I loved my job as a secondary school teacher, and since being forced out of the workforce, I’ve redirected my teaching to helping others live with chronic pain.
In 2007 I suffered a spinal injury and crushing pain. Thanks to a neurosurgeon, I regained the use of my left leg, but the nerve pain was permanent.
When I returned to work, the injury was aggravated because my employer did not comply with my medical restrictions. This was partly resolved by another round of spinal surgery.
Over the next year I put together a very supportive healthcare team consisting of a GP, a physiotherapist and a pain specialist who provided effective treatment through medication and an exercise program.
With the additional insights I gained at a pain management clinic, I learnt to manage my pain and be unafraid of re-injury. Using a combination of medication, physiotherapy and a new attitude to pain, I gradually resumed normal function and quality of life.
However, my employer resisted my efforts to return to work because I couldn’t return to my former position, and my superannuation fund deemed me to be totally and permanently incapacitated for full-time employment.
In 2009 I established a consumer health charity for people suffering from persistent pain, the Australian Pain Management Association (APMA).
Prior to APMA, there was no or very limited community-based support for people living with chronic pain.
In the past four years, APMA has grown into a powerful support network and lobby group, and is now an Australia-wide organisation.
As CEO of APMA, I work a 50-hour week, including nights and weekends, in order to help others regain their lives, despite the pain (theirs and mine).
Some of the most inspiring activities that APMA engages in are attending respite centres and seniors’ organisations to give presentations on managing chronic pain.
Without my accident, I never would have had this opportunity.