WELCOME HOME: Christian Hermann has returned to class at The Cathedral College.
WELCOME HOME: Christian Hermann has returned to class at The Cathedral College. Allan Reinikka ROK240818achristi

Footy dreams drive inspiring recovery from rare disease

A SIMPLE photo of a ventilator is one of Kathryn Cordwell's most precious possessions.

It was taken the day she watched her son, by now completely paralysed, blink out the word 'goodbye' because he believed he would die.

The grey shadows show the moments 13-year-old Christian Hermann started trying to breath on his own.

Since then the footy-mad teenager has made remarkable progress as he aims to achieve one simple goal: To run back on the field in the new season.

 

Christian Hermann: Christian Hermann
Christian Hermann: Christian Hermann

Known to his team-mates as 'The Hermannator', Christian was playing at the CQ Capras trials in Blackwater when he left the field with tingling and numbness in his legs.

It's the second time in his life Christian has been diagnosed with the devastating nerve condition Guillain-Barre syndrome.

 

The heart monitor showing the moments Christian Hermann started trying to breathe by himself (shown in grey) after being paralysed by Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
The ventilator showing the moments Christian Hermann started trying to breathe by himself (shown in grey). Kathryn Cordwell

The condition attacks part of the peripheral nervous system and can be life-threatening when muscles are affected so badly a person can be paralysed and stop breathing.

However, most people are able to recover from even the more severe cases.

It's hard to believe Christian was just months ago struggling to move in a Brisbane hospital bed when he is now defying all medical expectations.

 

Christian Hermann in the Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane with rare nerve disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Christian Hermann in the Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane with rare nerve disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Kathryn Cordwell

Christian can now do running drills in physio and cycles about 4km each day with his younger sister.

Kathryn has been amazed by her son's positive attitude and drive to lace up his footy boots again to achieve his lifelong goal of becoming a professional sports player.

"He says when he's a famous footballer he will go around the wards and say to kids 'I've been here and it will get better'," Kathryn said.

Christian told The Morning Bulletin he had been overwhelmed by the support of his school, footy team-mates and the wider community.

His rehabilitation has been painful, but Christian said the desire to get back to the sport he loves has helped him push through every physical and mental barrier.

Christian even had a video message from his favourite league player, Cowboys second-rower Jason Taumalolo, wishing him a speedy recovery.

The family said they couldn't have made it through the last few months without the support of the community.

 

Christian Hermann.
Christian Hermann. Allan Reinikka ROK240818achristi

Kathryn said special thanks had to go to Rockhampton Detective Senior Sergeant Luke Peachey who, through his role with Brothers Rugby League, had been a tower of strength.

As with each step of his rehabilitation so far, Christian will keep taking each day as it comes.

Reflecting on the past months has been difficult for Kathryn, who wrote the following letter about the family's experience.

My toughest time through the this whole journey was when my son said goodbye because he thought he was going to die.

He was intubated and had to spell out what he was saying letter by letter, by blinking when I pointed to the right one on the alphabet chart.

By the time he got to the 'E' there was a pain in the pit of my stomach.

 

He told his dad he loved him then looked at me with tears rolling down his face.

He looked so scared and defeated. I held his hand a bit tighter and nodded, I said " I know mate, but, you promised me you wouldn't quit and you promised me you would keep fighting". He shut his eyes for a few seconds then opened them and look straight at me and did the tiniest nod.

The next day, he started to try to breathe. He never broke his promise to me and every day and fought hard and pushed through what I can only imagine was unbearable pain and mountains of fear.

He is my hero. I am so proud of him. And even more proud that he is wanting to share his story with other people.

He is a champion and an inspiration. I begged god that day, I remember it clearly.

I sat in the chapel at the hospital and cried and cried. I kept saying "please don't take my little boy".

The man upstairs definitely has a job for Christian and I'm sure he will do us all proud.

From the bottom of my heart; to everyone who donated, wrote messages and kept Christian in their prayers, we thank you.

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