KAMLOOPS - Within six days, Evan Mutrie went from being a football player for the Kamloops Broncos to being on life support, paralyzed from the neck down after contracting a rare virus.
Mutrie, 20, has an obscure, paralytic form of Enterovirus D68 but scientific data on the strain is limited, leaving doctors with many questions about his prognosis.
The defensive back was in full gear, ready to play against the Langley Rams in B.C. Football Conference action on Aug. 31.
Before the game, he noticed a sensation in his right hand. He couldn’t clench his fist, and was sidelined.
The next day, his father, Peter Mutrie, received an alarming call from his son, who couldn't move his right arm.
Mutrie was admitted to hospital and was on life support five days later, paralyzed from the neck down, breathing with the help of a machine.
“We’ve got a young guy who was a vibrant, physical, go-for-it kind of guy," his father said. "Now, he expressed to me, like, ‘Who am I? This is not who I am.'"
“He doesn’t even know how to see himself today, next month or next year.”
Mutrie no longer has the virus, but the damage has been done, with inflammation in the spinal-cord and neck area having led to paralysis.
Full recovery is not out of the question, though neither is quadriplegia.
Doctors don’t know how he contracted the virus.
“He had his 20th birthday just the other day," said Peter Mutrie, who dropped out of the race for the local federal Liberal nomination in September to care for his son.
Mutrie was hospitalized in Vancouver on Sept. 5 and communicated by blinking his eyes — two for yes, one for no — while various tests were performed.
Peter Mutrie said the next three weeks were excruciatingly tough on the family as they waited for a diagnosis.
Eventually, a saliva sample proved positive for Enterovirus D68.
Doctors also performed a tracheotomy and he is now able to speak.
“His courage has always been amazing, but I would have to say that emotionally, spiritually and mentally, he’s struggling to maintain his sense of optimism,” Mutrie's father said.
Mutrie was moved back to a hospital in Kamloops at the end of September and there were glimmers of hope during a five-week stay, with traces of movement in his extremities.'
He was then transferred back to Vancouver and is at the G.F. Strong Centre, which specializes in spinal-cord rehabilitation.
“We’re all still reeling from it,” said Duncan Olthuis, who coached the Broncos last season.
“It’s tough to wrap your head around what happened.”
There has been an outpouring of support for the Mutrie family, as the community has rallied together to raise more than $12,000 in 14 days.
A fundraising dinner will be held in Kamloops on Dec. 14.
Mutrie's family — his parents and two siblings — is walking the fine line of being grateful for all the well wishes, but also in need of privacy.
"I want to protect his sense of dignity and self-worth and pride. All of that needs to remain intact,” his father said.
“We all have self-images that are developed over time that work for us. If that was taken away, it’s hard to imagine what would be left. I’m feeling, as a father, quite protective of him.”
Peter Mutrie and his wife Nancy take turns driving to Vancouver to be with their son. Three months into their ordeal, they are hoping for answers at a meeting with doctors scheduled for later this week.