Bunbury Occupational Therapy
|Posted on 26 April, 2020 at 20:15|
Our story: Born with Truncus Arteriosus
My pregnancy was a normal pregnancy with Jorja. All scans were on time and normal. When I was 33 weeks pregnant, I was air lifted via the RFDS to King Edwards Memorial hospital Perth, as my waters had broken and Jorja had started to present. I wasn’t overly concerned at this stage as I was a bit naive being our first baby. But the following day Jorja was delivered via emergency caesarean.
It wasn’t until 5 days post birth, Jorja was in NICU they ran a routine heart scan as they had heard a “murmur” and they discovered she had a complex and very rare cardiac condition called Truncus Arteriosus. Jorja was immediately transferred over to PMH into specialised care.
From there plans were taking shape how to deal with a premature baby with a rare cardiac condition. It was then organised that we would be transferred to Brisbanes Mater Childrens Hospital as PMH did not have a large enough cardiac team to deal with Jorjas condition. At 10 days post birth Jorja and I were sent to Brisbane with a team consisting of 2 doctors, 3 nurses, Jorja in her incubator. As well as 2 entire rows of medical equipment on a regular Qantas flight.
Little did we know that Jorja and I would spend the next 6 months in Brisbane fighting the fight of her life. Dad (Sam) remained home to support us financially – with the idea of coming over when her heart surgery was due to happen. As Jorja was premature, this impacted every aspect from feeding to survival. She was too small for surgery to happen and with this condition, generally if the repair does not happen within the first weeks of life the success rate declines considerably.
Jorja ended up over the following 6 months – ventilated for 4.5 months, resuscitated twice, several blood transfusions, countless procedures and on methadone due to the pain relief she was on. Sam had 3 mercy flights as she wasn’t expected to make it at least this many times.
Jorjas’ paediatric cardiac surgeon Dr Nunn, almost became part of our family. He was the most patient, down to earth man – answering our countless questions, providing us with a team of highly professional people who supported us through every step of this gruelling process.
Finally we had a surgery date booked in – booked in for a Wednesday, so Sam was booked to arrive in Brisbane on the Tuesday – the day before. On Monday morning at 0630hrs I was making my morning coffee at Ronald McDonald House getting ready to spend my regular day with Jorja in ICU, as I would get there at 7 am every day and not leave until 7 pm (when they would ask all parents to leave for the doctors’ rounds).
My phone rang at 0630hrs and it was Dr Nunn asking if he could perform Jorjas open heart surgery that day. I called Sam and got his permission (remember he was due to arrive the next day). I ran down the hill to the hospital and into ICU, and asked Dr Nunn “Is today a good day for open heart surgery in your opinion?” apparently this was the only time in his whole career this question had been asked of him. So, Jorja was wheeled away for the last time that I would ever see her tiny little chest without her tell-tale scar that she has endured more than most of us already in her short 5 months on this earth.
It was a long day; one of my friends came and took me away from the hospital for the day. It was around 6 pm that evening when I got the phone call saying Jorja had done well and was ready for me to return to the hospital.
Hooked up to so many machines, drains, pumps, medications, tubes – her chest still open due to the swelling – she looked absolutely perfect in my eyes. Within days, her healing began, tubes started to be removed, medications began getting reduced, her chest closed and started to heal.
Fast forward to 3 weeks later, we were getting prepared to head back to WA. This time 1 Doctor, 1 nurse, Jorja in our arms with mum and dad on a normal flight! 1 week spent in PMH and we were finally set free to come back to Eaton – my first time in 6+ months and Jorjas first time ever in our home! Jorja came home, on oxygen 24hrs a day and nasal pump feeds for the next 7 months. So our days then entailed – reinsertion of her feed tubes (sometimes several times a day when she became a bit more mobile.) and constant juggle of tubes and cords with a now moving baby. Until she was 2.5 years old she wasn’t allowed to socialise due to infection risk.
Now Jorja is 10 years old and unless you saw her chest scar you wouldn’t know the journey she has been through. She has delays, continues therapy’s, has had many other procedures over the years –broken 2 bones being a normal child but doing silly things , she is a big sister to Alysia and has some wonderful friends, a sassy personality, she gets nervous/anxious often but with the right encouragement will generally give things a try. She is an honest person with a wonderful personality.
Being a heartkid mum, is scary, daunting and terrifying at times but most of all it is rewarding, awe-inspiring and magical.
Jorjas insight about being a heart kid:
I get bullied because of my heart as some people say that I am not fast or anything. I do feel like a normal kid most of the time but my scar – I don’t like people seeing it so I try and hide it from people who aren’t my friends and family. What makes me proud is I am the only person at my school with a heart condition. I feel strong because I am strong. Sometimes it confuses me as to why people have conditions and why are they even a thing?
We are grateful for our friend Sandra Dare for this personal and inspiring guest blog for Heart Week. Sandra is wife to Sam and mother to Jorja and Alysia. They love to advocate awareness and education regarding heart conditions.
|Posted on 20 April, 2020 at 22:10|
My name is Deb and I am a mum to many, a few through the foster care system. Soon after two of our daughters joined our family 11 years ago, we were aware that we needed more outside space as they were very active.
I had always wanted to live in the country and so after convincing the hubby we moved to Donnybrook 8 years ago. We are very blessed to live on 5 acres and through working at Grace Christian School in the Kindy a few years ago and raising a few more little people, I heard about Nature Play. I must say initially I was cynical, thinking "Surely children don't need to be shown how to play in nature?" Being a child born in South Africa in the 70s we played outside EVERY DAY as that was the only option.
These days many children are so overcommited to extramural activities, or obsessed by technology of some type that little or no time is spent just playing outside. Also, the suburban block sizes have reduced to where there is little nature to speak of in our backyards.
Nature Play is, at its most basic, playing in or with nature. The benefits of nature play are many. Children's physical health benefits from the outdoor play by strengthening the immune system and the body and it also develops children's emotional health, lowering their stress levels.
Their social skills are developed whilst playing with others and solving problems, and it has been shown that children's thinking and creativity is vastly improved. Risk taking is an imperitive part of being able to assess danger growing up. In this era where everyone gets a sticker, we need to show our children how to plan, attempt things, at times to fail but to get up and try again.
The benefits should be obvious; we all need to take time out of our busy day to "stop and smell the roses", literally. We live such fast paced lives that even our children need to be reminded to slow down and focus on the amazing world around us. Children have an innate sense of wonder, and we need to help them to rediscover their world and appreciate the amazing marvels around them.
It does not have to be contrived or even very planned, it can be something as simple as a nature walk. When I fetch my second youngest from Kindy we walk across the school to pick up her big sisters and on the way collect "treasures". These treasures may be a feather, a pine cone or a flower, but they lead to conversations and awe at the amazing world around us.
I recently purchased a beautiful book of nature play activities called "Your Wild Imagination" by Brooke Davis, and one of the ideas is to make a masking tape bracelet onto which you stick the treasures you find as you walk, or collect them and glue them onto a cardboard bracelet when you get home. Maybe through helping our children to rediscover nature we can also remind ourselves of what good medicine nature is for us as well.
Check out www.natureplaywa.org.au for more ideas and get out amongst it.
-Beautifully written by our guest and friend, Deb Woods. Deb is wife to Andrew, mum of 9, a foster carer and an early childhood teacher.
Davis, Brooke, (2019) "Your Wild Imagination" South Australia, Your Wild Books
Wenzel, Carolin, "Ten benefits of playing in nature", everyonebenefits.org.au [online] Australia (2018)
Anon, "From City to Nature - the importance of nature play for children", www.guardian.edu.au [online] Melbourne, VIC (23 May 2017)
Keller, "Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature", https:/naturalearning.org North Carolina State University, College of Design, (2012)
|Posted on 21 March, 2020 at 3:30|
Today I'd like to tell you about my stint in the Military! Did you know that I spent more than 10 years in the South African Military Services? In a time that the world is wrapping its head around a new way of living for 2020 due to COVID-19, you may ask what this have to do with anything relevant to the current pandemic. However, I'd like to share a few lessons learnt that is applicable for our practice now:
1. Follow orders
Orders, procedures and specific ways of doing things precisely are the way of life in the Military. You don't question the instructor when he says your shoes weren't shiny enough - you just run how far and fast and as many times as he demands. I came to realise as an instructor myself, that you want the troops to be fit, disciplined and following your commands without hesitation in a war situation. (Thankfully I've never been to war by the way).
When faced with this unprecedented position with COVID-19, I find myself in a similar situation. SPOTS - Therapy for Children's infection control policies are put in place to closely monitor, follow and apply all directives and instructions from the Chief Medical Officer and Prime Minister of Australia. I'm really good at following rules, so you can rest assured we will continue to do the right thing by you and your children.
2. Show Endurance
There were many times we had to do hard things to put our inner strength and grit to test. This past week had the same feeling for me: knowing something is hard, but that it will not last forever. Just like I can look back on long endurance marches with full kit on and smile now, we will be able to look back at 2020 remembering how strong we came out on the other side.
Remember that our children need us as parents to be calm and resilient - they co-regulate with us. Please reach out if you need some extra support.
SPOTS - Therapy for Children are here for you for the long run. We know something about endurance. We want to support your parenting during these tricky circumstances. And reassure you that you are all doing a great job!
3. Be Creative
Two examples comes to mind. Firstly, we received a rationed meal-pack when out on field exercises, lovingly referred to as "rat-packs". After a while, it became a challenge to see how creative we could prepare the ingredients to bust the feeling of eating saw-dust or grounded stockings. And boy, did we create ...uh ... interesting feasts!
Another memory that I want to share with you, was how as a young enlisted soldier, our platoon could form original ideas, create interesting pep-up songs, and get into mischief to outshine the other platoons. Think colouring the base's pet ducks with green colourant because that was our platoon's colour!
Creativity was part of life then, and it goes hand-in-glove with my life now as an OT. After all, we are trained to be creative. To think out of the box. To find solutions for tricky situations. And if ever there was a tricky situation, it is now.
At SPOTS - Therapy for Children, we have been thinking creatively how to bridge difficulties with following infection control directives. And I'm pleased to say, we are meeting this challenge heads-on and appreciate your support in the endeavour.
You will note some favourite equipment and toys are no longer available. But, having pulled my creative hat firmly over my head, you will also see how we use other equipment -safely- to continue to provide the intensity, frequency and duration of specific sensory input to boost sensory integration and regulation.
4. Be Prepared
It's amazing how my old unit's motto rings true: "Esti Parati" or Be Prepared. Not to panic or be paralysed by fear, but to hold onto hope, faith and good common sense, and to be prepared for any situation.
At SPOTS - Therapy for Children, we will continue to provide our services face-to-face until directed otherwise. "Be Prepared" in mind though, we are fully ready to run an online service via video conferencing to continue our committed support to you in case of worsening conditions that forces a full lock-down. OT online is our practice's virtual branch and we are excited to launch it after having it on the backburner for years.
5. Teamwork is everything
You learn early on in the military that you are nothing without your platoon and that you have to have each other's back. Whenever the platoon didn't work together as a team, we were chased around buildings, pressured to do things faster, etc. etc. until we do it as a team. You suffer together during hard times, you laugh until you cry during good times and you forge lifelong friendships because of it.
SPOTS - Therapy for Children are part of your child's team: The people that like, cheer, support and rally around your child with all their might. Our commitment to serve you and your child, does not change with COVID-19.
I want to also reassure you that the OT's worldwide are in frequent communication with each other in different groups to brainstorm best practices and practical "how-to" ideas during these uncertain times. You have a global OT community behind you!
You are also in my team. Your support with extra measures in place, your friendships, checking up on us - you are great team players and I want to say a heartfelt thank you to our parents for it.
Let's take some deep breaths during this one-in-a-100 year pandemic and take heart: this too shall pass.
|Posted on 2 March, 2020 at 5:15|
Have you got a little Horton? One who hears every little thing and is perhaps too sensitive to sounds? My 3 top tips for auditory sensitivity:
1. Prepare your child when known triggers will occur in a day. This can be done verbally or with a visual schedule. Please do so well in advance!
2. Explore various strategies (with your child if possible) before you need it. These can include palm size picture cards of your child's favourite calming strategies to choose from when feeling anxious about noise, noise cancelling earphones or headphones, earplugs, heavy and deep muscle work before being exposed to noise, etc.
3. Use white noise. The soft humming of a fan, waterfall sounds, soft classical music, or even white noise apps may work better for your child because it helps to mask sounds that trigger or cause distress.
When in doubt, talk to your Occupational Therapist to guide you.
#DrSeussBirthday #HearingAwarenessWeek #SensoryIntegration #AuditorySensitivity
-Image of Dr Seuss' book obtained from
Iced Tea アイスティー: Horton Hears a Who and Japan
-Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
|Posted on 2 February, 2020 at 4:15|
2020 is here!
With much excitement, we awaited the completion of internal walls to the practice.
A reception and two offices now share the sensory integration gym area.
It was a dusty, messy process and Mrs "D" and Miss Esmé were cleaning everything inside-and-out for a whole week before opening the doors to our friends.
We know this space will fullfil its purpose and serve the team and children well.
Come have a look!
|Posted on 9 February, 2019 at 1:40|
It's February 2019 and the new year brought about a change for the practice.
We've refreshed our name! The practice is now called SPOTS - Therapy for Children. This aligns with our longterm vision to be a vibrant hub of multi-disciplinary services with the sole purpose to focus on improving and positively impacting the lives of children and their families. You'll still see our colourful logo - it is a firm favourite!
Looking forward to continue to share interesting ideas and information and answer questions as they arise. Follow us on Facebook!
|Posted on 2 September, 2016 at 1:00|
Spring has a special way to invigorate me. It fills me with renewed energy and I can't help but "buzz" with eagerness to get myself organised and ready for the rest of the year!
Every spring I am amazed that everything in nature confirms that change is good. That change is necessary. That nothing remains static and constant. And to top it all off, the promises of new life and new possibilities are all wrapped up in pretty, fragrant flowers and fresh leaves.
This spring in particular is extra special for us. Our practice has been helping children in the greater Bunbury region for 5 years already! What a blessing this journey has been... But this spring, we also celebrate a fresh start. We have a new website and a new premise for our dedicated sensory integration gym! A web store is also under construction. Exciting times indeed.
Keep an eye out on the photo gallery for sneak peeks at what's happening during the fit-out. We will be ready to continue our services from the new location at the start of term 4. The children will love and enjoy this new space! Maybe even just as much as the therapists do...
Until next time,