Is it?
Yeah, I don’t own necklaces.
How are you? Good. How are you?
How’s it going?
Good. Nice colours!
Who are you riding?
Uh,… who am I riding? Uh, I was gonna say Blue Shadow.
Uh, Breezon?
No, it was Lucky— Lucky…
Lucky Sweep?
Lucky Sweep. Lucky Sweep. Nah, I’m not riding
Breezon. It’s a big industry. It’s not just being a trainer
or being a jockey. So, there’ll be plenty
of jobs there for you.
Thanks for that! (LAUGHS) Yeah! We can put you
on the TV. You’re better-looking
than most of them. Some of them are ugly,
that we have to deal with.
Like Gripper.
(LAUGHS) (WISTFUL ACOUSTIC GUITAR MUSIC) Of course everyone wants to be
independent in getting themselves
from one place to another. Especially when you live out here;
it takes ages to get anywhere. For me to be able to drive,
that would mean that I could
go see my friends, go to the supermarket,
do anything, really, by myself. Soph is my favourite niece.
She’s my only niece. (ALL LAUGH)
So there’s no risk in saying it. She’s amazing, and she’s always,
yeah, had that drive to,
‘I’m gonna get through this.’ And that’s why I think… we haven’t, as a family,
got too stuck in the darkness
of the injury and stuff, because I think we just all know,
like, intrinsically, that Soph’s
going to do amazing things. And it’s really just been, for you,
a case of having to think, ‘There are actually endless
possibilities still. ‘They’re just not the possibilities
I had considered before now.’ Very few people have this injury
and come out,… you know, worse off
than when they went in. You improve. Your whole personality
changes. I’ve become a lot funnier.
(ALL LAUGH) We love the self-confidence!
(ALL LAUGH) Actually, maybe you
should do stand-up comedy.
Yeah, but I can’t stand up. ‘Sit-down’ comedy.
(LAUGHS) Yeah, ‘sit-down’ comedy. I worry that I won’t get
a husband. Serious worry.
This has come up more than once. (LAUGHS)
This is, like, the biggest worry.
That’s the first thing I thought in the hospital was, like,
‘Oh my gosh. Am I still lovable?’ She has had several proposals.
That’s a completely different story.
But you have! From overseas and here.
They’re random people on Instagram! There are also people you know
that have proposed to you. Cos she’s popular.
You’re so beautiful. My point is, you are still
extremely desirable.
Not really. You just have to find
someone that you like.
Let’s not have this conversation. (ALL LAUGH) She will have a bigger life
as a result of this accident
than she may have had before. In a way, she has fewer
opportunities, but they are bigger. And she’s such a
little bright spark. People are just drawn to her. The more people see of me
living a fulfilling life, and,
you know, still having goals and achieving things, the less
people will think that I’m trapped. Life doesn’t stop with the
wheelchair. Your legs stop,
but your life doesn’t. (CHUCKLES) Attitude was made with funding
from New Zealand On Air.

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  1. All because of a split moment of fear from a horse. Two seconds before or two seconds after would have made the difference. However these people know the risk.

  2. Attitude is right…when from being paraplegic to walking with a walker…keep doing what you doing….stay positive!!!

  3. If she would up her intake and start lifting weights she could get her upper body in shape so she can use her hands better

  4. I salute all of these people.Their attitude towards life is amazing.We who are have so much to learn from God bless you all.

  5. a shame this is not her channel would be nice to comment to her directly.
    amazing ! truly a beautiful person

  6. The longer one waits for agressive treatment the more difficult it will be to recover. Physiotherapy could only do so much for muscle atrophy and the reconnecting of the nerves. There was a little girl in our community who was told by medical specialists that she will never walk again so her father sought out help. Our family donated the funds to and connected them with the world's leading scientist in stem cell reasearch but yet he is not recognized in our country so we sent the little away and she made the impossible, possible. Sophia's recovery is only limited by government regulations, the emphasis of the NZ health care bureaucracy on therapy vs actual treatment and the will and creativety of the parents. Sophia may never be 100% recoverred but she could be further along then she is. Best of luck on this her recovery and I say this with all sincerity but after witnessing first hand the progress that can be made on two individuals with spinal cord injuries, I know more can be done. On a side note, prior to his death due to health complications, there was a reason why Christopher Reeve pushed so hard to change the attitudes and laws concerning stem cell reasearch in the US. It was unfortunate that he put so much faith in the county's legislative system rather than swallowing his pride to seek treatment elsewehere. Had he have, his quality of life would have atleast improved but he was a proud of an American to the very end. I wonder if he knew that Superman was created by a Canadian? And if everyone believes that Sophia is doing all that she can to recover then I will get off of my soap box now.

  7. Poor thing, young sweet woman. That would be quite the life changing challenge. I'm sure she will find a handsome kind gentleman to love & care for her forever

  8. she is lucky to be in a country like that and have a good family, sadly in my country she will be suffering a lot, here a girl with her condition would be physically abused by the mans of her family, she will be in a bed all time cuse having a wheelchair here is a privelege.

  9. Hi Sophie,I so admire all the hard work and effort that you have done. So impressive this will encourage others to follow you. Your amazing not giving up and showing us all how it is to recover gradually. My prayers are for you and your family. You forgave your wonderful horse,that is admirable.You are surrounded by a wonderful family.,love conquers all.You are so pretty.Never worry about if your lovable. Yes you will find the right guy one day. I know those weights will improve your strength. I wish the very best for you and your family. Much love and comforting and healing hugs for you . Thank you so very much.

  10. Nothing against her at all, but horses should not be ridden. If they could speak they wouldn’t want to be and horses get terrible back injuries because of humans riding them.

  11. 27:57
    Mum: "In a way, she has fewer opportunities, but they are bigger."
    –> This is a very perceptive comment. Perhaps it's almost a blessing to have fewer choices, because in this current world, where the sky is the limit, some of us (me, for example) get stuck in the decision-making process.

    Thank you for sharing your story; it's inspiring, and your positive spirit is contagious.

  12. I was more surprised at how pretty she is than the injury itself. Her beauty redeems her disability she no needs to worry about getting married becoz she will definitely find one!

  13. Sophia is amazing. It's such a toss up when you ride horses. I rode and showed horses in my younger days. Fell off many times. I was never seriously hurt and was fortunate. I had a friend who was killed when a horse reared up and fell backwards on her. You just never know day to day. So much admiration for her rebuilding her life after being injured and paralyzed. Best wishes to her in the future.

  14. She is so,young,and very pretty young lady ,but I am.impressed by how hard she worked at physical therapy ,she currently has a great future ahead with all her hard work .

  15. That poor horse, when he first saw her. He looked ashamed, sad and like he was going to cry. Her not blaming him I think helped both of them.

  16. Personally I believe in reincarnation. I think we all have several lives and each is designed to teach us lessons and advance the soul. I think we have all been parapalegics or handicapped in some way, and we have all been relatively healthy. It's all about what we have learned and what we need to learn. Primarily love and empathy.

  17. thanks for keep trying, god be with you in your recovery. life is more than who wins the trophy. errors are part of the journey. keep building keep doing. thanks lady. I pray and believe in you Sophia.

  18. Sophie, just read all the comments to realise the effect that your beauty and determination are having on people. I have no doubt that you WILL achieve all your goals. Go for it young lady!!!

  19. My mom was paralyzed in a car crash at 19 I was only 11 months old she fought everyday and eventually lived independently it took years to develop Ways to be independent but she did don’t give up hope I pray for you

  20. I love your hair. You are so pretty. So sorry this happened to you, but with your spirit…I know things will get better. Sending you prayers 💜

  21. Be careful opening things with your teeth- don’t want you to chip them. Plus I worry about the bacteria on them when you put them in your mouth. I have an auto immune disease and have to make a cautious effort about germs cause my immune system is shot.

  22. I wonder if strapping Sophia, such that she couldn't fall off, onto a fixed gear (no freewheel) bicycle on an indoor trainer, and then powering the back wheel so that her legs are pedalling involuntarily, would help in a neuro-plastic way to teach her to move her legs again. As in maybe her brain finds her legs again…

  23. Thanks for sharing your story. It gives me the courage to keep on going even when it gets rough. Much love from Quebec.

  24. She is incredible and gorgeous. Hopefully she will get to the point where she can transfer and and do all of that stuff by herself. I have spina bifida and I am a paraplegic. I know what she is going through. It is not easy. But she is doing very well. She has so much drive to better her situation. Which you definitely need.

  25. White girls are more beautiful and attractive. I am not racist. Such attention, such episodes, organised story telling and interest of people is just missing in the black community. It's a shear fact of life. White people attract more attention naturally.

  26. I suppose saying riding horses should be banned cuz too many people are getting hurt but u cant cuz everything in life u do theres always risks…whether its riding a motorcycle or driving a car. I jus feel horrible especially cuz it was her own horse that she loves to death. Life sometimes makes no sense at all.

  27. There are only a few things worse than having your dreams shattered at such a young age. What a tragic story, and how brave she is.

  28. Paraplegia and quadriplegia are two types of paralysis. Paralysis in the lower half of the body and both legs is called paraplegia. Paralysis in both arms and legs is called quadriplegia. A higher percentage of spinal cord injuries cause quadriplegia than paraplegia (56 percent to 43 percent).

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