A Papua New Guinean Woman’s Experience of Australian Community-based Spinal Cord Injury Management, Six Years Post-Injury
Presented to the Australian and New Zealand Spinal Cord Society (ANZSCoS) Annual Scientific Meeting, Auckland, 19-21 November 2014
By Joanne Ede, Occupational Therapist, Spinal Allied Health Service of Spinal Injuries Australia
Within just months of arriving in Brisbane from Papua New Guinea, 27-year-old Ruth achieved a level of independence beyond her expectations.
Her journey is one of reawakening her prospects in all facets of her life, in partnership with Spinal Injuries Australia and the scholarship program of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In PNG, Ruth did not have the benefit of conventional rehabilitation or access to appropriate equipment during the six years since her medically-acquired spinal cord injury (at T2 ASIA B). She was dependent on two carers for every transfer and required assistance to propel her manual wheelchair outdoors. She was dependent on her mother for most daily tasks.
Within one month of arrival, Ruth was prescribed equipment for increased mobility, educated in skin care and transfer safety, and had her first shower since her injury. Through her hard work, acceptance of cultural differences and embracing the opportunities presented to her, she was able to traverse the campus with little assistance and was independent in all transfers.
Although independence and mobility expectations were contrary to those she had when in PNG, Ruth was open to consultations from the multidisciplinary team, including the occupational therapist, physiotherapist, continence nurse and peer support worker from Spinal Injuries Australia’s Spinal Allied Health Service.
Ruth engaged in an intensive physiotherapy programme at My Turn Rehabilitation, complemented by a physical strengthening program at the Sporting Wheelies gym and a weekly standing program.
Ruth admits she will have a forever altered view of her own abilities, her potential and a broader perspective of the entitlements of people with disabilities, than she could ever have realised back home.
“(At home) my world was my room, living room and backyard. I had lost all hope in life .I am very privileged and grateful to be here and enjoying myself and having access to all the things I never knew existed in the past six years.” – Ruth
Whilst Ruth has made continual positive adjustments, she is well aware that her eventual return to PNG after 18 months of study will present a new set of challenges.
Ruth has recently concluded a placement with advocacy group SUFY (Speaking Up for You Inc), and is excited about working with women with disabilities in an advocacy role on her return to PNG.
Knowing what Ruth has been able to adjust to and achieve in just 10 months in Brisbane, we have no doubt that she will be able to build on her achievements, realise her goals and have a fulfilling life that was beyond her imagining just a year ago.
About the Australia Awards Scholarships Program
The Australian Government provides a range of scholarships, educational, research and professional development funding opportunities through the Australia Awards initiative. The Australia Awards aim to promote knowledge, education links and enduring ties between Australia, our neighbours and the global community.
Australia Awards Scholarships, funded by the Australian aid program, provide opportunities for people from selected developing countries to gain knowledge and skills to assist in the development of their home country. Australia Awards Scholarships are available for study in Australia and for citizens of eligible countries. All awards are provided on a competitive basis.
Information on how to apply for Australia Awards Scholarships, including participating countries and eligibility criteria, is available on our website – http://aid.dfat.gov.au/australia-awards/Pages/how-to-apply.aspx