I play a lot of sports and have a black belt in Kung Fu despite having chronic asthma, so it made sense for me to specialise and go into respiratory physiotherapy. Particularly in intensive care rehabilitation – working with patients from intensive care who need physio to get back to their function. We do a lot of work around ventilators, teaching humans how to breathe again once the ventilator is removed.
You never used to see tattoos on healthcare professionals but more and more we see healthcare professionals with them. Sometimes it helps breaks the ice. Some patients tell me they hate them and then we have a conversation about them. Other times, patients with dementia recognize me because of my tattoos – so that’s quite interesting.
When I look back over my decision to become a Physiotherapist, I know it was the right move. I feel fulfilled teaching students and helping them get better. It is so hard to make changes in hospitals and the NHS and so I thought the best way to do that is to go into teaching to shape the future workforce. In time we will change the way things are for the better. I think a lot of colleagues of mine are also pushing this through.
Whilst studying at Brimingham I found a lot of students there were from Middle Class white families and I wanted to change that. A lot of the guys at University of East London are first in the family to come to uni and I want to show them that achievement is down to hard work. I was always told I could never be a sportsman because of my asthma and I realised through martial arts that you can be as good as you are prepared to work: if you work hard enough you can still achieve it. And this is what I see.
University of East London gives opportunities to students who may not get them anywhere else. We turn out some of the most incredible free-thinking physios because of their diverse background.
Because of my specialist skills, I did two months at the nightingale training staff there. With my chronic asthma I was quite concerned. But I felt compelled to help even thought it was putting me at risk. I trained staff in the ITU (Intensive Treatment Unit) and was very much on the frontline.
Mike Gara is a Physiotherapy Lecturer and Specialist Respiratory Physiotherapist.