Marathon Michael’s mighty run of thanks

A shattered kneecap hasn’t stopped Michael Warylo from running in the New York marathon to give something back to the Canberra people who helped him recover. KATHRYN VUKOVLJAK reports…

Michael Warylo... “I hear for the New York Marathon there can be two million people lining the streets, so I’m very much looking forward to that.” Photo by Andrew Finch

Michael Warylo… “I hear for the New York Marathon there can be two million people lining the streets, so I’m very much looking forward to that.” Photo by Andrew Finch

IT’S all about giving back for Canberra Hospital staffer Michael Warylo, who will run the New York Marathon on November 6 to raise funds for the Rehabilitation, Aged and Community Care Service within ACT Health.

Michael, 37, who’s a fire safety officer with ACT Health, says he’s hoping to raise $5000 to buy specialised equipment for the service that has helped him on a professional and a personal level.

After shattering his kneecap in a fall while holding his then four-year-old daughter in 2011, Michael says he was blown away by the support and care he received from the rehab service.

“I slipped on a wet floor, and as I fell I held my daughter up, so my knee hit the ground,” he says. “I knew instantly what I’d done.”

Michael says the pain was excruciating and that he wasn’t able to walk at all.

“ACT Ambulance was called and, funnily enough, it was old staff of mine that turned up,” he says. “I even knew the 000 operator!”

Michael says he was taken straight to Canberra Hospital where they confirmed what he already knew and he was rushed into surgery to have his kneecap rebuilt with screws and wire.

“I spent the next three months with leg braces and about the next nine months rehabbing from it all through the ACT Health Service, with physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and OT,” he says.

“It was a hard time, both emotionally and physically, but I have a very close-knit family who supported me and the workplace as well was eager to help me with everything. I also had amazing support from Function Running Canberra and Capital Clinic Physiotherapy.

“The service provided by ACT Health was exceptional, and not just because I work there! Anyone would get the same service I had, and the aftercare and support that was offered was great. Nothing was too much trouble when I asked for help.”

Michael says that about 12 months after the rehabilitation, he decided to try running, against advice from doctors.

“A few friends, who are running coaches, suggested I give it a go and, through persistence, I was able to do it,” he says.

“It hasn’t been easy by any stretch and I’ve found that I can become reliant on what was my ‘good’ knee and that can start playing up, too.

“The injured knee takes a lot of physiotherapy, but I find that when I don’t exercise it gets worse, so it’s actually part of the rehab for me.”

Michael has done several marathons and some ultra-marathons in the past couple of years and says he enjoys the sense of accomplishment at the end, sometimes not necessarily the run itself.

“I enjoy the last kilometre!” he laughs. “It’s a real sense of achievement towards the end, whether it be finishing the Sydney marathon and running past the Opera House, with thousands of people cheering you on.

“I hear that for the New York Marathon there can be two million people lining the streets, so I’m very much looking forward to that.”

He says he’s excited about the trip to America, with his wife Melissa and elder daughter, nine, accompanying him, while their 20-month-old daughter will stay home with grandparents, and that he’s busy with his training schedule.

“I probably run less than someone else who’s preparing for a marathon, but for me that’s just about managing the knee,” he says.

“I train three or four times a week, with shortish runs of five to 10 kilometres and then a longer run, a 28-kilometre lap of Lake Burley Griffin on a Sunday morning.”

Michael says that after working with ACT Health for 20 years, he felt it was time to give back.

“They’ve supported me in a professional and a personal sense from the number of injuries I’ve had,” he says.

“It’s my time to give back and say thank you.”

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