Photo: Steven S. | Flickr
I, like every other student out there, was faced with the hard question of, “What’s after SPM?” My ambitions ranged from being a world-renowned geneticist to some sort of superhero doctor! However, the fact remained that I just did not know what to do. Nothing seemed to click! And so Form Six happened. As the saying goes, “When in doubt, do Form Six”. I needed more time to decide, and Form Six was the cheapest option. A-levels or any other foundation course was too expensive, even if I could land a partial scholarship for myself.
Form Six is no walk in the park. It is a two-year programme and the only government Pre-U course that is internationally recognised. For only a few hundred ringgit, you stand the same chance as the A-levels qualifiers in applying for universities overseas, and it is also the only other Pre-U course other than matriculation that qualifies you to apply to local universities. The only catch? It is exactly like school! Once you get past the homework, the school hours, the uniform, and the constant revision that is an absolute must, you are set for the supposedly wonderful things in your glorious future.
The ‘click’ I needed suddenly happened merely months after I enrolled for Form Six. My father’s friend came over one day and randomly started talking about physiotherapy. This intrigued me! I had already decided that medicine was not my cup of tea. It was too long and just too expensive. The next thing I knew, I started researching Physiotherapy, and I soon realised it had everything I wanted in a career: meeting people and talking to them!
Soon after my STPM results scared us all (the horror!), I quickly enrolled myself for the physiotherapy degree in MAHSA College. It was the first and only private university in Malaysia that offered a degree in Physiotherapy. So here I am, one year later, loving the course and not regretting my decision.
I absolutely love the people I meet when I am in local hospitals for my clinical placements because a huge part of physiotherapy is actually talking to your patients and knowing their story. You would be surprised how easily the most mundane of activities can cause injuries! Among the most interesting people I have met so far are those who survived the Japanese Occupation, those scarred by horrible memories but with memorable life lessons to share with naive youngsters who have so much to say about anything and everything.
They come for Physiotherapy sessions to mend something, but I love to listen to them as if I am a psychiatrist. I have seen patients who could not walk after a surgery learned to walk again from using a walking frame to walking without any aid; that is what physiotherapy does – magic! I have also seen former stroke patients who could move their paralysed limbs again and lead almost normal lives, and all this happened with exercises and some good advice. Being by your patients’ side when they can move their toes again or finally sleep without that back pain is an amazing feeling, I assure you.
It is amazing how people, no matter their age, are pretty much the same when they are in pain or afraid; a little patience and tender care goes a long way. It is very important to have that special bond with your patients so they trust you enough to let you work your magic in getting them better. And it is that bond that I personally find interesting – how perfect strangers come together in times of need after just a session or two.
I also believe we need more dedicated health care workers in government hospitals, as the public services in Malaysia have a lot of room for growth and improvement. Any average income family in Malaysia would tell you that they have been to a government hospital but absolutely dread the service. I for one am all too familiar with this. It is the cheapest health care service in the country and I strongly feel it is where dedicated people are most needed.
This is my chance to give back to the people that need it the most, namely the poor that cannot afford a 100 ringgit session of Physiotherapy, or the government servants who do not make as much as the General Manager of a company.
The thought of being a dedicated physiotherapist who guides an old woman from an estate (who cannot afford any private healthcare service) to better health is really all you need to keep going. It is definitely the only reason I need to be a Physiotherapist.
Geetha Anbalagan is a self-proclaimed feminist currently pursuing her Physiotherapy degree, dreaming of the day the studying ends so she can resume her personal mission of finding a superhero (but may settle for a rock star) and wishing for a life full of adventure and picket signs.
Note: The above entry was written in 2010 for What’s After SPM?, published in 2011. This non-for-profit book project is a collaboration between Leaderonomics and a team of young Malaysians. Click here for details on the project and authors.
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