Written By

Rachelle McCabe

College

College of Healthcare Sciences

Publish Date

12 October 2022

A career crossroad inspires a leap into the unknown

Turning 28 and worn out after a decade working long, unpredictable hours in the hospitality industry, former chef Matthew Ganly found himself in a career conundrum.

He was newly married and seeking a complete change. He considered and was accepted into the Australian Air Force but was turned off by the transient nature of the job. Plan B was to forge a career in health and physical movement.

The Townsville local decided to pursue a degree in physiotherapy but was advised to study occupational therapy initially as the physiotherapy course was full at the time.

“I knew nothing about Occupational Therapy, in fact, I don't believe I'd ever heard of the discipline prior to that,” he says.

“After my placement in that first year, and on top of the knowledge I’d gained studying the theory in first semester, I started to understand what occupational therapy was and how it helped people across the spectrum. I realised the discipline encompassed assistive technology and home modifications, as well as actual physical rehab, paediatric therapy and mental health.”

A mature-aged student, Matthew says it was obvious he was older and living a different lifestyle to the bulk of his fellow students. But, he said, the camaraderie grew as the cohort connected over the course of the degree.

“You cruise through with the same people in the same classes day in day out and you eventually get to know each other and become good acquaintances. We were going through the same thing at the same time for the same result. And this gave us all some common ground and moral support,” he says.

In the end, Matthew, who is now a business owner with over a decade of experience under his belt, discovered OT was the perfect fit.

Alumni Matthew Ganly.
A stair lift that Matthew Ganly installed in a client's home.
A wheelchair designed for multiple terrains.
Main Image: JCU Alumni Matthew Ganly. Right: A stair lift (top) and an all-terrain wheel chair (bottom), both of which Matthew commissioned for his clients. (Images supplied by Matthew Ganly.)

A broad specialty helping locals return to their occupations

Matthew and his wife Savanah opened Ganly Allied Health in mid-2019 with Matthew looking to branch out and specialise after a decade with Queensland Health. They haven’t looked back since.

“There are three main areas of occupational therapy: adult physical, mental health and paediatrics. I work within adult physical specialising in home modifications, assistive technology, driving assessments and vehicle modifications,” Matthew says.

“Generally, most of my clients have some kind of physical function issue. It may be an amputation, progressive degenerative condition, or they've experienced a stroke, traumatic injury or something that impacts their physical functioning”.

Matthew and his team trouble shoot how to enable their clients to perform everyday functions and tasks (i.e., occupations) independently and safely.

“If you need to drive a modified car, I am a driver-trained OT. I also help people who have problems getting in and out of their house and may need home modifications, wheeled mobility or other assistive technology to maximise safety and independence.

“From an OT point of view, our job is to get you back to your occupations; an occupation isn't just employment; an occupation is anything that you do that occupies your time, like brushing your teeth, getting dressed, being a parent, being a child, driving a car, and being employed.”

Every day offers up a new challenge, Matthew says. He could be working on a full-scale home modification one day, scripting a wheelchair the next, looking into the installation of a pool hoist on another, or spending time with a client who needs modified cutlery and crockery so they can eat independently.

“I like having the ability to control my career as well as provide a quality, necessary service to the community.”

“When things get really difficult or when there's a significant injury or impairment, there are disciplines like ours that can help people get back on their feet or advocate for support.”

JCU Alumni Matthew Ganly, Founder of Ganly Allied Health

A bathroom with a large tub and low toilet.
A open floor plan bathroom with a chair in shower and stool for toilet.
Left: Adam's bathroom before renovation. Right: Adam's bathroom after renovation with additional features to support his independence. (Images supplied by Matthew Ganly.)

Renovations that change lives for the better

For clients like Adam Hamilton and James Will, Matthew’s OT expertise and ability to liaise with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and builders was essential for their major bathroom renovation.

Adam, 46, has peripheral neuropathy, which for him means walking and using his upper limbs is challenging.

Adam’s husband James says the renovation was life changing with Adam now able to bathe and toilet safely and independently.

“It has changed things completely, now when Adam needs to use the bathroom, he can do so independently, that was never the case before.”

Using the bathroom previously involved James having to be on hand to lift Adam over various obstacles, monitor for slipping and mop up the excess water that would inevitably flood the floor each day.

“Because showering was such a pain, Adam would just take his daily shower in a bucket,” James says.

Matthew says his work encompasses keeping clients, like Adam, safe and ensures peace-of-mind for their loved ones.

Each day offers up new clients with a new set of hurdles he does his best to help overcome.

“Even though I work in a bit of a niche area with assisted technology and home modifications, it’s still massive in scope. My work is very varied, extremely rewarding and very interesting,” he says.

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