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Children, Youth

Thriving at Matthew’s House

In many ways, Mindy thinks of her son’s life in terms of before and after. Before September 4, 2015, Austin was a happy teenager, loving life.

“He was an athlete. He loved music and movies. He was always singing and dancing,” Mindy says. “He had a really close relationship with his siblings, especially his sister, Paityn. They were always doing things together.”

But after that day, just two weeks before his 17th birthday, Austin’s life changed forever. While crossing the street with his friend, they were struck by a car. His friend received minor injuries, Austin was not as fortunate.

“He had a broken pelvis, fractures in his neck, damage to his liver but the biggest trauma was to his brain,” Mindy says, quietly.

What followed was just as traumatic for Austin’s family. Those first days after the accident, they thought he might not live. Those days were followed by months of tests, surgeries and little recovery. He could not speak, he was immobile and had to have a tracheotomy, which also meant he had to be tube fed. He spent three months at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster before being transferred to the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre. This was to be his indefinite home, with little hope of any further recovery.

“It was horrible,” Mindy remembers. “My husband and I were told that he’d never get better, never walk or talk. One nurse told me that my optimism was great but that this would be Austin’s reality and I needed to accept it.”

She didn’t. Instead, she chose to fight for something better for her son. That something came when Austin moved to Matthew’s House, a move that would have an enormous impact on his health and wellbeing.

Matthew’s House provides care for children and youth living with complex care needs. Austin has been living here for a year and a half and has been thriving ever since.

I saw a difference within weeks. Austin started smiling, laughing, and talking. His trach is gone, he’s learning to eat and he has started moving his legs.  Mindy, mother to Austin

Mindy believes that the move to a home-like environment has motivated Austin to fight for his own recovery. She credits the staff for his improvement.

“The staff at Matthew’s House are absolutely amazing,” she says. “Each one of them is just incredible. They are so dedicated and they so committed to Austin’s improvement.”

Austin with his family. Photo by Anita Chapman, Perfect Moments Photography

When asked what she envisions for her son’s future, Mindy smiles. She says that every time she’s come to terms with his limitations, she gets an excited phone call from the staff at Matthew’s House telling her that he’s done something new. She feels like she can dream bigger for him now that he’s living here.

“I hope that he will eventually be able to walk again and eat by himself,” she says. “It really feels possible.”

The whole family is so grateful for Matthew’s House and do whatever they can to support it. Austin’s siblings, Paityn and Tyler visit regularly and Paityn has donated her birthday money to Matthew’s House. Mindy organizes Coffee Morning fundraisers at her children’s school. She is planning a thank-you BBQ  for his birthday and hopes to invite all the staff who have given such excellent care to her son.

“I’m just so thankful for Matthew’s House,” she says. “It has made a huge difference to our family.”

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