If there was one word to describe Liv Robinson, it would be “survivor”. The Wairarapa College old girl has had neurosurgery twice, pneumonia three times, and is blind. But those setbacks haven’t stopped her from making goals and striving to be the best version of herself she can be.
She and her mother Maggie say they have learned to take back their lives with the help of a free self-management course offered by Compass Health.
The courses are designed for people with long-term chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart condition, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and weight concerns.
Maggie initially enrolled in the course in June to be Liv’s support person “because I care for her as my daytime job”, she says.
“But as the weeks went on, I realised I was actually learning quite a bit for myself.”
The Robinson family have been through a lot this past decade. Ten years ago, Liv, at the age of 20, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour behind her eyes where her optic nerves crossed over. She had been studying geography and development at a university in Wellington at the time.
“Liv’s tumour was a rare tumour. One in 10 million we were told,” Maggie says.
“I tried for 3 years to get it diagnosed and suddenly, somebody took notice of me. I was being told I was an anxious mother. It was maddening. In that time the tumour had grown to the size of a walnut, and I wasn’t being taken seriously."
It was only by chance that Liv was seen by a young locum who requested a CAT scan and the tumour was discovered.
Liv undergoes brain surgery
From there, all the wheels were in motion and Liv was taken to Wellington Hospital where she had neurosurgery, accompanied by 25 doses of radiation over a span of a couple of months.
“The thing about Liv is she is such a rarity,” Maggie says.
“She has survived the odds, she’s had pneumonia three times, she had pneumonia and septicaemia at the same time in 2013 and I was told she was five minutes away from death at Wairarapa Hospital.
“They got the Westpac rescue helicopter in… and we landed on the roof of Wellington Hospital and she was taken to intensive care where she remained for 21 days."
In that time, we were praying and hoping she would respond. “She was really sick. She was in this coma for about a week, and I knew she could hear me so I was talking about everything under the sun. It was an announcement on the radio of actor Russell Brand leaving singer Katy Perry that caused Liv to come out of her coma,” Maggie says.
The trauma did not end there for the mother and daughter team though. Maggie’s husband died suddenly last year after a stroke.
“After my husband died, Livy was hospitalised 5 times between September and February. It was probably the shock of grief in losing her dad. Having lost my husband, I was kind of floundering really. I was selling a house, building a new one, finding a place to rent which was very difficult. It was extremely stressful.”
Course helps pair through tough times
It was at this time that the pair began the Stanford self-management course with Compass Health.
Surprisingly, the pair say the course gave them “a lot of perspective on other people’s problems and what they are going through”.
“A problem shared is a problem halved,” Maggie says.
“For me, I’ve got a great support network around me, but I had never experienced grief before like I experienced. I have lost my parents, I’ve lost friends, but not my husband who was my partner for 42 years.”
Maggie says the course helped her deal with her grief, and encouraged her to set goals in order to “stay on track”.
For Liv, it is pushing her drive to find a job in the field of geography and development, though she said her disabilities are making prospective employment difficult.
“I’d like to do something environmental, not sure what, but something part-time,” she says.
“Making action plans is really useful to help strive. Making goals helps you to achieve something.”