Working in my clinic, Silverdale-Natural Therapy, nestled amongst the trees in the hills east of Perth, I get to meet and treat many hills folk. They are all unique and wonderful in their own way. Many suffer from horrendous chronic injury, chronic pain, anxiety and remedial health issues.
Colleen Ashby is one such client who lives and works as a remedial special needs assistant at our local Lesmurdie High School.
I treat a lot of women who have or are entering into deep crisis. This can be emotional, physical, mental or spiritual. My clinic is seen as a sanctuary where they can relax, reconnect and let go of all the burdens that they carry.
When Colleen Ashby entered my clinic, I would never have imagined the deep impact that she would have on my life and on that on my practise.
Colleen had a congenital heart condition. Six years prior Colleen was a fitness instructor. 17 angiograms later which included many stent operations to relieve arterial blockages. It became increasingly obvious that Colleen would require a heart transplant.
Many a time it was touch and go for Colleen.
Having Type 1 diabetes only added to the complications to Colleens condition. Including her incredibly strong anti-bodies. These would fight back even when they had been radiated, and stripped out of her blood. This was part of the rigorous process Colleen had to go through before receiving her heart. Not once did I ever hear her complain. She talked more about the impact this was having on her family. Always thinking of others and never of herself.
Colleen has that typical hills larrikin type character. She gets along with everyone. Down to earth to a T. Funny to the bone. Honest and doesn’t suffer fools. Colleen calls things as she sees it.
Her mind-set strong – Her philosophy “If you have a problem you just get on with and take responsibility with whatever life serves up to you. You just deal with it”
Originally Colleen came to see me for respite and to treat niggling back pain. As for many, it’s a time out from life that many of my clients gift themselves as they gain a lot of relief for doing so. Within my treatments I combine Flower Essences and Bowen Therapy. They work well for those that find themselves under close doctor scrutiny. It is non-evasive and awakens the body’s own natural healing wisdom. (You can read more about this on my blog What is Bowen Therapy? and The Healing Power of Flower Essence Therapy)
The last time I saw Colleen we both knew that her new heart was on its way. Little did we know what would this mean for her.
Two days later, in late January 2017, Colleen received that call. Her heart had arrived.
The operation was complicated. At some point, it didn’t seem that she would pull through. Through true Colleen style and tenacity she lives to tell her tale. Many prayers were sent. Much support surrounded Colleen at this time.
Later in February I was given the opportunity to treat Colleen at the Coronary Care unit at Fiona Stanley Hospital.
Before I saw her, I was told that through the operation Colleen had lost her sight. She was now blind. “This is an anomaly”. “It’s never happened before “said her doctors. Even to this day they cannot understand how this came to be.
Walking into the Coronary Care unit I didn’t know what I would encounter, nor did I think I could control my emotion. I was happy for Colleen on so many levels and devastated that she had another deep challenge to endure. This was soon obliterated by a welcoming laugh, a hug and a “Gday how you are going Trace”
Even though Colleen was blind, she could see. I was immediately put at ease and things were accepted as they are. This is the wisdom Colleen exudes.
Colleen is one of the most genuine, courageous and wisest person I have ever met. My life is so much richer with her in it. The gifts that she’s given me, professionally and personally are unquantifiable. It’s our attitude and our mind-set that propel us forward no matter what life serves up to us.
When Colleen talks about her heart transplant, she never forwardly discusses the fact she lost her sight. She feels that this will detract from the importance of organ donation and knows how many desperately need it.
This is her journey and she has openly accepted it with everything she has to offer.
If you were to stand in Colleen’s shoes you’d understand that prior to her transplant, she was living a life that could end at any given moment.
Shortness of breath, lack of stamina and energy to do the most basic of tasks. Losing her sight is a small price to pay for the new lease of life she has now gained. In her words, she just wants to dance, and now she has the energy to do just that.
Colleen knows her life is a gift. She continues to be an intrinsic part of her family with her three sons Stephen, Scott and Mark, her amazing mother Pat and that of her husband Les. Colleen is indeed an important part of our hills community, she has a lot to give and so much wisdom to offer.
Next year Colleen plans to go back to work and be a walking example to the teenagers that she will be supporting. All of this would not be possible if Colleen had not received her heart and this is what she chooses to focus on.
We’ve had many a conversation about the complexity of life. Many around how her life depended on the death of another. That’s not something she takes for granted.
Sight or no sight. Colleen gets on with it and is now training to star in the Transplant Games on the Gold coast in Sept of 2018.
12 months ago, Colleen couldn’t even walk to her letterbox. Now she blindly walks 5-10 kilometres a day through the streets of Lesmurdie. Lifting weights and swims 1600m three days a week in training for the Transplant Games.
It was through her swimming training that she also discovered that she’s able to see objects and shapes under water. Above water she cannot. This can’t be explained by her doctors. Another miracle. Colleen has shown me that they exist.
I am in awe of her will. Her determination. Her desire to capture the simple precious moments that she has and gives thanks for each and every one of them.
We can all learn something from Colleen. She’s a true force of nature. I am so grateful she came into my life and entrusted me to support her through this journey. This is why I am writing this. Many have their stories. Few grab life by the balls and move through such adversity holding no bitterness, regret nor “why me”.
“There’s no room to sit idle nor sit in depression or despair. Keep life’s options open you never know what can and will happen” This is her humble philosophy.
Colleen is now a strong advocate for Organ Donation. This will be her legacy, including how to live life with a full heart and Colleen is certainly showing us how to do that.
If you would like to support Colleen and her team to compete in the 2018 Transplant Games Please donate to her Go Fund Me Page or even leave a message of support.
Each year, living and deceased donors and their families save and transform the lives of thousands of Australians through the gift of organ and tissue donation.
You can register to the Donate Life Foundation by clicking this link
Tracy O’Meara Smith is a Holistic Health Practitioner. If she’s not working within her Perth Hills clinic, you’ll find her in the garden with her family, or in the bush soaking up the awesome flowery vibes.
Tracy uses a combination of natural therapies such as Bowen, Emmett and Flower Essence Therapy. Tracy helps people gain the peace, relief and new perspective they crave.
Tracy works 1:1 with women, online and within her clinic – Silverdale Natural Therapy. She treats women who suffer from chronic pain, insomnia, hormonal issues, and anxiety. Having two daughters of her own, she is unapologetically human. Through her own complex journey, she is sincerely motivated to leave this world a better woman and a better place.
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