A NEW service being rolled out by the ACT government aims to keep older Canberrans out of hospital. The Geriatric Rapid Acute Care Evaluation (GRACE) Service provides care to unwell Canberrans in residential aged care […]
STUART Andrews was on the Australian bobsleigh team in a 1991 World Cup event in Italy when the sleigh lost control and dragged him on the ice for about two kilometres.
“I could feel the ice tearing the flesh off my shoulder and I honestly thought I was going to die,” he says.
“I could hear screaming and thought it was my driver but it was actually me.
“I woke up from surgery and the crash was playing on the telly.”
Stuart’s shoulder was ripped apart during the accident and he was left injured, scared and depressed.
And while he didn’t know it at the time, it ended up being the most defining point of his life.
“This was the first time I’d ever been involved in a bad accident and I realised at that point I wasn’t bullet proof and these things don’t just happen to other people, they could also happen to me,” says Stuart, who is now 56 and lives in Deakin.
“After the crash I had issues with the feelings in my fingers.
“Sometimes I had to look at them to know I was gripping something.
“I didn’t like the way I felt and I didn’t like the way I was thinking.
“One night I was laying on my bed thinking about what my future may hold and I came up with a little saying: ‘You may own your injury, but don’t adopt it’.”
Stuart also had a wake up call from blind paralympian Russell Short who told him: “You just have to stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
They’ve since become good mates and when Stuart got moving again they went rock climbing, Stuart created underwater braille for Russell so they could go diving and they paddled sea kayaks from Australia to Papua New Guinea via the Torres Strait.
Since then Stuart has spent his time designing and making things with the purpose to get people moving again, no matter what their ability.
“The freedom to move is a gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted and in my line of work I am reminded of that every day,” he says.
“I’ve invented software and hardware systems that I now have international patents on to teach people to move.”
In 1991, using his background as a former Australian decathlon champion and Olympic bobsleigh competitor, Stuart and his wife, Bronwyn Thompson, using her experience as a two-time Olympic rowing competitor, established Fit to Manage in Canberra.
How they met is a story in itself.
Stuart was walking across a road one day near the AIS when he saw a girl who had been hit by a car.
“I picked her up off the road and put her on the lawn,” he says.
“Then I went into one of the residences and no-one was there so I picked her up and took her to Calvary Hospital.”
And that was that until 11 years later when Stuart was invited to a friend’s dinner party.
“I glanced across the table and said: ‘I carried you to hospital 11 years ago’.
“I was at the end of my career as she was coming into hers.”
But after she finished her Olympic career Stuart says they wanted to use their experience as competitive athletes to get people moving again.
“An athlete’s mentality is: ‘I’m injured and I want to go back to what I used to do’,” says Stuart.
“Why don’t you see this in the general public? So I decided to come up with a system that not only prevents but treats injuries.
“Drugs work, but drugs don’t make you move again.”
Stuart invented the Lower Limber technology to help align and support clients’ spines, which he says is crucial in achieving an effective stretching response.
“Three years ago I had 20 users using my system and now we’re heading towards 400,” he says.
Stuart says an 84-year-old came in with chronic back pain and couldn’t sit or touch her toes but after half an hour using his Lower Limber technology she was touching her toes.