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  • Deborah Thomas BPT MCSP MAPPI Chartered Physio

It was the best of times...it was the worst of times: 2020 in reflection.

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

As we arrive at the end of this phenomenal year, I feel it would be right for me to reflect on it, respect the challenges it presented and appreciate the huge amount of kindness, support and sense of community I have been privileged to be a part of, as well as acknowledge some achievements and successes along the way.


This is a very personal account of my year, with reference to the people who have helped shape it for me. I do believe the quote from Paulo Coelho:


"Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path" and my personal & professional path has certainly been cleared!


I started 2020 with a huge challenge to my learning, my family and work commitments, when I flew over to Israel to partake in a 10-day course, delivered by the inspirational Elizabeth Hampton on behalf of ‘Herman & Wallace’ USA: An Introduction to Female Pelvic Floor Function, Dysfunction and Treatment: Colorectal and Coccyx Conditions, Male Pelvic Floor, Pudendal Nerve Dysfunction.


This was a fantastic experience deepening some knowledge I had and adding new skills and strings to my bow. I met some awesome physio’s, from all walks of life in Israel – Arab, Muslim, Christian, Jewish – secular and religious people – who were all openly sharing knowledge and discussing these intimate and often challenging conditions people present to us with. I am indebted to my best friend & colleague Paz, who supported me through this experience, and this was a great opportunity to spend quality time with her. I now share information, blogs, articles and case studies with this lovely bunch of physios, who are like a support group to me. Little did we know how much we would need this ‘virtual support’ later in the year!


I would like to acknowledge the superb organisational skills of the guys at ‘Activix’ in Israel for the running of this course. http://www.activix.co.il/


I was so pleased to be able to take the opportunity to spend quality time with my dad, sisters’ nieces and nephews over in Israel. Sadly, during this trip I did not get to see my mum, as we both agreed it ‘would be too much hassle to organise’ – I now wish I did and will make sure to prioritise family further in the future.


On the way back, at the end of January, the staff at the airport were all wearing face masks – I was rather taken back, and they explained it’s because ‘of this virus in China’…I honestly thought they were over-reacting!


In February, we had a lovely visit from my dad – he just about arrived safely after the touch-and-go situation caused by hurricane Catrina. This was a very special 10 days spent with my dad, it gave us a chance to catch up with no rush, do some touring, going out to eat & flying kites at the Burton Dassett hills – weren’t we lucky to have that time!


My dear friend & colleague, Susanna, handed me another challenge soon after: to write and deliver a course to private physiotherapists, on the topic of ‘musculoskeletal changes & challenges in relation to Menopause’. This was well subscribed and was an intellectual challenge to write as I had never written a course before – and to this high calibre group of physios especially! We had it all planned: manuals, presentation, case studies, venue…. then THE STORM STRUCK!! And so, within a matter of days, and mainly due to Susanna’s superb organisational skills – we both learned how to use this new app called Zoom, and the whole course went ‘virtual’– a fairly new phenomena in the very practical physio-training world. All went very well, the feedback was superb and there are thoughts to repeat this training again, so watch this space!


One day, towards the end of March, I came down with very sudden, extreme fatigue. I was feeling hot / cold & shivery, and all I could do was go to sleep. I slept for 11 hours, dreading this might be this ‘new virus’, however, thankfully – woke up the next morning feeling absolutely fine. Apart from the fact: I wasn’t. I lost all sense of taste and smell which is a very scary and un-nerving state to live in. No one had heard of this before, especially not in relation to this virus (at this stage). I was fatigued to the extreme, even walking up stairs caused severe shortness of breath. At this stage, our world was turned upside-down: This was the day Boris announced a ‘lockdown’ in England.


I had work to do, Pilates classes to deliver, and patients to see! Within days, as many of us did, I learned how to use Zoom, flim / edit / convert MP4 files and upload to the internet my Pilates classes – and all this while recovering and feeling exhausted. We learned how to turn the one-room in the house to a home school for the kids, a recording studio for Pilates classes, a living room and safe-haven for us all. In hindsight, I would have done things differently…


And then the ‘new order’ begun - I feel one of the best things to come out of this year, was how the community in my town, Kenilworth, got together at an impressive speed: initially – I was to be a ‘street champion’ and see to the needs of people on the 4 streets adjacent to ours: food, medication and support. Within weeks, I joined a small group of people, later to be called ‘the Pharmy Army’, as we daily collected & delivered medicines to the elderly, shielding and isolating people in our town. Here, I have met (mainly virtually) the best group of kind, supportive, funny and generous individuals. I have seen first-hand the needs of those in our community who will often be behind a closed door; I have become aware of the hard, relentless work of the pharmacy teams, and I learned how to use the circuit app! To date we have delivered 5717 prescriptions and going strong! There is not enough space here to name everyone, but I specifically want to thank Helen B. for being there 24/7 and getting this off the ground and organising it to this day. There are no words…literally.


To be able to work, support those who need my services – I converted my workshops I often deliver to an online format: I was happy to be able to deliver more ‘Pelvic floor Q&A’, as well as ‘Menopause information’ workshops which were well attended. And the feedback makes it clear why these are so desperately needed. Thanks to my husband Rich – converting a shed to an outdoor office – these could be delivered professionally and in confidence.


I have always loved attending courses and expanding my knowledge. This year, when life seemed to slow somewhat – gave me the opportunity to attend some superb training courses:

· I am so grateful to Jilly Bond for creating the ‘Happy Bladder’ course – a game changer for my career! https://jilly-bond-ltd.mykajabi.com/offers/Qhj7d4LF/checkout

· Another course organised by Activix: Mary Massery – Posture & Breathing post Covid-19

· Eric Franklin’s superb courses: ‘Pelvic Power’, ‘Healthy Lung, heart & Kidneys’, ‘Embodied Fascia’, Free hips, balanced Psoas’. https://franklinmethod.com/workshops-trainings/

· Gerard Green delivered a brilliant course about Pelvic Girdle pain, and organised another excellent course delivered by Lisa on Prolapse management – thank you both so much! https://www.greeneseminars.physio/

· Positive pause and the POGP organised a superb ‘menopause management’ day. This was an excellent round up of many professionals sharing holistic and medical management of anything menopause – related. These colleagues do relentless work to support women, empower us all and bring the agenda to the fore front: https://www.positivepause.co.uk/

· I have loved the training courses I’ve done on the topics of fascia: Julian Baker’s as well as the ‘Fascia Hub’ delivered excellent training expanding on the complex structures of connective tissue in the trunk & pelvis: https://thefasciahub.com/, https://functionalfascia.com/

· Lastly, in November & December, I have been attending a Paediatric Bowel & Bladder course delivered by the superb and lovely Carina Siracusa from the USA – it’s too early to tell, but goodness – it’s mind blowing!


My ever-challenged technological skills were fast speeded into using some new apps:

· Circuit – you’ll never get lost! I would not have known about this if not for the Pharmy Army, thanks to James.

· Camscanner – use it for work, loads!

· Zoom – aren’t we all tired of it now – but thank goodness for it

· And finally,…Instagram


Let me tell you a story about Instagram: A very brave lady, doing wonders for women all over the world – Jane Lewis, who wrote ‘Me & My Menopausal Vagina’


Invited me to do an IG live session, talking about pelvic floor, pelvis, lower back, exercises, prolapse, incontinence and more. I didn’t even have IG, never mind know how to use it! But I rose to the challenge, and within a few weeks, we delivered this 60-minute session, watched by 2,178 so far – here is the link: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CG5tZq-FnoF/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

And back by popular demands, there will be another in January 2021!

No woman should go without the international support Jane and her team provide here: https://www.facebook.com/mymenopausalvag


As my schedule changed, I finally did something I’ve been meaning to do for years: I contacted Hellen Keast, who runs Ante & Post-natal training and support programmes: https://www.bump2babyreality.co.uk/, and since April I have been a part of a brilliant team of professionals & volunteers supporting pregnant & post-natal mums and families in Warwickshire – so now, via zoom, and hopefully – not before long – back in person, every week, for an hour, we are there to listen, talk, advise, recommend , support and share ideas with these lovely ladies – who, honestly, have gone through such a challenging time this year. I have had the pleasure of getting to know some superb, caring, brave and inspirational people through this group – thank you! They have a great facebook page as well: https://www.facebook.com/groups/507239502725970


And as if all this weren’t enough…Finally in June, a message popped up (yes…on FB) that just lit a lightbulb in my head: ‘Your wings already exist – all you have to do is fly’ – so I did!!!

I decided it is time to start my very own Physiotherapy business: Deborah Thomas Physiotherapy.


The amount of people who have helped me, encouraged me, supported me is phenomenal, and I can’t thank you all enough.


I specifically would like to say a massive THANK YOU to James, who created a very professional website for me – I was only looking for some web presence really, but what he created is brilliant:

James, a volunteer in the ‘Pharmy army’, teacher and photographer – does so much for the community – there is not enough space here to describe it: https://www.jamesharrisphotography.co.uk/


In addition, I would like to thank Kathryn Attreed from the bottom of my heart, I feel this is just the beginning of a journey: https://www.atkatmarketing.com/, and you have put me in touch with the lovely Zani https://www.facebook.com/zanigraphicdesign/ who is ever so talented and I love working with her although so far have never met her!


I am so lucky, after a long search, to have landed and base my clinic at CW Therapy Rooms in Kenilworth: https://www.cwtherapyrooms.co.uk/. I would like to thank Charlie for making me feel so welcome, and even though there are so many restrictions due to Covid-safe working, it’s really nice to know there are lovely people in the building with you who have got your back!


I would not be able to do any of these amazing things, without the support of my lovely family. We’ve somehow maintained sanity in this past year, finished primary school, started ‘big’ school and GCSE pressure, change in jobs and the ever-present threat of covid symptoms. In addition, and the drive for all my passion are my lovely patients & Pilates attendees: you provide me with daily mental fuel, a drive to excel and learn more, to deliver the best service to you all and help you get better. I love what I do and I love that you love it!

So you have got so far – well done.


As you know, everything happens for a reason, and it’s no surprise, that literally two weeks before the end of this crazy year – I get a message: ‘Deb – why don’t you come and see what I do?’ Well this is from my colleague Pete, who, again, I’ve only met virtually. Among many talents – Pete is a cranio-sacral therapist. So, I went. And went again, and again – because – THIS IS AWSOME!!!! And guess what?? It’s tickled my learning buds. So, thank you Pete, you are a true therapist, you’ve inspired me more than the book you gave me and I thank you for providing a closure to this year, which is actually a new beginning….watch this space - http://functiontherapy.co.uk/


One last word before I finish: On Christmas day, 25th December 2020, my mum, who is immunosuppressed, had her first Covid vaccine.


I am thankful I can identify many positive outcomes, and look forward to 2021 with new beginnings and hopeful for signs of recovery all around.


So I think it’s been a good year!

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Join Jane Lewis and I discussing the pelvic floor and all things menopause in this Instagram Live. If you want to know more about Jane Lewis then check her website out at www.mymenopausalvagina.co.uk

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