Walking Back Into My Life-Column, Sept 2011

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This post was written by Marybeth Ramey.

Marybeth Ramey is an award winning writer and our former Group Editor who has lived in Malaysia for 13 years. She is a former academic and currently an Educationalist in Malaysia as well as the proud mother of Rebecca Millis and Naim Ramey, now adults and living back in the USA. Her granddaughter, Raya-Rosine is the light of her life.She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

It was a moment to cherish. For the first time in almost five years, I stood upright almost all the way and walked like normal people do. Then I strode up and down and around in circles in my condo, and then I even ran. What a feeling it was and mind you, it still is. My life changed in that moment and it was at long last for the best. Thank you my dear Karma. But what took you so long?

I had had a very skilfully done, difficult and complex spinal rod fusion surgery almost five years ago. I was even back at the office in four weeks but definitely needed a physical therapist to guide me to become fully mobile. I was no spring chicken either springing back to normalcy like the young teenagers having the same surgery around me who had fully recovered in just a few weeks. I had 18 bolt sets fastened to the titanium rod and it had taken 10 hours to fit it all onto my rather small back all to correct a serious double scoliosis I had been born with…

In a move to save money, I went to what we now know was an unqualified physical therapist. One session and the next day the 18th bolt set broke off and landed in a nerve cluster. My entire lower right side was on fire with nerve pain for the next seven months and to accommodate the pain I twisted my posture and the result was strong muscles in the wrong places most of which held my torso down.

Unlike most people who get Botox injected in minute quantities on their face, I had a full bottle injected into my upper right leg muscles so the spasming would relax them and thus allow my back muscles to take over. The Botox kicked in slower than I had expected but a few weeks later sufficiently enough to allow me to stand upright. I have a strikingly youthful Iliopsoas muscle now which my face is jealous of however, Thanks to Drs. Julia Shahnaz Merican, a KL Neurologist and her brother, Radiologist Dr Shanrin Merican who guided the injecting needle using ultrasound. They both epitomize the very best of what a caring doctor is all about.

Once my therapists, Peter Seah and Joaquin Fernandez (two of the best physios in Malaysia) had me standing upright, after months of rigorously stretching my leg, I could then graduate to the Miracle Worker… my new walking contraption I fondly call my Wheelie. It has 3 large, rubber wheels, handlebars and a few lightweight pipes and is amazingly pliable. I lean lightly on the handlebars and am able to walk at a 90% correction. Not only am I walking normally and not like a circus attraction, but every step I take exercises my weak back muscles. Within a month or so, I won’t need Wheelie anymore and the past five years will be just a bad memory.

It has always troubled me along with qualified medical professionals here I have spoken with over the years, that there are quite a few unethical people in business purporting to be experts or even qualified in a medical speciality when in fact they lack the proper academic and clinical qualifications. I see it all around me at Hair Salons and Beauty Centres, for example that now offer their customers Botox, Liposuction and other invasive medical procedures without regards for their safety but just for the lucrative profits involved.

I also note many local doctors who are licensed and trained as one type of speciality yet have gone into the cosmetic, beauty and anti-aging business. Their use of potent hormones without proper training is indeed very troubling. Local newspapers here have been warning people for years not to patronize these places.

I learned the hard way. The physical therapist I went to had a large, imposing building located in the centre of town with some impressive equipment inside, yet was primarily a businessman with no medical training. He has since closed down and disappeared. Please do be cautious because the enforcing of the many regulations the government has put in place, has not kept pace with the technologies out there now.


Being able to walk normally and even for long distances now has freed me from a prison of social and professional isolation not to mention depression. I can go shopping now, go to the many functions I am invited to and basically get my life back; something that I had almost despaired of just six months ago. Best of all I can fly over to California and spend Christmas holidays with my lovely daughter, Rebecca and my sweet grandgirl, Raya. Right now I am merely one of her favourite TV shows in that I “come on” at 9am every Saturday via Skype on the family computer monitor. I’ll be walking back into her life too and I can’t wait.

Source: The Expat September 2011 Issue

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