My spinal injury

After two years suffering from back problems with worsening symptoms the more I work in Utwente, I begin to seriously think about the severity of the condition. Looking back the history of my back problems, I begin to realize that working in Utwente in non-ergonomic environment caused recurring sciatica problems. Initially, sciatica only occurred when I started playing badminton after a very long time of non-activity or when I had a bad fall.

The non-activity was due to working very hard and long hours in order to achieve results for the pFEL project especially since resource became scarce after I joined due to a number of past project failures in the LPNO research group. Two technicians were forced to leave, and there were no experts knowledgeable in any of the research areas of the project. Moreover, the first PhD student left behind many tedious and difficult tasks which he could not or would not want to work on. Instead, he took my work just be because he is desperate for publication which he acknowledged.

For the first 1.5 years, i bore on and sacrifice all for the project. I even spent my holiday leave in Penang on lower back treatment sessions with chiropractor and traditional physiotherapist. However, the back problems kept coming back when I start work again. After a series of sciatica and continuous intense pain in my lower back, I decided to consult the doctor for solutions instead of the ongoing physiotherapy sessions and pain killer prescriptions. I gave it a much serious thought when the doctor told me that I still have many more years to go and should take serious measures for this problem.

During my holiday leave in 2013, instead of the usual traditional physiotherapy sessions, I went to the penang general hospital based on my mum’s suggestion to consult the GP on my back problems. Thank God I did. I was rather skeptical since I perceived that medical expertise in Holland is way better but there was no harm giving it a go since the fee is neligible. I was even more skeptical of the doctor as he was rather young. However, his quick judgment and the efficiency of the hospital really impressed me. Within two hours after walk-in, I manage to register myself as first time patient, consult the doctor, had xray taken, went for lunch, see the doctor on the xray results and scheduled for physiotherapy sessions. Because of the public holidays and that the physiotherapy session takes place once a week, I had two physio sessions during this holiday. After that I went to consult the doctor and was referred to the orthopedic specialist.

I then decided to quit from my PhD due to concerns of the recurring sciatica and the longer duration it takes to recover from temporary disability and excruciating pain. It was very difficult choice. It took me more than a year, uncountable visits to the doctors and private manual physioterapies, to the severity of the problem. I feel very bad about leaving as my group as I am a strong contributor and they lose a lot if I were to leave. I played the scenario if I were to stay. I won’t be happy as I have been subjected to cruel jealousy treatments from the first PhD student. He published my work and left the main content of his work unfinished. He also treated me very rudely in conferences to the point that the industrial parties noticed it and ignored him for they observed that he was a jerk.

What I learned from here are:
1. Choose your PhD supervisor wisely. This may not be important as you will be able to find indirect mentors for informal coaching and collaborations from conferences and so on.
2. More important yet is to make sure there would be no overlap with ongoing PhD students. If there is a possibility of overlap, make sure the student is a mature and ethical person who will be responsible to complete their work to their best ability and not taking your publication work just for easy publication sake and that he gets along with other people. I only found out later that he doesn’t get along well with people as he has a terrible attitude and aptitude. He had to move out many times as he has problems with his housemates.
3. Be happy and love what you do. If you don’t, find out why. Do not linger longer than necessary. Always choose your own wellness and happiness first. People are generally self-centered. They will not be grateful for your niceness or generosity. It won’t bring back your health but makes it worse helping negative people to succeed. I stayed on to make sure the first PhD student graduated before leaving the group. Unfortunately, he extended his PhD and therefore I prolonged my stay as I am unfortunately too nice a person. I still feel bad about leaving as I am unfortunately too kind. Face the facts. It’s a dog eat dog world when people are desperate… Do not stay for any reason but for yourself. This is your life. Help those who help themselves if you feel obliged.

God bless and peace be with you!