HEATHRIDGE resident Natalie Bock wants to tell others in the area about a community service many might not know is available.
Last year, Mrs Bock was diagnosed with a brain tumour and told it needed to be removed immediately.
During the operation, her brain swelled too much for a piece of skull bone to be put back in.
“I woke up to be told I had a 4cm square hole in my skull and that it couldn’t be put back in until my brain had returned to its normal size, which was likely to be a few months,” she said.
For safety reasons, she was not able to return to work.
“For the first couple of weeks I put all my energy into recovering, but after a while I felt trapped at home and started to want to go out,” she said.
“I wasn’t allowed to drive for three months because there was a risk of falls and seizures.
“I have beautiful friends who were taking my children to school and escorting me to appointments and taking me out for short breaks, but what I really needed was to be able to get to places when they were busy.
“Over a couple of weeks, I rang every support agency I knew about to see if there was any help available to someone in my position and the answer was always ‘no’.
“I wasn’t permanently disabled and I wasn’t over 65 so I didn’t qualify for any assistance in any way.”
Mrs Bock said though her husband was still working, she could not afford to take taxis all the time and she was not allowed to travel alone in case she fell or had a seizure.
Eventfully she rang the Joondalup Library’s volunteer network to see if they had any suggestions and she was referred to the City of Joondalup, where she learned of the Community Transport program.
Though targeted to “older residents”, the program offers two community buses from Mondays to Fridays to transport people to shopping centres, the Joondalup Library or senior citizen centres in the City.
Mrs Bock said she was put on the Friday morning run that alternates between Lakeside Joondalup and Whitford City shopping centres, as well as monthly trips to the library.
“Every Friday, a volunteer helper comes up to the door to give assistance to people who are not steady or who might fall and the bus has a wheelchair lift for people who are in wheelchairs,” she said.
“Even the steps into the bus have been modified to allow people to take shorter steps and not have any risk of hurting themselves getting in and out.
“They even went a step further for me and rang both shopping centres to organise to have a gopher so I didn’t have any risk of falling or being knocked over.
“The need for constant supervision was reduced because the bus staff and concierge staff knew I was in the centre and if I didn’t turn up to return the gopher or connect with the bus on time, they knew there had to be a problem and what my medical issues were.”
She said being able to go shopping on her own made a “huge difference” to her recovery emotionally.
“I cannot speak highly enough about the people who helped me get out each week,” she said.
“I had a weekly independent outing to look forward to knowing that I was physically as safe as I could be.
“The State Head Injury Unit, who were helping me to understand the recovery process, told me that many people in my position are too scared to go out in case they get hurt and they end up with depression.
“I was scared as well, but I believe having someone help me get to where I wanted to go and find a way for me to do things as safely as possible was instrumental in me avoiding the pitfall of depression,” she said.
“Being out and making decisions for myself and by myself meant that I felt like a member of society again.”
Mrs Bock has since had a second operation to replace the bone in her skull and is recovering well.
“I want to thank the City of Joondalup and all the people involved with helping me over those six months,” she said.
“Now I want other people to know about the service because the City is very happy to extend the network to people in situations similar to mine, where they can’t drive and risk being homebound and unhappy as a result.
“I wholeheartedly believe that it is thanks to this service that I have gotten through this experience in a positive place, rather than feeling cut off from life.”
A return journey costs $4.50 and is available to residents in the City of Joondalup who do not have access to transport.
To register, call 9400 4204.