Courageous Sunshine Coast mum grateful for assistance

Article from Men of League Magazine June 2015

A Sunshine Coast family has declared they have no idea how they would have survived financially had it not been for the generosity and support of the Men of League Foundation.

Paula Gowland has struggled for almost 12 months following a freak accident which eventually resulted in her left leg being amputated below the knee. But the largest grant awarded in Queensland by the Foundation has enabled the family to finally leave their darkest days behind.

“I don’t know where we would be today had it not been for the generosity of the Men of League Foundation in particular, as well as other local sporting identities and individuals,” said the Sunshine Coast mum of three.

“The Men of League Foundation has enabled me to focus on my rehab and not worry about paying the mounting medical bills. I am just so overwhelmed by the help we have received, and the kindness.”

The grant to Paula is a true reflection of the Men of League Foundation charter, which specifies assistance to ‘those from all levels of the rugby league family who, for various reasons, have fallen on hard times’.

“I had no idea the Foundation helped families, and in particular women. Like most other people possibly, I just assumed they were there to support ex-players who were in financial difficulty. When the local committee came calling on us, it was like a gift from heaven.”

At the time of her accident – a fall at home while she was hanging curtains – Paula was medical officer for the Kawana Dolphins under-7s. Her husband John was the coach and son Ethan played in the team.

Sunshine Coast Committee Wellbeing officer John Bourke was contacted by the Kawana club and advised of the difficulties facing the family, and he set the wheels in motion for the assistance. The rest is history, with the formidable grant duly approved by the National Men of League Foundation Board to cover the out-of-pocket expenses for the family, who did have medical insurance.

The injury was so severe that Paula spent the next three-and-a-half months in hospital on the Sunshine Coast, undergoing six surgical procedures. Eventually doctors advised that because compartment syndrome had occurred, her leg would need to be amputated.

The amputation and osseointergration was performed in Sydney where she spent another two months hospitalised.

And all has not been plain sailing since. The weight of her prosthetic leg has caused another fracture and further surgery, including the possibility of a knee replacement.

But that has not dampened the spirit of the keen outrigger, who already has her sights set on representing Australia at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Selection trials for the Australian Paralympic team will take place early next year at the National Canoe Sprint Titles, but before then she will represent Australia and compete at next year’s World Outrigging Sprint Titles in the adaptive division at Lake Kawana on the Sunshine Coast.

Although never having paddled a kayak before her accident, Paula trains six mornings a week in search of her goal.

By Tony Durkin

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