Assistive technology has given local Sydney artist Andrew a new lease on life, allowing him to continue with his passion as his mobility has unfortunately begun to decline.
Diagnosed with neuromuscular condition Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 28, it was almost serendipity that Andrew found his way to art.
Prior to his diagnosis, Andrew worked as a builder’s labourer and a cook, but as he lost his ability to do the things he loved, he was forced to discover new passions.
“Things were changing for me so rapidly, but I’d always been interested in drawing and painting. Eventually I did a university entrance course to go and study, but I didn’t know what I wanted to study.”
“Part of that entrance course, we did a subject in art and that ignited my interest. I went and studied art at TAFE for three years and did a diploma and then an Advanced Diploma of Fine Art. Eventually I went to university and did a Bachelor of Fine art.”
Now a painter and drawer, Andrew has experienced such a rapid decline in his strength and mobility that he has been unable to produce any major works this year.
But with the assistance of Living My Way’s Occupational Therapy team, Andrew has been funded for a piece of technology that will give him a mechanical arm support.
“It works like an exo-skeleton. It will go around my right arm and it will give me a range of movement. Hopefully, that means I’ll be able to paint again.”
Andrew has accomplished so much in fine arts including having his work displayed at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair and has also submitted an entry for the Archibald Prize, called ‘Waiting for the NDIS.’
“It was a big self portrait of a slightly cranky-looking, pensive looking me, waiting for the NDIS and wondering, because I’d been waiting for years,” he said.
Now that he does have NDIS funding, Andrew’s quality of life has dramatically changed.
“Going back 10 years, I only needed a manual wheelchair to go outside of the house because I couldn’t walk very far, and gradually, my needs have increased,” Andrew said.
“Living My Way’s Occupational Therapists are keeping pace with that and helping me maintain a level of independence and be a functional person. “
While Andrew’s Occupational Therapy journey began in hospital, it was the complexity of his NDIS funding and plan that he sought the assistance of Living My Way.”
“The NDIS is so complicated and there is so much to wade through that I really just wanted to hand off a lot of that responsibility to a professional organisation.”
“I liken it to getting a tax accountant to do your tax for you. It’s just so much easier and it’s stress-free when you engage the services of a professional that is more familiar with the guidelines and what you can and can’t do.”
“Living My Way is my go-to because they always know the answer and if they don’t know the answer, then they go and find out for me.”
In the five years Andrew has worked with Living My Way, he has received a power chair, shower head/hose diverter system, and “every piece of equipment that I rely on throughout the day, Living My Way has played a hand in it.”
“It doesn’t just make life easier; it makes it possible, without them, I honestly don’t know how I’d be able to function.”