Ardross triathlete learning it all again

Kirsten Koh suffered an horrific accident but thanks to physiotherapist Neil Drouet she is competing again.
Kirsten Koh suffered an horrific accident but thanks to physiotherapist Neil Drouet she is competing again.

AFTER surviving a horror cycling accident that left her unable to walk, Kirsten Koh refused to settle for just being alive.

The one-time triathlon fanatic was determined to compete again, even though that meant completely re-learning how to run, swim and cycle.

A truck driver left Ms Koh critically injured after accidentally ploughing into her in the midst of a cycling session in her native Singapore in 2011.

“I have no memory of the accident itself,” she said.

“My friend tells me that one second I was riding alongside her and the next I had been replaced by a lorry with sparks flying from its undercarriage.”

Ms Koh was mangled from the waist down – breaks in both ankles, both femurs, her left tibia and fibula, a pelvis shattered in three places and a broken shoulder for good measure.

It was nine months before she was cleared to walk again, but her recovery did not end there.

After moving to Australia, the Ardross-based Ms Koh teamed up with physiotherapist Neil Drouet in mid-2013 with one goal in mind: completing the 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run of the Challenge Roth ironman in Germany.

“Physically, I had doubts whether it was possible,” Mr Drouet admitted. But you meet Kirsten and you very quickly see that mentally, no matter how many barriers get put up, she is going to keep trying to push past them.”

Ms Koh had already rehabilitated enough to resume moderate cycling and swimming but a 2cm difference between her left and right legs made running more difficult.

“Our focus was on improving Kirsten’s musculoskeletal balance so that she could move more normally,” Mr Drouet said.

Ms Koh’s assessment is more blunt.

“I was running like a poorly-stringed puppet,” she said.

With the aid of Mr Drouet – and a special anti-gravity treadmill – Ms Koh completely overhauled her running stride. “We started her off at a low weight to get her running pattern as normal as possible, increasing how much running she could manage and then slowly putting the weight back on building up towards race day,” he said.

Race day came on July 20, 2014, with Ms Koh successfully completing the gruelling event in 15 hours, 31 minutes and 40 seconds.

Ms Koh credits Mr Drouet for much of her remarkable recovery and is highlighting the physiotherapist as part of the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s I Love My Physio campaign.

“Some of my previous physios were very conservative and I felt like I was being treated like a grandma,” she said.

“Neil throws little carrots in front of you all the time and that is how I as an athlete function best. I feel one thousand times better now than in 2013.”

The I Love My Physio campaign aims to raise awareness of the role physiotherapists play in improving the lives of Australians, and find the most inspiring rehabilitation story.