“I was 14, doing gymnastics training 15 hours a week, when I ran into the vault horse and fractured my lower back. I changed my mind at the last minute and baulked…
“That was the start of my pain. I was told to come off all exercise and take Nurofen (an anti-inflammatory drug).
“A year later, I was martialling at a swimming carnival and re-fractured my back. The constant pain increased 100 per cent in my back and legs, down to my toes.
“Doctors prescribed Panadeine Forte, then morphine, put me into hospital three times for weeks of bed rest. It was Year 10 and I can’t remember parts of it, I felt so zonked out and missed so much school.
“I couldn’t walk 10 metres, it was so painful, so they put me in a wheelchair and back brace, and I watched my muscle tissue deteriorate. From being a super-fit, outgoing, active, talkative person, I became withdrawn and depressed. Friends at school often didn’t understand, kind of thought I was over-reacting, a hypochondriac. I felt like a charity case and hated that.
“I’d been in the wheelchair for six months when I saw another orthopaedic specialist, who told me the wheelchair, back brace and bed rest were doing me more damage than good. He said as a last resort I could have a fusion operation, but first recommended I do the PMRI ADAPT course.
“I was willing to try anything, but it was daunting. I had to get out of the wheelchair, the back brace, off morphine, and I was worried because it was the total opposite of what everyone else had been prescribing. I felt – hold on – ¬they’re asking me to do exercises here; do these people know what they’re talking about?
“But the education and motivation was so good, and it made sense that my muscle tissue had to be rebuilt, to support my body and injured areas. I matured so much in those three weeks, it helped me understand people’s reactions to me, and helped me rebuild my relationship with my dad.
“I returned to school, finished Year 12, and got into a Bachelor of Science degree at uni. What I want to be is a pilot. I’m very fit again now, and working at a local gym as a personal trainer.
“My pain has reduced by 50 per cent, but I’ve learned to pace myself and live with what I’ve got. I’m so grateful for that. When I think I might have spent years more in that wheelchair, it frightens me, but I fear it’s happening to others.”