Thu 9 Aug 2018

Isobel's story

Taranaki ultra-marathon runner Lisa Tamati and her mother Isobel spent time with WITT nursing students last week telling the story of a remarkable recovery.

When Isobel suffered a stroke in 2016 she was left in what Lisa describes as a baby in an adult’s body, and doctors feared she would not recover.

Isobel had one ace up her sleeve – her daughter is an endurance runner, a motivational speaker, an author, personal trainer, a jewellery designer and, most importantly, a hard task master who doesn’t accept the accuracy of bad news until it has been thoroughly tested.

She responded to her mother’s condition by learning about the potential benefits to stroke victims of hyperbaric chamber treatments where the brain can receive seven to eight times the amount of oxygen obtainable at sea level and in turn help recovery.

Today Isobel has her personality, memory and even her driver’s licence back.

 “My message to older people struggling with these sorts of issues is to keep fighting,” Isobel said. “To families - support your loved one because sometimes you can beat the odds. We older people are still valuable so don’t write us off. Work hard, be relentless and fight your way forward.”

Tutor Helen Bingham said students were actively engaged with the story throughout the visit.

“The message the students took away was that as nurses they need to always be compassionate and give a family hope, while working with family to support their ideas of recovery as research today provides many options, not all mainstream but this needs to be a person and families choice.

She said the session motivated the students to consider who they were as nurses, and consider their roles as advocates and listening to the patient and family while thinking widely, always caring and showing compassion.

“These values and beliefs cannot be taught out of a book, they need to come from an experience.”

The feedback from the students indicated they were also motivated by the story to think that anything was possible.

Helen said the student feedback on the learning experience showed a strong bonus of a motivational thread which had not been the intention of the learning experience.

“They expressed that anything was possible.”

Isobel Tamati’s journey has been a public one – her daughter is highly active on social media and regularly provides video updates.

They capture both the extraordinary progress Isobel has made and also drive of her daughter, who has her mother training at City Fitness and being chivvied along.

Lisa Tamati said her goal was to show students to show humanity and compassion and to see a patient who was a person with emotions, needs wants – and family.

She gets frustrated to see patients with severe brain damage being categorised by what boxes they tick. In the case of her mother, a panel assessing her completely missed recognising the progress she had made because they assumed she was beyond help.

Today Lisa says if her mother slipped from 100% to about 5% immediately after her stroke, then she was at 85-90% today.

 “It was enlightening for mum to meet the students because it was the first time she had heard me tell the complete story – mum has little if any memory of her time after her stroke.

The work never stops though.

“Mum still has difficulty walking naturally. I think it will be a year before we can get that right – and maybe three to five years to get her back to where she was before. I want her to be 110% - she has already lost 30kg and has been weaned off all but one of her medications.

Isobel’s journey earned her a nomination as a finalist in the annual Attitude Awards announced this week while Lisa continues work on a self-published book project which she hopes will see the story on the shelves by Christmas.

The Attitude Awards celebrate achievement in the disability sector. 

Lisa offers a twist in the tale to the fact that her own drive was a vital factor in her mum’s recovery to date.

“She’s as bloody-minded as me.”


Pictured: Lisa and her mum Isobel