Stem cells offer Tyson new hope
UNTIL a year ago Tyson "Milko" Litfin was living a carefree life - working, hanging out with his mates and riding his motorbike every chance he got.
Then his world came crashing down in a freak incident on a motocross track that left him paralysed from the waist down.
The week before, he finished his apprenticeship and a clothing sponsor had been watching him ride with a view to signing him up.
Now he's in a wheelchair with two rods and eight screws in his spine but with support from family and friends there's no way he'll give up.
Next Thursday, the 21-year-old who grew up in Grandchester is leaving for Germany to try stem cell treatment for his broken back.
On May 6 last year he was riding at Echo Valley motocross track in Toowoomba. He was happy with his first race and had extra motivation to do well in the next race.
"I had a dude watching me that day for a clothing sponsorship and then I pretty much crashed straight off the start. That wasn't the best thing to do I suppose but what can you," he said with a hesitant laugh.
Coming to a jump, he saw a rider he knew was slower so he prepared to jump over him but the rider came down sideways and crashed.
"Once I saw the side of his bike I knew it wasn't going to be fun," he said. "I didn't really know what happened straight away; I crashed and rolled myself over somehow and my legs must have just followed me.
"A guy came up and said: 'Are you all right?' and I said: 'Yeah, it's all good.' I said: 'Where's my bike?' because I was going to get back on.
"Then I realised I could only feel my pants sort of thing; it was really spongy when I squeezed my legs and he said: 'Don't move a thing.'
"That's when it started to hit me that I couldn't feel a thing."
After being stabilised on the track for 45 minutes, he was driven by ambulance to Toowoomba Hospital then airlifted to the PA in Brisbane.
Hours of surgery were followed by agonising weeks in the hospital: "I couldn't let go of the bed without freaking out. You have to start from scratch like you're a baby," he said. "It's a big thing when you're 21."
He's naturally positive but says, "When you're in hospital and you hear a doctor say you could be stuck like this for the rest of your life it hits you because he's seen it all."
He was thrown a ray of hope when his partner Jes's grandfather introduced him to a man who'd had stem cell treatment.
"He walked in on crutches and I was like, 'Wow, that could be me'," he said.
"If it works for him you may as well have a go; you've got nothing else to lose.
"They said it's about $11,000 and I think it's worth it considering what you get out of it."