Only three weeks after painful hip replacement surgery, irrepressible Georgie Parker was back powering up and down the pool alongside swim stars of the future. The only clue to the Home And Away star’s latest health obstacle was the walking stick beside her towel and bag – and that’s the way she likes it.
For Georgie, looking on the bright side has become a way of life since discovering she had acute scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, when she was just 13 and a would-be ballet dancer.
Her recent left hip replacement due to osteoarthritis at the early age of 53, is no different for the bubbly and upbeat two-time Gold Logie winner, who learned to deal with hardship early on.
‘I suppose as far as some people were concerned, I was handicapped or had a physical deformity – and in medical journals, scoliosis is called a deformity – and yet I don’t feel like that describes my body at all,’ she smiles, speaking exclusively to New Idea.
‘I don’t use the word deformity, or bad back. I use the word challenge. It’s not my bad hip, it’s my hip that has been operated on – and now I call it my good leg.’
Eight weeks since her operation at Sydney’s North Shore Private Hospital, fitness fanatic Georgie is powering through rehab, seeing her physiotherapist once a week and working out daily.
‘I must stink of chlorine,’ grins the self-confessed workaholic.
‘Physical obstacles really don’t have to define you,’ maintains the TV favourite, who has played Summer Bay stalwart Roo Stewart for the past eight years. ‘There is pain and there is discomfort and there will be medical intervention – but there is always a way of finding a challenge and making that challenge make you a better person. That’s what I think
‘I would encourage everyone who has some kind of physical impediment not to be conscious of what they can’t do, but find out what they can do – and do it! The antidote is staying active. You need to move it, or you lose it. That cliche is true.’
Growing up on Sydney’s leafy North Shore, Georgie was ‘a congenital idiot as far as schoolwork was concerned’, but shone on stage.
Dancing was a passion, until the doctor’s diagnosis of scoliosis saw her strapped into an uncomfortable back brace for nearly three years. Surely that was devastating?
‘It was actually an incredible experience for me because I was dealt what sounded like a bad hand, but it gave me the chance to face challenges. And it did that when I was very young, so I’m grateful,’ she says.
Much worse was the revelation that, at age 40, osteoarthritis was eating away at her left hip.
‘This was more depressing because it was separate from scoliosis – another obstacle. But there was a solution,’ confides mother-of-one Georgie, who first shot to fame as nurse Lucy Gardiner in A Country Practice.
Advised to defer hip replacement as long as possible, she waited for 10 years and embarked on cortisone injections to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. But finally, come last February, the two-hour hip operation could no longer be avoided.
‘Look at that, it’s beautiful,’ she grins, flourishing an X-ray of her new hip joint. ‘They told me there was so much arthritis in my old hip, they didn’t know how I’d ever got around. This one is fantastic, but it’s made of titanium, so it will probably set off all the airport alarms!’
In other good news, Georgie’s back – which has a ‘significant’ 59-degree spinal curvature – gained greater freedom of movement post-surgery.
‘I underestimated the rehab involved, but I'm enjoying that of course. I just threw myself into it,’ she laughs, ready to return to Home And Away after nine weeks’ sick leave at home in Sydney’s inner west with writer husband Steve Worland and their art student daughter Holly, 17.
‘I have never not worked, so I’ve had such a lovely time lazing around, doing the garden, hanging out with friends, playing with the cats like I’m a teenager,’ she says.
‘But I won’t ever retire. I don’t think I could.
‘What I would like is probably a bit more...room in my life. But hello! Who am I kidding? I can’t wait to go back to Home And Away. Work is, you know, work is my buzz!’
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