NSW father left an incomplete quadriplegic after local rugby game
When Andrew Regan stepped onto his local football field for a rugby match in late April, he had no idea his life was about to change.
The young father from Orange in regional NSW, known to his mates as Drewy or Reegs, was a talented and keen athlete. He had even competed in a number of 100km-plus ultra marathons.
Watch more on Andrew’s story in the video above
But when the 35-year-old went into a tackle while playing for his local club, the Orange Emus, he suffered a devastating injury that would forever change his life, and the lives of his young family.
Andrew was rushed to Orange Base Hospital with significant spinal injuries, including a broken neck and damage to his C4 and C5 vertebrae.
From there, he was priority airlifted to Royal North Shore Hospital for a surgery lasting a gruelling eight hours.
With his one-year-old son Gus and wife Jessie by his side, Andrew is currently undergoing various therapies.
Close friend Cara Becker told 7NEWS.com.au it has been an “incredible” couple of weeks for Andrew’s family who, on the day of the injury, was halfway through moving house.
“At this stage, he is paralysed from the chest down and is what’s known as an incomplete quadriplegic,” Cara said.
“While he does have some very limited arm movements, it’s too early for the doctors to tell what this could mean in the long term.”
After several weeks in ICU, Cara says Andrew has now been transferred to the spinal unit.
“Although this is quite a positive development and there is some hope now that he’s left the ICU, there is still a long road ahead,” Cara said.
The ‘overwhelming’ support
Andrew, along with his family and friends, are incredibly grateful for all the support they have received both locally from the football club and the community, as well as across the country.
A GoFundMe page organised to help pay for Andrew’s medical bills and recovery raised an incredible $180,000 on just its first day.
It has now raised more than $340,000.
“While Andrew, his wife Jessie and their 12-month-old son Gus remain hopeful of a best-case scenario, his road to recovery will be long, difficult and expensive. He will require significant support and care long-term,” the page read.
“A special thank you to all who have already provided support and assistance, the family has been flooded with kindness, and they are incredibly grateful.”
Andrew’s close friend and Wagga fundraising coordinator, Tim Cameron, told 7NEWS the news of Andrew’s injury hit very “close to home”.
“Personally, it really rocked me,” he said.
“He’s only 35, and we’re very good friends, we went to high school together, and he’s got a little one-year-old boy, and I’ve got a couple at home as well, so it’s certainly hit me very close to home.”
Meanwhile, Al Hattersley from Andrew’s club the Orange Emus, told 7NEWS the community’s support has been overwhelming.
“I fairly quickly contacted some sporting clubs that Andrew was involved with, including a couple of cricket clubs and footy clubs, and contacted some sponsors, and we’ve got some fundraisers set up,” he said.
“Many local clubs have reached out, not only around Orange and the Central West, but Australia-wide have reached out to see if they can help in some way.”
The nature of the game
Sydney University senior lecturer Dr Kerry Peek told 7NEWS.com.au that while these types of catastrophic injuries are quite rare, they are more common in rugby than in a lot of other contact sports.
“All sport carries risk, especially community sport that is less supervised,” she said.
“While there are things we can do to try to mitigate the risk of minor injuries, some of these more devastating injuries can often be a lot harder to prevent.”
She added community sports can often carry a greater risk of injury due to factors such as age and expertise of the players, as well as the experience of the referee and whether they are enforcing the correct and safe rules.
“There can also be a lot of aggression which can lead to foul play, and also the skill level – so if players don’t know how to tackle properly and safely, it can be very dangerous,” she said.
However, even if a tackle is within the rules, there is still always the chance of accidents, like in Andrew’s case.
“Sometimes it is just an unfortunate accident, the tackle might have been legal but they got caught in the wrong place and hit the ground heavily,” Kerry said.
“For professional players who are making the big bucks, they will tend to accept that risk as part of the job.
“But in community sport when people are playing for fun, they need to make sure they’re doing their best not to get injured because it can impact on their careers and livelihoods.”
Andrew and his family celebrated baby Gus’ first birthday in the ICU ward, and say they are so grateful they could all be together for the day.
Cara added the family’s positivity in the wake of the devastating injuries has been inspiring.
“What I think is so amazing that it’s such a testament to Andrew, Jessie and baby Gus how much the community has rallied around them,” she said.
“Their outlook and positivity has just been amazing, and seeing how resilient they are and the strength they are all showing. “
In an Instagram update, Jessie said Andrew is remaining positive and is even continuing to make jokes from his hospital bed.
Andrew also took to Instagram to thank everyone and update his friends on his condition, adding he hopes his injury doesn’t deter anyone from playing the “great code” of rugby.
“I just want to say rugby is a great code with great people, but things like this happen,” he said.
“It also could’ve happened driving through a roundabout. Don’t let my accident affect you in any way.”
To donate to the family’s GoFundMe click here.