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Photo ©Keiichi Nitta
#KaiFight77 – Update #4
Day 64 – Easter Sunday
It’s been a tough 9 weeks so far with huge uncertainty and massive challenges for Kai, he has been fighting all the way and is making good progress. We’re eternally grateful for the support Kai has been receiving from friends and people who know him either personally or via social media, it’s a great boost for us in these difficult times.
As a family, we have been focussed on Kai but we have realized that many people feel as we do and are genuinely concerned. Updates have been hard because of the uncertainty around Kai’s condition so they have been vague in places. However, we all know Kai has always been open and honest in his social media posts even during difficult times and we will try to do the same with the updates so everyone will have a better understanding of what is going on. We believe Kai would want you all to be with him on this journey wherever it goes.
A lot has been happening since the last Kai update 2 weeks ago and while there is positive news there is also the gradual understanding of just how serious Kai’s injury is.
The first piece of good news is Kai’s operations have finished; he now has a cool scar on his head which will be covered up as his hair grows back. We were lucky to have everything done before the Coronavirus put a halt on all non-essential surgery.
More exciting news Kai has finally left Canberra hospital after nearly 8 weeks and has moved to BIRU (Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit) in Liverpool. We have been told he can expect to be there for many months. The move is good for several reasons: 1. from a medical perspective he is well enough to leave the hospital; 2. he can start on the rehabilitation process; 3. he is closer to home; and, 4. BIRU is probably one of the safest places he can be during the COVID 19 virus pandemic.
Ten days ago when Kai arrived at BIRU he was able to respond to questions by pointing to ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ written on a piece of paper. Since then he has started to speak a little and doesn’t need the paper anymore which is a great step. He can respond to simple questions but is still very confused. The crash has impacted the part of his brain responsible for speech, so the words are jumbled up and unclear – they just don’t come out how he wants which is frustrating for him. Sometimes he gets annoyed and sometimes he just puts on that patient Kai smile and we move on.
Kai has his phone and scrolls through social media every day, he ‘likes’ posts and tries to send text messages to friends but they are invariably scrambled. So, if you get a text from Kai don’t worry his account has not been hacked, he’s just trying to get in touch with people. Feel free to respond but don’t expect anything to make much sense at the moment.
So, Kai continues to ‘emerge’ from the state of unconsciousness, and we are super excited to start communicating with him. However, as time progresses it becomes more and more evident that this has been a truly serious injury. The doctors tell us Kai has a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) on the left side of his brain which is severely impacting his ability to move the right side of his body and also his ability to speak amongst other things. We have been told that Kai will have some permanent disability.
Rehabilitation has started, Kai has been undergoing several different types of therapy; Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy. He is making solid improvements. It is all extremely tiring; one hour of physiotherapy in the morning will make him tired for the rest of the day, as you can imagine he always puts in 100% so this is to be expected. Next Tuesday we (Yuki, Saya, and Martin) have a meeting with the therapists to define goals for Kai for the next four weeks. It’s really good to finally start on a structured program and we’re really looking forward to being part of Kai’s rehabilitation.
The COVID 19 pandemic brings an extra layer of challenges around Kai’s situation. We have to be super careful he does not get the Coronavirus, luckily he is in a safe place in Liverpool BIRU. As a family, we are limited to one visitor at a time so we rotate our visits so one of us will be there with him every day. We’re usually there most of the day from 10 am until he has finished dinner around 6:30 pm. Ideally, Kai would have more interaction with other people and we’re trying to work out the best way to do this.
Please continue to follow Kai’s progress and keep him in your thoughts, this is going to be long and we really appreciate you all being with us through these challenges.
“One day at a time, one moment at a time. Let’s go.”
Martin, Yuki, Saya
#KaiFight77 — Update #No.3
It is now exactly seven weeks since Kai crashed, and we are relieved to say that he is making progress — tiny steps in the right direction.
A key step for Kai is he now off the respirator and can breathe by himself unassisted. As he is not dependent on the breathing machinery, it has been possible to move him out of the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and into a high care ward. During his time in ICU, Kai had dedicated nurses monitoring him 24/7 to ensure he had the best possible care to get through the very critical stage. It’s said that most people stay in ICU for less than a week, the fact that Kai was there for so long is an indication of the severity of his injury.
We were absolutely amazed by the care and professionalism provided by the Canberra ICU. There is no doubt without their incredible skills, support infrastructure, and genuine ability to look after critically ill patients, Kai would not be here today. Each of the doctors and nurses was genuinely interested in providing an outstanding service for people in their care and we felt that Kai was in good hands while he was there. While we don’t have experience with the ICU in other hospitals, we are sure they all provide a similarly high level of care.
Some other wins for Kai over the past few weeks: 1. Kai was on extremely strong sedation to ensure he would not move; the heavy drugs have been stopped and have cleared out of his system. 2. Most of the connections to machines have now been removed; Kai was connected to a heart monitor, blood pressure monitor, respiratory, brain pressure monitor — these have all gone. 3. Kai has opened his eyes and is looking around.
According to the neurosurgeons, Kai is starting the long process of “emerging” from his coma. People who are emerging from a coma do not just ‘wake up’, but go through a gradual process of regaining consciousness over a long period of time which could take months. This is the start of the recovery process; the doctors are happy with the improvements he has made so far but does remind us that they are not able to predict the future. Every case is different.
During this time, a fantastic group of friends came together and organized an online auction to raise funds for Kai’s recovery. With riders from around the world donating their jerseys, bikes, number plates, and other goodies. For a week of the auctions, social media was filled with awesome people getting behind Kai’s fundraiser, and by the end of it there was over AUD$45,000 raised — we were blown away. Your work and effort are really appreciated. Thank you so much to everyone who was involved.
There was also an amazing fundraiser night organized by our friend Paula Griffiths in NSW and hosted by Ben Hidalgo from Holeshot Fitness a couple of weeks ago. Many people and organizations donated wonderful items to be auctioned off. Lots of people attended, several of whom we have not seen for years making, it a really successful event with a fantastic atmosphere. Ironically, Kai would have loved to be there to meet everyone, but if he could have attended there would have been no need for the event …
Some clubs around Australia held novelty races, other clubs have been selling #KaiFight77 stickers and T-shirts, we even heard of young riders in the UK selling #KaiFight77 stickers at the UK National Series. The support for Kai has been absolutely amazing from the BMX community, the Helensburgh community where we live, and other friends. We are incredibly humbled by the response and the support from people all around the world. And no doubt, it has helped us be strong and keep positive.
Lots of people have taken the time to put together some playlists for Kai, there are Playlists from Australia, UK, France, Japan, and Italy which is amazing. Some of the playlists have plenty of F-bombs, some are clean and all are very much appreciated. Kai is a big music lover so we have been playing your music to him constantly. Please keep those playlists coming …. label them “#KaiFight77 – your name” so we know who created them. If you have not listened to the #KaiFight77 playlists on Spotify then give them a go — there are some great collections there.
We’re still staying in an Airbnb about 10 mins walk from the hospital so we’re able to go and see Kai 2 or 3 times a day without having to worry about traffic, parking, etc. Saya is dedicated to training and her Olympic campaign. From now until Tokyo in 4 months, she understands that decisions made to optimize her training are also in Kai’s best interest. Martin and Yuki are trying to keep busy so please get in touch if you need anything.
People ask how we are doing which is a bit tricky to answer. All parents want to help their children where they can, but in this case, we feel very helpless — this is Kai’s fight and ultimately success (whatever that looks like) will depend on him. We also have to manage the uncertainty of not knowing how things are going to turn out for Kai, we don’t know what recovery looks like and we don’t know how far he will be able to go.
In order to stay positive, we try and focus on what we have gained and not what we have lost. We don’t spend too much time thinking about how close Kai was to his dream of making the Olympics because that doesn’t help. Instead, we need to remind ourselves that we nearly lost him seven weeks ago and he has fought to get to where he is today — there are small improvements every day and we are grateful for all of these. Things are so much better now than they were 42 days ago.
Every day is a different day for Kai. Some days will be good, somedays will be not so good. But what we know is that Kai will keep fighting until the job is done. It is in his nature.
On the 1st January, 2020 Kai made the following post on Instagram
“How far can I go? How far am I willing to go? How far will I go? A new opportunity to redefine who we are and who we want to be – but it’s up to us to take action. We have to take action….A huge year ahead. One day at a time, one moment at a time. Let’s go.”
Little did Kai know how big this year is going to be, his goals have been reset and he will have to redefine who he is. For Kai and for us it is absolutely …
One day at a time, one moment at a time. Let’s go.
Martin, Yuki, Saya
Account No.: 3380821
Swift Code (for international): MACQAU2SXXX
Road 2 Recovery (10% goes to the Road 2 Recovery foundation which is a good thing)
Kai Sakakibara update #2- 03/03/20
Today is day 25.
Kai is still in intensive care under 24-hour monitoring and support. A few weeks ago, doctors were not confident he would survive but he has been fighting hard and doctors are now more optimistic he will make it.
Kai has not woken up yet, so doctors don’t have any real idea of the extent of the injury. However, they do know he had a severe knock to the head and they tell us rehabilitation will take many many months. They also said that Kai is young and extremely fit which will really help.
At the moment Kai is hooked up to several crazy machines that are beeping, flashing, showing numbers, and strange waveforms. He’s being fed intravenously and is on a respirator to help with his breathing. The nurses looking after Kai 24/7 are doing an amazing job and taking great care of him. The immediate goal is to get Kai off the respirator as soon as possible so he can move out of the Intensive Care Unit and onto the next step in the process.
We are staying in an Airbnb about 10 minutes’ walk from the hospital and we visit Kai three or four times a day. Every Monday at 12:00 we have a meeting with the Neurosurgeons, ICU specialists, nurses, and a social worker where we ask the hard questions and they tell us they don’t have the answers. The reality is that it is still too early for a good prognosis, we are told Kai is progressing tiny steps at a time and we really need to be patient. This is going to take a long time and we don’t know what to expect.
Some time ago we were told it would be good to play music for Kai so we took his mobile phone to the hospital and connected it to a Bluetooth speaker. He has a wide selection of music and particularly likes rap, some of the lyrics to the songs in his collection have a fair amount of explicit words beginning with the letter “f” or the word “mother”. The nurses like Kai’s collection, they don’t mind the lyrics and said that Kai has a great taste in music…… However, it would be awesome if people could create some new playlists for #KaiFight77 on Spotify so we can play them for him.
We are still staying positive and taking things day by day. The support and good wishes from everyone have been absolutely amazing and uplifting; we have seen message boards, signed banners, #KaiFight77 stickers on helmets, Kai’s photo on Facebook posts, and much more. It’s very humbling to know how many people are concerned about Kai both from Australia and internationally.
We are on social media and have heard fantastic stories of fund-raising events for Kai, thank you all so very much for this. The funds will be necessary for Kai as he takes the long trip through rehabilitation. We are also in the process of aligning with a wonderful organization called Road 2 Recovery https://road2recovery.com/ this is the organization that helped Sam Willoughby through difficult times over the past few years. Expect to see some communication from R2R in the future.
Kai has always been positive in the face of adversity. The quote below is from an Instagram post he made on 11 October 2019, it seems to be relevant now too.
“Thank you all for your continued support! We’ll keep moving forward”
Martin, Yuki, Saya
This is the official fundraising campaign to support Australian Olympic BMX cycling hopeful Kai Sakakibara, who suffered a major crash on Saturday, February 7th during the opening heat of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in Bathurst, Australia.
The 23-year-old rider underwent surgery on Sunday to relieve pressure on his brain following the serious crash. Sakakibara has been in a coma in Canberra Hospital since the accident, initially doctors were not confident he would survive but he has been fighting hard and doctors are now more optimistic he will make it.
“We understand the road ahead will be a long and difficult one, we are staying positive and taking things day by day,” a statement from Sakakibara’s family said Wednesday. “There isn’t much we can do at this point, but Kai needs your support and your positive energy sent his way.”
Due to his extended stay in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and extensive rehabilitation requirements, Sakakibara’smedical bills are expected to be substantial even after his insurance is applied; therefore, the Road to Recovery Foundation has opened a fundraising campaign to assist with medical bills. If you are able, please donate to Kai’s page here.
As more information on Kai’s recovery becomes available, we will update his R2R page here. We encourage everyone to leave positive messages of support on Kai’s R2R page for him to read. Kai and his family thank you for your generosity and support during this difficult time.