The good, bad & ugly of Spinal Rehab 

I first had rehab including hydrotherapy as a kid following my injury but wasn’t cooperative. I went to Royal Rehab in Ryde as an adult in 2012 because I wanted to gain more independence. This is my experience over 7 1/2 weeks.

Life before rehab

I had paid carers and help from my family including with simple tasks like getting dressed. I was able to transfer using a sliding board and with help from someone to take my legs and make sure that I didn’t fall.

The good 

I became close friends with staff and other patients. We spent so much time together. It’s great to remain in touch.

Kate & Sue celebrating Melbourne Cup at Royal Rehab PHOTO: Kate Swain

Rehab was challenging but able to be adapted and I had fun. I practiced car transfers with my Occupational Therapist (OT) outside using my own car. We had city trips to learn how to get around in a wheelchair including using escalators and catching public transport. I had fun making cupcakes with my OT and sharing with others.

I smashed my goals. My main goal was to be as independent as possible and smaller goals were smashed along the way. I worked hard with my physio to build strength, and to build skills from my OT and combined with psychology and the social worker to improve my confidence. I have since be able to put what I learnt into practice.

The bad 

I didn’t know what to expect. Feeling like I was pushed into the deep end and unable to swim. The first night was hard and I cried myself to sleep wondering what I had agreed to.

There was a lot of spare time during the week and on weekends. There was so much anticipation on a Friday evening waiting for the next weeks schedule to plan ways to coordinate schedules with other patients and plan ways to spend time whether that be at the rehab or escaping to the local shops.

The food was disgusting. I began ordering mostly vegetarian. The dietician tried giving me supplements but most were diary based making me, being lactose intolerant, feel unwell. I enjoyed meals when out, bought supplies from local shops, ordered delivery and had family and friends bring me food.

The ugly 

The building was really old, ugly and located at the top of a hill. My cupboard door handle was a bright orange shoe lace. I couldn’t reach the hanging and limited shelves were within my reach to store my clothes and other belongings. There was also limited personal space and privacy. It was hard to get around the local hilly area.

There were many tears and frustration. There were many down days of feeling tired, alone and sad. My place to cry, be alone and phone home was in the bathroom.

Life after rehab 

I’m thankful for the opportunity to go to rehab and left having smashed my goals. Rehab never really stops as I continue to look after my health and find ways of doing things. I have since been able to live independently without any carers. I do require help from time to time when away from my home setup.

I have kept in contact with staff and other patients. It’s great to be able to chill out, remember our time at rehab and continue to share our problems and goals.


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