A helping hand from 7000km away

2 Dec 2016
A helping hand from 7000km away
Leigh Sainty and his mother Rose (right), with wife Yuka, daughter Momo and stepfather Stuart McKenzie (left)

Imagine being 36 years old, father to a young daughter, paralysed in a foreign country and unable to communicate.

This happened to Australian Leigh Sainty earlier this year when he underwent drastic surgery in Japan to remove a malignant brain tumour.

Mr Sainty’s mother, Rose McKenzi, has credited The University of Queensland Telerehabilitation Clinic with helping her son begin to regain his speech in what has been a harrowing time.

“It has been a horrific period,” Mrs McKenzie said.

“In 2012 Leigh had a benign tumour removed, and we thought he was doing okay up until April of this year.

“For the latest surgery he had to undergo an operation while awake to remove a tumour which had affected his speech and movement, leaving him paralysed and with aphasia, a language disorder.

“We had to find a way for him to regain his English language skills, which was difficult with him being in Japan, where the speech pathologists were not fluent in English.”

Via a friend in Melbourne, Rose and husband Stuart learnt about the UQ Telerehabilitation Clinic and the services it offers treating patients through communications technology.

Using an electronic tablet from his hospital bed in Japan, Leigh was connected to Brisbane-based speech pathologist Sarah Wallace and three advanced UQ students 7000km away.

Each week for three months he would undertake a one-hour therapy session over the internet, then do homework one hour a day with his family, including with wife Yuka and daughter Momo.

“He needed assistance with his English badly, as we were quite fearful he’d completely lose his ability to verbally communicate,” Mrs McKenzie said.

“The UQ Telerehab facility was a godsend … I don’t think it could have been done any other way.

“It is quite an amazing service to be able to tap into from thousands of kilometres away.

“I envisage it would be extremely useful for people in rural areas or those unable to leave their homes.”

Leigh has since returned to his family and hometown of Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle in New South Wales, for the next phase of his rehabilitation.

The UQ Telerehabilitation Clinic was established in 2015 following a generous philanthropic donation from the Bowness Family Foundation.

Bill Bowness is a successful UQ graduate who was challenged by a speech impediment in his youth.

Media: UQ Communications – Robert Burgin, r.burgin@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3346 3035, +61 448 410 364.