Neurological Foundation - Chair of Neurosurgery

Austen Haig - Student on a mission

July 2012

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Austen Haig - Student on a Mission

In a genuinely heart-warming story second year accounting and pharmacology student Austen Haig will run the Dunedin half-marathon in September, less than 18 months after a rugby injury saw him given just a 20%-30% chance of walking again.

Austen, a hooker, was injured playing for the Taieri Colts in mid-April last year, dislocating his C6 vertebrae and crushing his spinal cord in the process. Dunedin orthopaedic surgeon Dr Simon McMahon ensured the vertebrae was realigned before Austen was flown to Christchurch where surgeons there fused the C5 and C6 vertebrae.

After a long, frustrating, painful but ultimately fruitful recovery, Austen is now regaining the full use of his legs and has resumed his studies, swapping chemistry for pharmacology. 

Not yet ready for any sort of contact sport, Austen’s physiotherapist Mark Shirley suggested he run the half-marathon on September 9 and training began. Progress has been speedy with Austen recently completing a 10 kilometre run in 51 minutes, beating Mark home by six minutes.

September 9th also signals Austen’s 21st birthday with the celebrations on hold until the following weekend.

His run will be used to raise funds for the Dunedin neurosurgery campaign, led by his surgeon’s father Brian. Donations can be made through