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Desert trek forges special friendship

2016 Youngcare Simpson Desert Trekkers

22 July 2016

Desert trek forges special friendship

“I knew this was going to be tough, but I had no idea how difficult it would be to feel so isolated.”

They’re the words of NOVA radio announcer Katie Mattin, one of the 2016 trekkers.

For Katie, taking on the Youngcare Simpson Desert Challenge was a very personal journey, as her family knows all too well the agonising decisions faced by young people with high care needs and their loved ones. Katie’s mum moved into a nursing home at the age of only 56, due to a lack of age-appropriate accommodation that could support her increasingly high care needs associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Out in the desert, the trekkers had a small taste of what the 7,000 young Aussies who wake up in aged care each day often experience – a lack of choice or independent decision-making in daily activities, food, personal hygiene or their environment.

2016 Youngcare Simpson Desert Trekkers

Pictured: Proud Simpson Desert Trekkers reach the finish line

“It was a very tough time,” Katie said in an interview for 8 Days in the Desert, a documentary about the trek which was proudly presented by Suncorp Insurance and aired nationally on the Nine Network over the weekend of 28/29 May.

“One night I was thinking about how difficult the trek was and how I wanted to go home. I was desperate and felt isolated, I wasn’t able to do normal things… and this was a snippet of how my mum might have felt in aged care at just 56 years of age.

“We were only there for eight days, but these young people find themselves in aged care for much longer.”

Katie said she also drew inspiration from Hazel Morel, a resident at the Youngcare Wesley Mission Queensland Apartments at Sinnamon Park who she struck up a friendship with prior to the trek.

Katie Mattin and Hazel Morel

Pictured: Katie Mattin (NOVA 106.9) and Hazel Morel (Youngcare resident)

Both Katie and Hazel were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in their early 20s, and have bonded over shared experiences of raising young children while juggling with the struggles of their diagnoses.

Hazel, one of Youngcare’s first residents in 2008, said she was full of admiration for Katie and the other trekkers who had poured such passion and dedication into making a real difference in the lives of young Australians with high care needs like her.

“If my apartment didn’t exist, I’d certainly feel far more isolated; I’d feel that I was all on my own, that nobody cared. Youngcare has changed my world – and made it a more positive place,” she said.

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