Susan Goes for Gold

29 Sep 2022

Participant Stories

Susan Goes for Gold

The Olympics and Paralympics this month in Tokyo has been a welcomed distraction during lockdowns and inspired many to move off the couch and exercise more.

For Susan, her approach to exercise is a non-stop Olympic event, sometimes up to five hours a day. If she doesn’t do it, it’s disastrous for her functionality and quality of life.

Susan found a proactive approach to her own wellbeing vital to making the best use of the NDIS and support services available.

“Standard medical doesn’t work for me, I don’t fix the box. I have two congenital conditions and health professionals were able to help me only to a certain point. It’s so serious they threw me in the too hard basket. But if you fall into a hole emotionally it makes it very difficult to do the work that is required to maintain your health.”

Impact of your environment

Susan experienced that years of doing exercise in the clinical physiotherapy and hospital environment can be very difficult and uninspiring. She recalls periods of plateau bringing no improvements for six months or more. But she recommends trying to find some fun in it. For her, it was the social connections she made there.

Go for gold

Susan’s advice is to keep your eye on the goal and try to mix in something you are passionate about. “That helps you keep going.”

For Susan, that’s the natural environment and walking on sand, which is very unstable and continually shifting under your feet. Which you might find surprising given Susan has progressed from a time when dislocation of her unstable joints was extreme, 60 - 100 times a day.

“I had to get to that goal of walking on the beach gradually, it took years. It’s just about continuing and trying to find some fun, and the natural environment is something I’m passionate about.”

Holistic approach

Susan’s top tip for progress is finding small improvements and finding some element of joy in it. Also finding the right people and having that ‘keep going!’ mentality.

Accepting help from the right people

Prior to linking with Pathways to Care Susan was offered and even pressured to accept a wheelchair but refused to accept it. “I fought not to go into a wheelchair because I wanted a good outcome. I wanted to move my body and get stronger. A wheelchair would only exacerbate the problem for me. The system can sometimes fail to see the individual and thankfully, Pathways to Care have been very individual-focused.”

By sheer luck and having an open mind to various methods, Susan met ex-Socceroos Captain Ange Goutzioulis who was a professional soccer player for 20 years. Ange offered to help her for no fee.

“He has incredibly high kinesthetic intelligence. It's a form of inborn intellect. He hasn't had university training in it. It's just one of his 'talents' and he has a huge amount of professional-level experience.

Ange is a very tough trainer, but because of his professional experience he paced me very well and I went through that without any exacerbations of injury. He was able to individualise my programme to suit my needs.”

Susan reflects that medical and physio professionals can tend to think people fit into the same box.

“I knew I could do better than the medical profession were telling me, and I checked with the medical team and they said go for it.”