“The highlight is when a patient can comb their hair”

-DPI sits down with UG- trained occupational therapists after a year on the job

DPI, Guyana, Friday, October 26, 2018

The Department of Public Information (DPI) recently sat down with four locally trained occupational therapists to hear how it has been working in the profession for less than one year.

In observance of World Occupational Therapy Day 2018, Calvin Lawrie, Errika Canterbury, Deoranie Babulall and Afeeza Khan reflected on how they got into the profession in the first place and how it has been so far. Here is what they had to say.

The occupational therapists graduated from the University of Guyana in 2017, obtaining a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Medical Rehabilitation-Occupational Therapy.

They are currently working in various settings at the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) Rehabilitation Department, West Demerara Regional Hospital and The Palms Geriatric Home.

How did you become an Occupational Therapist?

Calvin: “My Dad has always been the Headmaster of a special needs school, so growing up right here in Georgetown, after my school ended I would always go over to his school. So, I would have been exposed to children with disabilities and it was there my passion to help them developed.”

Errika: “The truth is I had no idea what occupational therapy was. I was going to UG to do biology and my mother said let us go through this list and see what else is there…I Googled what occupational therapy was and just by reading the information I realised that I really liked it. I found it to be really fun and that is where my journey started.”

Deoranie: “When I started to study in the rehabilitation field I actually began in physical therapy then I was given an assignment to portray what occupational therapy was and in so doing I did very in-depth research on the subject and realised there is a need in this country for occupational therapists. I was interested in what it offers and how I can help persons.”

Afeeza: “The Rehabilitation programme at the University of Guyana has three deviations when you enter your third year and by default, I ended up choosing occupational therapy.”

How has it been working as an OT?

Calvin: “I started working with children but I am now over at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation with orthopaedic patients… but the highlight is when you work with your patients and they are at one stage, a few weeks go by then they are at another stage and next thing you know they are walking out of the department or they can comb their hair or they can eat by themselves.”

Errika: “Working now as an occupational therapist, I would say this was definitely the right choice. Some days my motivation to go to work is the fact that I love what I do. I enjoy seeing my patients get better and making progress.”

Deoranie: At the Palms Rehabilitation centre, I had my first experience of working with persons with neurological conditions such as a spinal cord injury, a stroke and other varying conditions… Now with these diagnoses, there are impairments and limitations in doing certain activities in daily living, however, my aim or my goal as an occupational therapist is to get them as close to independence as possible.”

Afeeza: “The professional itself is very interactive and individualized, however, it is very underrated and not very well known by a lot of persons whether in the health field and generally.”

Occupational Therapy Day was first launched on 27th October 2010. Since then, it has become an important date in the occupational therapy calendar to promote and celebrate the profession internationally. The theme for this year is “Celebrating our global community.”

The local therapists left these messages highlighting the importance and relevance of their professions.

Calvin Lawrie who currently functions at the GPHC explained that “Occupational therapy has a lot to do with occupation and that is what we do from the time we get up to the time we sleep.  We help you to get back to that function. It may be something that you might consider very small but to one of our patients taking a walk or going to the toilet and doing things for themselves to be independent, we as occupational therapists help them to regain independence.”

Errika Canterbury assigned to service patients in the Essequibo Islands–West Demerara Region said, “For those who might question what we do, I would give them the definition of an occupational therapist: I am that person who helps another person with shoulder pain. Helping them put on their T-shirt, I am that person that teaches stroke patients how to put on and hook her bra with one hand, I am that helps you with the back pain and shows you how to lift and how to bend.”

Occupational therapist attached to the Palms Rehabilitation Centre, Afeeza Khan simply said Occupational therapy “is important to everyday life. It helps you to do the things in life that you might have been doing but can’t do now due to an injury, pain or even a simple condition that you are not very sure of. As long as you have a limitation and its hindering your functionality occupational therapy steps in right there.”

Lastly, Deoranie Babulal who was recently assigned to the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre says she enjoys working with the children. “I like the fact that I get to help them to meet developmental milestones, to improve function basically, simple things like grabbing being able to creep, sitting up, holding stuff, making gestures, communicating with parents, understanding simple instructions.”

Delicia Haynes.

Images: Department of Public Information.

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