A woman with cerebral palsy has opened up about her inspirational climb to the top of Mount Kosciuszko to raise awareness of her disability.
Lia Sintras, 22, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was just one after her parents noticed her twin brother began to crawl but she wasn’t hitting physical developmental milestones.
At first they were told it was because Ms Sintras was born premature, before being given the ‘devastating’ news their daughter had cerebral palsy.
But the Sydneysider said she has never wanted to let her disability stop her from doing the things she had always dreamed of.
Her latest goal was to summit Mount Koscuiszko, which she achieved alongside her twin brother Andrew, her parents John and Evelyn and her friends as part of a cerebral palsy awareness event in 2019.
Video footage of the climb showed Ms Sintras dressed in a NRL Sydney Roosters jersey while she used a walker to begin the ascent of the 2,228m mountain.
At some points during the treacherous trek Ms Sintras was sat in her wheelchair as the terrain was too rough for her to continue on her walker.
Friends and family helped make sure she got to the top safely, pulling her wheelchair with a rope that was strapped around their waists.
At other points she walked with her friends supporting her on either side.
Ms Sintras eventually hit the peak of the mountain with a huge smile on her face, as a large group clapped and cheered as she took the final steps to the finish line.
Ms Sintras said a lot of training, time and effort went in with her exercise physiologist Lauren to make sure she could reach the top of the mountain.
She called it an ‘amazing experience’.
‘It was amazing to see how many people were involved in this amazing fundraising event for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It was amazing to see how many people took part in the climb and to show people that just because we have a disability does not mean that we can’t do what everyone else can do.’
She said people with a disability just need a little extra help and support to reach their goals – and she said she was lucky she had that.
Ms Sintras has always been someone to set goals and work hard to achieve what she wants.
However, she attributes her success to the love and support she has in her life.
‘I have always been lucky enough to always have the love and support of so many of my family and friends who have helped me throughout my life and help me deal with all the challenges and obstacles that I have had to overcome,’ she said.
‘Always pushing me and encouraging me to do the best that I can do in every situation. I can do anything I put my mind to.’
Every day in Ms Sintras’s life involves careful planning and preparation in order to ensure she lives as independently as possible in her home.
She has a series of support workers who help her move around the home and when she needs to leave the home.
Ms Sintras doesn’t have a driver’s licence and needs assistance getting to the shops, to friend’s homes and to other activities outside the home.
Her next challenge she has her sights set on is getting her driver’s licence so she can have some more independence.
Another of Ms Sintras’s proudest moments is walking into her Year 10 school formal using a walker.
She trained endlessly with her physical therapist Ange to build up muscle in her legs and arms so she could support herself.
The pair practiced walking, how she would access the facilities and even dancing.
They even did sports such as boxing in order to build up strength in Ms Sintras’s arms so she could hold herself up.
‘The more I thought about it I realised it would be a great way to show my teachers, friends and family what I had been working so hard to achieve,’ she said.
Footage showed Ms Sintras walk into the formal through a tunnel of her peers and teachers, who all cheered and clapped for her.
Her friends quickly embraced her – shocked and in awe of all of Ms Sintras’s efforts.
‘I will never forget that day when I saw the look on my family and friends faces when they realised what I was about to do,’ she said.
‘All the hard work and effort had paid off and we were able to enjoy the moment and celebrate what an achievement this was.’
Over the years she has had several major surgeries in order to increase Ms Sintas’ movement and vision.
One surgery left her legs in two straight casts for six weeks, meaning she was unable to move or bend her legs at all during that time.
She has also had countless hours of physical therapy to help with her mobility and pain management.
Ms Sintras is also an advocate for STEPtember, which raises money and awareness for cerebral palsy sufferers.
Participants have a goal of achieving 10,000 steps per day for 28 days in September.
So far in 2020 the organisation has raised $1,326,609 for cerebral palsy research and sufferers.