When Daniela arrived at Greenwich Hospital, she believed she would never walk again.

It was a bright Sunday afternoon, Daniela was with her daughter Michelle and her husband, enjoying a meal at home with some of their closest friends.

Daniela had grown up in Czechoslovakia where, among other things, she had a successful career as a football commentator on television. When Michelle came to live in Australia, Daniela came too. They made their home in a beautiful bungalow on Sydney’s lower north shore.

Daniela was an expert gardener. She spent many hours working in their extensive and lush garden, but her greatest joy was a long walk in the sun through the leafy streets around her home, with her faithful Labrador Charlie every morning.

But that afternoon, towards the end of the meal, Michelle’s husband noticed something was wrong. Daniela had reached to sip her tea but suddenly could not hold the cup.

Daniela appeared distressed. She was unable to move. By the time the ambulance came, Daniela could not move her arm, or her fingers, she could not speak, or even swallow.

Remembering that day, Michelle says, ‘That afternoon was a blur, but I still remember distinctly the moment when she lost the ability to move, was not able to communicate, and was not aware of what was going on.

‘She had gone from being perfectly well to being bed ridden, uncertain, scared. ‘And the prognosis was very grim – we were told that the stroke was so big that she would have a permanent disability. She would never walk again, never move again. It was a very scary moment’.

Daniela survived, but her recovery was limited. She was in hospital for five weeks before she was moved to HammondCare Greenwich Hospital for rehabilitation. When she arrived at Greenwich, her condition was stable, but she still could not move. A lifter was required to move her round.

There was no way of knowing whether Daniela would walk again. One of the challenges with rehabilitation following accident or stroke is that you can never know what the outcome will be, how much capacity will return.

Her intense rehabilitation program began with just some simple things, like sitting and balance. It was clear that Daniela was totally focused and committed, and with remarkable support and care from Michelle as well, she began to make progress.

Eventually she could stand, and then she began re-learning to walk, initially with a lot of assistance, but amazingly, within a few weeks, she was actually walking without assistance.

It was slow, unsteady, and hard work for Daniela and the team, but it was a life changing breakthrough – mobility regained.

Over the next few weeks she continued to improve and five weeks later she went home. She had come a long way from the first day she arrived - frightened, unable to move, and facing life thinking she would never walk again.

The physio is ongoing, but now it’s only once a week, and it has helped her to be where she is today. Independent, and not needing a wheelchair or walking stick or anything’ says Michelle.

Case notes

When we first met her, Daniela’s main problem was that after the stroke, motor functions and planning were impacted, so strength and coordination were damaged. The solution is to teach the brain to relearn movements, to find new pathways.
The first week or so we just worked on her balance and her sitting. After a couple of weeks she was up to assisted walking. Initially we had to have one person squatting next her to support her knee. The knee would give way because of weakness, and also because she couldn’t sense it, whether it was bent or straight.
But remarkably, a few weeks after she arrived, she was up and walking around. So then we could start to talk about planning to get home.
The really great thing is that Daniela took this as a wakeup call. And she was determined to get well, eat better, exercise more, and from all reports she is up and around and moving more than she ever could.
Simon Dwyer
Senior Rehab Physiotherapist
HammondCare Greenwich Hospital