The sky’s the limit for patients with potential

potential unlimited group1

After suffering devastating traumas that turned their lives upside down, eight current clients of Westmead’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service have taken on a challenging self-development course with Outward Bound Australia to prove to themselves that life doesn’t end with a brain injury and they’re capable of much more than they may imagine.

A fear of heights was the least of their worries as the eight men, aged between 19 and 60 and who have all suffered a traumatic brain injury, ventured out on elements of the biggest ropes course in the Southern Hemisphere at Outward Bound’s National Base in Tharwa, ACT.

The Potential Unlimited program, a joint initiative between NSW Brain Injury Rehabilitation Services and Outward Bound Australia, offers selected brain injured participants the dignity of risk in professionally supervised safety.

potential unlimited group2“Like all our courses, the program is designed to challenge participants physically, emotionally and psychologically, to step outside their comfort zone and, for this group, rediscover their true potential, at the same time encouraging them to come to terms with the reality of the injury that changed their lives so dramatically”, said Lloyd Worthy, Outward Bound’s Potential Unlimited organiser.

Westmead’s Margaret Doyle, one of two Case Workers who accompanied the group agrees.  “Often the most difficult part of recovery for people with an acquired brain injury is not just dealing with the medically identifiable consequences, but accepting the new hand they’ve been dealt.”

“Over 500,000 Australians live with an acquired brain injury and the outcomes are not always clearly discernible,” said Ms Doyle, “This is Westmead’s second visit to Outward Bound. We love the way it renews individual confidence and belief by pushing through often unrecognised barriers and setting new goals.”

The participants spent seven days on their adventure in the Namadji National Park near Canberra where their challenges included abseiling, rock-climbing and caving.

As well as the physical challenges, the course pushed participants emotionally and mentally. Participant Daniel Ferguson said his highlight was being placed outside his comfort zone to learn what his limits are.

“In many ways, I think the social side of camping with seven other people who have brain injuries helped me gain a new perspective on self-worth,” said Daniel.

potential unlimited3Brandon Tsingolis, 19, said the course also helped him gain a new perspective.

“I think it has made me see that when you believe you are strong and you push yourself, you can really do anything,” said Brandon.

“Potential Unlimited has given me an opportunity to see that if I ever think I can’t do something, to always just think positive and I will be able to do it.”

Barry Hindle, 54, said the experience of helping other people with similar and worse injuries was empowering.

“It was challenging physically and mentally, but the course taught me to keep focussed on my goals,” said Barry.

“People from all walks of life should have a go at this course to open their minds, be challenged and gain a true feeling of fulfilment. It’s unbelievable!”

The Outward Bound course is part of a three-stage Potential Unlimited program, providing the essential catalyst to outcomes that involve future goal-setting and personal achievement, as the principles of their challenging experience are converted, through structured therapy, to ‘living with the reality of a brain injury’.

The program also aims to raise awareness of acquired brain injury, often referred to as the ‘hidden disability’, and the everyday challenges people face and has been made possible thanks to fundraising efforts by former ACT Brumbies and international rugby coach Andy Friend and his wife Kerri Rawlings.

Kerri acquired a brain injury in an accident while mountain biking in 2010, and the Friendly Ride Charity Event involved Andy riding 5000km from Cooktown to Canberra to raise awareness and money for acquired brain injury, with Kerri as his backup the entire way, a mere 12 months after her life-threatening injury!

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