From addict to frontliner, Sassi hopes for second chance

Dr Sassitharan shows a picture of himself with health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

KUALA LUMPUR: Life has turned around for a doctor who took to drugs after having served in the public healthcare system for nearly a decade.

The promising career of the doctor, who asked to be identified as Dr Sassitharan, quickly went down the drain when he started using syabu (methamphetamines) in the belief it could help him perform better at work.

The 40-year-old said that was in the past and is looking for a second chance after answering the government’s call for help on the frontlines against Covid-19.

Sassitharan, who is known as Sassi at the Pengasih drug rehabilitation centre, said he was introduced to syabu by a colleague at a hospital he was working at without being told what the substance was.

“I took it and it made me feel energetic,” he said. “After learning it was syabu, I told myself that I would control my use of it as I am a medical doctor and I know the effects.”

Dr Sassitharan with fellow frontliners at MAEPS.

But he began using the drug outside working hours and was soon driving under its influence.

“I started taking it every day. At one point, I could not go a day without drugs.” Then one day, when he was living in Muar, he was caught at a roadblock while he was high.

He said drugs changed him from a cheery and family-oriented man into a rough person living in denial.

He lost weight and would rebuke his family for pointing it out, saying he knew his body better as he was a doctor.

After some time, he came to his senses and voluntarily checked in to Pengasih for rehabilitation. After completing the programme, he stayed on to serve as its in-house doctor.

He also works as a locum at a clinic in Kampung Baru and goes to Pengasih after completing his hours there.

Dr Sassitharan in personal protective gear.

For the past two months, he has served as a volunteer doctor, assisting the health ministry on the frontlines in the war against Covid-19.

“When Covid-19 hit, the government needed more doctors,” he said. “So I volunteered to serve my country again. I was given the chance to serve at Hospital Kuala Lumpur and the temporary hospital at MAEPS (Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang).”

He once got the opportunity to take a picture with health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, who has received plaudits locally and abroad for Malaysia’s success in handling Covid-19.

Sassi says he wants to put the past behind him and is hoping to get back into public service now that he has been trusted with treating Covid-19 patients.

“I hope I am given a second chance,” he said. “I’m not a criminal and I have changed.”

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