Anne Marie thanks everyonewho supported her on her journey over the last 2.5 yrs since her spinal cord stroke which left her paraplegic. “It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions” she tells me and shes discovered a strength that she never knew existed inside her. Her message is that mental health is just as important as physical health. Sometimes she feels we may overlook self care. A quote that rings true for her is that “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. This is for her where sport plays a role and offers an outlet for both physical and mental welfare.
Tell me about your experience of being physically active:
At the moment, I try and do some form of exercise at least 5 days a week. I currently partake in some strength and conditioning exercises 3 times a week in an accessible venue. Kayaking is an exercise which was so new to me, it terrified me at first, but then the freedom in the kayak was amazing, and my husband and son were there as well, it was something that we could do as a family. I have a ReWalk exoskeleton I am slowly building up my stamina and strength trying to walk 3 times a week. The ReWalk exoskeleton enables people with paralysis or lower limb weakness to walk.
What does being physically active mean to you? Why do you take part?
Being physically active is so important to me. I was always an active person and I loved to walk everywhere. It is so important for my physical wellbeing but also my psychological wellbeing. I would encourage anyone to exercise, start small with small goals and try and find out about any activities in your area.
Tell me if you encountered any challenges in participating in sport or physical activity?
When I first left my Rehab in Dun Laoighaire I was so set on joining a gym, going to the pool, going for long rolls in my wheelchair…but in reality this was harder. Accessibility is always an issue!!! Initially, we couldn’t find an accessible gym in our area and the pool was too cold for me because of my spinal cord injury making temperature regulation very challenging. Unfortunately, not every pool has a host/chair to allow you into the pool. There were no classes that I could join.
Thats where family and friends came in and helped me research services and facilities in my area or close by. They guided and encouraged me to partake in sporting events as I was shy and nervous to start with. They helped me fundraise to purchsase the exoskeleton costing 160,000euro but enabling my strength and stamina to grow. Spinal injuries Ireland ran the kayaking which was great, but again a 2 hr drive for us. Kayaking incorportes the 3 F’s for me…. FEAR, FAMILY & FUN. I never thought I would kayak especially with a spinal cord injury. Getting into a kayak alone is quite a scary concept, but the freedom is amazing. I don’t need to use my legs to kayak and it is also something we can do as a family. My son Tom has just turned 4 and it’s important that we have fun as a family and push the boundaries. Simple cycle tracks or footpaths can assist with building up stamina by pushing your wheelchair eachday.
If you could describe your experience in one word, what would it be?
What more must be done to ensure constant progress towards everybody being active?
Education, access to adaptive equipment and more government funding.
The NRH could develop a database of accessible gyms/classes for each county, enabling those to remain active on discharge.
What is your wish list for sports and physical activity?
I wish there were more hydrotherapy pools, more accessible gyms and personal trainers readily available. I wish every county had some sort of an accessible gym/rehab that those of us with limited mobility could use, exercise is so much more of a challenge for us, but we need it so much, for our physical, psychological and emotional health and also to provide a social outlet.
If you wanted to be more/begin to be active, what would help you?
Support from a pier in a similar situation to learn from and overcome challenges together. Two heads are better than one!