Did physiotherapy choose me?

By: Jami Visagie

Since a very young age, I remember only ever wanting to be two things; a medical doctor or a culinary chef. On the one hand, my love for people and a deep curiosity about the human anatomy drove me towards Doctor. A “prestigious title for very smart people working in a hospital” my mother always said. And on the other hand, some of my fondest memories were with my grandmother in her old kitchen – cooking the most delicious food and remembering her saying “You know, some of the best chefs in the world are men”. This perplexed me immensely because I only ever saw women cooking in our household. 

Naturally, as we grow up, things change and one’s perspective on life changes. In high school, my focus shifted much more towards sports and socialising with my friends. I am convinced that the most fun I ever had was on the sports field. When the time came to apply to varsity everyone tried to convince me to study physiotherapy. Even my aptitude tests showed physiotherapy would be a good fit. I was so anxious about making the wrong decision and being stuck in a field I didn’t like for the rest of my life – so I eventually ended up studying a broader BSc. degree. I hated every moment of it. One evening at rugby practice, my friend explained how “cool and interesting” his day in the anatomy labs was – he studied physiotherapy and was absolutely loving it! I applied to study physio the very next day.

I was very fortunate to be accepted and remember the thrill of actually learning something I was passionate about. However, I still had some doubts and anxiety about whether or not this would be a good fit for me long-term. In my second year, we started with neurorehabilitation. I remember thinking “How is this relevant, surely there can’t be that many people suffering from spinal cord injuries and strokes?”. I was much more eager to work next to the sporting field with a famous rugby team. 

In that same year, my beloved grandma with whom I spent countless hours learning how to cook in her kitchen, had a massive stroke and was on the verge of dying. Luckily, she pulled through (classic “boeretannie”-fashion) and was diagnosed with quite severe left-sided hemiplegia. It was at this exact moment that I knew God had a plan for my life. I was blessed to have been placed in a position where I could help others, like my grandma, to overcome hopeless and fearful situations. With my own two hands, I could reach out and uplift others – daily. To improve their quality of life and help them live life to the fullest again. What an honour!

As I look back, I realize how amazing life is and how small choices can profoundly influence your path. Today, my grandma is still taking life by the horns and enjoying every step of the way. I hope my story will inspire people to have confidence in their choices and trust that God has a plan for everyone’s life. You just have to live it.