• Matthew Upham

    The Mechanics of Healing

As an athletic, young mechanic with a world of opportunity on the horizon, Matthew Upham didn’t expect to spend his summer as an inpatient at the QEII, learning to walk again.

19-year-old Musquodoboit Harbour local, Matt, was caught in the wake of tragedy on June 10, 2018 when he was driving to Laurie Park with three friends and was hit by a gentleman who ran a stop sign. In the collision, one of Matt’s passengers, his best friend’s girlfriend, was killed on impact, and the man driving the other vehicle died as well. His other two friends survived with minor injuries.

Matt was air-lifted to the QEII after the accident where he was dubbed “The Miracle Kid” based on his injuries that included two broken legs, a shattered kneecap, three broken ribs, two collapsed lungs, brain bleeding, sciatic nerve damage, loss of part of his right ear, and a foot-long burn on his shoulder, among other wounds and injuries.

QEII healthcare professionals told Matt that he is lucky to be alive, let alone, lucky to still have his right leg. Based on the results of his x-rays, Matt’s leg should have been amputated but because of his physical condition from playing sports and lifting weights and his skilled care team, his leg was saved.

Matt is now walking again and continues to do physiotherapy at the QEII’s Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre as an outpatient.

On Matt’s road to recovery, he spent time receiving aquatic therapy in The Grace Hansen Therapeutic Pool – a pool completely funded by QEII Foundation donors.

In fact, a $1-million gift by the Hansen MacDonald family led the QEII Foundation’s Revitalizing Rehab campaign, which saw the community come together and raise $2.6-million to construct The Grace Hansen Therapeutic Pool.

The pool is approaching a major milestone - treating over 20,000 patients in its soothing waters. Matt and the pool are also featured in a new QEII Foundation video series that is showcasing the impact of philanthropy and how donations make healthcare advancements possible.

“I looked forward to the pool every day and I know that a lot of people do,” said Matt. “Participating in the video with the QEII Foundation was one way to show donors how meaningful their donations are. They are literally changing and saving lives by giving.”

Alongside the rehabilitation facilities, Matt attributes much of his progress to the incredible QEII staff and physicians that were involved in his care journey and a key part of his support network.

“I was having meltdowns based on my injuries and the staff would always help me through,” said Matt, speaking to the support he received from his care teams both physically and emotionally.

In particular, Matt credits his physiotherapy team, Angela Rutledge and Mallory Newman, and Dr. Gabrielle Hayduk-Costa, for being especially encouraging.

This support pushed Matt to work hard on his recovery and continues to keep him motivated throughout this journey.

Because of Matt’s injuries, he may need to make some significant lifestyle changes including a potential career shift. When asked “what’s next?” it turns out that not only is Matt interested in the mechanics of cars and trucks, but also in the intriguing mechanical puzzle of the human body.

As an athlete in rugby and soccer, he often considered the mechanics of how the body moves and how muscles are built and how resilient we are as humans. Moving into his next chapter, Matt is considering a transition into the physiotherapy and rehabilitation field, largely inspired by the care he received at the QEII.

Overall, Matt describes his experience at the QEII as “great” - not a word many patients would use after experiencing a trauma like the one he is currently working through, but this sentiment sums up his ultra-positive MO perfectly – the ultimate example of resilience.

“You can always choose to give up, which is going to be the easy option. But life is a challenge anyway, so just keep going. Even if things aren’t better now, that’s not to say they won’t get better in the future. If you stay positive, you are going to help your body heal”.