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Byron Shire
January 30, 2023

Disability worker saving lives – on her birthday

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Eve Jeffery

There’s isolation and there’s isolation.

For most folk, isolation means just doing the right thing to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

For some folk, the very old, the very young, people with some pre-existing conditions and many people with a disability, isolation is a matter of life or death, and making sure they are truly isolated holds a greater weight for them.

People with disabilities

Meet Ballina couple, Kelly and Gordy.

Kelly, Gordy and the couple’s teenage son Liam, are a pretty normal family – but there’s one thing that makes Kelly’s family different – they are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Kelly has muscular dystrophy and Gordy has a spinal cord injury. They have needed to cancel the workers who would come and go each day. The high amount of traffic in their home increased the likelihood of the couple being exposed to the virus.

What they needed was someone to come and live in their home, 24/7, someone who was prepared to have no contact with the outside world and someone to make sure everything is sterilised, clean and safe and that anything that comes inside the house is safe to touch. 

It’s Lia’s birthday today.

Meet Lia

Lia has had a lot of cool jobs. She has travelled the world – she has worked on a medical marijuana farm in America and had a job canning salmon in Alaska – but looking after Kelly and Gordy is one of the most important jobs Lia’s ever had, at least, to Kelly and Gordy.

Lia’s helping keep a family safe – she’s keeping them alive.

Lia has worked on and off for Kelly for many years. Kelly travels a lot in her work as a disability advocate, fighting for the rights of disabled people. They’ve had a lot of adventures. From sharing the disappointment of election night to going to the Sydney Mardi Gras, Lia has been a friend as well as a support worker. 

A big commitment

It’s a big commitment to look after a family, 24/7, for the duration.

Anyone who comes into the house could bring in a virus that could kill our family,’ says Kelly. With our son Liam, we are cut off from the world – our four walls are all we will see until it is safe again. 

People’s lives are complicated, but disabled people’s lives are more complicated than most.

‘To make sure the food that is delivered from outside is safe, Lia washes down every single item. She’s taken on nurse duties – Gordy has developed a pressure wound that needs regular dressing. And today, she became a jack of all trades when a drain was blocked.

Good support workers hate the idea that they are saints or martyrs when they are just doing a regular job. Disabled people hate it too. But Lia isn’t doing a regular job right now.

‘Despite the pay and her job description, she’s choosing to remove herself from the rest of the world, except for a daily walk with our little dog, Bear. 

A labour of love

That’s an act of friendship as well as a job. It’s a labour of love.

‘There are a lot of disabled people who won’t come out the other side of this pandemic and not everybody is lucky enough to have a Lia in their life. It’s a pretty big responsibility to support a disabled person at the best of times, but taking on this role means something extra.

‘Today is Lia’s birthday. She’s turning 30. She knew when she committed to our family that she would not be celebrating today.

‘This woman who is so loved and so full of life, chose to devote her time and energy to us – the only way we could think of thanking her was bringing those who love her, to our house, online.

‘Happy Birthday Lia, from all of us’.


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