Episode 4- Fierce Fleur

Fierce Fleur Armstrong talks to hosts Dr Lisa Interligi and Kristine Christopoulos about how after a car accident at 19 she overcame a prognosis of being in a persistent vegetative state to setting her sights on being a podcaster.

Speaker 1:                        Welcome to Loop Me In, the podcast community for parents and carers on raising children with disabilities. Join presenters, Dr. Lisa Interligi and Christine Christopoulos, and their guests on sharing experiences, information, and support ideas to help children with disabilities flourish. Loop Me In is brought to you weekly on platforms like Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Stitcher to name a few. You can learn more connect with the Loop Me In community and listen to more episodes on our website loop-me-in.com.au.

Christine Chris…:            How are you Fleur?

Fleur:                                Hi there guys. It’s great to be here. I feel great, honored to be on this chat today.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Oh, we’re honored. We’re really excited to talk to you about your experience and you’re a budding podcaster yourself, I hear. So this is going to be fun.

Fleur:                                Yeah, it will be fun.

Christine Chris…:            It’ll be a great way to introduce you to the world, Fleur.

Fleur:                                Yeah, I’m excited.

Christine Chris…:            So today, Fleur, we’d like to welcome you and to talk a little bit about your journey and where you’ve come to from here.

Fleur:                                I’m 23-years-old and I love all things girlie. Make up to fashion and hair, movies, and I’m a sucker for a rom-com. Eldest of all my siblings. I have two sisters, a half brother, and a half sister.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Are they older or younger, Fleur?

Fleur:                                They’re all younger than me.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              So you are the big sister?

Fleur:                                I’m the oldest. Yep.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Do they take notice of you?

Fleur:                                Sometimes, yeah. It’s kind a bit cheeky though, because they don’t listen sometimes, but it’s good. I love Harper and Hunter, they’re my little siblings and they’re just so beautiful and cute. I just, oh…

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              How old are they Fleur?

Fleur:                                Harper is seven and Hunter is five.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Okay. So they’re really little.

Fleur:                                Yeah, they’re younger. And after I had my accident, they were super small and now they’re bit bigger and it’s crazy like how much they’ve grown and how beautiful they are naturally I think.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Oh, that’s lovely.

Christine Chris…:            It’s nice to have a lot of love around you isn’t it?

Fleur:                                Yeah, it is.

Christine Chris…:            I’m sure it’s given you a lot of strength over the years.

Fleur:                                Yeah, it definitely has. I’m just stronger by the people I surround myself with. Yeah, they’re good people that make me feel happy and content and that is good, I think.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Yeah. I think that’s a great philosophy and I think we should all use that philosophy, shouldn’t we?

Fleur:                                Yeah, we should.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Yeah.

Fleur:                                Definitely.

Christine Chris…:            And what’s been your motivation, Fleur, apart from having a beautiful family, because I know you’ve done a lot of therapy and what’s been your motivation to get you going every day?

Fleur:                                Well, I wasn’t going accept this life for myself. I thought the thought of never walking my kids to school or walking down the aisle was too upsetting to imagine. When I thought of my future, a wheelchair just simply wasn’t in it. Every day I am motivated by those around me and who are proud of me. It makes me feel like, yeah, I can do this.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              And Fleur, can you tell us a bit about your accident and what happened in that process, so that our listeners understand?

Fleur:                                Well, I was 19-years-old and on my way to graduating DD school. One day, I got in a car with a friend at the time, this is where my story begins. I was a passenger in a car, [inaudible 00:05:09] give way sign hid another car and slammed into a tree. I received 42 bleeds on the brain, and an acquired brain injury, my life changed forever. After spending 96 days in a coma, I started to work with therapists to be the person I am right now.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Well, you’re a beautiful person. They’ve done a great job. Oh, you’ve done a great job, actually.

Fleur:                                Thank you. Yeah. I take my hat off to all the therapists that have helped put in their hard work to make me the person I am right now.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Yeah. I mean they put in hard work, but you obviously really determined, I reckon. You must have a lot of resilience and a lot of determination to have worked with them as well. It’s a partnership, isn’t it?

Fleur:                                It is. Yeah. If you don’t have a relationship, then what is even happening?

Christine Chris…:            Yeah. And we’re fortunate enough to look at you right now and you just look beautiful and very happy. Tell us a little bit about speech therapy, because I know you talked to me about that offline, how important it was for you.

Fleur:                                I love speech therapy. It’s definitely been a journey from the start because yep, you guessed it, you couldn’t understand a single thing I said. But here I am right now able to talk to you guys. I remember when I was in hospital, I remember lying there in the bed thinking why can’t I talk, because I didn’t know what had happened to me yet. I was trying to speak and nothing was coming out. I was mute. It was really difficult to even like to communicate or to even deal like physically with that. It was hard.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              And have you had one speech therapist through this process, Fleur, just one person or have you had multiple speech therapists?

Fleur:                                I’ve had a fair few. When I was in hospital, I had one that helped with my eating and swallowing. I had one that helped with my breathing. I had another two that helped with my speech. And then since being out of hospital, I have one main lady and another lady that helps sometimes, or more than sometimes, helps a fair bit. But they’re both really good and I’m really happy with them. Speech therapy is probably, I want to say one of my favorite therapy sessions to have.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              And what makes them, you always say they’re really great and you’re really happy with them. If you were giving advice to parents about what makes a great therapist from your perspective, from the person who’s actually participating in the therapy, what would you say makes a great therapist?

Fleur:                                Well, I think what makes a great therapist definitely learning about your client, or patient, or whatever the person. Learning and finding out about them and what makes them tick, and drive, and move, and who they are. And if you can connect with them, then it’s easier, I think personally, because if Dan didn’t really understand me, I don’t know if I would love it as much. It’s because she knows what I’m like. She’s able to make it fun.

Christine Chris…:            It’s so true, Fleur, because my son still does speech therapy, and often the therapist says what motivates him is his interest. And because she knows he likes movies and he likes talking about his day, she can get the best out of him and I guess that’s what makes the therapist good, doesn’t it?

Fleur:                                It does, definitely. And just because like with Dan, she’s always late, because we do speech therapy over Zoom.

Christine Chris…:            Okay.

Fleur:                                And she will send me the link a week beforehand, so I have the link, but she does it so that I don’t message her that she is like to make sure you’re not late, on like early. So that I don’t have to text her, and I brought it up with her the other day. I was like, I know you, Dan, I know you sent it to me a week beforehand so I wouldn’t text you. And so that you could be late and [inaudible 00:11:37]. I didn’t do that, and I’m like, you did.

Christine Chris…:            Yes you did.

Fleur:                                Yeah.

Christine Chris…:            And what other therapists have helped you through your journey?

Fleur:                                After my accident, I couldn’t walk, at all. I mean, even sitting up from laying down was impossible without grabbing onto a bar to pull myself up. I went from that to using a wheelchair for a time. Now I use a walking frame independently.

Christine Chris…:            Wow. That’s awesome.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Yeah, that’s amazing.

Fleur:                                Yeah, I walk without assistant with only supervision by family and carers.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Fantastic. That must make you feel a lot more independent and able to get on and do the things that you want to do.

Fleur:                                Yeah. It definitely does.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Yeah, that’s fantastic.

Fleur:                                Yeah, I’m really happy with, like everyone I surround myself with, it’s definitely good. And like people like Tim, who was my recreational therapist, it’s really good that he even helps me with little things, such as my wanting to start my own podcast and connecting me with you guys. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              So that’s really an aspect that you don’t think about. Like I don’t really, have never really thought about recreational therapists, but actually I think that they’re really important, because it’s not so easy to get things done, I guess, for you or for our sons. Like Louis couldn’t organize his own [inaudible 00:13:43] and needs somebody to do it. So having that support is really valuable.

Fleur:                                Yeah, definitely. And when I was in hospital, my favorite thing to do was every Wednesday night we did bowling at the hospital with Tim. And it was honestly my favorite thing, because it was what I looked forward too and it was just so fun.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Did you beat him?

Fleur:                                No. We used to play against other patients.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Okay. Did you have like a tournament, or is it just a…

Fleur:                                I think it was just leisure. Yeah.

Christine Chris…:            I’m sure you could beat him now.

Fleur:                                Yeah, I reckon your [inaudible 00:14:41] right there, Chris.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              And you’ve got fantastic fingernails here. I can see, as part of your beauty therapy that you were studying. Did you do those?

Fleur:                                I got these done, I wish I could do these.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              They’re special. They’ve got French tips on, is it like a peach base or something? I can’t see.

Fleur:                                Yeah.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Really nice.

Fleur:                                Thank you.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              And so, what’s your goals now, Fleur? What is it that your next thing that you want to tick off your list?

Fleur:                                Well, it’s been a little difficult with COVID-19, but my goals are to do motivational speaking to help others understand my struggles and tackles, but also just to motivate them to be the best version of themselves. And that is what I plan to do. And I would like to start my own podcast as well, because I think it would be interesting to learn about that and hear like what actually I go through on a day-to-day basis. And I just felt like the people would want to know that.

Christine Chris…:            I totally agree with you. I think just to be able for people to talk to you and just see your motivation, and your beautiful smile, and just teach people that, like you said, you weren’t going to stay in this position and you fought really hard to get to where you are.

Fleur:                                I wasn’t going to let the prognosis up from the doctors determine where I was going to be, because they said to my family that I was going to be in a vegetative-like state for the rest of my life and that just simply was not okay with me.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              And what do the doctors think about you now?

Fleur:                                Well, I don’t know, but I think they would be thinking of what the heck were we so wrong.

Christine Chris…:            Yeah.

Fleur:                                Yeah.

Christine Chris…:            I think so too.

Fleur:                                Yeah.

Christine Chris…:            And it’s that inner strength, isn’t it, that you definitely have? And you’re surrounded by really beautiful people too.

Fleur:                                I think it’s definitely the spot from my family and friends, especially my mom and my stepdad for helping me with my walking and day-to-day living skills that I’m going need to know for when I move out. And also when I was in hospital, I reckon I was the only patient that had a full wall covered with signatures and names from everybody that visited me to get better and get well, and I could do it. And just having that is motivation enough for me.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Yeah. Well, I think that’s an amazing story, Fleur, that I think lots of people would be interested in understanding, and also just your whole message about just don’t accept what people tell you and set your own goals. Drive yourself towards those goals and just keep at it. I think that’s a universal message, not just a message for somebody who’s had an accident or who has a disability in their life. So fantastic, I think you’ve got a lot to offer particularly on your podcast and we’d be happy to support you in any way.

Fleur:                                Thank you so much, Lisa.

Christine Chris…:            We see a big future there. I can imagine we’re going to see you a lot more in the future.

Fleur:                                Thank you so much, Christine.

Dr. Lisa Interl…:              Yeah. Thanks for your time today, Fleur.

Christine Chris…:            Thank you, Fleur.

Fleur:                                Thank you.

Speaker 1:                        Thanks for being part of the Loop Me In community today and joining our conversation on raising children with disabilities. Join us for the next episode on some of your favorite platforms, like Spotify and Apple Podcast. If you would like to support us, please recommend the Loop Me In podcast to your network of parents, carers, and providers. If you would like us to cover a topic or invite a guest to chat, please email us at contact@loop-me-in.com.au or go to our website at loop-me-in.com.au. If you’ve got any feedback, please let us know so we can improve and cover issues you want.

And of course, if anything in the podcast today has raised concerns for you, you can contact Beyond Blue on 1300224636 or Lifeline on 131114.


Related Posts

Season 1

Episode 5 – Skills for Life

Hosts Dr Lisa Interligi and Kristine Christopoulos welcome guest Nicola Millar, Occupational Therapist, to talk about helping young people with disabilities develop skills for life.

Season 1

Episode 1 – Fun and Independence

Hosts Dr Lisa Interligi and Kristine Christopoulos talk with Dean Cohen, CEO Flying Fox, about the importance of developing independence skills and having fun! Flying Fox provides camp experiences for young people with disabilities.

Season 4

Episode 6 – Dad Talking Dads

Rob Hale host of podcast Dad-Ability joins Dr Lisa Interligi and Kristine Christopoulos to explore experiences of dads of children with all types of disabilities. Rob shares about his personal emotional journey with raising his son Leo, and how this brought him to a breaking point. Rob has used this to connect and support other fathers. This is a special conversation not to be missed.

Season 4

Episode 5 – Talking ADHD

Hosts Dr Lisa Interligi and Kristine Christopoulos chat with Professor Mark Bellgrove about ADHD – what it is, how the condition is diagnosed, gender differences and heritability. Mark is Director of Research at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, and a Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at Monash University.

Season 4

Episode 4 – Golf Glue

Darrell Dalton, ex nurse for acquired brain injury and senior PGA member, turned running the largest golf program for people with intellectual disabilities.
Not-for-profit Golf Programs Australia Inc is also an affiliate of the Special Olympics program. Darrell is joined by partner Michelle to chat about how the program works, the health and social benefits of playing golf.

Season 4

Episode 3 – Special

Hosts Dr Lisa Interligi and Kristine Christopoulos welcome Melanie Dimmitt -broadcaster, journalist and editor Melanie is a mum of two and author of her book ‘Special ‘ in which shares the raw experience of coming to terms with her son Arlo’s cerebral palsy diagnosis. Melanie also works for HireUp as an advocate and produces a magazine The Blend Lifestyle for the tube feeding community.