by Brata

I played badminton every Saturday before getting my SCI. On Saturday, 6 October 2018, I went to play badminton as usual. The next morning I started feeling muscle pain and burning pain on my left leg. And then lower back pain.

I visited a physio and acupuncturist but they were no help. Then I could not pass urine. I went to see my GP and was given a spine MRI request. Due to burning pain on my leg and lower back pain, I went to Royal Melbourne hospital. I walked limping into the ED at 12am on the following Monday.

Initially I was diagnosed with pinched nerves, and spoke with a neurosurgeon who was ready to operate on me. Then I was told I did not need an operation because I had Transverse Myelitis at T11 and T12, which could be treated with medications. I was given lumbar puncture, angiography, MRI, x-ray and many blood tests but still could not determine the cause.

My condition deteriorated fast. In less than one week I lost my motor and sensory functions for my lower limbs. I was then given plasma exchange and a high dose of steroid treatments.  But my condition didn’t improve.

In mid December 2018 I was transferred to Caulfield Rehab, which is where I met Thelma.

Thelma receiving a Volunteer Award in 2018.

If I am not wrong she was 86 years old. She was a strong, calm woman who always smiled at everyone. She walked to my bed with a walking frame and asked if I was okay to chat.  She then asked about my condition. I thought she was a hospital support worker. At the beginning we talked a lot about my conditions and what happened to me. She listened patiently to my complaints about the hospital.

Having a Chinese background, we respect elderly people/mentors. In general we get wiser when we get older. We look for protection and support when we are unwell. We not only think positive, but also realistic – seeking the support we need.

She visited me almost every week until I was discharged in mid March 2019. We still kept in touch via phone after I left rehab. Thelma didn’t  have a mobile, so I had to call her on the landline. By early 2020 she said she was getting weaker, and had stopped volunteering. I said I would go visit her place once I got hand control modifications done on my car, but sadly she passed away before that happened. 

Thelma’s impact on my recovery is hard to put into words. Thelma was like family, like my big sister. She’d patiently listened to my complaints without judging me, and would offer to speak with the ward manager for me. I would be waiting for her visit every week.

The lived experience that Thelma shared with Brata in rehab completely changed his mindset about his recovery.

The lived experience she shared with me in rehab also had a profound impact on my recovery. Initially I thought the pins and needles, sensation and motor issues with my legs needed to get fixed first, then I could start rehab for standing and walking. But when I asked about her leg’s condition, she said she still felt pins and needles and neuropathic pains in her legs. 

It completely changed my mindset. I did not expect to be able to fully recover, but I tried to aim for walking with aids, like her, along with all the pains. It took a while, but I’ve now achieved that goal. 

Since leaving rehab I’ve wanted to become a volunteer mentor, like Thelma. Because I’m immunocompromised, the covid-19 pandemic got in the way of that. The hospital required three vaccines, and I got too sick after the second vaccine to take another. 

So, when Josh, the Volunteer Coordinator at AQA, called and told me that they don’t require a three dose vaccine certificate anymore, I was so happy and excited. I’ve now completed most of the paperwork, and look forward to starting as a Peer Mentor soon.If you think you might be in a position to volunteer as a Mentor with AQA, our community would love to have you – and we’d love to help make it happen. Please get in touch with Josh at [email protected]

  • March 19, 2024

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