Updated: Feb 3
Louise has been a Physiotherapy Pilates client at End Physio for the last 13 years and a Self Managed NDIS participant since 2018.
When I first met Louise back in 2009, she asked to see me to discuss whether I could help her, as her previous Pilates studio were not sure how to assist with the modifications required to use Pilates equipment effectively as an amputee.
I was excited to meet Louise and work together to work towards optimal outcomes, achieving her health and fitness goals together.
Louise was functioning well, walking with a prosthesis, with a fairly even gait. Her motivation was to avoid being wheel chair bound and maintain her health and fitness, both physical and mental, to function at her best long term and live her best life.
I asked Louise to explain how Physio Pilates has helped her:
“After graduating University as a Radiographer, at the age of 22, I was travelling with friends and was involved in a traumatic road accident, hit by a car, on a pedestrian crossing in ItaIy.
I sustained multiple injuries including a ruptured spleen, multiple fractures in both legs and my left forearm. After many surgeries and attempts to save my right lower leg I unfortunately became a right lower limb amputee.
After my recovery from surgery, the next period of my life involved hospital-based rehab in the gym to ensure I could return home independently and be able to work.
Once I completed my hospital rehab and returned home I became self-sufficient and endeavoured to find an exercise practice to maintain strength in my weaker limb and body in general. Prior to my accident I had been fit, strong and healthy and enjoyed exercise including lap swimming, tennis, netball and walking.
In the beginning, I discovered mat pilates, which helped me discover movement I enjoyed and I was excited to realise I could adapt this discipline to my body and improve my strength and flexibility, feeling better in my body and mind. These exercises were all performed on the floor and were abdominal and back focused, so I was able to manage with minimal adaptations. However I realised I needed to strengthen my arm and leg muscles and stretch out areas of tightness caused by compensations from the asymmetry developing as a consequence of wearing a prosthesis and the changes in muscle function in both my left arm and right leg, and my balance.
I began my search for a Pilates Physiotherapist, with an interest in helping clients with rehab goals.
I found Emma, initially visiting her studio to chat about whether she could help me.
Emma had worked with multiple amputees in her early career in hospital based rehab, understanding my journey from accident to amputee, recovery post surgery, rehab and discharge home. We discussed the main issues and fears I was dealing with as a young person, with so much of my life ahead of me. A big fear I shared was being wheelchair bound and unable to work, go out socialising and exercise. Emma assessed me thoroughly and put together an exercise plan to address weak muscles, tight joints, muscle imbalance and my balance.
My initial program was on the mat and reformer, privately until my confidence grew. Then I attended in small groups, with other clients on their own rehab journeys.
Emma modified and progressed my program and we workshopped the different exercises to tailor a program especially for me. We had the realisation that a DIY Velcro fastener was ideal for securing my prosthetic foot to the straps so I wasn’t constantly slipping out.
I haven’t looked back!
13 years later, Physio pilates is still my routine. Emma moved her studio from the Northside of Brisbane to West End, on the Southside and I still visit her studio once a week, even though it is 30 minutes drive from my home.
Each week Emma can gauge any areas of physical weakness or tenderness. Due to being an amputee, there is always some asymmetry in my body. Sometimes I have a sore back or hip that needs attention. If there are changes in my body, Emma does a thorough assessment of all muscle groups and my joint mobility. She always tailors my program appropriately for any changes.
Each one hour studio session includes a check in with all my muscle groups to strengthen and stretch, ensuring all exercises are correctly targeted.
I have also been provided with my personal program modified on small equipment, I can use at home, including mats, balls, rollers and therabands, on an app, with videos, written instructions and support, as needed, so I am able to continue with my exercises, when not at the studio.
I am feeling well as I approach 50, almost 30 years on.
I have been able to continue with my career as a radiographer and help support others going through their own trauma after accidents.”
Louise has attended her classes regularly over the last 13 years and has been able to achieve long distance swimming goals, including open water swims in the ocean, quite an intimidating and challenging prospect as a lower limb amputee!
The only times I remember Louise missing a class were on thankfully rare occasions, when she suffered pressure areas and was unable to weight bear in her prosthesis.
Louise has developed a passion for exploring and travel and will often take off on road trips in a camper van, with her partner, to exciting destinations, enjoying 5km bush walks and swimming.
Louise continued to attend the studio during 2020 lock down periods, as she realised how important maintaining her physical and mental health was.
Louise is always positive and amazing to have in every class, as she lifts everyone else in the studio with her optimistic attitude. Louise is an inspiration for many others suffering chronic pain and disabilities.
Louise never complains, always has a smile, encourages those around her and has mastered some very challenging Pilates exercises despite her disabilities, many of which able bodied clients are unable to master.
Thank you Louise for sharing your experiences to help others.
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