Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Claudia & Nigel's American Experience

Nigel and I (Walk On Sydney's newest recruits) arrived in Carlsbad, California on Saturday 20th November........a day they had 10% of their annual rainfall! This made learning to drive on the other side of the road (and car!) a challenge, but a manageable one.
Carlsbad is a beach town that is fairly small, but with lovely locals, and awesome sunsets.We spent the first weekend getting into the swing of American life by drinking coffee, eating food, drinking coffee, shopping and drinking coffee.

We started at Project Walk on Monday 22nd November and were introduced to Brian Malkinson (Institute Education Coordinator) who made us feel right at home. Mica Gaila was appointed our lead trainer and we immediately hit it off with her, although its hard to imagine anyone not getting along with her!The trainers at Project Walk are all very welcoming, knowledgeable and concise in their explanations of tasks.

The first few days were mainly spent observing the trainers and a number of different clients who all had injuries ranging from C3 - L5. Even though we are 1000's of miles from home, we don't feel too homesick as there are currently 5 Australian clients with friends and families in tow. The Australian contingent is certainly not in the minority!

After only 3 days at Project Walk, the Thanksgiving long weekend was upon us so we took the opportunity to explore a number of parts of California from Orange County to San Diego. We also made a sizable contribution to the American economy on Black Friday by shopping from 430am until late afternoon! Queueing at 400am outside a sports store was interesting as the temperature was only just above freezing, and made us question whether those Nike's were really worth the wait!

Week 2 at Project Walk involved a few lectures and two exams on different topics associated to the Dardzinski Method. We also commenced more hands on client time in this second week where we were able to start to put our training into practice.

Nigel and I experienced some amazing moments in week 2, such as a C5 injured lady walking with two sticks; a C3 injured man taking steps; a previously very flaccid L1 injured man now out of his chair and walking with a walker; numerous other clients experiencing new sensations and movements traditionally thought to be unachievable post injury and which are now not only improving quality of life but life expectancy!!

We took the opportunity over our 3rd weekend to experience one of California's most famous attractions - Disneyland!! We had a great day enjoying a number of unbelievable rides, seeing an amazing Christmas parade through the main street as well as soaking up the atmosphere that is Disneyland! - The night was particularly extraordinary to see Disneyland all lit up and decked out for Christmas!

Week 3 so far has seen us treating more clients, getting more creative with workouts and having the pleasure of observing the founder, Ted Dardzinski, treating a number of clients. His ears are probably sore now from the amount of questions we bombarded him with today!

Thanks Ted!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rod Watson - Walk On Client

Rod Watson's speech at the Launch of Walk On Sydney.

Rod giving his speech at the launch.
In October 2008 my life changed forever. I was on my buck’s night due to be married to in 4 weeks. I was riding a dirt bike on my boy’s weekend and I slid over a concealed road and broke my back. I was airlifted to the Alfred hospital in Melbourne where I discovered I had a complete T 12 injury, meaning I have no function below the waist. Needless to say our wedding was cancelled and my future was thrown in chaos. I spent five months in the Austin Hospital and Royal Talbot rehabilitation where at 27 I was told to get used to my chair and prepare for a life as a paraplegic.

Spinal cord injury at times has made me feel alone, depressed and helpless, it robbed me not only of the ability to walk but also the use of many basic functions, taking my dignity and pride. It is a daily struggle to complete even the smallest of tasks and puts a lot of pressure on family and friends, especially of the care giver. Previous to my accident I prided myself on being a good provider I was a strong and capable fitter and turner and welder. I relied on my physical strength not only for my work but also in my recreational activities.

I have always been very active I am not the sort of person to sit around feeling sorry for myself for long. I decided I did not want to except life in a chair and so my recovery and new life began. In March 2009 Danielle and I finally got married and were lucky enough this year after IVF to have a baby. I decided to get out there and give things a go, I tried reflexology, acupuncture, electric stimulation and swimming, as well as a variety of homemade rehabilitation equipment. At the start of 2010 I travelled to Germany to undergo stem cell treatment at the xcell centre in Cologne. Thousands of dollars later I gained some feeling down the sides of my legs and some reflexes, but little else. I needed to do something pro active to try and engage my brain and legs.

We spent a lot of time researching spinal cord injury and stumbled across Project walk in USA and its Australian Partner Walk On in Brisbane. I joined the waiting list in August 2009 and eagerly awaited my turn. When Walk On opened its Sydney facility I was excited to be among one of the first to be part of the home training program. So as a family we made the trip to Sydney from Melbourne.Walk On for me can be described in one word “POSATIVE” . When you have a Spinal Cord injury you hear a lot of no’s from the doctors and physios... “No you can’t” “no you won’t” even “no there is no point” At walk On you never hear the word “no”, the trainers made me feel that anything is possible and encouraged me to trust my body again. They listened and they understood my injury using what function I had to its full potential. I left Sydney feeling both mentally and physically rejuvenated.

I have since been following the program at home with Danielle and feel that I have gained more strength, coordination, core stability and mentally I feel more positive about my future. We are now hoping to help raise the funds needed to bring Walk On to Melbourne so that we can be part of an in house program and continue my rehabilitation closer to home. I believe this program can benefit all SCI patients in some way, both mentally and physically. I know it is a long road but my hope is not only to walk again but to encourage others to be pro active with their rehabilitation. Thank you for your time.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce's speech at Walk On Sydney Launch

Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce giving her speech at the Walk On launch




Ladies and Gentlemen,

I feel privileged to join you here today for the New South Wales launch of your exceptional Walk On program and to be here as the Patron of Spinal Cord Injuries Australia and to let you know how enormously important your work is within the Australian community:

to the more than 400 Australians each year who suffer spinal cord injury and to the families and loved ones who support and care for them. What really strikes me about the Walk On program what impresses and inspires me is its overwhelming and uplifting positivity.

There is no way for me to know the distress and devastation that spinal cord injury occasions to its sufferers men and women going about their daily lives many, many of them at the prime of their health and fitness, their ambition and their optimism about where their relationships, their work and their dreams might take them.

Indiscriminately, instantly, and without notice, their lives are tossed upon foreign tracks. And yet at every point they are the same people. The Walk On program isn't about learning how to manage a crippling injury, how to accept a lifelong disability it's about looking and literally moving beyond injury and disability to reclaim the life you want to lead.

The Governor-General meeting with Board Director David Prast

It's a program that's grounded in rigorous scientific and clinical research and real-life, tangible progress. There are clear and guided steps to get you back on your feet. Practitioners are trained to help you, encourage you, teach you at every point along the way. You learn to trust yourself and your body as you once did. As you work your way though each phase of the exercise for recovery program your nervous system is reactivated nerve fibres begin to regrow and make new connections between the brain and the body gradually, motor power and strength are regained. An extraordinary process of rehabilitation that focuses on the body, but in doing so re-engages confidence, self esteem and hope.

SCIA's introduction of the Walk On program, here in partnership with the University of Sydney integrated with the university's on-site education program for postgraduate exercise specialists from the Faculty of Health Sciences and delivered as a community-based service effectively pulls together all the threads that will ensure its long term sustainability and success. Proven results life-affirming outcomes individuals placed at the centre of care and decision making collaboration with families and the community and a commitment to ongoing research and the pursuit of world-class treatments.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is an outstanding and vital initiative deserving our highest praise and support. I am really delighted now to officially launch the Walk On program and to acknowledge the establishment of the first Spinal Cord Injuries Australia and Spinal Cure Australia PhD Scholarship tenable in 2011 for the proper investigation of the physical, social and economic impacts of the program on quality of life and participation.

On behalf of all Australians, my congratulations to the partners - Spinal Cord Injuries Australia, Spinal Cure Australia and the University of Sydney the exercise specialists the student clinicians and our Walk On aspirants and graduates. I hope your steps from here are big and bold and rewarding.

Friends, thank you.

The Governor-General with WO Therapist Kierre & client Angel

Walk On Sydney Launch - 3rd Nov 2010

Wednesday, 3rd November was a beautiful day to celebrate an exciting milestone in the history of Walk On. The Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce AC, officially launched the first NSW Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) 'Walk On' Program in a ceremony held at the University of Sydney, Lidcombe where Walk On Sydney is based.

The Walk On program, which focuses on maximising functional recovery through exercise, is delivered by therapists at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Sciences under a unique partnership arrangement which embeds community-based service delivery into teaching and research.

Dean of Health Sciences, Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn said: "The partnership allows us to offer this vital service to the community while also introducing our students to cutting-edge exercise rehabilitation techniques and research.

NSW Walk On Therapist Kierre Ireland said clients have already travelled from as far as Western Australia and New Zealand to take part in the program. "This isn't surprising as intensive exercise through the Walk On program provides an unprecedented opportunity for continued functional improvement post hospital rehabilitation," she said.

"Our clients range from young children to older adults and while not all of them will walk again, recovering the slightest movements can drastically improve the quality of life and independence of these individuals and have huge benefits for families."

Rod Watson is one such client. Whilst on his buck's afternoon with his mates, five weeks out from his wedding, Rod came off his trail bike and suffered a T12 complete spinal injury. He spent five months in hospital where he was taught everything he needed to know about living and accepting his future in a wheelchair. This was one of the hardest times for Rod who before his accident was a welder by trade and self confessed sport enthusiast, racing motorcycles and drag cars.
Rod heard about Walk On in the hospital where he was doing rehab. He met a couple of people who had been and he knew he wanted to be a part of it. Earlier this year he attended Walk On for a 10 day program and was amazed by the results. "For a paralysed person to improve in just 10 days, it was unbelievable," he said.

"I gained more strength, more coordination and more core stability and just felt more mentally positive about my future after Walk On. It gave me something to look forward to, it gave me hope."

Speeches from The Governor-General, and clients Rod Watson and Tony Glashoff will be posted shortly.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Truly Inspiring Morning - Gold medal standout! Sydney Running Festival

A blog written by our volunteer videographer, Michelle D'Souza of three60degreemedia

Angel, at just 20 years of age, is such an inspiration. In 2009, Angel suffered a Spinal Cord Stroke that made her an incomplete quadraplegic. She did not think she would walk or run again. She then came across Spinal Cord Injuries Australia's Walk On program and with a lot of hard work and dedication from the trainers and herself, today she celebrated her efforts by victoriously completing the 4km Fun Run.

What an inspiring way to start a Sunday morning! Three60 Degree Media volunteered to document this special young woman's journey today and we were so honoured to do this.The Sydney Running Festival celebrated 10 years today (19 Sept 2010) - what a glorious morning to walk on the Sydney Harbour Bridge with this amazing young woman, Angel.

A short clip of the film will be uploaded on this blog in a few weeks. Until then, here is Angel's Video-log ( or watch her at
Thanks to Michelle for helping capture Angel's momentus day at the Sydney Running Festival.
You can follow Michelle's blog at

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Winning Wheelers Ambassador Angel - Week 3 Vlog for the Sydney Running Festival

Meet Angel's lovely Mum! She'll be joining the Winning Wheelers and Angel at the Sydney Running Festival. Good onya Mum!

In this weeks vlog, Angel shows us a little more of her work at Walk On and using Mirror Therapy. Interesting stuff!
If you would like to support Angel and donate to her run, please visit or donate to the Winning Wheelers team

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ambassador Angel Vlog's week 2 of training for the Winning Wheelers

This week Angel chats a little more about what she does at Walk On and her training for the Sydney Running Festival.

If you would like to support Angel and donate to her run, please visit or donate to the Winning Wheelers team

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Winning Wheelers Ambassador Angel's first Video Blog

Winning Wheelers Ambassador and Walk On client Angel gives her very first Video Blog on her training for the Sydney Running Festival's 4km Family Fun Run.

If you would like to sponsor Angel or the Winning Wheelers team, click here or use the links below.

SCIA's Running Festival with the Winning Wheelers

Written by Rebecca Konstatzky, Fundraising Coordinator and Winning Wheelers Team Captain.

I have never been much of a runner. At school whenever we had a cross country, I would take the short cuts when no one was looking and still end up near the end of the pack. So when my boss and Partnerships Manager, Leila, came to me and said “Bec, I want you to do the City 2 Surf and get people to do it with you” I thought she was joking. Surely she didn’t really expect me to run in the world’s largest fun run. To me, there was nothing fun about it. But slowly information was popping up from every corner of the country of different fun runs, marathons and half marathons. It seemed that there was a fever taking a hold of Australia; and it was something that I had to embrace.

Together with a few partners and programs, we soon developed our very own ‘SCIA Running Season’. I really thought about whom I worked for and the people I was representing, and suddenly it seemed silly to resist. I mean, I had so many inspiring people who faced so many more challenges that I did and yet they still seemed to evolve and strive for something more. I thought about the fundraising component and really, if I was going to be the team captain, then I really needed to set a good example and put my money where my mouth is.

The Winning Wheelers Team was born and soon we’d have people from all over the eastern seaboard running, walking and wheeling their way through 4 different events – Sutherland 2 Surf, City 2 Surf, Bridge to Brisbane and the Sydney Running Festival.
I am lucky enough to train with a personal trainer and when I told him my goal, “to survive these 4 running events” he looked shocked. When I began training with him, the very first thing I said to him was “I don’t run!” That look of shock seemed to follow me, along with scoffs, laughter and looks of worry from loved ones that thought I had gone mad (thanks for the support guys!). I thought about our Walk On clients, one in particular, Nathan (who is a quadriplegic) and the sheer determination to change what people, particularly the medical profession) expected of him. He got up out of his wheelchair, walked the last 25 metres of the Bridge to Brisbane to cross the finish line. Needless to say I was almost in tears when I saw his video on YouTube! If he can do it, so can I.

I started taking my training seriously and pushing myself beyond what I ever thought I could. I was further fuelled by the support that I got from my family. They sponsored me $400 to do the Sutherland 2 Surf and the City 2 Surf (Thanks Mum and Dad!). At first I thought, “bugger, now I really have to do it”. But what I discovered to my shock and horror was that I actually started to like it.
Never having had run (or walked for that matter) any of the distances that these events were, I knew my body was in for a bit of a shock. I don’t think I have ever hurt as much as I did when I completed the City 2 Surf. But what feeling overwhelmed that feeling of pain was PRIDE! I had accomplished something I never thought I could. I thought to myself, ‘this is what it must be like when our Walk On clients stand unaided for the first time, or take those first steps to independence’. I knew what I was doing was important; raising funds for Walk On, Peer Support, Accommodation, Emergency Services, Advocacy and so many more programs and services that SCIA provides... that IS important.

During this running season, I have been inspired time and time again. Shannon our SUPERSTAR Peer Support Officer who wheeled his way over the finish line at the Sutherland to Surf to beat all the odds, Jenny from our Walk On program in Brisbane who will be get up out of her wheelchair and walk the last leg to cross the finish line at the Bridge to Brisbane, and now Angel, another amazing Walk On client from Sydney who will be running... yes you read right, RUNNING 4kms at the Sydney Running Festival. These people along with so many unsung heroes should be an inspiration to all of us, like me who have the ability to do so much more with the body they have been given.
When standing at the start line of our first event, the Sutherland to Surf, I thought to myself “this is going to be a looooooong season!” But now, I am sad that it is slowly coming to an end.

To all those who participated, sponsored and encouraged on the sidelines, we, Spinal Cord Injuries Australia would like to say a big THANK YOU! We hope that you can join us at the next event nearest you!

Enjoying a post run Massage at the Sutheland 2 Surf

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Project Walk experience comes to an end

The Walk On program, which uses the Dardzinski methodology used in Project Walk in the USA is still in infancy here in Australia. With approaximately 300 hundred new spinal cord injuries every year, there is certainly enough people we could help using exercise based recovery techniques. The program being so young in Australia, we unfortunately lack the number of trained professionals to be able to cater to the nearly 10,000 people who live with a spinal cord injury. There is so much that still needs to be acheived. More venues, more trainers... all which through the help of our supporters we will reach in the coming years. But until that day arrives, families often have to travel abroad to get the help they need now. As we know with spinal cord injuries, time is of the essence!

One such family travelled to Project Walk to help their daughter Rhiannon, hoping to acheive her goal of walking again. Outside of the positive results she acheived through hard work, determination and the skill of her trainers, they discovered friendship and inspiration in a place they never dreamt they would. The following blog is from Rhiannon's mother, Sharyn. It reflects on their time at Project Walk as their time draws to an end. We are so very happy that they had a positive and uplifting experience at Project Walk and hope when they arrive back in Australia and join Walk On that, that experience continues.

By Sharyn Bradford
As I reflect from a mother's point of view and a friend too many with Spinal Cord Injury, the past 8 weeks here at Project Walk and in this little place called Carlsbad, there are so many things to share with you. So I will start from our arrival. I remember feeling so sad having to leave my husband, friends and my work but I knew it was what had to do for my daughter, if we wanted the best possible outcome which was for her to "Walk Again".

The plane trip was daunting for me cause the last plane ride before this was my plane trip back from Bali after the accident, I cannot even begin to tell you have anxious I was, but we made it safe and sound and thanks to the great staff on our V Australia flight we were upgraded to 1st Class!

We arrived at San Diego airport at around 10.30pm and waited for our shuttle to take us to our hotel, well what a ride that was! From San Diego Airport to Carlsbad is about 45min's, I am sure the guy that picked us up was a racing car driver, the freeway speed limit is 65miles per hour, this guy was driving at about 85-90mph and Rhiannon was sitting in her wheelchair bouncing around like a rag doll. I had to ask the driver to take it a little easier due to Rhiannon's injury. When we arrived at our hotel, he told me that if I thought he drove fast in the shuttle bus; I should see him drive in his own thank you, Rhiannon and I just laughed we were exhausted, checked into our room to discover the room did not have a roll-in shower as requested but due to being exhausted we would manage. We only had one day to recover from our Jet Lag before Rhiannon was to commence "Project Walk" so sleeping the next day is all we did.

Carlsbad is like a little beach Village, very wheelchair accessible as there are alot of elderly retired people and from what I see is a very popular holiday destination. We started our first day at Project Walk on 11th May nice and early 8.00am, that was hard, Rhiannon and I had to be up around 5.30am to get there in time as we had no idea where it was, we arranged a Taxi to pick us up at 7.30am. I had met the Taxi driver the day before as I went looking for Aussie Power Adaptors whilst Rhiannon was sleeping, he was great taking me everywhere to find the adaptors, but we couldn't get them anywhere. Anyway this Taxi Driver was driving one of his fleet which was a pick up truck, I explained to him that when he picked Rhiannon and I up the next morning he would have to bring his sedan as Rhiannon wouldn't be able to step up into this Gigantic truck, he replied; "No problems". Well the Taxi driver arrived at 7.30am in his pick up truck! He said don't worry Sharyn I will just lift her in, I thought Omg this is going to be great! He did get her in with my help. The trip from our hotel to Project Walk was only 15mins, when we arrived the taxi driver dropped Rhiannon trying to get her out of the truck into her wheelchair, luckly she didn't get hurt, not a great start to the day, I felt sick knowing she had to commence on this note, but she was a trooper and just said; Mum I'm o.k.! Needless to say that taxi driver didn't get another opportunity to transport us anywhere! We walked in to Project Walk and met Rhiannon's trainers, Kimber, Kimmy & David, they were all excited about meeting Rhiannon and as Kimber did her evaluation, I knew we had made the right decision to be here. I honestly want to bring these people home, they are warm, caring and determined, highly motivated and what special people to deal with the emotions of the clients that come in every day with this injury. This was a very emotional time for me, they were so positive and I know they set their own little personal goals for Rhiannon and they believe she will "Walk again" as we have done from the day the Medical Guru's told us "NO"!

The first day of Project Walk was fantastic, the trainers worked out what Rhiannon could and couldn't do, we met Gigi, Tricia & Kathy from Administration and even these girls are beautiful, given the fact I had come over on my own, had no idea where I was going to anywhere, these girls made me feel comfortable and were full of information to make our transition to America more pleasant!

We had a few ups and downs in the first weeks, we had to move from our hotel, due to me dropping Rhiannon trying to get her out of the makeshift bath/shower we had in our room, Rhiannon got very ill with a stomach bug that was going around, then a UTI and I was running all over town getting her medications for everything as she did not want to see a doctor, mind you I was getting Taxi's everywhere and it was costing a fortune. After the first week I decided I had brave it and hire a car, I was petrified, they drive like maniacs over here and very fast, but I couldn't cope knowing that if I had to take Rhiannon to the Emergency Room in a hurry, the taxi wouldn't get here fast enough. We had a great relationship with our new Taxi Driver Sean, he was so caring and a great guy, he would transfer Rhiannon into the cab, he knew how to disasemble & asemble Rhiannons chair, we met his beautiful girlfriend Miranda as we dropped her off at work on the way to Project Walk, it really was great having Sean around I was sad when I hired the car, cause he was like our Body Guard and was full of useful info on the area.

Day 1. with the hire car was frightening, I really had to concentrate driving on the opposite side of the road, I had no idea of the road rules, I just followed the traffic and drove really fast, I felt like I was Jamie or Lowndsy on a race track, I know our friends in Karting and Racing would be proud of me! One of our friends at Project Walk had said to me; the best way to get around the driving is to always think "Left is Wide and Right is Tight". That is permanently embedded in my brain...(Thanks Maddy Bayer). Rhiannon and I have had a few laughs with my driving, as yes I have forgotten sometimes and driven on the wrong side of the road, the first time we got petrol was hilarious! I drove in on the wrong side and the petrol station was packed and everyone just looked at me. Well I got out at the pump and said: "I am Australian gimme a break"! It was even funnier when I was trying to put petrol in the car and was cursing that the bowser wasn't working, when little did I know, in America you pay for your petrol first before you put it in! What a great idea, stops people from driving away without paying. The other little thing I am having trouble with is; is getting into the driver seat, once or maybe even a few times, I have been at the supermarket and have gone to get in the passengers seat to drive, I look around to see if anyone has seen me and then I have a quiet chuckle to myself and quickly go to the other side!

Anyway the weeks have gone quickly and Rhiannon has trained so hard as you can see by her video's, the strength she has gained is just amazing, this place Project Walk is not just a place to come and gain strength and recovery, it is also a place for support not just for the client but for the wonderful and inspirational carers that are looking after their loved ones, I have been privilaged to meet the best people: Kate & Barney who come from Sawtell near Coffs Harbour, Barney who was a passenger in a terrible car accident over 10 years ago and left him in a wheelchair, this is his second visit to Project Walk and he has gained so much from PW and cannot rate the place high enough, his beautiful girlfriend Kate (who will be famous one day, she is an inspirational singer/songwriter) and has written a song about belief, determination & the power to do anything if your mind is right, being right by his side, she is a young girl, that has been with Barney for 3 years and has been nothing but Barney's everything from the word go! Barney lets nothing stop him, he has never let his injury deter him from doing anything. He has travelled the world, surfed and is an inspiration to everyone that meets him. You just have to be his friend on facebook to see how much he has achieved and I think he is da bomb!!! We have met a beautiful family from Texas, Sherry & Jay (Mum & dad), Kendell, her boyfriend Justin, Lindsay & Meagan (Kendell sisters) Kendell was again a passenger in an horrific car accident, her family has been taking it in turn to care for Kendell, they are here for 12 months and wow what a family, you guys have touched my heart as the support you give each other is amazing. They have rallied together and are doing fundraisers all over the place to keep Kendell here for training and treatment. You have shown me what a real family is all about, my hat goes off to you, I love you people. We all went to the Del Mar fair the other night, with one of the trainers from PW Tyler and his girlfriend Nicole, Kendell wanted to go on one of the scariest rides at the fair, its called "Speed" It is as tall as the Giant Drop is QLD, but you sit in it and it goes up really high and the spins you upside down and around and around, I wouldn't even attempt it and I love those scarey rides, but Kendell said; If Barney can do it, so can I!. Now thats what I'm talkin about! This is what you gain from being at PW, not only do you make new friends, you get inspiration, motivation and you learn that you should not let that wheelchair stop you from living life!

I want to talk more about the trainers here at Project Walk. Kimber, Kimmy, David, Margarite, Tyler, Gen, Meika, Jason x 3, Brie, Jillian, Kathy, Sachi, Josh and then there are the trainer aids very important people, Sara, Emily, Connor, Stacey, Kayla, Joel if I have forgotten anyone I apologise, Well these people are the people that change Spinal Cord Injured peoples lives forever, their dedication, compassion, motivation is unbelievable, they work so hard and not only that, they have always got your back, for the first couple of weeks of our stay I was nearly beside myself looking at 4 walls in a hotel room, that soon changed, these people invite you into their lives, you become their friends, we are never stuck now for something to do. Since we have been here, we have been to Kendells surprise 30th, Del Mar Fair, We celebrated my birthday with a bash at the hotel and this weekend we went to a very exciting "Padres" Baseball Game and last night to Brie's for a BBQ all with the Project Walk Crew, the accolades must go to these people, they are sincere and will have a special place in my heart for the rest of my life.

People come from all over the world to Project Walk, it is a real Multi-Cultured Centre, this is where you see our crazy world all bond together. We have met people from India, Brazi, Hungry and those mad Canadians, Laura & Andrew you has also made an impact in our lives, we all share the same heart wrenching stories and we are all striving for the same result, that is to get our loved ones better.

I was having a conversation with Jay, Kendells dad a couple of weeks ago and we said; that if anyone is having a bad day, they should visit Project Walk, you walk in and see all the highly motivated & determined people training and it would most definately change your mood! There are kids as young as 3 years old, yes that is right, 3 years old and there is a gorgeous young man named Patrick who was run over at the age of 14 months old, he is now 15 or 16 and you should see his determination, he pushes himself so hard with the most amazing results.

Think about this for a minute.....As non-injured people we go to the Gym we work out for maybe an hour or two we are exhausted or feel great that we have had such a good workout! Well Project Walk Clients & Trainers work out for anything between 2-5 hours a day being injured and you work really hard, there is no slacking off, the clients here work harder than what I have seen in any Gym in Australia!

1000 Cheers for the trainers & aids at Project Walk, you guys make a real difference in the world.....We love you all!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reflecting Over the Last 8 Months - A note from Rhiannon Tracey-Bradford

8 Months and 18 days ago my life changed dramatically. While I lay in a hospital bed in a foreign country staring at the ceiling, I wondered what the rest of my life would hold for me. After hearing the words “Miss Tracey, there is a large possibility you may never walk again” I honestly wondered if there was a purpose in even living? I was constantly reminded by my loved ones, just how lucky I was to be alive, but honestly, who wants to live their lives watching flies mate on the ceiling?

8 Months ago I was in the land of paradise, Bali. Celebrating my best friends 22nd birthday the best way we knew how...Dancing & laughing! We had been on a cruise, Rebecca, my mum Shazza and myself and we were having the time of our lives, EVERYTHING seemed PERFECT! We had met some fabulous people that we were going to continue the party with, pub crawling and pool crawling! We had gone back to our new friend’s hotel to cool off in the pool and prepare ourselves for the next part of the celebration! While everyone jumped in the pool, I being the pro swimmer dived in gracefully...or not! Little did I know I was about to embark on the BIGGEST journey of my life! The next two and a half weeks were touch and go. I had broken my neck, become completely paralysed, and survived one of Bali’s biggest earth quakes, and survived pneumonia and two collapsed lungs. Talk about a holiday I’ll never forget! I’m not going to get into full detail about everything that happened whilst under the care of the Bali medical team, but let’s just say THANK GOD for travel insurance! Best 100 bucks I’ve ever spent!

Anyway as most of you know I spent 2 weeks in the ICU unit at the Austin hospital, having two surgeries to correct the one I had in Bali, and then spent another couple of weeks in the spinal ward. I was constantly reminded by the doctors that I had to prepare myself for the worst case scenario, that the rest of my life would be spent in a wheel chair...mind you exactly one month from the date of my last surgery I was meant to be celebrating my 21st birthday!

My family and friends bundled together and couldn’t be more supportive! THEY were the ones reminding me that I AM RHIANNON TRACEY, AND IM A life in a wheel chair? PFFFFTT NOT GONNA HAPPEN! With their help...I WILL OVERCOME THIS!

Thankfully god had blessed me with two angels that would become more than just my parents, my strength, my hope and my determination! I had two of the world’s best parents! My mum and my step father or should I refer to them as super mum and super dad? I think that is definitely more suitable? The next six months of my life were spent in Royal Talbot, or Prison as I would call it! With constant arguments and disagreements with the staff as we WOULD NOT accept that the only option for me was to learn how to do tasks while being wheelchair bound. There really had to be more to life! Like come on... I was just 21, I was working my dream job, just brought a new car and had that taken away from me. Not to mention that my boyfriend left me as he couldn’t handle having a girlfriend he couldn’t show off to his mates as I was the re bound from his ex wife, oh and I was newly disabled! Agghh could things get any worse? Well they could for him.... he had to have my name that had literally just been tattooed onto his forearm covered as he had run back to his ex... Pffttt Did you honestly think this would be it for me? HELL NO! I would spend every moment that I wasn’t sleeping, working hard to rid my life from this wheel chair!

As did my birthday, Christmas and Easter, people would come and go. I would not only learn how to walk again, but learn the true values of friendship and family. I would reconnect with family that I had lost contact while growing up and with the help of these people who had also joined forces with my amazing friends, they would raise the funds to get me to the world best treatment centre, Project Walk...and here I am!

It has been 8 months and 18 days. Yes my worst enemy (the wheel chair) is still a big part of my life but I have recently been introduced to another piece of equipment that I didn’t expect to be using until at least my 70’s or 80’s...A walking frame! Notice the word WALKING in that sentence?

Yes to all you Indonesian and Australian doctors that said it wouldn’t be possible! I was Rhiannon Tracey, I am now RHIANNON TRACEY – BRADFORD (during this process I learnt my relationship with my biological father was a pointless one and I took on my step fathers surname), I can now walk very short distances without someone having to physically move my feet for me and it doesn’t stop here!

It is week four of Project Walk and I have some of the words BEST people on my side. With their help, this will soon all just be a bad dream. One that will never be forgotten but one I will be happy to wake up from.

I will use this journey to help others out there remember, NO ONE AND I MEAN NO ONE can tell you what your life has to be like, YOU have the power to change your future and make it a better one!

Fight for the things you believe in, and don’t ever stop! Until next time Rhiannon THE WALKING QUAD!

P.S Due to it almost being midnight here in San Diego and the fact that I have been up since 6am, some sentences may not make sense...for that I apologise, but you get my drift!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ways to give, without opening your wallet.

Hi All,

My name is Rebecca Konstatzky and I am the Fundraising Coordinator for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia. As the Fundraising Coordinator, you’d think that I’d be running up and down the halls of Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) screaming “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”. But giving is not all about flashing the cash, despite what Cuba Gooding Jnr’s character in Jerry McGuire says.

I don’t know about the rest of the community out there, but my money is precious. Don’t get me wrong, I am not poverty stricken. I can afford to live in a nice apartment, buy new clothes, put food on the table and pay my bills; but by the end of the month I don’t have a lot left over. So when I donate to a cause or charity I am quite discerning. Who do they help? Does it fit in with my values? Where does the money go? And how much of it goes to where they say it is going to?

I know from my experience working for a charity, that every dollar donated counts. No matter how large or small the donation, it really does make a difference. But donating is not just about the difference it makes to the organisation you are giving to or the people they are helping; it’s a little more selfish than that. It’s about the difference it makes to us as individuals who are doing the giving. Giving a gift is not just about the receiving experience, it’s about the experience, emotion and value that you get out of giving it in the first place.

I recently donated my time for a friend’s small not-for-profit organisation that put on a gala ball. I gave up one night of my life to manage their volunteers, but what I got in return was so much more than I could have ever expected. Now, this blog is not about the value of volunteering (as valuable as it is), but about a giving of a different kind.

I recently came across a website called the ‘Give List’. It listed 71 different ways to give without getting out your wallet. This appealed to me. For me, I love the feeling of giving my time and expertise to a charity or non-profit. I instantly get to see how I have made a difference and I gain an experience that I am richer for. Going through this list of giving, I realised that there is so much more I can do to really make a difference than just giving time or cash. So below I have picked out a few that might help SCIA or someone with a spinal cord injury. For the full list see the Give List website

Giving without getting out your wallet.

  • Running in a marathon or fun run? Do it for a charity and get your friends, family and work colleagues to sponsor you. (We have a team in the City 2 Surf called the Winning Wheelers. Join the team or support the cause at )
  • Have too many frequent flier points? Donate them to a family so that they may have respite from caring for their injured loved one.
  • If your favorite charity has a blog, a Facebook page, or some other form of social networking – leave a comment or post on their wall, invite your friends to like them or just send them an email telling them what you love about that organisation (We have 2 Facebook fan pages Spinal Cord Injuries Australia and Walk On).
  • Have season tickets to sporting events or the arts. Give a few away to someone with an SCI to help them get out and about.
  • Write a post on your blog in honor of someone you love or a cause that matters to you (like SCIA) and dedicate it.
  • Volunteer your time as a fundraiser, designer, accountant, web developer, board member, mentor, pie baker to a non profit. We always need someone with different skill sets.
  • Record a video about what a cause or charity means to you and publish on YouTube, etc. with links to cause or charity site.
  • Add a community service project to your work conference or event.
  • Add a walkathon or other charity fundraiser to your next conference or event.
  • Magazine junkie? Donate them once you have read them to a hospital family visiting/waiting room.
  • Work for a big corporate company? Get them involved with a non profit to set up work place giving, corporate sponsorship or volunteering days.
  • Include a charity like Spinal Cord Injuries Australia in your will.

So go on, get out there and give with a difference!

Rebecca Konstatzky

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

To Volunteer or not to Volunteer

Last week was National Volunteering week, so what better way to continue the great Australian tradition of rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck into something than a blog by our very own Volunteer - Magda.

I came to Australia 8 months ago with my partner who had been offered a fantastic job in Sydney. Unfortunately for me, I have not yet been granted a visa with a work permit and the idea of being away from him on the other side of the planet for a long period of time wasn’t really an option. I decided to join him and take the opportunity whilst he was at work everyday to explore this fantastic city. The first month was exciting. Everything was new and fascinating. I loved sight-seeing but I didn’t want my partner to miss out on these experiences, so I started cutting back, settling into more of a housewife role. After a while I got bored...I needed something more to give me motivation to get out of bed every morning; something different from sight-seeing, shopping, cooking and cleaning our apartment.

Realising what a vibrant city Sydney is and how many events are being held every week, I thought I could be a part of it as a volunteer. A few words in the Google browser later, my idea had turned into action. I registered with ‘The Centre for Volunteering’ which provided me with basic training and matched my skills with Spinal Cord Injuries Australia.

Thanks to Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA), my volunteer position has made my time in Sydney so much more rewarding. I found that volunteering is a little give and take. SCIA has taught me so much about disability that I had never even thought of before. I’ve also met some great people with a passion for helping others. As a volunteer publicity officer, I am involved in writing articles, preparing presentations and creating media databases. And yes, it does feel great to be a part of a greater cause.

Along with more than 5 million people in Australia who think the same, we can really make a difference and show our involvement, not only during the Volunteer Week.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

National Disability Insurance Scheme

This email came to SCIA on how to help.

The Productivity Commission released their discussion paper yesterday. The paper summarises what the Commission sees as the important issues, and contains a series of questions to prompt discussion. People may choose to answer these questions in their written submissions and during public hearings.

There are a number of ways you can participate in the inquiry. You can make a formal submission or a presentation to the Commission at one of the public hearings. The guidelines for making a formal submission are available on the website below.

You can also make what is called a personal response – which is different to a formal submission. In a personal response you can choose to answer any or all of the questions in the paper based on your personal experience. The Commission will then compile all these responses into a single document. This is a shorter, more informal way to participate in the inquiry.

The issues paper contains a number of questions about a wide range of issues. It is important to remember that you do not have to answer all of the questions – just those which matter most to you. It is also important to remember that the Commission is most interested in what you would like to see in the future, rather than detailing all the ways the current system is failing. This inquiry is about a developing a blueprint for the future.

In addition to the issues paper, the Commission has produced an easy English version and a short summary document which covers the key questions. You can download all of these documents at:

We suggest that you start with the short summary document, before you look at the main issues paper, which is long and complex, and then focus on the questions that are most relevant to you.

Submissions are due at the end of June.

The dates of the initial round of public hearings have also been set. Check out the link above and find out when the inquiry hits your hometown.

Remember this is your chance to change the future of people with a disability and their families in this country. Don’t miss this important opportunity to advocate for the kinds of reforms you would like to see.

And stay tuned for more information about the growing campaign for a National Disability Insurance Scheme and how you can become more involved.

Thanks again for all your support.

The NDIS Team