As the sun faded at the end of a beautiful day on the Perisher snow fields, Caitlin and her friends decided to squeeze in one last run.
Caitlin paused to take in the magnificent view as her friends raced down the mountain, but that was the last she can recall of the run. She was later found unconscious and unable to move.
Airlifted to Canberra Hospital, Caitlin spent two and a half months as an inpatient. It was here that she was stabilised before being transferred to the Brain Injury Unit at Royal Rehab in September 2019. At the time, the left side of her body was paralysed and her ability to walk was significantly reduced. A person who was full of energy and embraced all that life had to offer, Caitlin was determined to rise to the challenge and get as much function back as possible.
“I wanted to be able to walk properly, I wanted to be able to run, to eat, and to get back to netball and surfing,” said Caitlin.
Having worked as a physiotherapist, in rehab no less, Caitlin was in a unique position to understand her situation professionally and personally as a patient. Looking back, Caitlin says she considers it a blessing in disguise.
She spent two months at the Brain Injury Unit where she made use of a full multidisciplinary team of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, dietetics, recreational therapy and more. After some time, Caitlin was back into the things she loves – running, playing netball, and swimming. She was soon discharged in November 2019.
“It was incredible to progress in such a short period of time. The care I got at Royal Rehab was just phenomenal. I could not speak highly enough of the team there – it felt like a big family,” says Caitlin.
As a physiotherapist, Caitlin learnt so much in more ways than one. “What stood out about Royal Rehab’s Brain Injury Unit, was just how kind and understanding the staff were. What was important for me was clearly important to them as I worked towards my goals,” said Caitlin.
Today, Caitlin is back at work, using her personal experience in her daily practice. She even shares her story with her own patients to further support them in their progress. “My experience has really made a difference to how I treat people,” said Caitlin.
“My advice to clients is to just work hard and put your head down. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”– Caitlin, client
As a self-proclaimed over-achiever, Caitlin has also used her unique experience to help other clinicians. She has spoken at university lectures, hosted some talks with the Stroke Foundation and has recently launched a book, 16 in Sacramento, with plans to donate the proceeds to Royal Rehab among other organisations.
“I want to use my experience to help make this information available for everyone. If I can help one person, it will all be worth it,” said Caitlin.
“A big thank you to the whole team at Royal Rehab. During a time where there were a lot of unknowns, it was such a comfort to have kind and understanding people around me,” said Caitlin.
For more information on the Brain Injury Unit at Royal Rehab, click here or contact us on (02) 9808 9222.