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Advance allied health assistant shares inspiring story

3 January 2019

Toowoomba Hospital’s Geriatric, Adult Rehabilitation and Stroke Service team leader Julie James with Advanced Allied Health Assistant Greg Leonard.

For the first time in his working life, Darling Downs Health’s Greg Leonard is sharing his story of overcoming adversity in the hope it helps others.

When Greg was born he suffered a brain haemorrhage. 

His mother was told to send her newborn away because “he wouldn’t amount to anything”.

As a mother with five children at home, the suggestion was inconceivable to Greg’s mum.

Those first few years were a tough time for the Leonard family who were living in Western Queensland and Greg was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP).

It’s a condition that can be caused by brain damage at birth and can affect people’s motor skills like walking and talking.

For Greg, the condition meant he faced an early childhood in walking callipers and learning difficulties. 

However, he was surrounded by a loving family, and eventually another six siblings, who inspired Greg to do more with his life.

“I was 15 when mum was told again that I wouldn’t amount to anything in life,” he said. 

“It was tough, I think, for mum to hear that.”

Despite the support, Greg left school in year nine and went to work. 

He didn’t want to rely on a disability pension and took up jobs working in a panel beating business and fruit picking.

As a young man he took on a relief position in aged care. 

It proved to be a pivotal moment for Greg that eventually lead to a career in health.

Greg completed several certificates in aged care and took up other health-related roles such as a plaster technician and hospital orderly.

Ten years ago, Greg successfully gained a role as an Allied Health Assistant, and recently was successful in his application for the newly created role, Advanced Allied Health Assistant for Darling Downs Health.

It’s a role Greg secured without disclosing his CP diagnosis.

“I’ve never really talked about it before and there would be people who I’ve worked with for many years who don’t know,” he said.

“I’ve kept it close to my chest because of the stigma (of having a disability) in the past. I’ve just got on with the job. 

"I’ve been very self-conscious of my tremors and the way I walk but I haven’t used it as an excuse to stop me doing something.

“I want to share my story now in the hope I can help someone else.”

Greg’s looking forward to the new year and his new role, as well as looking at new ways of managing his condition.

“We have 36 Allied Health Assistants across the region. In this new role, I will be looking at ways of supporting and mentoring these staff members.

“I’ve also, for the first time, started taking medication for the tremors in my hands which I’m starting to see good results with.”

Greg’s manager and team leader for Toowoomba Hospital’s Geriatric, Adult Rehabilitation and Stroke Service, Julie James, encouraged Greg to share his story.

“Greg’s story is one of overcoming adversity,” Ms James said.

“We are incredibly proud of Greg and what he has achieved regardless of his disability. I had no idea that Greg had experienced all that he has in his lifetime.

“I wish Greg all the very best in his new job and look forward to seeing what he can achieve in the future.”

Last updated: 25 January 2019