Lara & Daniel’s Story — Exercise During COVID-19

As we continue to celebrate 30 years of ESSA and the inspiring clients that our exercise and sports science professionals work with, it’s hard to go past Lara.

After a double lung transplant at a young age, and as she waits to get the call up for another, Lara has incorporated exercise physiology in to her life to ensure she is fit and healthy for when it happens.

Another finalist for the Client of the Year in 2020, Lara highlighted just how important exercise is for Australians, even in the face of a scary and challenging time: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet Lara
Lara was only 18 when she received her first double lung transplant. As a fit, healthy and active teenager, Lara was just unlucky and had glandular fever. An unfortunate series of events led one thing to another and Lara was ultimately diagnosed with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) which led to her lungs needing time to rest, but unfortunately resulted in them collapsing and a double lung transplant being her only chance of survival.

Fast forward 11 years, to the age of 29, and Lara is happily married, built her dream home together with her husband, and is been living her best. Unfortunately, once again, she began to notice her quality of life slowly declining.

After a range of tests, Lara found out that her lung capacity was lower than 40% for the average 29-year-old female and was placed on the wait list for her second double lung transplant.

Lara and Daniel
Exercising during COVID-19
Daniel McAuliffe from Connect Health and Fitness has been working with Lara during this time.

"Lara has been amazingly consistent with 3 x weekly visits. Each session is based on light, aerobic warm-ups. To put it into perspective for how it feels for Lara: it would be like breathing through a straw and then exercising, so during warm-up on the bike or walking laps of the gym we always try to maintain friendly banter/ chat to ensure low intensity.

Our visits include lower limb strength exercises, predominantly compound exercises involving quadriceps to improve quality of life for day-to-day tasks like combating the stairs each day. Upper body strength endurance (her favourite days are when she does seated rows) and a combination of lower endurance and light mobility during rest are also included.

We know each other well enough that an entire session based on strength may be modified instantly to a slow mobility session without a single word to each other, purely based on how she presents as she walks through the door."

Lara's sessions have also been used as a way to help improve her mental health.

“It was quite a challenging and scary time for most during the COVID-19 lockdowns, especially for those, like Lara, in the high risk category. Lara was constantly surprising her specialist at the hospital, her family, her friends, and even me with not only her physical development but how mentally strong and positive she remained.”

Lara understood the importance of maintaining her physical and mental health during the pandemic and its lockdowns and continued her Exercise Physiology sessions with Daniel and the team at Connect Health Fitness.

Although Lara’s lung capacity was still slowly declining, her physical and mental strength improved significantly, which allowed her to conquer the dreaded stairs, walk along the beach, and go camping with her husband and their puppy, Alfie.
Lara’s progress
Lara made the most of a tough situation knowing how important her exercise program and keeping active was to be ready for her next transplant.

“Naturally, day to day life can be quite stressful and exhausting with a restricted breathing capacity. No matter if we are doing walking lunges or simple stretching, I feel like I am achieving something for myself everyday which is very rewarding.”

As her Accredited Exercise Physiologist watching her progress, Daniel has been truly inspired by Lara (as he is with all his clients).

“Although I assist and play a role in the lives of my clients, they are all truly motivating. Lara’s positivity and genuine kindness throughout these truly difficult years is nothing short of inspiring.”

Since we first met Lara in 2020, she is still patiently waiting for that second double lung transplant. She has been wait listed for 12 months so far, and while the wait is long and hard, she is feeling stronger than she ever has, both mentally and physically.

It still could be a while yet, COVID-19 has definitely slowed things down in the transplant world, but we hope she gets ‘the call’ one day very soon. She invests a lot of time and effort into her health so that we can be prepared for that day.

Thank you to Daniel and Lara for sharing her inspiring story with us.

If you'd like to find an ESSA Accredited Exercise Physiologist in your area who can help improve your health, visit our online search function today.

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Danl McAuliffe from Connect Health and Fitness

Supporting health through exercise for 30 years 

To celebrate 30 years of Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), we are reflecting on 30 stories which commemorate the profound impact the exercise and sports science industry and its professionals have had on our communities, and how they have benefited the health landscape in Australia.

Click here to read more like this one