What an exhilarating experience! I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the Central Mallee Health Outreach Osteo Program, joining a passionate group of osteopaths for something entirely new in my 22-years of practice.
The Osteo Outreach team powered by Central Mallee Health is a well-structured effort led by Louise and her team of osteopaths. Their mission is to engage with Mallee residents and provide osteopathic care to those who may not otherwise have regular access to such services.
Marnie and I eagerly embarked on the journey to Swan Hill, where we were warmly welcomed by the team. We were then treated to a delightful dinner at Quo Vadis (a highly recommended dining spot) and had the pleasure of meeting the charming owner, who, coincidentally, is the uncle of a fellow osteopath (it's a small world indeed). Louise and Bayley generously arranged accommodation for us, which turned out to be perfect.
Our adventure commenced bright and early the next morning with a scenic walk to the wetlands. Watching the sunrise ranks high on my list of favourite things, and this particular morning did not disappoint. The clinic day in Swan Hill was a whirlwind, with patients spanning a wide range, from farmers to infants and everything in between. The administrative team made my life easier, especially as I was working in an unfamiliar clinic with a computer program I had never encountered (thanks, guys!).
In the middle of the day, I conducted a tutorial for the team. Despite my experience of lecturing and working in osteopathic education for over a decade, I still found it nerve-wracking. The topic of my tutorial was the TMJ (the jaw) and the ways practitioners can alleviate TMJ problems. I was pleasantly surprised by how receptive everyone was, and their encouragement put me at ease during the presentation. The afternoon was equally busy with a steady stream of patients, which was incredibly rewarding. I loved the vibe in the clinic, the team sharing space and always someone to talk to or having a cuppa.
The following morning, we set off early for Robinvale, and I had the privilege of engaging in insightful conversations with Taylor as we soaked in the breathtaking scenery. In Robinvale, Marnie, Taylor, and I treated patients at the Robinvale Resource Centre, while Louise efficiently managed logistics for the day, which was instrumental in its smooth operation. The patients in Robinvale presented with a diverse range of symptoms and came from various demographics, spanning from young children to older individuals, and from broken bones to migraines.
It was evident how much our presence meant to the community, as some patients had traveled up to an hour for treatment. Right outside our treatment rooms, there was a community language group engaged in games and delightful conversations, infusing the atmosphere with energy and joy.
During our travels, I also had the privilege of exploring some of the remarkable sights of the Mallee. We wrapped up our day early enough to drive to Lake Tyrrell and witness the breathtaking sunset over the lake. While I previously stated that sunrises were among my favourite things, I must now add sunsets to that list! Despite having driven past Lake Tyrrell without stopping on previous occasions, this visit was truly awe-inspiring. Marnie, Louise, and I had a blast capturing videos, funny photos, and enjoying a leisurely walk by the lake. I can confidently say that I won't be passing by this extraordinary location without stopping again; it warrants another visit.
That evening after a hearty pub meal at the Royal Hotel in Sea Lake, we were fortunate to stay on a charming farm. It was an idyllic setting with the added bonus of the most adorable and friendly cats. Even though I had spent the day driving and treating patients, it was the perfect afternoon and evening.
Our final day of treating took place at Birchip Central Mallee Health Clinic, once again filled with caring for the locals of the region. One patient, in particular, left a lasting impression on me and epitomised the challenges faced by those in the area. She was pregnant and described herself as someone who "doesn't work" (her words). However, that very morning, before her appointment with me, she had moved hay bales and tended to farm animals, just to name a few of her tasks, all while experiencing a sore back. This highlighted the demands of running a household on a farm, be it a working farm or simply a house in a rural area.
The need for osteopathic care in remote areas is undoubtedly significant, and I was grateful to be able to contribute during this trip. Of course, we couldn't leave Birchip without indulging in some delicious vanilla slices from the local bakery, which we enjoyed that evening at our farm retreat.
While taking a break from family life for a short getaway is always welcome, my journey to the Mallee allowed me to make a meaningful contribution to a community beyond my local surroundings. These few days were a personally and professionally fulfilling experience for me, and I sincerely hope I made a positive difference in the lives of people who may not have easy access to healthcare services.
A robust outreach program takes into account long-term sustainability, and Louise has been considerate in implementing strategies to ensure its enduring impact on the community. I am excited to be a part of this initiative and eagerly anticipate continuing to support this outstanding outreach program that enriches and strengthens our state.
I wholeheartedly encourage my fellow osteopaths and osteopathic students to participate in this program; you will find inspiration in the Mallee's patients and the remarkable team at Central Mallee Health.
By Dina Culcasi
Source (includes photos): https://www.outreachosteo.com.au/stories/perfect-sunset-to-rural-experience