In 2012, Alicia Waterman underwent major spinal surgery for a previous condition which left her as a quadriplegic and living with a tracheostomy. After spending three months in intensive care following the surgery, Alicia was left with limited capability – only able to move her fingers.
Fast forward six years and Alicia has come further than anyone could have dreamed. In May this year, Alicia participated in the HBF Run for a Reason; no small feat considering the condition she was in just a few years prior.
Following the spinal surgery, Alicia started receiving physiotherapy at Royal Perth Hospital’s spinal rehabilitation unit. When she started experiencing intense back pain, making it impossible to try to sit or stand, she was forced to stop her rehab program leaving the family wondering what would be next for their daughter.
After researching alternative options for rehabilitation, Alicia’s parents decided to try hydrotherapy which proved to be more difficult than they initially thought. The family approached Rocky Bay for help four years ago after struggling to find someone who could support a tracheostomy in the pool.
Senior Physiotherapist, Zhao Lin Teoh, started an intense rehabilitation program with Alicia, including hydrotherapy at Rocky Bay’s Mosman Park facility.
“No one else would take a quadriplegic in a pool with a tracheostomy,” explains Alicia. “Zhao was prepared to help me and it changed my entire life.”
Alicia’s rehabilitation continues with Rocky Bay Physiotherapist Jocelyn MacRae.
“We started slowly and progressed her to standing and sitting balance,” explains Jocelyn.
Alicia was introduced to the LiteGait machine, which helps a person to walk when they can’t full weight bear. She also began using the Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) bike that assists with muscle control and strength using electrical pads on the skin to help muscles stimulate the body’s nerves.
Following her two-year rehabilitation program, Alicia proudly walked again.
“I remember being at home the first time Alicia actually stood and everybody just cried,” recalls her mum, Lorraine.
“We’d never have thought that Alicia would be able to even feed herself. Now she’s doing painting, colouring and making cards.”
Alicia’s milestones continue to add up. In this year’s HBF Run for a Reason, Alicia, supported by her team and family, wheeled and walked the four kilometre course, pushing herself to walk 400 metres. She crossed the finished line exhausted, but with a big smile on her face.
“We would never ever have thought that it was possible,” said Lorraine of Alicia’s achievement.
“She said that it was a goal that she wanted to do so we thought, we will support you. It was absolutely amazing. The determination of Alicia, her support workers and Rocky Bay all culminated in such a success.”
“Rocky Bay have always been there for us and will always be there for us. We know they’re an email away and we can come back in and they will help us in Alicia’s journey.”