Stella spent four years in hospital after being diagnosed with a rare disease. Here’s how her Afea carers have helped her adjust to home life. Keep reading to learn more about her amazing story.
A surprising diagnosis
In August 2015, Stella woke up with a tingling feeling in her feet. She couldn’t walk and went straight to hospital. Little did she know that she would be staying there for nearly four years.
She was later diagnosed with the extremely rare Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. Paralysed from the neck down, Stella had to spend 9 months in ICU. She couldn’t speak or eat for a year.
Stella is an incredibly determined woman, and despite being told she wouldn’t recover, she proved everyone wrong. After years of rehabilitation in hospital, then waiting for her house to be modified to suit her mobility needs, she finally made it home in June 2019. It was so momentous that her local member Jason Clare even visited her to welcome her home.
We spoke to her about how her Afea carers have helped her adjust to home life after spending years in hospital.
Finding the right carers at Afea
When Stella was onboarded with Afea, we matched her up with a few of our carers. At first, she was understandably anxious about trusting her care to someone new, so her husband took a month off to help her adjust.
“But then came the day where he had to leave to go to work and I was devastated,” Stella said. “I was thinking, there’s no way that these people can look after me the way my husband does. But they made it so easy for me. They didn’t pressure me, they took it slowly, slowly.”
When we match carers to our clients, we consider many factors, including culture, language, beliefs, interests and personality. Stella believes her carers Hana and Angela are a perfect match for her.
“They’re like my family… I just love them. I would not know what I would do without these girls.”
Stella said what she loves about both girls is their compassion and understanding.
“With these two girls, it’s not just a job for them,” she said. “(Also) the way they relate not just to me but to the rest of my family. That’s important… I’m a family member. I regard them like I would my mother, or my sister or daughter.”
Stella’s astounding progress
When Stella left hospital, she started doing hydrotherapy, which gave her confidence to walk in water. Soon after, she started physiotherapy. However, Stella found it extremely challenging.
“That was torture,” she explained. “I would just go there crying and screaming. I didn’t want to do anything. Because even though I was strapped in a harness, I was scared of being lifted up and standing on my feet without knowing where I’m standing. Even to this day, I can’t feel the bottom of my feet. I don’t know where I’m treading
Two and a half years later, she can walk around the house with a walker.
Stella said it’s partly thanks to Hana and Angela that she has made such progress.
“They know my limits,” Stella explained. “And they know how far to push me.”
Angela and Hana help her do daily exercises with ankle weights and dumbbells to build up her strength.
“We have telehealth video zooms, for them to tell me what to do,” she said. “The carers help and motivate me.”
Looking towards the future
Stella is now in a routine with her carers. In the mornings, they concentrate on housekeeping, like cleaning and washing.
“Then the rest of the day, it’s like a social event where we sit and chat about various things,” she said. “Or we might watch a movie or we’ll sit outside or we might go out to do my nails or something like that. Or she’ll fix my hair in different styles, just so that I can feel normal.”
Despite all the work she’s done, Stella’s still got big goals. She’d like to volunteer in nursing homes or hospitals and talk to people about what it’s like to have a disability.
She particularly wants to tell them that life goes on.
“I think because I’ve been there, done that, they might be able to see, with my carer, that we’re both positive,” she said.
Stella also wants people to understand the importance of a positive mindset.
“Life is beautiful. But we make the choice to make it beautiful.”