29 September 2012

My furry baby: Taj

Reading over last weeks blog about the post-paralympic haze I thought I would clarify something about my dog Taj the "special needs dog" I mentioned. My dog HAS special needs. He isn't an assistant dog that the phrase 'special needs dog' kind of implies. I probably should have written that a bit better. My dog wouldn't have passed his assistant dog test (he will fetch for you, but getting the object back from him is the real task!).

When Taj was small enough, his fave place to sleep was underneith me!
Just before Taj turned one (2 February 2012) he was a very sick puppy. It was also just after Lee and I came back from our honeymoon so we thought at first maybe it was something that had happend at the kennel he stayed at for the two weeks we were away. Basically he was throwing up all the time, lost all his energy and happiness. It was hard to see your puppy go from a happy, crazy, cheeky little thing to a sad puppy who didn't even have the energy to wag his tail when he saw you coming.

He spent many long days at the Vet where we would drop him off in the morning and pick him up at night just so he could be on a drip and get some fluids/nutrience. He also had a whole range of different tests and scans done so would come home with different patches of hair missing where they shaved his hair to get closer to him.

No happiness in that face. Bright bandage where his drip was.
He spent a lot of time lying on the cold tiles in the bathroom, so that's where I moved his water bowl.
After all those scans and tests he was eventually diagnosed with having arrhythmia. His heart was beating irregulary. Basically rather than having the normal tha-thump tha-thump heart beat, every now and then his heart would go tha-tha-tha-tha-thump. His heart was racing without him needing to do anything! We originally thought maybe he had eaten something non-biodegradable and it was somehow stuck, hence the vomiting everytime he ate or drunk. It would have involved one expensive but fairy simple proceedure to cut it out of him.

Arrhythmia was a very scary diagnosis for us. I remember when Lee called me to tell me the news about Taj's diagnosis. It was after I had just finished an exam at uni and I was in my car still parked in the carpark with the tears streaming down my face. If anyone saw me they probably thought I had just flunked an exam. My furry black baby has a heart defect! This would be something we would have to deal with for the rest of his life. Taj would spend the rest of his life with:
  • Various tablets at various times during the day. We actually bought one of those weekly medication storage things that have morning, noon and evening compartments so we could sort out which tablets were once a day, twice a day or three times a day and at the correct dosage. We eventually bought another one so I only had to sit there with a pill cutter once every two weeks. Some tablets had to be hidden in small cubes of dog roll and dinner tablets are hidden in his can food (see below about his diet).
  • No exercise at all. His heart was already racing so if we were to take him for a run (which Lee did quite often beforehand) then the chances of Taj having a heart attack and dying on us was very high. We were also told that we may even just come home one day with him not with us anymore. The thought of him having a heart attack outside alone was very upsetting to me. Try telling a puppy to not run around! Those of you who have owned dogs will know the little 'spazzes' they have when all of a sudden they get in the mood of running around the house. In my case it involves 'drifting' on the floor boards and slamming (all 30kg) into the walls. He likes to use the carpeted hallway to stop safely - kind of like a 'runaway truck ramp' on the side of a hilly road.
  • A special prescription diet. Gone are the days of ducking down to City Farmers to get a bag of biscuits. He is now on a strict diet of portion controlled low salt, high good-for-your-heart-stuff from Royal Canin. With no exercise we don't want him to get fat so each day he has 129g of Royal Canin cardiac dry biscuits and 1.5 cans of Royal Canin cardic canned food. About every month and a half I will spend an hour with the electric scales and fill about 40-50 plastic snap lock bags with 129 grams of biscuit.
  • Regular trips to the vet. A big thank you to the girls and guys of Kingsway Veterinary Centre and Perth Vet Specialist who know Taj very well. I should mention just how glad Lee and I are that we took out Pet Insurance as soon as he was 8 weeks old (the earliest you can get insurance). Vet appointments aren't cheap. Vet appointments plus EEG's, ultrasounds, blood tests, hospitalisation, special diet, prescription medication = 1000's and 1000's of $$. Pet Insurance has been wonderful!
This is something that he has probably had since birth but for some reason never came to light til just before he turned 1. It isn't genetic, there is nothing wrong with the breeding. He has an impecable pedigree. It is just one of those unfortunate things that happen to people (or animals).

Now a days Taj is a happy and very cheeky dog. If I am on the computer and he gets bored and wants a cuddle he will jump up and squirm his way onto my lap (just his top half, he is way too big to be a lap dog). You can tell when he has something he shouldn't when he tries to sneak past you but as soon as you look up or say 'hey!' he bolts down the hallway where you have to chase him and try sheppard him into a corner. He loves his Kong toys, especially the type that you put the treats inside and he has to roll them around to get them out. He doesn't even need the treats inside (he isn't allowed many treats anyway). He will play with them for hours without anything in them! We have had to throw out many toys (anything soft, or rope-like) because he has chewed them to tiny pieces. He is a bit of a Marley :-)

The duck and the basketball are no longer around.
The red Kong toys have lasted!
Over the last few months the Vet has been weening him off various tablets to see what we can get away with. His heart is beating at a fairly regular pace which is the best news. I don't think he will get off tablets entirely but at the moment he is no longer on the annoying tablet that had to be given to him 1 hour before food (which meant getting up extra early and getting home in time so he isn't being fed dinner at an unreasonable hour) and he is no longer on the one that was needed 3 times a day. He is currently on 1 tablet with breakfast and 2 and 1/4 tablets with his dinner.

We still aren't taking him on walks but he is a happy dog. When the weather becomes better and consistant we will start taking him back out in the world of different smells. Definitely no running with Lee but short slow walks are fine. Will have to take that 10m lead out somewhere :-)


22 September 2012


So today I am having some 'me time' (dress code: pajama's). During this time I mucked around with Photoshop and gave the blog a new look and new name. The > mathamatically means 'greater than'.. so basically the name of this blog is now 'The journey is greater than the destination'. I won't have to keep changing the name every 4 years now depending on which Paralympics I am training for.

Facebook timeline cover photo :-)

21 September 2012

Post-Paralympic haze

Well it has been just over a week since arriving back in Australia so I thought I would write about the weird sensation paralympians feel after the end of a Paralympics. Some people call it post-paralympic depression but I personally feel that the word 'depression' is used in everyday conversation too lightly especially when you find out the medical definition of it. So I am going to call it a post-paralympic haze. (Post script - I'm not the only one to call it a haze - some chick called Meghan Montgomery called it that too!)

It isn't jet lag aka desynchronosis (found that fancy pants word on Wikipedia!). It is the weird feeling athletes get once they have come home from the Paralympics and have to try fit back into the world they left behind. For me I left behind the 'real world' on August 14th, over a month ago. For a whole month I have been told what time to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, what clothes I have to wear, and whether I am allowed out in my spare time. I haven't had to prepare any of my meals, load/unload a washing machine, make my bed, pick up soggy towels from the bathroom floor, drive a car or look after any dependants (in my case a special needs dog).

When I got home one of the first things I did was open the stack of mail I had waiting for me and then pay the household bills that were due while I was away. Nothing like a big smack in the face from 'the Real World'. If you take out the money I spent on gifts for myself or others, there really wasn't any need to spend money when I was away. All your basic needs are provided to you. Food is prepared for you and waiting for you, you just need to choose what you want. And there is tea and coffee available. It's not always the best coffee but hey, it's there. Free.

Speaking of bills, getting back into the routine of getting up early and going to work was hard! But the girls at work definitely made it worth while with the working day ending early so we could fit in time for a little celebration party at the end of the day! :-)

2008's bronze came too - work wanted to meet the whole family :-)

Unfortunately being a paralympian is not a job. It is a hobby you work really hard at with rewards of free(ish) travel and accommodation around Australia and the world, friendship and camaraderie, and a few monetary training/equipment/sporting grants every now and then. Unless something fantastic happens in the future in terms of awareness and massive sponsorship, being an athlete with a disability in Australia doesn't replace the need for a job/income. It would be great if we could live off major sponsership deals like some Australian and international sport stars do, but that idea is just a fantasy at this moment in time. I am proud that I have been able to somehow manage work, uni and basketball (and social life!). I have one unit to go and so soon I will graduate uni with a double degree and I am already making a name for myself in the legal profession. Sport could end suddenly for whatever reason at any time (voluntary and involuntary). If that time ever comes, then I have something amazing to fall back on.

Anyway, getting back to the haze: driving my car for the first time was weird. It doesn't last long, but there was a short amount of time where I felt like a teenager who has just passed their test and driving on P's and alone for the first time. Getting used to the feel of the stearing wheel in my hands and the brake and accellerater. In Arnhem you just walked/pushed everywhere. In Cardiff and London you wheeled up onto a bus and the driver drove you where you needed to go.

A big part of the haze is the fact that I have time alone. 'Me time' as I like to call it. When you're away with a team 'me time' is very rare. There were a few times when I felt a bit tired and a little cranky, but the schedule taped to my door says I have a training session, followed by recovery, then lunch, then a team meeting, then a hudl/video session in one of the smaller Glider groups. Sometimes all I wanted is to curl up in my bed with the sheets over my head but I couldn't. Now I'm back home and the concept of a day by myself without having to listen to anyone breath or eat crunchy yoghurt is completely reasonable and possible. Hashtag athlete problems!

Things I don't miss about the paralympics:
  • Getting felt up by security every time I get back from training, a game, or a visit to Westfield.
  • The accreditation dangling around my neck (especially when it blows around dramatically when pushing through a massive wind tunnel between buildings).
  • The question "do you have a pin??" from people who don't even attempt a semi-decent conversation or act of kindness before asking that question!
  • Single sized beds. I love my king sized bed (hubby to snuggle included!).
Ever since returning home I have had alot of people who know I went to the Paralympics but don't know the result ask me how I went. I would say 'I got a silver medal' and they would cheer and say how proud they are and how wonderful it is. I would reply with a nice smile and thank them for their kind words. It's hard though. I am a proud paralympian and I am proud to have a paralympic medal. But wearing a silver medal from competing in a team sport means we lost our last game. We lost the gold medal and got the silver medal instead. Unlike swimmers or runners who genuinely win silver by coming second in their race. I read Lisa Chaffey's blog and she wrote about her Athens experience:

"In a team sport, winning a silver means you lost the gold medal game. You go home with a shiny medal, of which you will eventually be proud, but you lost your last game. It's a hard position to be in. It took me a few months after Athens to start saying that I won the silver medal, and not that I had lost the gold."

It is probably another part of this post-paralympic haze that I have been talking about :-)

If you are in Perth, Western Australia and want to come say hi to me and the other WA Paralympians then come to the Northbridge Plaza between 12 and 2.30pm on Friday 28th of September.
Now that the London Paralympics are over I am going to have to change this blog name and the countdown. I googled the Rio Paralympics and apparently that is starting on September 7th 2016. Wow that is such a long way away! I'm going to be 30!! I have changed so much since Beijing (was single in Beijing, now I'm married!) I can't imagine what I am going to be like in Rio. Kids? Full time job? Or will I have a major sponser and be a full time athlete?? Who knows!? The journey is what makes the destination such a success.  Hmmm..  maybe I should name this blog 'The Journey'. That way I wont have to keep changing the name every 4 years. Your suggestions would be much appreciative! Facebook or Tweet me!

Now that my London Paralympic journey is over, I'm not sure how often I will write blogs. But if anything awesome does happen in my life then I will hopefully have some spare time to tell you about it :-)

Good luck to my Husband and Dean who are competing in Tough Mudder tomorrow in Sydney! They have raised $750 for Wheelchair Sports WA which is a great effort for their first fundraising event! If you want to sneak in a donation then head to their Everyday Hero webpage! Wheelchair Sports WA have seen alot of young kids grow into Paralympic medal winning elite athletes (including myself, Justin Eveson and Shaun Norris) and it is fundraising and donations from the public that have helped them do it. Every bit counts!

Until next time!

15 September 2012

Final days in London

The Australian Paralympic team left London on the 11th of September. Here are a few photos from my last days in London:

On the tube - not all stations were accessible. Thankfully I had Lee and Jon with me to help me up and down the stairs!
Harry Potter was here!
London Eye
What time is it?
the Abbey - Kate and Will were here!
Couldn't get to Buckingham Palace (closed due to welcome home parade) so I had my photo taken with a photo of it instead!
In a London Eye pod!
Paddington Bear!
Our flight home was on a Qantas chartered flight to Sydney via bangkok. Business class is usually reserved for gold medalists but this time they also gave business seats to those of us who can't walk or weight bare (basically those of us who can't get off our bums to relieve pressure).

It was great! There are a few moments in life where being a complete paraplegic has it's benefits. The food was fantastic! I chose the duck option for both dinners - duck leg with veges for one dinner, then a duck curry with rice for the other dinner. For the breakfasts I had french toast with nutella and then toasted muslie with an apple danish. It was awesome to be able to lie completely flat when trying to sleep, rather than sleeping sitting up with your shoulders scrunched to not touch the person sitting next to you. I definitely felt alot better after 30 hours of travel this time compared to going there. Hmmm.. maybe if Basketball Australia had a bigger budget and we could travel business all the time! Happy athletes = better recovery = better performance on court! (my opinion anyway, I don't have a research study to quote/reference to back that one up)

So much leg room!
Horizontal is so much better!
Kudos to the Qantas staff who spent alot of their time pushing the isle wheelchair to and from the toilets. Also many thanks to the APC staff who gave massages in our seats during the stop over in Bangkok.

In Sydney, there was a small welcome home reception after we cleared customs. I missed half of it because of the amount of time it (understandably) took to get everyone with a wheelchair off the plane. The minister of sport and Tony Abbott were there and Ice House sang Heroes to us again :-) Afterwards, we took the bus to the domestic terminal, had about an hour in Qantas Club (breakfast being pancakes and toast!) and then finally boarded my last flight to Perth.

After too many hours to count I finally got home to a very excited Taj :-)

The "oof!" you can hear is me when Taj jumped up on me and the hand my camera was in gave me an upper cut!

Grand finals and closing ceremony!

September 7th
Well it was certainly hard to go to sleep last night even though I was in bed at a decent time. My heart was still racing from that nights game! The win was sooooo close it makes you get a sick feeling in the tummy. I tried doing the breathing techniques learnt earlier in the year (out dirty air, in clear air..) but it wasn't working. I was too excited!!

Today we had a light training session where we got done what we needed to then left for an afternoon of rest. I've never had to prepare for a Paralympic gold medal match before so pretty much winged it as far as pre-game prep was concerned. I had a little nanna nap and then got ready (which includes braiding of hair and the tying of green and gold ribbons). Every game I have been reading on the bus to the game but this time I was reading on the bus and in the change rooms before the game because I wanted to finish the third Hunger Games book (what a great trilogy!!).

Good luck card from our brother team the Rollers
It was a surreal feeling when lining up before going out on court knowing this was a gold medal game - the highest possible game a wheelchair basketballer could play. As soon as the game started it was an intense battle. The germans are amazing shooters and lead most of the game. They also played a good defense and were able to keep one of our shooting threats to zero points. They were the better shooting team on the day and unfortunately for us, made shots are what count when deciding a winner! Towards the end of the forth quarter the Gliders were told those horrible words: "play it out".

Had a message written on my wrist but should have written it in a thicker, darker pen!

The devastation I felt from losing was there inside me but I fought to keep it inside. So when the buzzer sounded and I smiled and kept on smiling: I just won a silver medal. I am a silver Paralympic medalist.

After the game it was such a rush to get ready for the medal ceremony. No time for anything except line up and put your ceremony jacket and pants on. It was great lining up on the silver line which happend to be across from where the Aussie supporters where seated in the crowd. Time seemed to go by quickly because it wasn't long before I was bowing my head to receive my medal (it's so heavy!) and then listening to the German national anthem before pushing off back to our change rooms. Once there we had a few debriefs and a special guest appearance by gold medalist (and fellow Glider!) Liesl Tesch. We were then allowed to go see our family and friends in the common area.

The crowd of green and gold outside of Starbucks has been a great way to finish of a game. But this time the cheer was that much bigger because we were rolling towards them with silver medals around our neck. I guess now is as good as time as ever to say a big thank you to my husband Lee and my brother in law Jon for making the sacrifices needed in order to support me in London. Having someone to run up to and hug made this Paralympics so much more special to me.

"Hi Dad"
I should also mention that the support on Twitter and Facebook has been amazing. On Twitter you realise you actually have fans, which for me is a weird concept. I am just Clare Nott from Perth, Australia but here I am with followers I don't know who are writing me with their messages of support. The daily hero messages are also an amazing mix of friends, family and fans. Facebook has been great - so many notifications of likes, comments and wall posts. I can't remember social media being this big 4 years ago :-)

So to anyone who has tweeted me, sent me a hero message, or wrote to me on facebook - THANK YOU! I really appreciated being able to read your messages while being away. Your support is amazing.

To the Gliders, we have all worked so hard these last four years. We have come along as a team in leaps and bounds. I know it is hard to have ended this journey on a loss, but we can be proud to be silver medalists. It is a step up better than Beijing and we have Rio to look forward to!

Anyway, back to the 7th of September - that night was pretty crazy. We didn't get back to the athlete village til after midnight and we still had to eat, and get change for some celebrations in Westfield.

The first place we go after arriving back in the village after our game

September 8th
Today was the first proper sleep in in a very long time. My number of hours slept was still significantly low though! Today was a big day though because the Aussie mens basketball team played in the gold medal game against Canada. I had my first London train experience and it wasn't too bad. The stations I got on and got off at were accessible which always makes a train experience a pleasant experience.

I watched the USA beat the GB boys in the bronze medal game. I then watched an amazing game of basketball in the Australia v Canada game. The quality of athleticism was so high. It was such a close game for the majority of it but in the end the Aussie boys weren't able to maintain the golden glory they have had since 2008.

USA v GB for bronze
Canada v Australia for gold
Silver medalists
That night was another late night :-)

September 9th
Another sleep in! Today was the last day of competition and the last day of the Paralympics. I can't believe how quickly it has come and gone! The APC have wrapped up the Paralympics in this great video:

Today I had the honour of watching the Aussie wheelchair rugby team (the Steelers) win gold in their grand final. It was also my first international wheelchair rugby game to watch so I am glad that it was a golden experience! Unfortunately I didn't stay for the medal ceremony because I needed to try get a nap in before having to get ready for the closing ceremony.

I napped as much as possible and had a short amount of time to get ready. I managed to get ready on time with about 15 minutes spare but the line to the lift was long and whenever it opened it was already full. So I bounced down 4 flights of stairs, with only one minor incidence of my chair wanting to go quicker than I did.

Waiting to go in was a big different than the opening ceremony because this time the athletes went in before the ceremony officially started. So we basically wandered in and found a spot to sit. It started off a bit slow but once all the fire dances and Coldplay started it was fantastic. We didn't have a program so we weren't quite sure what the symbolism of everything was, but it was great to watch. My dad who watched it on tv said it was a bit like Mad Max and thinking back now there is definitely a industrial, rough metal 'dad, we're dead meat!' feel to all the machines that the performers drove around the stadium.

Coldplay - they played most of the ceremony
Jay Z
ParalympicTV have the whole ceremony on youtube. If you missed it and have a spare 2.5 hours then you can watch it!