An active and busy man, Joel worked long days as a personal trainer and running his own health retreat business. All of this soon changed when Joel, aged 37, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent surgery at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital in Randwick. The tumour proved to be benign, however, the surgery — which was considered high-risk —, led to a series of complications. Joel woke unable to walk, see, swallow, or use his left arm and hand. He developed aspiration pneumonia and had to have a feeding tube inserted.
Joel spent five weeks recovering from the surgery. Once he was deemed ready for rehabilitation, the team at Prince of Wales referred him to MetroRehab Hospital for expert physical rehabilitation. Joel knew that at MetroRehab, he was in trusted hands. “The team at Prince of Wales was great and I trusted them. All they spoke about was Metro, Metro, Metro, so it was a no-brainer for me to come here,” said Joel.
He was soon transferred over to MetroRehab Hospital as an inpatient, where he stayed for five weeks. Upon arrival, Joel’s condition meant he could not walk without assistance, he could not swallow which hindered his ability to eat or drink, he had severe double-vision and vertigo which all impacted his ability to engage in activities of daily living.
Under the direction of rehabilitation specialist Dr. Redmond, the multidisciplinary team of nursing and allied health professionals worked with Joel to establish a personalised plan designed to achieve his goals. This included being able to walk, eat and see. “Joel’s rehab plan was focused on achieving small goals each week, with the ultimate goal of improving his independence to a safe level to return home,’’ said Louise, Joel’s inpatient physiotherapist.
For five weeks, Joel regularly had physiotherapy, speech pathology and occupational therapy sessions daily, and was supported by the dietician, medical and nursing teams and the Stroke and Neurological programs manager. “Therapy included exercises that Joel could complete independently along with task-specific gait retraining like obstacle courses, walking outdoors and treadmill training,” said Louise. Joel also engaged in an intensive upper limb therapy program and functional activities. “Being able to make a meal of his choice (Mexican) using both upper limbs functionally was an exciting day” stated Mollie, Occupational Therapist.
Due to Joel’s rapid progress, after five weeks, he was able to mobilise independently, complete his own showering and dressing and manage his own feeding which was a combination of using the tube to be fed and being able to eat certain foods. He was discharged to his parents’ home. “I was stoked. I was stoked. I had worked hard and come so far with the support of the team,” said Joel.
As recommended by the MetroRehab team, Joel now attends the Day program, at the hospital two days a week where his goals are continued to be worked towards in occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech pathology and now also, exercise physiology. He thoroughly enjoys the varied tasks the team get him to do.
“The guys at MetroRehab are an amazing team and they’ve definitely helped with my progress. The disciplines are all beneficial, all fun and each of the practitioners are amazing. It’s cool because you get so many practitioners helping with different aspects; like my walking, my hand and motor skills, my swallowing and my eating,” said Joel.
As Joel’s walking continues to improve, also does his ability to see and eat. “During Joel’s time in the day program, he dutifully carried out prescribed daily swallowing exercises to strengthen his ability to eat. He has now achieved his goal of eating his favourite foods; pizza and Toblerone and is now looking forward to devouring sandwiches and a steak!” said Sam Speech Pathologist.
As a personal trainer, Joel knew that his biggest challenge was mental. Joel attributes his progress not only due to the MetroRehab team, but also to his infectious positive attitude and his one rule; to always be the first person to attend a session and be the last person to leave. “I do believe that the whole point of rehab is to train your brain to remember what’s there, so the more times you do it, the better you’ll get and that’s my philosophy,” said Joel.
Joel is now at a point where he is considering going back to work as a personal trainer and trying different foods. His next short-term goal is to be able to eat at a café with friends, but long-term he hopes to run by Christmas and turn his run into a fund-raiser. “Every day look for a small milestone you couldn’t do yesterday. It could be that I can stand today, or I can finally eat my favourite food – Toblerone! I am at the stage where I can have what I want, I can try things and if it doesn’t feel right, I can stop,” said Joel.
As Joel prepares to leave MetroRehab and return to his everyday life, he has some advice for future clients. “Be patient, put in the effort training, get there on time and look for a mini milestone every day”.
Joel credits the entire MetroRehab Hospital team for his progress. “The team at MetroRehab are so caring and attentive. They put in so much passion and believe in what they are doing each and every day. If they notice that you have improved even a little bit, they throw a proverbial party and I love that.”