Almost there!

Published on August 30th, 2011
Almost there!

Lara Miller is completing her fourth and final year of physiotherapy at Wits University in Joburg. We chat to her about what it’s like…

What made you decide to study Physiotherapy?
I have always wanted to help people and make a difference in their lives. Originally, I wanted to do medicine and specialise in paediatrics, until I heard from many doctors that the hours are long and haphazard, and as a result family time is limited.

Since family is extremely important to me, I carried on doing research on medical degrees as I knew I definitely wanted to work in this field. It was then that I stumbled across physiotherapy. I learnt that one is able to specialise in paediatric physiotherapy – the hours are more structured and many women and mothers in the field report that it’s a wonderful profession and they have lots of family time.

Are you enjoying it, and why?
I am absolutely loving physiotherapy. I have not only learnt how to be a physiotherapist, but I have also been exposed to social, psychological and human interactions. It has allowed me to learn a lot about myself and I have grown as a result. To make a difference in one person’s life, whether it be helping a patient walk without a walking aid, reducing pain, improving movement or control, improving reintegration into society and work, improving function or just listening to patients’ stories and complaints, makes each day very rewarding.

What have been the best and worst parts of your experience so far?
The best part by far has been seeing improvements as well as receiving reports that patients are coping better, allowing for greater ease and comfort in daily living. The satisfaction and appreciation these patients show towards you as their therapist makes each day, even the difficult ones, worthwhile.

The worst part has been losing patients while in clinical placements, especially when it is unexpected. You form a bond with your patients as you see them every day and share in the adversities in their healing journey.

Describe your journey from Matric to where you are now.
I matriculated in 2007 from King David High School in Linksfield. I knew the career path I wanted to take and I enrolled at The University of the Witwatersrand in 2008 to study a BSc Physiotherapy. I have now been studying for almost four years, and have encountered a few challenges along the way. As a result of my gentle nature, my greatest challenge was learning to distance myself from my patients’ problems and deal with the reality of fatalities.

You’ll be a fully qualified physiotherapist by the end of this year. What are you planning to do next year?
Next year I need to complete a year of community service at a clinic or hospital in the public sector. I’m still waiting to hear where I’ll be placed.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
In five years’ time I hope to have travelled, be married, have done my masters degree in paediatrics, be working in private practice as well as possibly volunteering in a public hospital on a weekly basis.

What were your school subjects, and which ones was your favourite?
My subjects were English, Afrikaans, Hebrew, Maths, Science and Biology, and my favourite subject was Biology. I really enjoyed learning about the different organs in the body and how the body functions, as well as working with the microscope and doing different tests in the laboratories.

I also enjoyed English – my favourite part was creative writing as it allowed me to speak my mind using metaphorical language and imagination. I enjoyed Maths and Science because I like being practical and using logic to solve problems.

What subjects are required to study physiotherapy?
English, Maths and Life Sciences and/or Physical Science.

What’s your motto in life/favourite saying?
Dream as if you will live forever, live as if you will die tomorrow.

If your house was on fire, what’s the one thing you’d save?
My photo albums, as these special memories can never be replaced.

Any advice for learners who are considering physiotherapy?
I would strongly advise that you take Science in school. It will assist in understanding the scientific concepts, and will minimise the impact of time constraints and minimal personal attention that would otherwise pose added difficulty and extra stress.

I would also suggest that you start completing your community service hours as soon as possible so as to reduce pressure at the end. And lastly, you must present yourself with an open and inquisitive mind, challenge yourself and work hard to reap the benefits for yourself and your patients.

Tell us a joke…
Susie’s husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months. Things looked grim, but she was by his bedside every single day. One day as he slipped back into consciousness, he motioned for her to come close to him. She pulled the chair close to the bed and leaned her ear close to be able to hear him.

“You know,” he whispered, his eyes filling with tears, “you have been with me through all the bad times. When I got fired, you stuck right beside me. When my business went under, there you were. When we lost the house, you were there. When I got shot, you stuck with me. When my health started failing, you were still by my side. And you know what?”

“What, dear?” she asked gently, smiling to herself.

“I think you’re bad luck.”