26. The experience of an (undergrad) lifetime.

I was given the honour to be a translator for a private cognitive assessment by my lecturer and there are no words for me to completely express my gratitude and happiness for having been given that. Due to confidentiality reason, I’m unable to disclose much information about the actual case we attended but I’ll manage! (:

First things first! I was so in awe when I first stepped into Novena Medical Centre! Jakun, I know, but whatever. It was my first time in the private medical centre and it sure is pretty damn swanky!

I had actually googled my professor the night before (hehe) and found this:

Dr S/IMON C/OLLINSON is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore, Honorary Clinical Neuropsychologist at National University Hospital and Visiting Scientist at the Institute of Mental Health . Dr Collinson trained in clinical neuropsychology at Macquarie University , Sydney . He holds a doctorate in clinical medicine from the University of Oxford and has held clinical (uand research posts in Australia and the UK including the Departments of Psychiatry at Oxford , Charing Cross/Imperial College Medical School London and Macquarie University Sydney. He has been Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist in Neurosurgery at the Alfred and Cedar Court Rehabilitation Hospitals in Melbourne Australia .

Ahhh! My professor is quite an accomplished man! I was amazed when I read his profile, to be quite honest. He’s very humble and fatherly, so I guess it was a pleasant surprise for me. And oh man, I love being around accomplished people! I’d grab all the opportunities I can to learn from them!

So anyway, I bumped into my professor while heading up the lifts and he brought me to his office. Not too bad aye? Doesn’t really tell you that it’s a neuropsychologist’s office, at all.

He gave me a briefing about what I was supposed to do and a background of the patient. Kinda unnerving to be having a one-on-one conversation with my lecturer but he was warm and patient so I got comfortable pretty fast, alhamdulillah.

Basic info about the case: it was a man who’s in his early twenties, who had gotten into a road accident and injured his right side ofthe head. Brain scans have shown that the right side of his brain is significantly swollen after the accident. After the accident, he was transferred to light duty at work and have reported constant confusion, misorientation and depression. The assessment was to find out if this man had any cognitive problems and emotional issues, so a battery of tests was to be carried out. My job was to basically translate the instructions and contents of the test for him and also his answers. Fairly easy work.

One of the main things I was excited about what to see how an actual cognitive assessment is carried out. It knew it was going to be surreal but let me tell you this, nothing could have prepared me well enough for it! Nothing beats a real-life experience!

My first impression of the man (okay, let’s call him H) when he walked in was he was young! I guess I’ve always developed an expectation that patients are usually in at least their thirties. Talk about stereotypes! So yes… There wasn’t anything peculiar about him physically except for perhaps, some scars on his arms and face. He was walking normally and his speech was coherent and clear. However, as the assessment progressed, there were significant indicators through his responses that showed signs of impairment. He was capable of doing well on the speech tests but was impaired significantly on the visual tests. He was unable to remember objects or shapes that had been presented to him over and over again. He was also having difficulty to do pattern recognitions and mazes. An example of the maze that he had to do is as such:

Seems fairly easy right? But for someone who has damage to his visual abilities, this is very difficult! H took quite a while to complete the mazes and had to go back and forth before finding his way to the end. His speech recall, on the other hand, was very good. I could give him a list of words or a story and he is able to recall them well. Which goes to show that true enough, the injury on the right part of the brain had caused impairments to his visual abilities.

See, some psychological info here that might perk you up! The left side of the brain is typically associated with speech and the right side of the brain with vision. H’s right temporal lobe was injured and swollen after the accident, so it was predicted that he might face difficulties with visual memory. Which was exactly what he showed!

I also had the opportunity to listen in to the conversation between my professor and H’s lawyer (yes, it’s a court case, hence the increased need for confidentiality) and oh boy, I felt so small next to these two accomplished people! Through their conversation, I began to understand the many layers of the cognitive assessment as it has consequences on firstly, the outcome of the court case, and secondly (and far more importantly), it has consequence for H’s future. It was a matter of whether H was able and fit to go back to the work that he is so passionate about, or was it going to be taken away from him? If it was taken away from him, what impact does it have on his life? His self-esteem? His ricebowl? How much compensation will he receive but even so, how much can that compensation actually pay back for all the losses and inconveniences that he faced and will face for the rest of his life? There are so many questions, rational and moral, that you need to ask yourself when doing all these tests and giving reports. It is never an easy black-or-white issue.

I hadn’t actually realise that H was showing difficulties until AFTER the assessment was made and my professor explained to me the results. I was also told that through H’s responses, H was possibly facing PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), hence his depression and denial.

I was pretty in awe as firstly, I hadn’t expected my professor to actually take the time to explain to me what had happened (I though it’ll be just do my job and go) and secondly, to actually realise that all these tests could cohesively tell so much about a person! Sure, I’ve learnt that these tests are done for a purpose (duh) but I hadn’t realise that a series of questions and tasks could actually show you a person’s mental abilities. Gah!! Okay, I should like a nerd now but heck, this is good stuff for a psychology student yo!

As I was about to leave, my professor told me to mull over the whole experience and get back to him the next week if I had anything I’d like to talk to him about. He also told me that he’ll contact me if there are any future opportunities to be a translator again (ahhhh!!). As we shoke hands to leave, he complimented me on my perfect, firm handshake and I left, feeling utterly like a fangirl. Lol!

I have lots of questions and thoughts about the whole experience but I’ve yet to be able to sit down and coherently figure everything out. Perhaps, soon. Hopefully, I’ll get to be able to get everything out, instead of torturing myself with too much thoughts! Ah, the problem of thinking too much! 😛

4 thoughts on “26. The experience of an (undergrad) lifetime.

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  2. It must have been such an interesting first-hand experience! I am truly envious of you. Insyaallah I’ll get such an opportunity too someday. I’d love to talk to u more about psych-related stuff 🙂

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