Lee’s road to recovery: turning setbacks into opportunities


Lee-Anne Dowling’s strength of character shines through and is one of those people who continues to be inspired, and inspire others, despite significant adversity.

Three and a half years ago, and at just 52, Lee suffered a major stroke, but her wicked sense of humour and tenacious spirit has refused to bring her down and she now talks about the recent past as a ‘three-and-a-half-year holiday’.

“One door shuts, and the next one opens,” says Lee who has, for all intents and purposes climbed a mountain, and is now a regular on the Goulburn Base Hospital Guide Desk.

While many of us were consumed by COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, mother of four, Lee lost the ability to walk and talk.

Over the years that followed, Lee spent countless hours, painstakingly re-learning the basic skills that most of us take for granted. She does not complain though and does not like being idle, rather she says, “you do what you can, with the way things are”.

“I always had the drive to get back to work,” Lee says. “I’ve always been an independent woman. My mind was always ticking over, always thinking and I wanted to get back to work but what could I do?” Lee-Anne says.

Lee knew she couldn’t get back to the work she had done before the stroke as her body would probably never fully go back to the way it had been.

“The staff kept telling me to go slow and steady. But Lee doesn’t like slow and steady,” she said of herself.

Lee underwent rehabilitation at the Southern Area Brain Injury Service (SABIS) and is extremely grateful for the support and care she received from the doctors, nurses and allied health staff at both Goulburn Base Hospital and the SABIS Transitional Living Unit (TLU).

The TLU is a 3-bedroom residential unit in Goulburn open 24hrs, five days per week that supports people with a brain injury to re-learn their day-to-day living skills.

SABIS Service Manager, Levi Hick, says the unit helps people with a brain injury up to 65 years of age achieve their rehabilitation goals and provides long-term support and community connections.

“Our clinicians are specially trained to assess brain injury clients and support them by coordinating their rehab through the TLU and through outreach support in their homes and in the community,” Levi says. “We can work with them as long as they need.”

Keen to get back on her feet, at first Lee didn’t take the therapists’ advice to take it slow and steady, and when she first returned home, she had a fall where she broke her wrist and shoulder.

“I learn the hard way,” Lee says. “It’s the only way I learn.”

Lee drive to keep trying and never give up is an inspiration to everyone around her. Lee has four grown-up kids and a couple of grandkids and says she needs to show them that a bit of hard work goes a long way.

“I like to be independent and I’m not as independent as I’d like to be,” Lee says. “I like to tick all the boxes – I started with tying shoelaces – and once I achieve one thing, I move on to the next.”

Lee is always asking herself what else can I do? What else can I strive for?

This is how she landed the job as a Volunteer on the Guide Desk at Goulburn Base Hospital.

She admits she’s still learning how to get around the new Goulburn Base Hospital, but she loves the opportunity to do something that gives back to the hospital for the care she received and, having previously worked three jobs a day as a short order cook, cleaner and in a takeaway, says it’s the easiest work she’s ever had to do.

Lee’s cheeky personality always shines through, and she is a welcome addition to the Guide Desk. You can see her there every Friday afternoon, so say hello but beware of her wicked sense of humour.

“After all,” she says, “How many people get permission to tell people where to go?”

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