Overcoming odds: Archana’s arduous journey to becoming a doctor

In 2018, Archana went to Chennai and convinced the medical board that she was capable of pursuing medicine. Photo: Special arrangement

Describing Archana Vijayan as a tenacious fighter would be a considerable understatement. She has triumphed over numerous physical challenges and illnesses to achieve her goal of becoming a medical doctor.
“Our limit is when we start thinking that we have an issue. We should focus on our capabilities rather than our negatives, set goals, and work towards it,” says the young doctor whom many saw as a weak child with a medical problem.

Archana’s childhood was spent between hospitals as she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (a disorder affecting the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement). This medical condition is not too common. Archana spent her childhood bound to the chair as other children played and moved around in abandon. Archana says she has very few fond memories of childhood due to this. Archana’s parents tried to keep their daughter’s spirit up by giving her books and music. She grew fond of music and later this paved the way for Archana to prove her mettle in singing and writing, apart from her studies.

Archana was two years old when she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. Initially, doctors said the situation could be managed with physiotherapy. However,  she was five when she could barely walk. Her parents were reluctant to put her in a special school and she missed her nursery classes. However, her father, Vijayan, who was a postman then, ensured that his daughter got the best learning. After the initial years of schooling and the allied difficulties, Archana found it hard to adjust to a new school in class VIII. The school had Indian-style toilets. The school authorities were kind enough to build me a western toilet. They also allowed me to designate the same classroom for classes VIII, IX, and X as I progressed. “With this, I could manage with very little movement,” she said.

Archana secured A-plus in all subjects in class X. She faced difficulty in securing admissions to class XI due to her physical condition. Schools were reluctant to admit her to science stream courses. Archana was firm on her stance and her parents managed to secure an admission in the government school in Koduvayoor, Palakkad. Archana knew that becoming a doctor with her physical condition was not easy. However, she had complete belief that it was not impossible.

“My father was a postman and mother, a homemaker. The urge to be a doctor became strong in me after I had spent a considerable amount of time in hospitals. I knew precisely how a doctor should be and should not be,” she said. Archana also has a clear idea about the mental profile of the doctor that she intends to be. She says a doctor should not only be the one who prescribes medicines but also the person who provides mental support and solace to the patient. “It is my intention to be a good listener to patients like me,” she said.

Archana had faced bitter experience of not getting admitted to medicine on the physical grounds even after clearing NEET twice. The authorities asked me to put aside my dream of becoming a doctor. Archan was sure what she wanted. “I was shattered when they said I cannot pursue MBBS. It was my lifelong dream and I had no plan B. I Knew that I wanted to be a doctor and why I wanted to be one. So, I was not ready to let go,” she said.

In 2018, Archana went to Chennai and convinced the medical board that she was capable of pursuing medicine. She cleared NEET and secured admission to the Government Medical College, Kottayam. She is entering house surgency and intends to specialise in paediatrics later. She wants to work among those with spinal muscular atrophy. “There are a lot of depressed people around just because there is no patient hearing that they get. Everyone may not need a solution or sympathy. They just need trust. Love is a medicine with immense life-saving value,” said Archana. She firmly believes that the best medicine a patient can get is a fair hearing, she says. On her way ahead, hope Archana gives her panacea of love to all those who look up to her for cure and succour.

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