3 'Invisible Heroes' Tell Us What It's Like To Make Personal Sacrifices For Their Jobs

"We always work behind the scenes. So people don’t know us and what we have done/accomplished."

Cover image via Wen Wen , John-Son , & Norisam

There are jobs that put people in the limelight, letting them receive praise and rewards for their success, but there are also the "unglamorous" jobs that often get overlooked

We wanted to shed some light on these unsung everyday heroes whose jobs are often thankless and find out more about all the struggles and sacrifices they make on a daily basis.

We set out to talk to 3 Malaysians who are key people behind-the-scenes that are often “invisible" to society. Here are their stories:

1. As a registered nurse, 24-year-old Wen Wen has to deal with difficult, unreasonable, and even violent patients, while trying her best to make sure everyone is well taken care of

Image via Wen Wen

A typical day at work for her involves all kinds of responsibilities, including taking care of her patient’s basic needs (feeding, bathing, diaper changing), serving medications, following up with patient’s treatment plan, updating family members, documentation, and more.

One of the biggest difficulties she faces is when the ward is understaffed, as the workload is doubled and it can get very stressful.

During those times, Wen Wen has even had to "hold in my pee for hours because there is no time for toilet breaks not to mention the time to eat. Also I’d only realised that I didn’t drink a single drop of water for 10 hours after coming back from work."

Wen Wen sadly feels like nurses are still very under-credited in Malaysia as our society is still not exposed to how advanced the nursing path can be, and most people just think that it's a dirty job

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via

"I still have people asking me why I chose nursing instead of becoming a doctor. I always answer them the same thing - if everyone becomes doctor then who’s gonna take care of the patients, help them to shower, or feed them when they can’t do it themselves?"

She emphasises that a nurse’s job scope is so much complex than what people think as they are first-liners in the healthcare system. This means that nurses must at least have the basic pathophysiological knowledge and the skills to carry out medical interventions in the ward.

"We also take on the roles of educators, advocators and so much more. We don’t just clean and wipe butts all day long. Some people still have no idea that you can become an advanced nurse practitioner where they can prescribe medication, examine patients and diagnose illnesses."

But despite the struggles and sacrifices of her health and time, Wen Wen truly loves her job and thinks that nothing else would be able to give her the same satisfaction she gets from being a nurse

Image via Wen Wen

"The best part is seeing the patients recover and going home... seeing them smiling and appreciating all the effort and care we nurses put in. To me, effort reflects success. A nurse that would protect her patients and prioritises their needs before anything else. A nurse that would go way and beyond to genuinely care for patients.

Those are the attributes I want to sustain in my entire career as a nurse. If I can do that, regardless of my ranking and which hospital I am working in, I can proudly say I’m successful."

2. With his line of work that involves building sustainable homes for underprivileged families, John-Son is no stranger to going the extra mile to make things happen

Image via John-Son

As the Founder and Group CEO of EPIC Collective, an ecosystem of platforms and companies that aims to make collaborative social impact accessible to everyone, he believes that “great things can be achieved by masses of people doing small purposeful actions”.

To date, John-Son and his team have built more than 100 homes while working with over 5,000 volunteers, from more than 50 countries and over 40 renowned organisations. Some of the homes were even built in as fast as three days.

That's why he doesn't see any of his hard work as sacrifices, instead choosing to think that "while there may be unpleasant lessons that happen through ups and downs, it still helps me improve nonetheless".

But this doesn't mean that John-Son hasn't faced any struggles throughout his 9-year journey with EPIC

Besides facing problems trying to convince people to design, fund, and build a house in 3 days, and having difficulties with getting people to understand how EPIC operates and why they do it, he actually almost lost his life!

"There was a village in Kelantan that could only be accessed via a 4WD truck. It was pouring rain while we drove back there from town, making the dirt trail incredibly slippery and on one bend we lost control. We were between a steep ravine and a ditch on the other side, so thankfully my friend managed to steer us into the ditch instead of falling to our deaths down the ravine."

One of Epic Homes' home-building projects.

Image via Epic Homes

And yet, he doesn't let incidents like this faze or scare him into giving up, instead continuing to push forward. He fondly recounts his most memorable project of rebuilding homes for flood victims in Kelantan.

"The sheer amount of love that was felt, the dedication to each other, the resilience of the communities despite facing such destruction, it was an incredible experience that was honestly life-changing."

Above all else, John-Son counts himself as lucky to be able to literally live his dream of helping others

Image via John-Son

"To be able to live a life that is purposed to serve others, doing it with other like-minded and passionate people, and being able to make it possible for others to live that way too. That has always been the dream and it’s great to know that I am living it everyday."

3. Norisam is a Maintenance Engineer with PLUS, who faces life-threatening risks on a daily basis, all in the name of ensuring public safety

Image via Norisam

"Working on a live highway, the biggest threat is that the traffic itself may affect our safety especially the high-speed traffic. The rock slopes also pose the risk of falling. We have strict requirements to adhere to in order to ensure our own safety while doing our works on site."

Besides risks to his life, Norisam also sacrifices time spent with his family for the sake of his job. Though he tries his best to balance work commitments with those who matter most to him, he still sometimes ends up worrying about work-related things while at home with his family.

The 46-year-old will always remember being involved in the investigation and rehabilitation works for the Bukit Lanjan Rock Fall that occurred in 2003 as well as the mud-flow tragedy at Km303 of Gua Tempurung area in 2004

Image via PLUS

Even though these incidents occurred during his first few years on the job at PLUS, he still remembers how he worked together with other consultants and contractors to fix the damage caused by the tragedies, saying that "it was a joy to see that the rehabilitation works were completed, and the expressway stretches were re-opened for public use".

People tend to underestimate just how much work goes into a job like Norisam's, which is especially important as it involves everyone's safety on the road

On top of conventional engineering knowledge and application, he even needs to know how nature behaves so that he'll be able to respond accordingly to any natural disasters. He also needs to keep up with the advancement of technology related to his field, such as satellite imaging, drone technology, etc.

"We always work behind the scenes. So people don’t know us and what we have done/accomplished. People may think that we are not important, that nothing needs to be done on the highway and that it’s self-maintained."

Image via Norisam

But no matter what, the reason Norisam continues to pursue his work in this field is because he takes pride in what he does - ensuring that all is well with the assets under his responsibility so that the highway can be used safely

It's time we stop overlooking these people and start celebrating them! We'd like to thank all the behind-the-scenes superstars who work tirelessly everyday :)

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We also previously interviewed some other Malaysians about their jobs:

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