Saturday 15 August | 189 days since the crash | 136 days in rehabilitation.
It has been some time since the last update and many people have been asking how Kai is doing. We’re super pleased to report that Kai continues to make strong progress in all aspects of his rehabilitation.
It’s Saturday 15 August today and we have just passed two key milestones. The first of these was 29 July which is Kai’s 24th birthday, this is highly significant because there was a time when we were not sure he would see his next birthday at all.
The second important date was 8 August — exactly six months since Kai had his crash. In some ways, it feels like an eternity since the crash because of the intensity of what has been going on but it also feels like time has gone so quickly. Either way, it is good to sit down and reflect on how the past four months in rehabilitation have been.
The last update we made was in April two weeks after Kai had arrived at BIRU (Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit). The first few weeks Kai was there were pretty tough for us emotionally as we adjusted to the new setting. However, it was really good to finally have Kai in a place focussed on his rehabilitation and to be actively starting on his recovery.
It was at this point we were able to understand a little more about Kai’s injury and the impact it has had. As a result of his crash, Kai suffered serious bleeding deep inside the left-hand side of his brain, this created extensive stress and damage in some areas.
Doctors called it a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Specifically, Kai lost the ability to move the right side of his body (leg, arm, face), he was not able to speak; he could not make any sounds at all. As things progressed it became evident Kai could not find the right words and had severe short term memory challenges. Kai also forgot how to do basic things like cleaning his teeth — so has needed to re-learn everything again from zero.
Furthermore, Kai lost 20kg in weight while in Canberra ICU and was so weak he could not sit or even hold up his head.
So there was a big list of things to work on……
Rehabilitation for Kai has been focussed in a number of key areas: Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Diversional Therapy, Psychology and Social Work.
As Kai became stronger his schedule became a lot more intense. Initially, he was only doing a few hours a day and he was so tired he needed to rest at lunchtime for a couple of hours. Over time he began to put on weight and was able to do better with his exercises.
We began to notice improvements in all areas, communication improved a little, he became stronger and he started to gain some movement in his right leg. The physiotherapists focussed their attention on his leg and 14 weeks after the crash Kai was finally able to stand-up for the first time with assistance. This was a major step for us and it gave us hope that he might be able to walk again.
As Kai was doing his best to recover the BMX and broader community were all doing some amazing things to provide him with assistance. Sam and Alise Willoughby started the “77 for 77” initiative which spread like wildfire and was a lot of fun. Sam started by doing 77 bench presses with 77kg, Alise did the same with 77lbs. They then threw out the challenge and suddenly everyone was doing 77 somethings for 77. Simply amazing.
It was around this time that Matt Carmichael from Channel 7 contacted us to do a news story on Kai and if you haven’t seen it, the link is here. Matt did a really nice job of telling Kai’s story.
Kai’s approach to rehabilitation has been the same as his approach to training, he simply wants to ensure everything within his control is done to the best of his ability. The therapists have been super impressed with Kai’s strength and determination:
In the meantime, in typical Kai manner, he would turn to us at the end of the day and say “I’m really not sure if I am doing enough to get better”………
Four months after the crash Kai was finally able to start coming home for weekends, this was another major step for us all. He was really pleased to come back and have some home cooking, it also meant he could have visits from friends who he has not seen for some time. Kai comes home on Friday afternoons and we take him back to the rehabilitation unit on Sunday evenings so he can be ready to start rehabilitation on Monday first thing.
Having Kai at home on the weekends means he is able to work closely again with Saya. A few weeks ago he was able to watch her sprint training and help with the timing. The relationship Kai and Saya have is very special which is not surprising given the amount of time they spent together travelling the world doing BMX. Zwift Japan and First Track Athlete Management Company assisted Saya with a Zwift charity ride for Kai. The event was live-streamed on Instagram and bike riders from all over the world participated. Kai was in our garage while Saya was doing this and was really pleased to be involved.
As a family, we’re supporting Kai in whatever way we can. One of us goes to the rehabilitation unit to assist with his therapies every day. We give him extra exercises, take him out for coffee, help with his stretches and generally make sure he has what he needs. The rehabilitation unit is doing a great job but sometimes things slip through the cracks and we are there to pick these up. As time progresses we’re seeing Kai can do a lot more by himself and we can back-off a little.
Recently Kai has started playing table tennis. As you can imagine this is difficult sitting in a wheelchair and using his left hand but he is improving. We’ve been trying to work on how many times we can get the ball over the net. The first time we were only able to manage 5 times but this soon increased to 30, then we made 102 and this continued to increase. Last week he managed 284 with his Physiotherapist which was amazing and we have now set a target of 500. Kai loves the challenge and it’s great to be able to relax and have some fun.
The support Kai continues to receive is incredible and he tells us it really helps motivate him so please keep this going. Clubs are doing fundraisers, riders and friends are sending him messages on social media. Everywhere we look we can see #KaiFight77 stickers on helmets, car windows, bikes and other places. Last week the mother of a rider who Kai coached wrote and sang an amazing song about the challenges Kai is working through (look out for it on the #KaiFight77 Facebook page soon). We’re all so pleased he has not been forgotten.
Where is he now
Thank you so much to everyone who is with us on this journey.
One step at a time, one moment at a time … let’s go
Kai Sakakibara Family
KaiFight77: BSB 182-182 | Account No 3380821 | Swift Code (for international) MACQAU2SXXX
Road 2 Recovery (10% goes to the Road 2 Recovery foundation which is a good thing) road2recovery.com/