'I am a doctor because they told me I will never be one'

Archana is aspiring to become a paediatrician. Photo: Special arrangement

Achievers usually laud their role models who inspire them to reach their goals. And, you may rarely meet someone who would project themselves as an inspirational idol.

However, when you meet Dr Archana Vijayakumar, a native of Palakkad, you will admire her self-motivation. She was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (a disorder affecting the nerve cells that control voluntary muscular movement). Her childhood and school days were mostly filled with hardships. Even though she passed Class 10 with A-plus in all the subjects, it was not easy for her to get admission to Class 11 due to her condition.
Her struggles continued beyond that too. Despite clearing NEET twice, she was denied admission to medicine citing her physical condition. She was asked to discard the dream of becoming a doctor. 
An interview Dr. Archana gave to Onmanorama in 2022:

She said she does not remember when she began dreaming of becoming a doctor. "I don't know exactly when, but maybe in Class 8 or 9. Since I had to undergo several treatment sessions in hospitals I had developed a notion of how an ideal doctor should be. A doctor is not a person who just examines a patient and prescribes medicine. She should address a whole lot of issues, the mental state and so on, and be a caring human being,” Archana told Onmanorama.

Inspired by myself
"I am inspired by myself, I would like to put it that way," said Archana, "I have been through so many difficult times. I survived them all with my inner strength. I was mentally wrecked when I was denied admission to colleges of medicine because of my physical disability, even though I had cleared NEET. I can now proudly say that I managed to get admission to a college and emerged victorious from a campus unfriendly to physically disabled students," she said.

Find happiness in little things
“People have had a significant impact on my life. Every person we meet contributes invaluable lessons to our lives. There may be positive or negative reactions but how we handle them is what makes the difference. Personally, as I am thankful to those who supported me, I am indebted to those who brazenly passed negative remarks saying that I would never become a doctor. It's because of them I am one now," said Archana highlighting her ultimate philosophy as 'find happiness in little things.'

Chase away inner demons
For youngsters, who have ambitions but are not sure how to focus, Archana has a little piece of advice. No one can stir a person into action unless he or she decides so. So, every time a person opts to remain sinfully inactive, or swing into wrong actions and deviate from the chosen path, should just ask why is that so. The answer will ultimately lead to the solution. Also, one should learn the importance of self-love. "When I started saying 'I love myself ', my objective became clearer, my hurdles turned less menacing and the journey became exciting,” Archana quipped.

Desire vs dream
"Deciphering between desire and dream can help carve one's path ahead. Young people can be seen airing their ambitions. But they soon might be seen losing interest and may end up straying like a rudderless boat. They might be having a wish or a desire, which may be short-lived not a dream. In fact, parents should help children to see dreams, tell them what it's like,” she said.

"For me, my dream is my passion. Treating patients is my passion. There was a time when I felt it was the end of the road for me when I was denied admission to medicine. There was nothing left for me to look forward to. That is how a dream should be. I was even speculating to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of my dream. It may sound strange but that's how it was for me," she said.

Archana disliked vacations while she was in school because that meant hospital time. Bound to a wheelchair and spending most of her time in hospitals, Archana has few childhood memories to cherish. But not any more. She admits she has achieved what she always dreamed about. Now a house surgeon, Archana is aspiring to become a paediatrician.

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