Bouncing back from a traumatic injury can take a lifetime to achieve. Thankfully, technological advancements and forward-thinking individuals have come together to find different ways for patients in recovery to get another lease on life and gain back their mobility. One such program, NeuroMoves, has partnered with the Sporting Wheelies Disabled Association to help impact lives positively by incorporating a more goal-oriented approach to physical therapy.
Sporting Wheelies Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP), Nathan McCarthy talks about physical progress and emotional support, how the current pandemic affects the healing stage, and the issue around accessibility for folks struggling with disability.
HCC: NeuroMoves has helped so many people re-establish their independence and confidence. Helping them back must have been no easy feat. How did you start getting involved into this kind of project? And what keeps you going?
Nathan: I was studying Clinical Exercise Physiology and as a part of my degree I did a placement at Sporting Wheelies which is how I was introduced to the NeuroMoves program and the organisation. I ended up scoring a full-time job at Sporting Wheelies Disabled Association and I’ve now been working at Sporting Wheelies as an Exercise Physiologist for nine years.
What keeps me going in this role, is the progress and the significant impact the NeuroMoves program has on people with disability. I’ve seen someone progress from only being able to wiggle one toe, to walking and making moves in a few months.
The other thing I’m grateful for in this role is the people I work with. They’re the best team ever in my opinion and the client are so thankful and hardworking, it just makes my job that much more enjoyable.
HCC: Helping disabled people through rehabilitation with NeuroMoves’ approach has proven to be very successful, but accessibility remains a considerable issue in Australia. If you could change anything in how the current system works, what would it be?
Nathan: The answer I always come back to is education. Education and awareness about people who have disability and recognizing that there’s things we can do to make them feel included and better their lives.
“I think one of the main things is the legislations around buildings and facilities and ensuring they’re all accessible for people with disability. Australia is getting better in this regard, but I think we can do more to ensure everywhere is accessible and inclusive for everyone.”
From a clinical perspective, I think there needs to be some further work done to improve the way people with disability receive funding from governing bodies. I have clients who desperately need funding for rehabilitation but receive little money.
HCC: It’s known that the rehabilitation process is just as much a mental workout as it is a physical one. How does one truly help someone who’s been through great physical trauma without being pushy, or patronizing?
Nathan: For me, I don’t treat them any differently than I would someone who’s my brother or friend. I always bring things back to their goals, what they want to achieve and how this relates to their health, wellbeing, their mindfulness, and awareness of their capabilities. My approach always comes back to treating them as a person and as a friend.
HCC: With the continuous innovations in the healthcare sector, what are your main hopes when it comes to rehabilitation? What are technological advancements in this field you wish to see in the future?
Nathan: Outside of a cure, there are many things I’d like to see in the future that would improve the rehabilitation process. In particular, with spinal cord injuries, I’d love to see epidural stimulation or Exoskeleton technology go through a process where they’re readily accessible for anyone who needs it and affordable for people with disability. These type of interface systems that re-establish the connection between the brain and spinal receivers would have a significant and positive impact on people’s lives.
HCC: As a physiologist, especially in the face of a pandemic that could bring about physical and mental exhaustion, how do you cope?
Nathan: For me personally, I say it’s a lot about ensuring you can somehow stay connected with family and friends. Making time for conversations with the people I love and having access to be able to talk to them as well during the times of lockdown was very important for my mental health.
“For my clients the impact of lockdowns and the pandemic were especially difficult.”
Upon return to the gym after a lockdown, all my clients said they were so thankful to be back in the gym and all the mental and physical benefits that come from being able to be in the gym and interact with trainers and other people training in the gym is so important to them and us.
For more information on Nathan and how Sporting Wheelies is helping folks regain mobility through the NeuroMoves program, visit the Sporting Wheelies Disabled Association website.
Note: Answers have been edited for style and length
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