Health Professionals

  • Physio Abroad - A Student in Vietnam

    In January 2017, I ventured to Da Nang, a coastal city in central Vietnam with La Trobe University to volunteer as a physiotherapy student with GGC Volunteers. GGC Volunteers Ltd is an Australian registered charity that supports organisations and facilities in Vietnam, through sending volunteers and student groups to assist in improving the health, education and social welfare of children in the Da Nang region.

    On my first day of volunteering, I was faced with the austerity of care provided in Vietnam. It was confronting to walk into a facility where some of the teenagers with disabilities were chained to their beds. The children with cerebral palsy would be lying flat on their backs on a play mat, lacking the strength to move around or sit up. Although it seemed foreign to me, a westerner, to see these children left lying on the floor, I came to learn that it is the norm for Vietnamese children to be laid and fed lying down when they are unwell.

    “You cannot change what you refuse to confront” – John Spence

    GGC provides a charity physiotherapy clinic for children with disabilities. One of the regular patients attending the clinic was an 18-year-old girl with diplegia. Throughout her passive stretching and exercises, she persisted through pain, even telling us to “push harder” indicating her diligence to see advancements. It was gratifying that she did not let her condition define her capabilities and came to each session with a willingness to improve. It compelled me to believe that a diagnosis or condition, acute or chronic, does not define a patient or bind them. The improvements that I witnessed in some of the children over 2 short weeks, verified that there is no limit to one’s ability to improve. As a physiotherapist, I will have the potential to make patients and their families believe it is possible to break boundaries.

    “The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible” – Arthur C. Clarke

    Correspondingly, the family members of attending children shared this commitment to improving health. The mother of a girl with Down Syndrome was always punctual, encouraging and an active participant in her daughter’s treatment, rather than watching from the sidelines. This mother would carry her daughter on the back of a motorbike, their only means of transport, to and from the clinic. This unwavering dedication struck me and reinforced that not only patients, but their families, can play a crucial role in optimising the health care experience.

    During the experience, I become aware that poverty and the economy forces many Vietnamese families to orphan their healthy children, let alone children with disabilities, who increase their economic burden. I witnessed the mother of a severely disabled child abandoned at a support centre, return to take her child back into her care. The mother of the child with Down Syndrome, among others, reassured me that unwavering love and selflessness for children exists and goes beyond one’s poverty and/or disability status.

    “Love conquers all” – Virgil

    This experience enabled me to confront and conquer barriers, broaden my horizons, gain new perspectives, strengthen my cultural competency and most importantly, make a difference; albeit a small one. For these reasons among many more, I would recommend volunteering abroad (or even locally) to all of you.

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    3 years ago
  • A Physio Student Takes on Stadium Stomp

    As most know, starting university can be an absolute whirlwind, as terrifying as it is exciting. For me, choosing La Trobe meant leaving much of my support network behind and venturing out alone, into unchartered waters. It wasn’t until my first orientation that I began to feel confident that I had indeed made the right choice and that Physiotherapy was the right fit for me. Up until then, I had never been entirely sure which career path I would pursue. One thing I was sure of was that I had a passion for health and helping people as well as a keen interest in sport and fitness. Taking all that into account, a future as a physiotherapist seemed like a good idea.

    Those first few classes opened my eyes to a whole new world of neuro physiotherapy and cardiorespiratory physiotherapy. As someone who’d come into the course expecting it to be all about muscles, it was refreshing to be introduced to an array of other components, each vital to the way the human body operates.

    Having said this, my first real taste of physiotherapy exposure came from volunteering at an event called Stadium Stomp with the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA). Despite having such limited experience and no exposure to actual massage techniques, I decided to dive in head first and get involved.

    Stadium Stomp is an event that encourages participants to challenge themselves by attempting to tackle every step in the MCG within the space of a few hours. For some, this is a relatively simple task. For others, it can take a huge toll on their bodies. As a volunteer, my role on the day was to massage the calves of people who came in, spending about 5 mins on each person. Being so new to the world of Physio, this task was a little daunting at first. However, as I finished working on my first stomp client I was delighted to hear that, in spite of my lack of experience, my thumbs were ‘magic’.

    That simple compliment boosted my confidence and before I knew it, I’d been working for 2 hours. It wasn’t until I finally took a break that I realised how exhausted I was. I knew that when I went back in, I would have to come up with some new methods of massage to spare my thumbs from disfigurement. This was an important learning curve as it allowed me the chance to experiment and work out which methods were best for me. It was also at this point that I got to talking with one of the professional physiotherapists who gave me other tips on the types of movements I could be doing to avoid fatigue.

    Overall, it was a really great day and one I feel lucky to have been a part of. It was so exciting to observe trained physiotherapists up close and pick their brains about what they do on a daily basis

    It was the first chance I have had to do something hands on and use the few skills I had acquired. I learnt so much from observing and talking to everyone and it is definitely something I would love to repeat in the coming years.

    I would certainly advise anyone who gets the opportunity to volunteer in something like this to jump in, regardless of how ill-equipped you might feel. The skills you’ll gain from the experience will definitely be worth it!

    4 years ago

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