Im­prov­ing pa­tients’ ev­ery­day lives

Do you know what a neu­ro­log­i­cal phys­io­ther­a­pist does? Re­porter Rose Caw­ley looks into the spe­cial­ist field and how it changes peo­ple’s qual­ity of life. DAILY GRIND

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Julie Rope is of­ten asked do you mas­sage brains?’

It is one of the weird and won­der­ful ques­tions that come up thanks to her job ti­tle.

The Mt Eden res­i­dent started her love af­fair with phys­io­ther­apy as an in­juryprone sports en­thu­si­ast.

As a teenager she worked as a re­cep­tion­ist in a phys­io­ther­apy clinic be­fore head­ing to Otago to study the pro­fes­sion.

In her se­nior rounds she stum­bled upon the field of neu­ro­log­i­cal phys­io­ther­apy – as­sess­ing and treat­ing peo­ple with im­pair­ments like trau­matic brain in­jury, strokes, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, spinal cord in­juries or Parkin­son’s.

‘‘You weren’t just mak­ing some­one say: ‘Thanks, my knee feels bet­ter.’ They were say­ing: ‘I was able to walk my daugh­ter down the aisle’.


‘‘It was re­ally raw, you saw a lot and you felt a lot and I think that is when my heart de­cided what it wanted to do.’’

Then the bright spark headed off to Eng­land for her OE.

‘‘It was still easy to get jobs and I worked un­der some of the most in­spir­ing, en­er­getic and talented neuro phys­ios.

‘‘I was there for the bomb­ings, so we had all the bomb­ing pa­tients come through. I learnt a lot,’’ she says.

But it was a chance en­counter with a pa­tient at a Lon­don hos­pi­tal which be­came one of the high­lights of her ca­reer.

BBC re­porter Frank Gard­ner was shot six times in an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt by al Qaeda gun­men while film­ing in Saudi Ara­bia.

‘‘He was my pa­tient and I moved from that hos­pi­tal af­ter see­ing him for about a month. He wouldn’t let any other ther­a­pist see him so BBC paid for me to go back and see him ev­ery day af­ter my job,’’ she says.

Gard­ner suf­fered a se­vere spinal cord in­jury from the point-blank at­tack.

‘‘I was there when he got his OBE from the Queen and he man­aged to walk up there and get that which was huge thing. I was pretty emo­tional for him.’’

The 39-year-old says deal­ing with the di­ag­noses and help­ing pa­tients can be heart­break­ing.

‘‘Some­times you have to say: ‘We are main­tain­ing you but we are not go­ing to im­prove you’.

‘‘Some of the di­ag­noses aren’t good. Some of them are a stroke and then you move for­ward, some of them have a mo­tor neu­ron dis­ease where you can’t set goals be­cause goals are not achiev­able.’’

But she says she wakes up happy to go to work be­cause she knows she can help, even if it is in the small­est way.

‘‘There is always some­thing that we can do, even if it is pick­ing up their morale or im­prov­ing their fit­ness.’’

She says be­ing able to im­prove pa­tients’ ev­ery­day lives was at the heart of her de­ci­sion to start her own busi­ness.

‘‘If I have a Parkin­son’s pa­tient who froze when they went into the TAB then I would take them to the TAB and look at that en­vi­ron­ment – it is not prac­tis­ing it in your chair in your lounge be­cause they can do that.

‘‘They freeze when they are in a cer­tain en­vi­ron­ment so we need to take them to that en­vi­ron­ment.’’


Help­ing hands: Neu­ro­log­i­cal ph­sio­ther­a­pist Julie Rope says know­ing she makes a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence is what gets her out of bed in the morn­ing.

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