Sunday, April 10, 2011

SpineCare Conference 2011

Walk On at SpineCare Conference 10-11th March, Doltone House, Sydney

By Alana Tickle, Walk On Therapist B.App.Sc (ExSpSc) ESSAM AEP

Kierre and I were so happy to be invited as Walk On representatives at the SpineCare Conference, held at the beautiful Doltone House, Jones Bay Wharf on Sydney’s harbour. What a fantastic location to have spent 2 days at!

There was plenty to be excited about at this conference. We had the opportunity to listen to some amazing international keynote speakers including Professor Lawrence Vogel, Associate Professor MJ Mulcahey, Professor Randel Betz and Associate Professor Bonita Sawatzky, all of whom are dealing with paediatric spinal cord patient’s day in and out and are leading the way in current research and treatment options in this field.

Day 1:
The opening session at the conference was an introduction and overview of our main focus for the next two days – innovation and practice in childhood spinal conditions.

I found the second session of the day particularly informative as the panel on stage discussed scoliosis and bone health in children with a spinal cord injury. Bone density is an important consideration at Walk On, so the discussion between traditional methods of testing bone density to a newer method utilising a specialised x-ray, provoked some thought amongst many audience members including Kierre and I.

After a delicious lunch was the Hypotheticals session. It was a really great way to break the day up. It involved some of the leading Doctors and Professors in spinal cord injury research (including Australia’s very own Prof. Mary Galea) role playing in hypothetical situations. It was quite humorous to watch them role play scenarios such as how parents react to different issues that may confront children with SCI. After each skit had played out, a panel discussed how they would personally handle each of the scenarios.

The final session of the day was about the advances in science and technology. I was particularly interested in the neuroplasticity of the spinal cord (presented by Prof. Mary Galea) and current stem cell research that is currently being undertaken. Whilst it was all very technical, it was really interesting! It reminds me of just how complicated the human nervous system is!!

Now day one of the conference was over, we had the opportunity to let our hair down a little and attend a social cocktail party that most of the conference delegates attended. The food was great and so were the conversations… the magnificent view to the Harbour Bridge didn’t hurt either! It was great to see and have a few laughs with our friends at Restorative Therapies - T.Ann who had an exhibition stand at the conference for their FES cycles.

Day 2:
I woke up in the morning with butterflies in my stomach. I so nervous I couldn’t even stomach my breakfast. Even though I have presented on Walk On before, I was nervous about sitting on stage, looking out at over 150 professors, doctors, allied health professionals, nursing staff and parents of children with a spinal cord injury. It was just a tad intimidating! Kierre on the other hand, looked calm and kept telling me “not to worry” and “we’ll be fine”!

Kierre and I sat on stage next to Associate Professor Andrea Behrman and Dr Dena Howland. They presented on activity-based locomotor training and emphasised that high repetitions are the key to activity based therapy approaches when doing activity below the level of injury in children with neurological conditions.

The time came for Kierre and I to get up and speak and my heart started racing a million beats per minute. Despite being so nervous, it was a wonderful and memorable experience. It was so great to share with the audience about what we do and the passion we have for our jobs here at Walk On. I started our presentation with an overview of what Walk On is about and who we are as therapists. I also included some information about our clients such as their level of injury, age, and whether their injury was traumatic or non-traumatic. Kierre then took the microphone and talked about the core of what we do at Walk On – strength training including core stability, balance, posture, coordination gait training and an overview of the equipment we utilise. She also discussed using active assisted movement and visualisation and developmental movement patterns as some of the keys to our program to help stimulate the nervous system. Our session came to a close with question time and I was relieved that all of the questions directed to Kierre and I about Walk On were confidently answered.

Following our presentation, many people from the audience approached us telling us how interesting the program was. The highlight for me however, was being personally congratulated by two of the international keynote speakers; Professor Lawrence Vogel (Assistant Chief of Staff Shriners Hospitals for Children, Chief of Paediatrics, Professor of Paediatrics, Rush Medical College & Medical Director of SCI Program Shriners Hospitals for Children, United States) and Professor Randal Betz (Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Chief of Staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children & Medical Director of Shriners' Spinal Cord Injury Unit, United States) on our presentation. Overall the feedback was very positive!

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur really. It went so quickly, as the adrenaline was still pumping and I was on a high from our presentation.

We had an opportunity after our session and during the day to talk to people interested in the Walk On program and hand out some fact sheets and flyers. It felt really great to be able to get the message out there about our wonderful program that uses intense dynamic activity-based exercise therapy. So many of our clients are reporting functional benefits and hopefully we can continue to offer the program to more people in the spinal cord injured community, including paediatrics, now that they know the program exists!

Kierre and Alana with Assoc. Prof. Andrea Behrman, Assoc. Prof. Dena Howland University of Florida


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  3. Should you have conference this year, do let me know.. I know a few people who needs a conference like this.

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