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Allied health students lend a helping hand in Malawi

Africa,Malawi,Griffith University,physiotherapy,ex
Photo: Africa,Malawi,Griffith University,physiotherapy,ex
Exercise physiologist Cody Waldon has a new perspective on helping people reach their health goals after providing treatment as part of an aid mission to Malawi in Africa.

The 22-year-old former Graduate Diploma in Exercise Science student, from Elanora on the Gold Coast, last year joined a group of Griffith University physiotherapy and exercise physiology students and lecturers in the landlocked country - one of the world’s least developed nations.

The group worked with organisations 500 miles and African Vision Malawi to provide disability assessments, develop exercise plans, provide patient education and to fit orthoses and prostheses to patients.
Cory said the group assisted people with epilepsy and stroke as well as children with club foot, while they also helped people suffering with unmanaged arthritis and joint pains.

“It gets to the point where the pain becomes severe enough for them to change how they move or change what they’re doing to get around,” he said.

“That has a long term effect because they change their gait and change how they move just to suit the pain which then can lead to almost deformities and things like that.

“With a lot of the movement type issues and the arthritis or joint pains, a lot of the time it was getting them to do a range of movement exercise or small strength-based exercises - generally if you can strengthen the area around it, it gives it some more support and can reduce the pain.”

Cody said the experience also pushed him beyond the boundaries of his exercise physiology knowledge and skills.

“We had one girl with cerebral palsy that had some sort of strange allergic reaction - had quite severe swelling on her hands, feet and face that hadn’t been spotted by anybody,” he said.

“We immediately sent her to the hospital - it was a simple thing but it was more of a medical concern than an exercise physiology one.

“Even though some of these things weren’t your scope and you couldn’t help specifically with what was going on, you had to still problem solve to figure out how you could help or to find someone who could.

“Having those things come up that were well outside your scope of practice but you still had to deal with were the most challenging and the most rewarding.”

During the aid mission, the group came across hospital physiotherapists using simple tools such as old tin cans and balls to perform mobility exercises with young children.

Now working at a private practice in Tweed Heads, Cody said the experience had left an indelible impact on the way he approaches his practice.

“I certainly start to think a little more straightforward to the goals that the person wants to achieve now, whereas before you would pick up a referral and look at whatever their issues were and you’d devise a huge plan of where you’d want them to be from a health point of view,” he said.

“In the end, sometimes if the person says - I want to be able to get up out of my chair and walk to the fridge or be able to go for a nice walk with my kids around the river - that’s sometimes more important than anything else.”

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords