AFTER suffering from a stroke at the age of 38, Wendy Whelan is back in the milking shed just months after being hospitalised.
The dairy farmer from Toora has returned to work six months after being unable to move or speak.
Her inspiring recovery has been spurred by a desire to resume the career that she has worked long and hard to achieve, and is now a share farmer on a dairy property.
Just two years after achieving her goal of becoming a share farmer, Wendy was feeling confident in her role as chief decision maker on the 200 hectare farm where 340 cows are milked at peak times.
In August 2015 Wendy first noticed flu-like symptoms, before a rapid deterioration in her health that saw her rushed to the Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne’s south east.
“I couldn’t remember the next two weeks. I lost my speech, lost my vision and couldn’t move,” Wendy said.
Wendy underwent intense sessions of rehabilitation, designed to strengthen and rebuild her muscles for milking duties, and walking practice on uneven ground, to replicate walking through a paddock.
“We based my physio on milking cows,” Wendy said.
“I needed to build the strength in my arms and they would take me out on undulating grass mounds to practice walking.”
Within six weeks, Wendy was allowed out of the rehabilitation centre for a weekend.
She went straight back home to the farm.
“I came home on weekend leave and went and milked three cows, with a patch on my eye and needing help to get down the steps into the pit. I needed to know that I could still do it,” Wendy said.
“Four weeks before that, I couldn’t even walk so I thought it was pretty good effort.”
Wendy progressed to half an hour of milking each day and is now able to complete six milkings a week.
While the stroke-inducing Venus Sinus Thrombosis and its aftermath have dominated the past six months, she is keen to ensure the rare-medical condition does not define the rest of her life.
The chances of suffering that type of blood clot were one in 200,000, but Wendy still reckons she defied larger odds to become a single female share farmer.
After starting as a relief milker 16 years ago, Wendy developed her skills to the point where the Best family was willing to hand over management of the farm to their long term employee.
While getting back on her feet and resuming her career is more than enough of a challenge at the moment, Wendy harbours long term ambitions to eventually buy her own farm.
In the meantime, the simple pleasures of being her own boss and working among the dairy cows are satisfying enough.
“I am an animal person, which is part of the reason I like being a dairy farmer,” she said.
“I used to work on Dad’s sheep and beef farm. We’ve always had animals. Even when we lived in Melbourne when I was a kid, we had orphaned lambs in the backyard.”
Wendy has a lot more to achieve in dairy career and wants to one day look back on her stroke as just a small but significant moment in the bigger picture of her life.
“It’s just something that happened. Hopefully it’s just a small glitch in my lifetime.”
Dairy Australia’s Legendairy campaign aims to highlight inspirational farmers like Wendy, who form the backbone of Australia’s $4 billion dairy industry.