Pole’r Kellie Discovers New Therapy for Cerebral Palsy
Having completed an Honours degree and then acquiring a professional internship program in a respected Allied Health profession, it appears there is nothing this young Australian woman with cerebral palsy cannot achieve with perseverance. Now she is breaking new ground within her own physical therapy, thanks to pole dance fitness and a committed and talented pole instructor. Using a scooter or wheelchair to get around, 26-year old Kellie Leigh has always fought for her independence and to achieve her potential. This has involved catching buses to attend her various part-time jobs and University lectures, and never allowing her mobility issues to get in the way of living her life to the fullest. A few years ago, having already participated in ballroom and Latin dancing, Kellie was first introduced to the concept of pole dance fitness as a sport on TV, and an idea began to form in her mind. “It occurred to me that the pole would provide support, something to hold onto, while I am able to stand up and exercise my muscles,” she explained. As a young woman, feeling “sexy” whilst she worked out and rehabilitated also appealed, and it wasn’t long before Kellie was taking private lessons in various pole dance studios around her home town of Brisbane. “I stared weekly private lessons with Sharon Holmes from Sensual Dance about a year ago. Sharon has been so amazing. She persevered with me, and pushed me to achieve things that I never thought I could do! Not only do I now have greater flexibility, overall body awareness and mobility of my legs, but I can dance around the pole and even climb it!!” Sharon Holmes, the owner and Head Instructor from Sensual Dance Studio in Indooroopilly (Brisbane), has been Kellie’s weekly pole instructor for over a year now, and really enjoys seeing Kellie become stronger, fitter and more flexible as the months pass. “Kellie is a real joy to work with, because she works so hard and takes her progress very seriously. She is very stubborn at times, always wanting to get the moves right. I am thrilled that she has learned to engage and utilise muscles that she wasn’t able to before, such as her abs,” Sharon said.
“Together, Kellie and I are conquering barriers, and it’s a real joy as a teacher to see your students’ improvement. Kellie displays the correct muscle activation and strength as she climbs and sit on the pole. This in itself is a difficult task for anybody new to pole.” Having already conquered a pole climb (a massive achievement in itself) Sharon and Kellie are currently working on an invert from a lying down position on the ground. “She is getting so strong now in her abs and arms. An invert wouldn’t be possible from the ground because her condition doesn’t allow a controlled swinging motion of the leg, so we are taking that out, and working on an invert from the ground. Once she has her legs on the pole, Kellie won’t have any trouble gripping with her knees, as she has mastered that concept in a climb,” Sharon explains. This is the first time Sharon has worked with somebody with cerebral palsy, and due to their tremendous success as a team, she wonders how much more is possible for Kellie in her pole dancing journey. Kellie says that pole dancing acts as physical therapy for her, and the results have been significant. Having conquered the ability to pole dance, Kellie’s latest dream is now being able to drive herself to her pole lessons, and to her new full-time job as a specialist in the Allied Health profession. “I am one of a few people with my condition who are able to drive by ourselves, but I am not able to do so without a number of tailored modifications. For example, any vehicle I purchase needs to also accommodate my scooter, and feature a tail-gate with a manually operated ramp so that I can load the scooter myself, and then get in behind the wheel.” Kellie has acquired quotes for a Mercedes Vito van (which has the space for her scooter), as well as the numerous critical modifications to the vehicle, and the total comes in at around AU$100,000. These quotes were obtained with the help of an occupational therapist and vehicle modification specialist through the Queensland Government’s Vehicle Options Subsidy Scheme (VOSS). The VOSS scheme provides AU$8, 800 towards the purchase and modification cost of a vehicle. While this funding is greatly appreciated, it unfortunately leaves a large gap for Kellie to collect herself. According to Kellie, approaching a charitable association for the rest will not be successful, as most understandably distribute their limited funds to people or organisations with greater needs than hers. As a result, Kellie finds herself falling into a “grey area”, where funds for her day-to-day needs need to be covered privately, and adding to the challenge is the fact that Kellie is not eligible for a loan from the bank. “I have already saved around AU$27,000 of my own money over the past few years from my part-time jobs, and I have recently set up an account on Go Fund Me.com. I am hoping that really generous people, locally and from afar, will be inspired by my ongoing quest for independence and donate even just a little bit, so that I can easily get myself from my house to my job and other appointments.” At the moment, Kellie travels by taxi, bus or train, which accommodates her scooter. However, this is not a viable option for the long-term. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder affecting a person’s ability to move freely, and the tightness of their muscles. It is a permanent life-long condition, but generally does not worsen over time. It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth. The specific cause of the damage is not known. Cerebral palsy affects people in different ways and can affect body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. Some people who have cerebral palsy may also have visual, learning, hearing, speech, epilepsy and intellectual impairments. If you would like to support a fellow pole dancer in our international pole community, Kellie would be so grateful for just a few dollars which will go a long way in helping her to drive. www.gofundme.com/im2ef0