After an impressive 38 years one of Auburn Hospital’s longest serving staff members has decided to call it a day.
Ranji Jayawardena originally wanted to be a teacher, but ended up studying physiotherapy in Sri Lanka and working in London before moving to Australia with her husband in 1981.
As her qualifications were not fully recognised in Australia, she spent six months volunteering at Auburn Hospital while completing her accreditation.
“I had no resentment about that. Physiotherapists here in Australia are primary practitioners, so I needed to demonstrate I was capable of working with more autonomy and not just following orders,” Ranji said.
“I was so grateful to the head of physiotherapy Anne Deans who welcomed me and gave me all the support I needed. As soon as I finished the exam there was a vacancy here, so they offered me the role and I never left.
“Auburn Hospital is a wonderful place to work. In all the time I have been here I have seen many people come and go but the soul of the place has not changed. There is a great rapport within our department and the hospital. Everyone has a common goal to look after patients and they go beyond the call of duty to achieve that.”
In 1989 Ranji took the opportunity to specialise in hand therapy as part of the newly-opened plastic surgery department at the hospital.
Her role involves helping people recover from hand injuries and surgery in order to regain function and relieve pain.
The common injuries she deals with range from sport-related dislocations and fractures to traumatic industrial accidents.
“The hand is a very sensitive organ and quite complex; it takes up a large area in the brain. My work is like a jigsaw puzzle with gradual progress,” Ranji said.
“I remember my very first patient was a 17-year-old apprentice with a mangled hand. I found out he had a two-year-old child and that really hit me as I had just returned from maternity leave.
“16 years later I ended up treating that child for a fracture! His dad still remembered me and was grateful for what we had done for him.”
Ranji said she has enjoyed every moment of her satisfying career, but at 64 her body is telling her it’s time to slow down.
Next year she is travelling to Italy for her son’s wedding, but besides that her leisurely retirement plans include gardening and learning a third language – probably Spanish.
“I am so grateful that I became a physiotherapist accidentally and came to Auburn accidentally,” Ranji said.
“I have never felt bored or unhappy in my work. People put their trust in us, which is such a privilege, and to uphold that gives me great satisfaction.”