Rock-climbing graduate reaches out to help | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Rock-climbing graduate reaches out to help

20 May 2021

USC Occupational Therapy graduate Elli Pukallus of Dalby has refused to let a painful, lifelong lower limb condition keep her from participating in the sport of rock climbing or from gaining her degree.

Elli is now sharing her pain management knowledge and personal experience with older adults after gaining a graduate OT role with a Sunshine Coast company that specialises in providing allied health services to the aged and community care sectors.

“Growing up, I experienced the ups and downs of living with a lower limb condition that could be debilitating at times,” said Elli, who received a USC Commendation for Academic Excellence when she graduated with Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) in April.

 “Through these experiences I’ve learnt about the joy that lends itself to participating in meaningful activities and occupations,” she said.

 “For me that is rock climbing, which I have even been able to manage to do without the use of one leg at times.

 “I am proof of the importance of finding ways to manage the pain, so people can participate in activities that are important to them and add value to their lives.”

 Since graduating, Elli has been working with allied health provider Encara, with a day-to-day role that predominantly involves chronic pain management and falls prevention to enable clients to maintain greater independence and continue participating in their hobbies.

 “The thing I enjoy most about my role is spending time with older adults, who are often socially isolated, and learning about all they have done in their lifetime,” she said.

 “I am applying what I have learned about the effects of ageing on occupational participation, as well as other skills including pressure care management and therapeutic communication for people with dementia.”

Elli, who completed Year 12 at Dalby State High School in 2016, said she was inspired by the quote ‘medicine adds days to life, occupational therapy adds life to days’ to move to the Sunshine Coast as a new school leaver to enrol in USC’s Occupational Therapy degree.

 She finished the degree with an outstanding overall grade point average of 6.48 out of 7, even despite having to deal with flare-ups in her condition that left her without the use of her leg.

 “Strong organisation, determination and the support of my family were the secrets to achieving my results,” Elli said.

 “When I experienced chronic pain and wasn’t able to walk for three months during my second year of study, my family were by my side so that I wouldn’t have to defer,” she said.

 Aged care became a career goal for Elli after she completed work placements at an aged care centre and in emergency care at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, where much of her caseload involved working with older patients who had been admitted following falls.

 Applications to study at USC in Semester 2 are now open. F

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