Isa & Jessica's Story - No Looking Back

Last year, ESSA launched the Client of the Year Award, which encouraged professionals to nominate one of their clients who had achieved inspiring health outcomes through the prescription of exercise, for both their physical and mental health.

Although a winner was selected, there was a wide range of heartwarming finalists whose stories deserve to be shared. One of these was Isa and Jessica's story.

Over the last 30 years, ESSA has been encouraging the importance of exercise for all Australians health, including children who might just need an extra helping hand.

Meet Jessica and Isa
Jessica Bellamy is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who has been working in the field since 2014, having also completed a Master of Research in paediatric exercise prescription. In 2020, Jessica sent through a submission for the Client of the Year Award, wanting one of her patients recognised for his absolutely epic journey with her.

Isa, an 11-year-old boy, lives with a rare form of mitochondrial disease, mitochondrial myopathy – complex III deficiency coupled with mitochondrial diabetes. This condition is a result of mutations in the genes that make up the mitochondria, meaning that aerobic metabolism is impaired. The reduced ability for energy production leads to poor exercise tolerance, significant fatigue and an inability to keep up with peers. Isa’s condition puts him at high risk of significant health consequences such as metabolic crisis requiring frequent admissions to hospital.

Due to this, Isa had not been able to engage in any type of physical activity at school or in the community, so he was initially referred to Jessica to trial an exercise program to help improve function, fatigue, exercise tolerance and quality of life. The theory behind using aerobic exercise as a treatment for mitochondrial myopathy is to increase mitochondrial density, while resistance training aims to reduce the proportion of mutant mtDNA.

Their Journey
Jessica worked with Isa twice a week over a 12 week period and now checks in every few months. Exercise sessions started at 20 minutes in duration due to his function and fatigue. By week 5, Isa had paced up to 45 minute exercise sessions, and by week 8, Isa was able to participate in 60 continuous minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity.

During his exercise program, Isa was able to more than double both the weight and workload of his strength-based exercises – significantly assisting with the management of his mitochondrial diabetes. Isa now participates in weekly school sport/fitness and enjoys playing with his brother after school in a nearby park.

The Impact of Exercise Physiology
Isa’s specialist calculated the impact of this exercise program on the NSW Health System. Prior to commencing Exercise Physiology (EP) treatment, Isa had undergone 45 significant acute hospital admissions due to complications from his mitochondrial diseases, costing over $600,000. Since commencing his EP treatment, Isa has had ZERO hospital admissions over the past 18 months!

Jessica said: “Our exercise program had a large focus on engaging and improving fundamental movement skills. By increasing his confidence in these activities as well as increasing his functional capacity, Isa is now able to confidently engage in recess play with his friends. Now he can spend the day walking around the city with his family without a worry in the world.”
Isa's Support Crew

Those in Isa’s family and support team also recognised the significant improvement exercise had on his health:

“When you finally feel like you have defeated sickness with being active and able to do everyday sport just like everyone else... Thanks Jess.” – Dalal (Isa’s mother).

“We saw Isa at the Children's Hospital Institute of Sports Medicine (CHISM) and he was beaming! He has loved his sessions with Jess and his mother reports great improvements in his fatigue, strength and exercise tolerance (and no hospital admissions!).” – Associate Professor Carolyn Broderick (Staff Specialist at CHISM).

Jessica, like all of our accredited exercise professionals, was incredibly proud of Isa and his accomplishments. She followed up this story with an important message:

“Having a serious health condition shouldn’t stop a child from playing and having fun.”

Thank you to Jessica, Isa and his family for sharing their inspiring story with us.

If you'd like to find an ESSA accredited professional in your area, visit our online search function today.

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Jessica, Accredited Exercise Physiologist

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