DURBAN - KALINDI Persadh exhibited an interest in medicine early in life and did not let deafness hold her back from pursuing a career in the field
She recently secured a place as a first-year student at the UKZN Nelson Mandela School of Medicine.
At 24 she became the institute’s first deaf person to study to be a doctor. Her entry into medical school coincided with last week’s World Hearing Day, which had the theme: “Hear the Future”.
Born with sensorineural deafness (damage of the inner ear), she has no hearing in her right ear, and 10% in the left.
Having graduated with Honours and Master's degrees in microbiology from UKZN, she is now studying to be a general practitioner.
“I prefer to live like a normal happy young woman. It’s not a disability for me. Being physically disabled or hearing-impaired does not make you intellectually disabled,” said Persadh, who speaks fluently, thanks to speech therapy.
For communications, her hearing aids are the most important things she has, and she says her ability to lip-read has proved useful.
During classes, her lecturers wear FM transmitting devices which amplify their voices, and many of her tools, including her stethoscope, are specially made for her.
“I sit at the front of the lecture room so that I am able to receive the soundwaves.
"There are challenges when the lecturer turns around, or I have to take notes and can’t lip-read, but my lecturers always provide me with opportunities to catch up,” she said.
Persadh loves overcoming obstacles. As soon as she turned 18, she obtained her driving licence and lives life to the full, with a bit of daring, too.
“She wanted to race cars, and we quickly put a stop to that,” quipped Persadh’s mother, Sunita.
Persadh’s father, Vinodh, was her inspiration to study medicine, and her sisters, aged 21 and 19, have also followed her into scientific studies at UKZN.
Persadh said: “I want to help people. That’s why I chose medicine. And I hope this will inspire others who have disabilities. With faith in God, hard work and determination you can achieve anything .
“UKZN gave me the opportunity to prove myself.”
UKZN’s director of professional services, Professor Fanie Botha, said: “Despite her hearing challenges, she pursued her career in medicine and we applaud her enthusiasm.
"We hope her journey will encourage other young pupils with disabilities to follow their dreams.”