By Emily Stonehouse
Audrey Collins is making a splash in Gelert. Collins, an aquatic therapist originally from Quebec, has settled in the Haliburton Highlands, and is offering sessions at her pool for individuals suffering from the effect of strokes, neurological disorders, and accidents that result in chronic pain.
“It was now or never to put this dream into place,” Collins told the Echo, when alluding to her decision to build the pool on her property, “and the reward has been to see the quality of life come back to people.”
Collins grew up in Quebec, but spent her summers attending Camp Kilcoo in Minden, in an effort to learn the English language. It was here that she met her husband, and fell in love with the area and the people. She grew up studying physical rehab therapy, but was always drawn to one-on-one lessons with people in aquatics.
Collins continued to hone in on her skills through a variety of courses, before being offered the opportunity to become internationally certified in aquatics therapy in Switzerland. “Those were long days, and it was an intense program, but once I was finished, I returned to Canada, and there are only two Canadians with this title,” she said. On top of being an aquatic therapist, Collins is also a physiotherapist assistant, and a healing waters instructor.
The prestigious training and natural dedication to aquatic programming led Collins to a series of studies and positions with Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. Here, she was able to contribute her skills to the development of significant research in regards to spinal injuries, as well as the effects of water therapy on stroke victims.
She started offering one-on-one sessions to clients in the Peterborough and Lindsay areas, before COVID-19 hit, and the public pools were closed down. It was at this point in her journey that she and her husband decided to follow their dream of offering sessions right at their home. “It’s a different type of medical attention,” Collins said. “When clients arrive, they come to my home, I am in my bathing suit and so are they, we can all feel vulnerable and human, and on the same level in treatment.”
Collins reflected on the success she has found with this type of treatment on individuals. She shared with the Echo that she had one client who had suffered a stroke many years ago, and was experiencing debilitating pain with movement. Collins invited the client’s husband to join them in the pool, and showed him a series of safe exercises to help his wife in her healing journey. “At the end of the session, I asked them if they wanted to dance together,” Collins said. “It was the first time they were able to stand face-to-face since the stroke, and be able to see one another standing up. There were tears for everyone.”
She shared that there are other clients she works with, who struggle with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. “I have one client who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s for 5 years, yet he is showing no effects of the disease. His doctors believe it is because he’s in the pool every week,” she said. Collins also hopes to start working on some group therapy programs for individuals with chronic pain, as well as pre and post natal classes, and therapeutic aqua yoga, focusing on relaxation and balance.
Collins noted that the water is a unique environment, and believes that it levels the playing field in healing due to the freedom it offers. “It’s the only place where some people can do certain things,” she said. “When they can move freely again, and feel themselves again, they can see a light at the end of the tunnel in healing.”
Audrey’s Aquatic Therapy and Rehabilitation is partnered with Haliburton County Chiropractic and Rehabilitation, based in Minden. Together, they work with clients to offer a patient-centred approach to healthcare, and provide clients with support and techniques dedicated to feeling healthy, safe, and empowered.
“When you can offer people quality of life, to me, that’s the real paycheque, seeing how people’s lives can change,” said Collins. You can find more information on the programs Collins offers at www.haliburtoncountychiropractic.com.