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Generosity and determination combine for an amazing outcome.

Hehuni Tau is a 42 year old PNG citizen. Nearly 12 months ago, he was getting a sore, swollen right knee which just wouldn’t go away. The sensation wasn’t normal either and gradually the leg got weaker. Despite x-rays, blood tests, CT Scans, no cause could be found. Within a few months, the Left leg began to swell also and weaken. He was hospitalised with Cellulitis in the left leg - a dangerous infection - but still no solution to his weakness was found. Hehuni soon had to stop working in his job in finance, as he could no longer get around well enough. He was unable to walk or drive, and his legs were both numb and easily fatigued.

It was decided that to get any answers, he would need to go to the Philippines or Australia. The Philippines was a cheaper option but not available at the time so Hehuni enlisted the help of his Australian-residing family and headed to Adelaide for tests. Hehuni’s investigations and treatment have been funded thanks to fundraising and generous donations from family and friends in both PNG and Australia, as there has been no Medicare agreement between Australia and PNG since 1975. Hehuni told me if he was born before Independence in 1975, he would have been fully covered here!

An MRI that could accommodate his size soon diagnosed a mass on his spine between his shoulder blades that was causing his weakness. Despite the fact it may have been present for many years, it was clearly now growing rapidly and it would need urgent removal to salvage nerves and therefore function.

The surgery went without incident and in December 2018 he was discharged to the care of his Barossa family, now needing to learn to roll, stand and walk again.

If this happened to us under our Medicare system, we would have been discharged to Hampstead Centre for intensive Rehabilitation including Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Gym strengthening, driving assessment and wheelchair and equipment assessment and provision. He would have had at least 3 hours a day of rehabilitation, 5 days per week.

Hehuni has done all his rehabilitation based on just one hour per week here at Barossa Physiotherapy plus a self-managed home program.

He displayed determination and self-motivation, knowing that his return home depended not only on his ability to walk, but also the ability to climb stairs.