St Vincent’s Young Adult Complex Disability Service

Nathan Slachter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was a child.  He is now 23.

Cerebral palsy is a permanent life-long disease that affects a person’s ability to move, and occurs when the developing brain is damaged either during pregnancy or shortly after birth.

Once he turned 18, Nathan graduated to the adult hospital system, where he soon discovered that it isn’t necessarily equipped to cater for the unique needs of young adult patients.

In recognition of this unique need, a pilot project was launched in 2004 at St Vincent’s to specifically help young adults with complex physical disabilities move into adult healthcare.  In 2006, the pilot project became an ongoing state-wide service provided by St Vincent’s and is called the Young Adult Complex Disability Service.

Typically under this program, a combination of allied health and medical staff work together to identify goals for the young adult patient and help them achieve those goals.

One of Nathan’s goals when he joined the program was to improve his confidence and physical ability so that he is able to go to a local gym rather than come to the hospital to exercise regularly.

“After a 12 week physical exercise program here at St Vincent’s, we facilitated his transition to the local gym of his choice,” says Ray Lobo, one of the program’s physiotherapists.  “Nathan has achieved his goal of independently attending his local gym.”

Nathan and Ray copy
Nathan Slachter and his physiotherapist Ray Lobo

“As a result of the gym program, he is also able to walk longer distances without requiring rest and feels better about his general health.”

Nathan says the gym program has helped him enormously and he is grateful to all the St Vincent’s staff for their help.

“I feel so good and am finding the benefits astronomical,” he says.

“If every hospital implemented this, it would change a lot of lives and we probably wouldn’t have the obesity rates and health risks that we do have.”

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