A Bay of Plenty man who lost his leg in a farming accident is now helping amputees
Wafra Bay Man Matthew Bryson lost his leg in a “horrific” accident on his family farm after being pulled into a piece of machinery nearly 10 years ago. He says the pain was indescribable, and he remembers “screaming for my life.” His job now includes supporting New Zealand’s amputee community and organizing events for people with disabilities, including the New Zealand Free Run event Rotorua today. Megan Wilson reports.
Matthew Bryson remembers all about the “horrific and shocking accident” that led to his leg being amputated in June 2014.
Bryson, who was 30, was working on his family farm at Edgecombe, near Whakatane, when he was “pulled into a grain auger”.
“I was standing on a security guard and then he pulled me in and I couldn’t get out.
“It tore my foot apart, chewed up my leg.”
Bryson said he didn’t know what happened until he was freed from the machine.
“I propped myself up and then looked down and all I saw was my shin bone.
“There was no foot, and I don’t remember seeing any blood or any muscle… That’s when I panicked.”
Bryson said one of his colleagues found him after hearing his screams.
“I didn’t black out, I was awake, I was alert, I knew exactly what was happening.
“When I was being chewed by the auger, I can’t even describe to anyone how painful it was. It was as if the pain had seeped into my organs, as if I was screaming for my life.”
Bryson was taken to Whakatane Hospital where he spent a week.
“I think they put me to sleep and then I woke up from surgery and was so grateful to be alive.”
Learning to live with a prosthetic leg
Bryson said he got his first prosthetic leg two months after the accident, but it took a long time to get used to it.
The main challenge was “proper socket” while rehabilitation and physical therapy “required a lot of work and effort”.
“There were times when things (were) not going well and I literally just wanted to throw my legs out the window.”
Bryson said he returned to work on the family farm nine months later.
“I could have left…but I said to myself: ‘I need to come back, and if it doesn’t work out, I can hold my head up and say well, at least I tried.’”
Nearly 10 years later, Bryson said he still suffers from phantom pain.
“It feels like there’s a knife being stabbed into the side of my foot, I get a throbbing sensation in my big toe, pins and needles, a sharp pain and it’s very intermittent when I feel it.
“Because my accident was so horrific, honestly, the phantom pain I feel, it’s not on the same level, right, so I endured it.”
Bryson became National Peer Support Coordinator and full-time Events Coordinator at Peke Waihanga Prosthetics Service in December 2019.
Through his work, he met American professional runner and disability advocate Zachary Fridley last year.
A California runner born without a leg arrived in Rotorua for the event
Fridley said Rotorua Daily Post he He was born without his right leg above the knee.
He had his first prosthetic limb fitted at the age of one year and had “30 or 40” fitted as he grew older.
“As I got older, like in high school, the coaches treated me differently in the athletic programs. I had to work two or three times as hard to make the team.”
In 2018, Fridley traveled to India, which he said changed his worldview, as he found a “new appreciation for being alive and having a body.”
“I always wanted to work my way up the corporate ladder and maybe become a CEO one day,” he says.
His journey inspired him to start a non-profit charity and start running.
“Instead of dollar signs, let’s impact lives,” says Fridley.
In 2018, he founded the Mendocino Movement Project, of which Born to Adapt is one of its projects.
Born to Adapt hosts Adaptive Track events in America. Fridley traveled from Mendocino, California to Rotorua for the inaugural event in New Zealand.
Fridley said he traveled the world as a professional runner.
“When I’m in these places, I try to find people like Matthew so we can open up some connections and do some nonprofit work there.”
Free running event for all abilities
Bryson and Fridley organized a free community running event on Saturday, which welcomes disabled and non-disabled athletes of all abilities to run on Rotorua’s redwood trails.
Trails include a wheelchair-accessible loop, a 5K loop, and multiple running options for shorter distances and ability levels.
Registration is free and spaces are limited. More information can be found on the Born to Adapt website.
Megan Wilson He is a health and public news correspondent for Bay a lot of times And Rotorua Daily Post. She has been working as a journalist since 2021.