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'I want to walk': Baby's ultra-sound spurring Masoe's inspiring recovery

Mose Masoe has his three kids beaming down at him from the wall on his hospital room, and a grainy ultra-sound image of a fourth on the way.

A fourth Masoe for he and his wife Carissa is due in July.

And Mose plans to be out of hospital and by her side for the birth.

Six weeks ago the 30-year-old slumped over in a tackle defending Hull KR's line against Wakefield Trinity, a stretcher called and emergency oxygen provided as he wondered why he couldn't feel his legs.

On Monday, Masoe will sit up in bed for the first time since undergoing spinal surgery in mid-January.

Somehow, this incredible human has kept smiling and cracking jokes as feeling and movement returns to one of rugby league's biggest bodies.

Mose Masoe representing Samoa in 2014.
Mose Masoe representing Samoa in 2014. ©NRL Photos

The Recovery

"I want to walk."

Masoe says this from a simple hospital bed in Wakefield's Pinderfield Spinal Injury Centre, his upper body raised a couple of inches on a motorised mattress.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg is by his side, offering support for the former Roosters, Panthers and Dragons enforcer as he conducts his first interview since his life-changing injury.

Cards, balloons, a pair of Hull KR budgie smugglers, drawings and photos of his family surround Masoe.

And it's son Benson (12), daughters Evie-Rose (6) and Marlowe (4), wife Carissa and a new sibling soon to join them, that keep him going.

The ultra-sound is from "two or three weeks ago".

"She finds out next Sunday whether it's a boy or a girl so she's halfway through now," he says.

"For myself, I want to walk. There's a lot of [baby] milestones that are coming up and I want to be there for them.

"They do say it takes 6-18 months for recovery and things like that. But we always like to push it and try and come back early from an injury … That’s the goal: to get out of here before she has the baby."

Apparently, unbelievably, his days move quickly in hospital. Breakfast is followed by physio, a bed bath, lunch, more physio – Monday to Friday.

Masoe greets you with a smile and a handshake. The first movement in his arms came in Leeds, while awaiting spinal surgery.

"I had scans, the prognosis to our medical staff was that it wasn't looking too good and I would need surgery," Masoe says.

"When I woke up in the morning, I had a flicker in my right wrist. So I kept moving it.

"I'm thinking 'move it or lose it'. The next day, I had a little bit of movement in my left hand and slowly over time it has come back."

Masoe is chuffed with his progress. But even for someone so incredibly positive, a cruel twist came still.

Mose Masoe doing the hard yards for Hull KR.
Mose Masoe doing the hard yards for Hull KR. ©photosport.co.nz

"You're lying there and you're thinking 'yes, my legs moving' and it feels like it, but it's not. It's your body tricking you."

A pair of mirrored glasses told the truth and eventually helped get Masoe's legs moving for real.

"They gave me these glasses and I can see my toes with them. I put my glasses on and I can actually see what's going on, that's the biggest help. My visual cues help me … now I've got a bit of movement in my legs."

The Perspective

It's hard to describe just how positive Masoe is about his recovery.

Hull KR teammates that visit him, coach Tony Smith and Greenberg alike are all blown away by his outlook.

Masoe draws his remarkable perspective from close to home, having grown up in Wellington, New Zealand before being scouted by Roosters icon Arthur Beetson at 17.

That’s the goal: to get out of here before she has the baby.

Mose Masoe

"It's just the way I grew up," he explains.

"When I was little my cousin had muscular dystrophy and he's also got another disorder. It means he's bed-ridden.

"I've seen him my whole life, we're a year apart. I have three sisters and I'm the only boy, he's my cousin so we would hang out together.

"So it was kind of normal. He can't talk as well, he can't communicate, he mumbles. But he's just the happiest kid."

The Tackle

Through 63 NRL games, another 114 in Super League and seven Tests for Samoa, Masoe's habit of folding opposition props was famed and feared in equal measure.

"Like an Exocet missile, Mose Masoe," intones one commentator in a YouTube highlights reel of skittled defenders and squashed ball carriers.

The tackle that ended his career – defending his own try-line in a pre-season trial against Wakefield – seems innocuous in comparison.

"First I thought I had just knocked myself out," Masoe says.

"I thought, What an idiot. I was just lying there … When you get knocked out, you regain your consciousness and I was thinking, 'I just knocked myself out'.

"I closed my eyes and then I open my eyes and my arms were flapping around. I was trying to regain them but I couldn’t. I couldn’t feel my legs. My arms were in shock, spasming.

"I thought, 'this is bad'."

Mose Masoe carts it up for Penrith in 2016.
Mose Masoe carts it up for Penrith in 2016. ©NRL Photos

Carissa came into the sheds at Craven Park and reality dawned.

"I said, 'can you pinch me in my leg?' She pinched as hard as she could — but I couldn’t feel it. I said, 'pinch me in my stomach'. I couldn’t feel it there, too.

"That was when for five minutes I had a bit of a moment. But then I realised it could’ve been worse."

The Support

Again, somehow, Masoe finds perspective in those that reach out to him, solace in rugby league rallying around him and his family.

Over $100,000 has been raised through club fundraisers, while Roosters coach Trent Robinson, captain Boyd Cordner and assistant Craig Fitzgibbon attended a Hull KR dinner in Masoe's honour. 

His kids meanwhile love the attention and desserts showered upon them by his nurses.

Carissa has come through a torrid six weeks with family and friends by her side.

And the entire family has been stunned by those that have gone out of their way to support them in spite of their own circumstances.

"I've had a few visitors come in and its overwhelming," Masoe says.

"They've come in and they're worse off than me.

Mose Masoe scores for the Roosters in 2010.
Mose Masoe scores for the Roosters in 2010. ©NRL Photos

"There was this old lady, she was about 90 … Mitch Garbutt had to push her in her wheelchair.

"And she wrote me a card, and she was old school, she wrote a little cheque to put in my fundraiser, she put it in the card.

"She was coming in to visit her husband. She said 'he's upstairs but he's going to die soon'.

"You just don't know what to say to that. With all the bad things that happen to her, she's coming into visit me? That's just so humbling.

"Then there was another fella in the first two weeks that I was here and he has Parkinson's. He lives about a mile and a half away and he walked here.

"It's freezing outside. My partner and my kids got talking to this old man and he was sitting there for 30 minutes because he was so exhausted just from walking.

"But he came here to bring me a book - it was Eddie Jones's book. He couldn't make it from the dining room to here because he was exhausted

"It's incredible, these are complete strangers, doing these things for me."

The RFL's Benevolent Fund has flown Masoe's family from overseas to be by his side, while Hull KR's community trust have established a fundraiser for his recovery. Donations to the cause can be made here.