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!

I live with chronic backpain

I had many bad falls while skiing in Austria, everytime when my boyfriend kept shouting, “STOP!!!!”. I asked him why he does that and he said he doesn’t know. That was the start of acute pain which lasted until now. That was in March/April of 2010. I went for the chinese chiropractor in Penang and got better – didn’t feel any sharp pain.

Then, in my first winter in the Netherlands, I fell 4-5 times while cycling on the street. I was very careful at first but then my boyfriend said that I should just cycling as per normal. That’s how they happened.

People who doesn’t suffer from chronic and severe back pain do not understand as it is a very complicated medical condition which involves the nervous system and the spine. They said that it is just in the imagination and it is also psychological. I do not wish that they experience the pain and discomfort I have to go through but perhaps I do hope that they will have a glimpse of what I suffer at such young age. I am not the type that kept complaining. I have a very high pain threshold but what I am going through is agony. HELL. It is useless to hope. I can only pray that I will learn to ignore all these in-compassionate and self-centered people.

Goodbye Netherlands!

After living and working in the Netherlands for 2.5 years, it’s time to say goodbye and plan for a new start. This year I plan to get married and seek for a job that I like. I hope to settle down soon. It’s a bit uncertain since we still have not decided on the country yet. So far, Germany seems to be in favor. However, there are factors such as jobs and language to be considered. My fiance still has a year or more to go in his contract with a Dutch company. As my residence status expires in a month after I resign from my job, I won’t be allowed to stay in the Netherlands even if I want to but of course I wouldn’t want to. I resolved to flee from this cold country. Don’t get me wrong. Some Dutch like my colleagues and neighbours are real nice but there are others who are terribly rude, cold, insensitive or simply impossible. Also, the non-ergonomic and non-conducive working environment is taking its toll on my health and well-being. It’s not an easy decision to make. Nevertheless, as the doctor says, l still have many years ahead and need to the care of my health.

Anyway, l am made for the warm, not the cold. I need warm people, warm food and relatively warmer environment. Neither the Dutch or myself are made for each other. Wish everyone a Happy New Year 2013! All the best wishes for this year! Cheers!

Essentials for Netherlands

Netherlands is a flat country, literally speaking. It has fields and fields of farmland, forestry and agriculture. So, it’s not surprising that it’s well-known for its tulips, windmills, wooden clog shoes and porcelain couple in traditional costumes. Here, I’d love to share some tips on the essentials when on a short or long trip to Netherlands:

1. Weather forecast
The Netherlands has very fertile flat lands for growing crops and flowers, thanks to its wet weather. It rains a lot here. Therefore, it’s vital to have updates on the weather. Best website is http://www.buienradar.nl. It’s a great site which shows the weather radar live. You can track how the weather will progress so hopefully you can avoid being caught in the rain. Sometimes, it rains so long that it’s helpful to check the least rain time window. Here comes tip 2.

2. Raingear
Make sure to get a full set of raingear especially when outdoors walking or cycling unless you plan to drive or stay indoors. Umbrellas are not so useful for cycling due to the windy. Oh, gum boots or waterproof boots are of course nice to have if you don’t want to have wet feet.

3. Windbreaker and warm clothing
A jacket will not keep one warm in windy conditions. Therefore, one needs to have a windproof jacket as well.

For long stays:

4. Cooking skills
Eating out in the Netherlands can be a rather challenging affair. Not only it’s expensive, good restaurants are very hard to come by. When it does, there’s always some cons like long waiting time aside the high cost. Best is to cook yourself even though you’ve never cook.

5. Bicycle
Cycling is one of the best way to get around. Remember it’s a flat country. It’s very safe following dedicated cyclist lanes. Watch out if walking. Drivers can be very reckless and dangerous.

6. Sense of humour
In my book, Netherlands can be a very dull, cold, and depressing place. Totally opposite from Australia’s sunny cloudless sky, warm and laid back attitude. Keep your chin up, stay bright and keep up the sense of humour.