This International Women's Day, Invacare Australia/New Zealand is celebrating the story of an amazing woman - she is a mother, a successful athlete, and a passionate advocate for a cause she has good reason to believe in.
Eliza Ault-Connell is a 38-year-old para-athlete who has represented Australia, winning medals at a variety of global events including the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
Eliza likes to joke about how her career can be broken into two clear time frames: BC (before children) and AC (after children). Although having three young kids does not appear to have stopped her from achieving her athletic goals, winning silver at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, and making no less than 8 qualifications in the World Athletics Championships in Dubai this summer alone. Upcoming events include The Boston Marathon and the London world championships, where she will be once again representing Australia.
At the age of 16, Eliza, who was always an active outdoors and athletic person, contracted Meningococcal Meningitis, a vaccine-preventable bacterial infection. Before being placed into a coma, Eliza was given a 2% chance of survival, and, due to a lack of circulation she had suffered, woke to amputated legs below the knee.
After this life-altering experience, Eliza challenged herself to move on and attain goals that even those who have both legs struggle to achieve.
Eliza is involved with Meningococcal Australia, and actively campaigns to spread awareness, increase vaccination rates, and works relentlessly to have the most common form of the disease, and the one that she herself contracted, Meningococcal B, included on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The current situation in Australia is that parents have to somehow be aware of the disease and then pay privately to get their children vaccinated against this form of Meningococcal, which can prove a costly exercise considering many families have multiple children.
Eliza is one busy lady... When asked how she fits so much in, she said, “it’s no secret, long days are very much a part of my life.”
A typical day starts with an early morning training session on her rollers, and when her three bleary-eyed children aged 7, 8 and 10, wake up, Eliza starts making school lunches and is seeing them off to school.
Eliza loves sharing her active lifestyle with her children, who witness her training at home daily, and enjoys regular weekend camping trips, swims in the local river, and taking the dog to the park. “My kids and family have been with me every step of the way. When I compete I represent them as well as my country.” A motivating force if ever there was one.
Eliza loves what she does. She loves the process, the race day, the fruits of success and each training session. “Eight of my 13 training sessions a week are at home and without being able to do this I couldn’t do what I love. Ideally, I’d be training with a coach on the track each day but, as a mum with young kids, that’s not realistic. I would say that whatever barriers you can see in place, there are always ways to get around them.”
When asked what International Women’s Day means to Eliza, she said “it’s a day to acknowledge women of all shapes, sizes, colours and abilities. It’s these very differences that make us unique. It’s a wonderful thing that in 2019, being a woman can look so very different for each of us. I am lucky enough to come from a non-traditional family and so am able to both celebrate and live a life rich in diversity.”
For more information about Meningococcal Australia, visit: https://campaigns.health.gov.au/immunisationfacts/meningococcal