When Betty Keys stepped into her new life as a support worker with Nambucca Valley Disability Services three and half years ago, it was one very steep learning curve.
"I had never worked in this field before, so everything was new," Betty said.
One of her biggest challenges was learning all the special needs of clients, one in particular, who was not responding to treatments or entreaties. She had wasted away to a worrying 34 kg and was under palliative care.
"She and I clicked immediately ... I was really determined, as was she, and I had to earn her respect."
Now the appetite for life has returned with the client communicating, eating (back up to a healthy 56kg), taking her medication voluntarily ... and even swimming - thanks in large part to Betty.
The change has been incredible and led NVDS coordinator Bridget King to nominate Betty for an employee award.
An initial monthly accolade led to something much bigger with Betty in the spotlight last month as the winner of the inaugural Ability Options STAR Employee of the Year award.
"I could hardly believe it. It has been such a great journey - I was in such a dark place before I started this job, now my life has turned around, I love where I work and going to work is a pleasure.
"I love my clients, they are like family and seeing this particular client's health improve has been wonderful. It is a team effort though - we all give our girls plenty of personal time, they have good lives."