Rotorua physiotherapist achieves childhood dream

Lisa Cliffe can pinpoint the exact year she became interested in becoming a physiotherapist.

Ironically, it took her 10 years to act on that dream but that is another story, the Rotorua-based Active+ physiotherapist recalls.

Lisa and husband Nigel recently moved from Auckland and bought a house in Glenholme.

“Rotorua has always been my favourite place to go on holiday and now I live here.”

Auckland born and bred Lisa was a student at Manurewa High School and did karate when she first came in contact with physiotherapy.

She got a sore wrist and could not do press ups so ended up going to see a physiotherapist.

That is when she knew that is what she wanted to do.

“I was fascinated by what they did and how they came to their conclusions.”

She had a ganglion cyst attached to a nerve so ended up having surgery to remove it.

The problem for Lisa, as she honestly concedes more than 30 years later, was her grades were not good enough to seriously contemplate becoming a physiotherapist.

“It was very hard work for me because I’m not very academic.”

That she was able to pursue her dream when she was 28 and go onto gain a health science degree majoring in physiotherapy at AUT after four years study, is a credit to her tenacity.

After stints as a motorcycle courier driver in central Auckland, a retail assistant in a motorcycle accessory store and a receptionist for a Porsche and Volkswagen dealer, Lisa began to feel restless.

“Nigel said to me: ‘If you want to do it, go ahead and do it.’ I couldn’t have done it without him.”

Conscious there might be more to it than just going to university, Lisa gained a fitness instruction certificate first and then worked in a gym.

“That gave me the confidence. I was intelligent enough to do it after all.”

Once qualified, she spent the next nine years, half a day in a clinic and the other half at two Auckland high schools treating everyone from teachers, the ground staff and students.

“Anything from sore necks to sprained ankles to dislocated shoulders. Anything and everything.”

She also was team physio for a North Shore rugby team until she was standing on the side line one day when the players slid into her and put her knees out.

“It took three surgeries over four years to get back to as good as it could be.”

Two years ago, she went to Mexico with the New Zealand women’s under 18 ice hockey team arriving back a day before the first Covid lockdown started.

Nigel and Lisa bought their Rotorua house in October last year just as Auckland went into an extended lockdown.

“The house was empty, but we couldn’t move in. Our landlord in Auckland let us stay for however long we needed.”

Once in Rotorua, Lisa put the word out she was looking for work.

Active+ Waikato clinical manager Robyn Lindstrom found out, contacted her and within a week, Lisa was set up in a clinic at Profiles HQ Gym at 86 Old Taupo Road.

Lisa is looking forward to working with clients.

“I’m always looking for ways to help people manage themselves.

“If I can help them take responsibility or take ownership of what’s going on for them, so they don’t need me, then I am doing my job,” she says.

“I just love working with everyday people, everyday stuff, posture, after fractures etc.

“Two thirds of what I do is psychology based too and I love that about it. I’m a bit of a mother hen.”

Rotorua folk have already shown an interest in Lisa. She rides a motorbike with Otto her 4 ½ year pug dog in the basket.

“They’re forever taking photos of Otto when I stop at the lights or whatever,” she says.

The clinic is open Monday to Friday. Bookings by phone 0800 734 227 or online www.activeplus.co.nz


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