As a physiotherapist for more than 27 years, Thilaga Govindasamy, or Thila, as she is affectionately known, has treated many people from all walks of life — young children, aspiring athletes, weekend warriors, as well as the elderly.
In her younger days, Thila was awarded a scholarship from Community Chest to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy at Curtin University, Perth. Upon graduation, she returned to Singapore and served a two-year bond with then Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore. (In 2013, the charity changed its name to Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore).
After the completion of the bond, Thila moved on to work in a private hospital. While she appreciated and thrived on the new set of challenges presented to her at the beginning, soon after, she was bogged down by its bureaucracy and circumscribed by the system. Three and a half years later, Thila left the hospital, disillusioned with her responsibilities, and competence, as a therapist.
“I found that I didn’t have enough time for my patients. As much as I would like to give more attention [to each patient], the system dictated a specific amount of time I could spend on each person. If I exceed the allocated time, an additional fee will be imposed on the patient, and that is not fair.”
Thila added, “I was a bit disillusioned when I left. I put that fault [of not having enough time for my patients] upon me. I thought I was not a good therapist. Slowly, things started changing and I quit my job.”
Sibling Love to the Rescue
For a while, there didn’t seem to be a flicker of answer pertaining to Thila’s future. From her experience, she knew that she wanted freedom at work, but she had no idea how she could transform that desire into a reality.
“My brother knew that I wanted freedom in my work, and the only way to do that was to build my own system. One day he came up to me and asked matter-of-factly, ‘Why don’t you set up your own clinic?’. I stared at him and said that I did not know how to do that.”
“He looked at me for a long time and said, ‘When you die, I will bury you and put on your headstone these words — Here lies someone who was too afraid to realise her dreams.’”
Thila was livid. “I snapped! We had a shouting match. I scolded him for being so rude and he called me a coward. The rest of the family had to intervene before things went out of hand.”
Despite (or perhaps because of) the argument, the two siblings got together again the next day for a more fruitful…and peaceful discussion. It was agreed that Thila’s brother would handle the business side of things, and she could simply focus on what she does best — treating her patients with the care they deserve. In 1999, Virar’s Rehab was established (it was changed to Virar’s Physiotherapy in 2013) and a year later, Thila took over the reins of the business as Managing Director.
Fast forward 20 years later, Thila is very grateful for the love of her close-knitted family, and she is also philosophical about everything that has happened for the past two decades. “Sometimes you need a catalyst to make things happen. Everything happens for a reason. Challenges push you. If I were happy at my previous jobs, Virar’s would not have happened.”
Being an Instrument of Change in Somebody’s Life
Working with world-class tennis players and golf players was definitely one of the highlights in Thila’s career. Gratification though, she finds that in an entirely different demographic.
“I recall treating this little girl from Australia. The family moved to Singapore because the girl’s father had a job here. When she first came to me, she could not turn on her side. I treated her for six months before the family had to return to Australia. One day, I received a call from her mother and the first thing she said was, ‘I am so angry with you.’ I asked her what had happened. The mother said that after the treatment, her girl could run around the house and had become so active that she could not concentrate on her chores.”
“Thank you very much. God bless you.” Those parting words from the mother remained etched in Thila’s memory till this day.
Doing therapy work with children requires patience, as well as “customised” communication depending on the personality of the child. Though the process is slow and arduous, restoring their ability, or giving them a new lease of life to run and feel the wind in their faces is what gives Thila her biggest gratification at work.
“I thank God that I have been an instrument in changing someone’s life. That is what drives me. What else can I ask for?”
Thila goes on, “I have seen my patients grow through the years, and I am very happy to have played a part in their life journey. I see myself as a cheerleader, helping and encouraging them to reach their goals.”
To Women Who Want It All – Go For It!
From honing her business acumen to keeping abreast of the latest developments in the physiotherapy profession, Thila has worked tirelessly over the years to build her practice. For sure, the journey has been rough but this strong and spirited lady has not an ounce of regret in her.
“If someone were to come to me for advice on starting a business, I would say, ‘Go for it!’ It doesn’t matter what you’re doing as long as you enjoy it. And it doesn’t matter if you fail. If we take failures as the end of everything, we won’t have so many discoveries today, right?”
“And most importantly, do your part for society. Be somebody’s cheerleader.” TOC