Have you ever had a personal experience affect you so much that it transforms your career and life goals and put you on a whole new path?
Gillian Sukachevin did. After the birth of her first child she discovered a passion for working in women’s health with The Tummy Team.
What better way to find your true calling?! I think it’s really amazing that she was able to take her own personal experience and use it to help others.
I’ve loved getting to know Gillian and learning more about her motivations for what she does and her journey to getting there. She is a true warrior in every aspect of the word! Be sure to make it to the bottom so that you see some cool photos of Gillian practicing Tai Chi.
Gillian was born and raised in Singapore. When she was in her late teens, her family moved to the United States, Michigan specifically, so her father could earn his doctorate. Once in the US Gillian knew she wanted to work in healthcare so she enrolled at Andrews University in Michigan to study Physical Therapy.
She wanted to learn how to take care of her family as well as others and discovered that physical therapy was a field in which she could do that. Gillian learned a lot about how bodies develop and move and how to provide care for patients in a safe environment. Her goal was to help patients heal so they could continue to do the things they loved. Her career started here but after twists and turns in her own life, she’s now working in women’s health. But more on that in a bit…
She met her husband in Baltimore and the two of them eventually made their way out to the Pacific Northwest for a career opportunity. They currently live in Camas, WA with their two children. As with many of the women I speak to for this blog, Gillian’s family loves exploring the outdoors in the PNW.
Gillian’s PT Journey
Upon completion of her degree, Gillian worked in hospitals seeing patients who were recovering from a stroke or spinal cord injury or similar conditions involving the neuromuscular system. Gillian enjoyed helping patients get mobile and become more independent with their lives.
And then Gillian became pregnant with her first child. In her fourth month of pregnancy she was put on restricted mobility. There was some bleeding going on and the doctors just wanted to be careful. There weren’t a ton of instructions given, mainly just don’t lift too much, don’t overexert yourself, etc.
Despite some birthing complications her daughter was born and healthy! Gillian, however, could not move her legs. At first the medical staff didn’t understand what she told them. They tried to get her out of bed, reassuring her that some pain and swelling are normal. But she literally couldn’t move her legs. Gillian couldn’t walk for about five weeks after the birth of her daughter
Postpartum life for Gillian wasn’t what she had pictured. She couldn’t walk around the house holding her daughter in her arms. She resorted to using the baby stroller to push her daughter while also using it as her walker.
She regularly met with a physical therapist to help her with recovery and slowly she started regaining her strength. After two years she was still experiencing pain in her back and hips. Gillian knew the powers of physical therapy and was surprised and frustrated that she still had symptoms. So she called up a former colleague of hers who had recently opened up a women’s health clinic.
They did an internal exam and that’s when Gillian could finally understand the source of her pain. It was coming from her pelvic floor. For years medical professionals were focused on the pain in her back and hips. But now, with the true source of the pain coming into view Gillian was finally about to get some answers.
Around this same time is when Gillian and her husband relocated to the West Coast. So, Gillian needed to find a new physical therapy clinic that could help her deal with her pelvic floor issues — this is when Gillian discovered Kelly Dean at the Tummy Team.
Gillian’s journey with The Tummy Team
Within 48 hours of seeing Kelly, her pain had subsided. This convinced her to keep working with Kelly and focus on rehabilitating her functional core. Kelly was teaching her about optimizing her core strength, so she could be able to function throughout the day without falling apart.
Finally, five years after the birth of her daughter, she was starting to feel better and get back to functioning without daily pain thanks to Kelly.
Gillian’s personal journey led her to the Tummy Team and also showed her the next direction for her career. She knew how beneficial core rehabilitation could be and she wanted to help others like her find relief. So, when Kelly started getting busier and opened an online clinic she brought Gillian on to work at the Tummy Team.
Along with her personal experience of recovery Gillian’s background in neuromuscular reeducation and working with patients with stroke and spinal cord injuries made working at the Tummy Team a natural fit. Much of what Gillian’s work focuses on is awareness of what your muscles are doing and getting your muscles in the proper alignment. She works with many patients with diastasis recti, or the separation of abdominal muscles, a condition associated with a weak functional core. Many women experience this after giving birth.
At the core of it all the Tummy Team offers functional core and pelvic floor rehabilitation. The key element being, helping people to function and go about their daily routine without doubling over in pain, no matter what they are doing. They spend a lot of time interviewing patients to figure out what their day is like, so that they can give them strategies to optimize their daily function.
The Tummy Team’s Core Foundations, eight-week class helps patients improve their functional core strength. The class gives you various strategies on how to strengthen those muscles, how to get into good alignment so you can optimize the use of those muscles and then be able to use them throughout the day.
One of the things Gillian loves about being a part of the Tummy Team is being able to share a message of hope and healing with others. Prioritizing you and your body during pregnancy, so that you can be strong postpartum is so beneficial for living a comfortable life. Because after birth you want to have the strength necessary to take care of your little one, without falling apart. And Gillian and the Tummy Team can help you with exactly that.
Before Gillian really got any answers as to why she was experiencing so much pain, she picked up Tai Chi at the local community center and fell in love with the practice. It has also helped her with focus and breath. It’s been great for not only her physical health, but also her mental health. Check out some of the photos below of her practicing Tai Chi in front of my lens! Serious Woman Warrior vibes right here!
Want to read about more Women Warriors in our community? Check out these amazing women: