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​Image is Everything

Photographs by Mark Lyndersay.

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay
My name is Amanda Elvis and I am a PET/CT radiographer.

Yes, my last name is Elvis. And people always ask, “Elvis? Like in Elvis Presley?"

I’m from Princes Town. I had very humble beginnings. My dad came from nothing and my mom was well-established. I grew up being a country girl and a Town thing. So you could say I’m a dougla in that department. Very grounded but I had a taste of how it is to be the life of everything.

A synopsis of my evolution: I am actually the product of a pen pal relationship! Cool, right? My dad Krishna is originally from Navet Village, Rio Claro, and my mom Beena is from El Socorro. They didn’t have the privilege of phone calls in those day so they wrote letters to each other. I guess it’s because of them that I’m so into reading and poetry and stuff.

Under financial constraints, we had to move from all the way Down South to all the way Up North for dad to get a job for the betterment of his family. There were times we didn’t have ends meeting but we always went to school. If my parents hadn’t seen the value of education then, I wouldn’t be excelling now.

I’m the eldest of three children, so I’m basically the principal of the set. My brother Avinash is the complete opposite of me. He’s pretty introverted. My sister Nalini takes the cake from the three of us. She is OVERLY enthusiastic. I couldn’t be alive without her.

I really do think my husband Jimmy Elvis loves me more than life itself. I tell everybody he’s too good for me. Believe it or not, this weekend just gone is our anniversary. Seven years. Later down the line there’s room for a family. But one step at a time.

I’m really grateful for the challenges I got along the way. Those are the things that make you the person you are.

I started off at Navet Presbyterian School, then Rousillac Presbyterian and ended up at El Socorro South Government. I finished all my education this side. I did sciences at school, went to university, did my degree. I’m doing continuing studies because knowledge is ever-changing.

I came from a very traditional Hindu upbringing but here I am, going against the rules against eating beef and pork. I don’t practice that faith but I’m grateful I had some system to abide by. You go to school and you do your own research and you’re rebellious to everything and religion is so subjective. I do believe there is a higher being.

I believe religion is the opium of the masses, like Karl Marx said. If there is a God capable of intervention, why doesn’t he stop the suffering? Why do some people have bigger battles to fight than others? How can my faith have more faith than someone else’s? How can you be a leader of a religion and say another religion is wrong?

I tend to get along well with the social crowd. But sometimes I really appreciate alone time. I love to read, I love to draw, I’m into poetry. [Anonymous Canadian] Atticus is one of my favourite poets.

The universe has a way of doing things. It will take its course.

Some days, I just kick back with a glass of wine, just unwinding. And listening to some real traditional old-time Indian music. Because that’s what I grew up with. There’s very little as soothing as good sitar music. I feel like I have an old soul, you know.

Everybody is about liming and having friends. Society is so taken up with materialistic things and the fast-paced environment. Why do people want all these things? How much can you tolerate? It’s all about what other people expect from you! And what you are portraying to get acceptance from those little societies! When you grow up knowing there are things you can do without, you can really appreciate not having anything and being okay on your own. A lot of people nowadays are realising they are not connecting with themselves.

Because I knew what it was to have nothing, I can appreciate everything. And apply what I learned to my patient care regime. I see patients from all different genres of life and I can relate to them from all the way up to all the way down.

At age 16, I fell off a banister and broke my wrist and had to do some x-rays. And it was right there I just fell in love with the technology. I thought, “This is the thing I want to be in!” And here I am, actually enjoying it every day as my career! Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

When you get a nervous patient coming into your scan room, you first have to acknowledge this is a patient, not just another customer coming to your establishment. This is somebody going through an emotional, a physical and a mental type of distress. One of my most favourite quotes is, “If there is anything you can be, be kind.” You have nothing to lose with that!

Patients come in very aggravated, scared and sad. Hey, there’s only so much I can understand because I’m not a patient myself – but I can show that I care! It’s about making the patient know you’re with them. Just understanding them goes a long way. They feel somebody cares about them. So I take the time. I acknowledge that I’m here, not as a threat, but to help you through your procedure.

Patients are afraid to say what’s on their mind. They’re already dealing with so much, to tell you that they’re scared is another kind of emotional trauma. Being kind to somebody lets them open up. I talk patients through the procedure carefully. I’m not boasting but I’ve had a lot of claustrophobic patients and I’m very proud that I’ve been able to do the procedures without any type of image quality compromise.

It’s about comforting and consoling patients: we’re almost done, we’re finished with the first part, you’re doing really well. They appreciate that. In the event that we have severe claustrophobic patients, people with a serious fear, who can’t even sit on the table, well, anaesthetics would have to help.

Radiography, my field, is considered the “one per cent” of the whole medical world. You rarely hear about radiographers but we are the eyes of the medical field. I think radiographers across Trinidad and Tobago work so hard and they are under-acknowledged. But, truly, it is about providing patient-centred care. At least that’s what I go with. We are here to make it better through… imaging!

The best part of being a radiographer is the opportunity to serve my patients day after day and make their experience better. The bad thing in my line of PET/CT scans is when you see the extent of disease. As strong as I am for everybody else, when I lie down to sleep, when it’s just me to think about a patient whose scan didn’t come out well, my heart gets heavy.

To me, a Trini is an embodiment of all the diverse cultural characteristics this country has to offer. That sense of culture is where you belong, it’s what forms you as a person. I’m a speck on the cultural diversity map of Trinidad and Tobago.

To me, Trinidad and Tobago really is home in a global village. It’s where every piece of my heart is. It’s the thing that has my existence. I can’t see my heart being anywhere else.