Hydrotherapy: Muirne van Wyk throws away her crutches

By on August 8, 2016

Muirne van Wyk tells us about her life, her osteoarthritis and her experience with hydrotherapy.

muirne-van-wyk-hydrotherapy-arthritisI was born in London and grew up on a farm in Middlesex, later in Buckinghamshire, so during my school holidays we would work on the farm. After a secretarial course in Oxford I went into the film industry as a secretary, progressing to production and location manager working on movies with the best – Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Margot Fonteyn and Nureyev, Gregory Peck and others.

I came to South Africa for five different movies, met my husband on set where he was a gaffer and have lived here ever since. We run a business in Somerset West installing solar and alternative power systems to hotels, institutions and game lodges, and our two sons are both running their own businesses too – we’re a hard-working family! In fact I still work in our business and am currently looking for new premises. With my husband’s declining health I find I am busier than ever. I am also deeply involved with the U3A Explorer group which is extremely active and I enjoy organising our trips to many exciting destinations in South Africa.

Next year I will be eighty years old and have been suffering from osteoarthritis for probably the last 50 years of my life. It’s possible that it started so early because I was involved in a bad car crash in my mid-teens, as there is very little osteoarthritis in my family. My mother was a ballet dancer who remained fit and active all her life and died at 95, and my father, who was the musical director for some one thousand movies, died at 65 from a throat complication caused by smoking.

I have had back and neck surgery, a knee replacement and three hip replacements (one revision). My shoulders, elbows and occasionally ankles, have also been very troublesome. Providing I can keep the pain under control and do my best to keep mobile, I can manage well enough. I find that a glass of milk at night helps with the pain and enables me to sleep. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but do eat a lot of fish and vegetables. Occasionally I will take Celebrex, but only for a few days to stop the worst pain. When the pain is generally bad, I take paracetomol, 1 ½ tablets every four to six hours. I have tried all the different brands of glucosamine but found they made no difference. Now I try to avoid medication when I can, and only take regular blood-pressure tablets.

Keeping very busy prevents one from dwelling on problems and gives one more incentive to overcome life’s challenges. For a long time I was only able to get around with the aid of crutches and I believe it was this extensive use of them that aggravated the situation with my arms. I had reached a point at which I found it hard to raise my arms to apply deodorant or even to take cups out of the cupboard at eye level. I found I was really beginning to struggle with everything but at the same time I really did not want to go for more surgery.

I love the outdoors, though mostly now through drives in the countryside. I also love good food and going out to restaurants (funds permitting!) I love being with the family – the boys, their hardworking and creative wives and our four grandchildren. They lead extremely busy lives, as do we, so I treasure the times we are able to get together.

After the last hip revision, I had started treatment with Blaauw and Partners Biokinetics, who, through various excellent treatments, worked wonders and got me back on my feet again. But the big change in my health came about six months ago when biokineticist Chanelle le Sueur from Blaauw and Partners took me for specialized Hydrotherapy.

Chanelle is kind and patient and strict – in that every movement, however small, must be done correctly. After working with her clients for a while, Chanelle becomes very aware of which muscles are working and which are not and she really works at those weak points. The overall effect is amazing! Up until then I had been walking on two crutches all the time, but after a few months I found that I could get around the house unaided. Later I found that I was able to manage if I left my sticks in the car when going to the local shop. I have regained a lot of confidence in my ability to move and I suffer far less pain – and that has really manifested itself now after six months of hydrotherapy.

Since starting my regular hydrotherapy sessions, I can again reach items from high shelves, I can walk distances without sticks, climb stairs more freely, though still with support and care, and with this new-found freedom of movement and far less pain, I am feeling much better and more positive about myself. I thoroughly recommend the hydrotherapy sessions from Blaauw and Partners Biokinetics. They are fun and challenging, different every time, and they work!

We have two sons, both entrepreneurs. One, who recently sold his own very successful movie equipment business, travels extensively overseas on business and also flies his own plane. The other works throughout Africa, building and installing his own designs of (often silent) generators. In addition to building and designing power stations for some way off the beaten track mines, he has supplied in excess of 35 000 generators throughout Africa, mainly to the cell-tower industry.

Blaauw and Partners Biokinetics is a well established Biokinetic practice in Somerset West (21 years). Owners Becky Blaauw and Prof Bokkie Blaauw have vast experience in rheumatology, autoimmune and arthritis patients.  

Prof Bokkie is one of the founders of Biokinetics in South Africa and the practice prides themselves in doing pure Biokinetics. Becky Blaauw has a masters degree from the University of Stellenbosch and has a special interest in Hydrotherapy as many patients cannot do land based exercises.

The practice and pool is based in Somerset West and has a dynamic team of biokineticists.  Please visit their website for more information or contact them on 021 8527148. or