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Young Ok’s Story

After sustaining a spinal cord injury, Young Ok struggled to adjust to her new life – but our support groups have been able to provide her with hope.

My name is Young Ok Dowling. I have been retired for a number of years and live with quadriplegia (C6-C7 incomplete) sustained in a car crash in 2015 while travelling overseas. I live with my husband, who is my full-time carer.

I am an avid gardener and was a keen hiker and traveller prior to my injury. I was very active with gym, swimming, cooking, U3A courses and social activities with family and friends. At home, I exercised daily – I played tennis, and I regularly participated in tai chi and yoga.

My spinal injury has changed our life together very much. It has greatly limited my daily activities and is very challenging every day. I have lost a lot of independence and greatly dislike having to ask for assistance with things that I want to do.


Women with aloe vera plants

One day, while still an inpatient at Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Hospital, I saw a notice for the Incomplete SCI Group meeting. I met Doctor Andrew Sinclair and he invited me to attend their meetings that were formerly held in the community centre at the old Collingwood Football Ground.

In this group, I have learnt practical management of my problems from members with similar problems. I have also benefited from participating in some other IA organised/facilitated groups.

I have come to realise that people living with a spinal cord injury have a unique spectrum of difficulties and having support from professionals with an insight and focus on these has been especially beneficial and supportive. These activities range from help from support groups, group therapy such as relationship workshops, a sleep management workshop with a student psychologist and facilitator to Psychologist therapy sessions.

grandparents and child happy

Many people with a spinal cord injury (SCI) have limited social interactions and support due to physical, financial, or mental challenges and can often struggle with daily existence and the extra life challenges we face. The services from Independence Australia are extremely invaluable to open up access and actively encourage them to improve their lives mentally, socially and physically.

In a safe space, we are able to share emotions, stresses, loneliness, and other challenges and receive valuable, targeted information from peers working through similar problems.

Encouraged by this group, I had taken up swimming 3 days a week before covid hit and I really look forward to returning to that when it is safe again. I am playing the piano and have taken up wheelchair tennis!

With my husband’s assistance, we have installed a wheelchair-accessible garden which has allowed me to return to my one great passion, gardening! I enjoy cooking still, though I still require assistance with some aspects. We also now have the joy of a beautiful granddaughter who gives me the greatest pleasure.

Being supported and encouraged by other group members’ experiences, I have been able to discontinue all painkillers. The advice and experience of this group incentivised and encouraged me to attempt these and other feats. It also gave me the mental strength and confidence to attempt and to successfully manage my personal care, and to take on daily activities of washing the dishes and sharing the cooking with my husband. 

The people running the workshops are professional psychologists and/or students with an interest in and understanding of SCI and the specific challenges it presents. The workshops are well-structured and led and provide something of value to each participant. I feel privileged to be able to access the various groups and workshops ran by Independence Australia.

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