A STAR ON BOTH SIDES OF THE WORLD LEFT IN NEED OF A WORLD OF SUPPORT
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1989, Mose Masoe established himself as a top Rugby League star in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, playing for the Sydney Roosters and Penrith Panthers in Australia’s NRL and winning the Super League with St Helens.
However, in January 2020, during his second spell in the UK with Hull Kingston Rovers, the Samoan international suffered a career-ending and life-changing spinal injury, damaging two vertebrae in his spine at the age of 30.
His C4/C5 incomplete spinal cord injury meant he was diagnosed tetraplegic – one of the worst forms of paralysis - which means he has partial or total loss of use of all four limbs and torso.
Whilst some people experience improvements in symptoms, and others may regain partial or complete control over the affected areas with time, there is currently no way to reverse the damage done.
More than a year after his injury, a few unaided steps is all Mose can manage. Any brief activity leaves him shattered. He has no sensation or dexterity in his hands.
His partner of 10 years, and mother to three of his young children, Carissa, had to become his full-time carer, providing round the clock assistance and care, including helping him to go to the toilet.
“The reality is that Carissa has become my full-time carer, and as a man and someone who has always wanted to look after my family, I have felt guilty at all the pressure that has fallen onto her shoulders by my injury,” Mose said.
“She has had to take the burden of it all. As a man you want to provide for your family. I’d love to be able to do that again, but at present we can’t plan for that to ever be the case again.
“She has to look after the kids and look after me. She hasn’t got three kids now, she’s got four. I know I am facing potentially a lifetime of struggle. I’ll never be normal again.”
Carissa revealed how a doctor’s report acted as a ‘reality check’ for them both.
“It was a big moment for us as it outlined how Mose’s injury will impact on us in later life,” she said.
“It reflected on how his injuries are likely to age him quicker than other people of his age now. He could need to have a wheelchair in later years, and of course I’ll age too and be less capable of looking after him than I am now.
“Being presented with a vision of the future, and how tough that could be, was hard. I’m 33 and Mose is 31. We’d never have looked that far ahead. We’ve had to have honest conversations and accept the worrying reality.
“As his bowels and bladder don’t work I have to help him with that every morning. It is obviously not something any partner wants to have to do, but it’s become part of our life now. It’s not easy. It never will be.”
Despite much-appreciated support from the Rugby League Benevolent Fund and Rugby League Cares already, Mose and his family are facing the prospect of that support and an insurance payout still leaving them potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds short of what they need to live in some form of comfort when they return home to Australia.
Having learned of their plight, people rallied around to support them, resulting in the launch of the Mose Masoe Foundation to raise funds to help relieve the financial and mental hardship of players who suffer spinal injuries affecting their welfare and quality of life. Mose will be the first beneficiary himself, and it is support which has the family overwhelmed.
“Mose is overwhelmed by that support but, typical of him, he often talks about the other people who were in the specialist spinal unit with him, whose lives had also been forever changed and who don’t have that same collective community behind them.
“He hopes this Foundation can be there for them,” Carissa said.
“People came to Mose and said the Foundation can help him, but he wants to help others. That’s makes me so proud.”