Return to the country that cared

IN THE GREEN ROOM: Brazilian surfer Volnei Filho where he most likes to be . . . deep inside a barrelling wave on his bodyboard. The man who was initially told he might not walk again, enjoys throwing himself into as many sports as he can, from surfing to paragliding, skydiving to biking. Pictures supplied
His future as a sportsman was a little more in doubt 10 years ago.... He was pictured here enjoying a lighter moment with friends Felipe and Joao in his Gisborne Hospital room. Volnei is on the right, at the back, standing in a walking frame.

A Brazilian man is forever grateful for a second chance at life because of the care and help he received when he broke his back here 10 years ago.

After a surfing accident at Mahia, Volnei Teixeira Filho was told by doctors he had a 1 percent chance of walking again.

He proved them wrong and last week returned to the scene of his accident and met up again with some of the special people who helped him at the time.

In 2008, when he was 25, he came to Gisborne as part of a holiday in New Zealand to visit friends.

Five days before he was due to leave the country, he had the accident in Mahia.

“We were in Gisborne and decided to go to Mahia to surf. That day it took me too long to leave the sea. During my last wave of the day, with the tide totally low, I came off my board and my back beat against the stones.

“I was thrown by the wave on my back on the rocks and from that moment I lost the movement of my legs and felt a lot of pain.

“My friends had to rescue me from the sea to the beach. I had clinical complications on the way to Gisborne Hospital, so another rescue team was activated to provide support, where they decided to remove me to another ambulance with more resources.”

When he arrived at Gisborne Hospital, there was a great team waiting, he said.

“After many hours, it was found I had fractured several parts of my spine and had little chance of walking again.”

Doctors from Gisborne sent the medical results to Brazilian doctors and together they defined a conservative treatment.

“After a long time in hospital, and great care by the staff, I started to feel my legs again.

“After starting rehabilitation of the movement of the legs, an apparatus was placed to immobilise my spine. After some time, I was released by the hospital to continue the treatment at home.”

Before the accident, Volnei and his two friends had met Gisborne woman Shona Tahau at the camping ground where they were staying. She invited them to live with her and her family.

“They were near the end of their visa in NZ, were sleeping rough in a tent and small station wagon, with all their surfing and fishing gear. We invited them to stay with us,” says Shona.

“We enjoyed their company. They made musical instruments out of coke cans filled with rice and each evening they would sing Brazillian songs for us.”

They were really late coming home one day and Shona’s family became worried.

“Eventually, one got news to us that Volnei was in hospital with a broken back from a bodyboarding accident at Mahia.

“His back was broken in four places and doctors gave him a 1 percent chance of being able to walk again. We were devastated. But his recovery seemed to be fast and he was up walking (with help) almost immediately.

“Family and friends in Brazil were beside themselves, so the boys would video Volnei every day and each night we would put the videos on my Bebo, so that they could have some peace of mind,” she said.

He was discharged with all the equipment he needed for recovery and eventually was given clearance to fly back to Brazil.

A long rehabilitation . . .

Volnei said it was a long rehabilitation, partly here and the rest in Brazil.

“After a long bureaucratic process with my insurance, I was able to return to Brazil. It took the help of a nurse and an aircraft where I could lay down, because I could not sit at all,” he said

Shona said they forged strong bonds of friendship in the month they stayed with her.

“We have kept in touch for the last 10 years through Facebook and Instagram. We were so excited to hear Volnei wanted to bring his wife Vanessa de Oliveira and her mum to NZ to meet us and revisit where the accident happened.”

Now living in the Bay of Plenty, Shona and her family had a wonderful day and night with them, sharing gifts, a meal, and taking them to some tourist spots in Rotorua.

“It was a very emotional time for us all but lovely memories to treasure.

Shona says Volnei lives life at more than 100 percent because he got a second chance.

“He lives by the beach in Brazil and still goes surfing, bodyboarding, paddle boarding, boating, skiing and paragliding.”

“It was a very emotional farewell but we have both promised to visit each other in the future,” she said.

Volnei said he always had the dream of returning to thank Shona and all those who helped him in this difficult time of his life.

“Also, I would like my family to know this paradise (people and landscapes) called New Zealand.

“I would like to thank the second chance I’ve had in my life. In a way that we cannot express with words . . . just to thank this incredible country which gave me all the medical care, care and attention as if I were a resident.

He began to look at life in another way after his accident.

“Living even more intensely every moment, and practising countless sports (bodyboard, stand-up paddleboard, paragliding, biking, skydiving, tow-in surfing, among many).

“After the accident I specialised in volunteer services at sea, seeking training in various parts of the world. In 2012 I was given rescue training with inflatable boats from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteer group. In 2016 I was invited to join the RNLI international volunteer team.

A Brazilian man is forever grateful for a second chance at life because of the care and help he received when he broke his back here 10 years ago.

After a surfing accident at Mahia, Volnei Teixeira Filho was told by doctors he had a 1 percent chance of walking again.

He proved them wrong and last week returned to the scene of his accident and met up again with some of the special people who helped him at the time.

In 2008, when he was 25, he came to Gisborne as part of a holiday in New Zealand to visit friends.

Five days before he was due to leave the country, he had the accident in Mahia.

“We were in Gisborne and decided to go to Mahia to surf. That day it took me too long to leave the sea. During my last wave of the day, with the tide totally low, I came off my board and my back beat against the stones.

“I was thrown by the wave on my back on the rocks and from that moment I lost the movement of my legs and felt a lot of pain.

“My friends had to rescue me from the sea to the beach. I had clinical complications on the way to Gisborne Hospital, so another rescue team was activated to provide support, where they decided to remove me to another ambulance with more resources.”

When he arrived at Gisborne Hospital, there was a great team waiting, he said.

“After many hours, it was found I had fractured several parts of my spine and had little chance of walking again.”

Doctors from Gisborne sent the medical results to Brazilian doctors and together they defined a conservative treatment.

“After a long time in hospital, and great care by the staff, I started to feel my legs again.

“After starting rehabilitation of the movement of the legs, an apparatus was placed to immobilise my spine. After some time, I was released by the hospital to continue the treatment at home.”

Before the accident, Volnei and his two friends had met Gisborne woman Shona Tahau at the camping ground where they were staying. She invited them to live with her and her family.

“They were near the end of their visa in NZ, were sleeping rough in a tent and small station wagon, with all their surfing and fishing gear. We invited them to stay with us,” says Shona.

“We enjoyed their company. They made musical instruments out of coke cans filled with rice and each evening they would sing Brazillian songs for us.”

They were really late coming home one day and Shona’s family became worried.

“Eventually, one got news to us that Volnei was in hospital with a broken back from a bodyboarding accident at Mahia.

“His back was broken in four places and doctors gave him a 1 percent chance of being able to walk again. We were devastated. But his recovery seemed to be fast and he was up walking (with help) almost immediately.

“Family and friends in Brazil were beside themselves, so the boys would video Volnei every day and each night we would put the videos on my Bebo, so that they could have some peace of mind,” she said.

He was discharged with all the equipment he needed for recovery and eventually was given clearance to fly back to Brazil.

A long rehabilitation . . .

Volnei said it was a long rehabilitation, partly here and the rest in Brazil.

“After a long bureaucratic process with my insurance, I was able to return to Brazil. It took the help of a nurse and an aircraft where I could lay down, because I could not sit at all,” he said

Shona said they forged strong bonds of friendship in the month they stayed with her.

“We have kept in touch for the last 10 years through Facebook and Instagram. We were so excited to hear Volnei wanted to bring his wife Vanessa de Oliveira and her mum to NZ to meet us and revisit where the accident happened.”

Now living in the Bay of Plenty, Shona and her family had a wonderful day and night with them, sharing gifts, a meal, and taking them to some tourist spots in Rotorua.

“It was a very emotional time for us all but lovely memories to treasure.

Shona says Volnei lives life at more than 100 percent because he got a second chance.

“He lives by the beach in Brazil and still goes surfing, bodyboarding, paddle boarding, boating, skiing and paragliding.”

“It was a very emotional farewell but we have both promised to visit each other in the future,” she said.

Volnei said he always had the dream of returning to thank Shona and all those who helped him in this difficult time of his life.

“Also, I would like my family to know this paradise (people and landscapes) called New Zealand.

“I would like to thank the second chance I’ve had in my life. In a way that we cannot express with words . . . just to thank this incredible country which gave me all the medical care, care and attention as if I were a resident.

He began to look at life in another way after his accident.

“Living even more intensely every moment, and practising countless sports (bodyboard, stand-up paddleboard, paragliding, biking, skydiving, tow-in surfing, among many).

“After the accident I specialised in volunteer services at sea, seeking training in various parts of the world. In 2012 I was given rescue training with inflatable boats from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteer group. In 2016 I was invited to join the RNLI international volunteer team.

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