Saturday, August 16, 2014

Through it All: Decade of ups-and-downs in the world of cilipadidoctor-ing

Just like the eminent PM LHL, who has been at the helm of this little red dot for a decade...for me, it's been nearly a decade of 'repairing' the human body. Guess I'm showing my age by penning this post but I can't resist as it's been a very interesting day of reflection. Deep thoughts often open up the floodgates of penmanship in me, unlocking the writer's block in me and of course allowing me to revive my blog once in a long while.

Why the sudden impetus to write on this calm, windy Saturday afternoon here in the balmy tropical island of Singapore? Probably the recent conversations about life and death due to Ebola Hemorrhagic Virus with my Nigerian doctor-friend who is fighting in ground zero in combination with the joyful announcements of the successful Singaporean contingent in the just-concluded FRCS (GS) examinations in KTPH.

Spent nearly half the decade of 'doctoring' in Malaysia before settling in Singapore. Eternally-grateful for the teachers from both countries who have enlightened me along the way, gifted me knowledge in the human body and honed in me the skills necessary to be a good general surgeon. Sometimes I do miss practising in Malaysia, the hustle and bustle of a Malaysian general hospital where we truly see the meaning of 'general' in general surgery.

My happiest memories of being a clinician were those of patients grasped from the jaws of death, those turned around from the light at the end of the tunnel and their subsequent walk out of the hospital. It's been a wonderful, fulfilling journey and I pray to God that He will give me much wisdom, ability and opportunities to minister to the ill. 

Nostalgia aside, life is very different now. The focus is excellence in the highest level, fighting alongside the best minds in this tropical metropolis. Be it persevering in the war against cancer, suppressing my adrenaline rush to remain the calmest mind in the face of a surgical emergency, teaching the brightest young minds in YLLSoM or calculating p-values and confidence interval...I am grateful for being allowed to flourish in this institution. Truly I have now understood what is meritocracy and what opened doors mean....

My twin passion in professional life is in general surgery and public health and my quest is to leave a great legacy for many female surgeons and public health practitioner a few decades down the road. So before that could come to fruition, please pray for me as I prepare for the largest battle of my professional career in a few months' time. I may not know what God has in store for me as these are kairos moments but I know that He is always there for me through it all....

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lost & Found: Perhaps a modern miracle?

This week has been so eventful that I can't help but blog about it. Actually one event trumped it all, the tale of the lost pair of rings. Here goes:

And so Dr L being a busy, multi-tasking, Type A surgeon was juggling work, social life and family happily. One fine Wednesday, there was this gorgeous dinner at Marina Bay Sands after work with colleagues and hubby. Being over-excited as always, she's decided to wear both her wedding and engagement rings...which both carry significant symbolism and price tags. Nevertheless, the dinner went on smoothly and she went home safely.

Early the next day, both Dr L and Dr L woke up early to grab a bus to work as the car is in the workshop. Now the car is in the workshop because Dr L forgot to top up engine oil the Sunday before and the car broke down pitifully on the way back from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. So u see, it's a very tiring and long week packed with long hours at work and commuting. Nevertheless, Dr L was still in high spirits.

She scrubbed in for an operation to remove part of someone's stomach to reduce weight and improve health. The operation went on smoothly. Unbeknownst to her, something very critical has happened on her way out of theatre to go do a few endoscopic procedures. She went into theatre still wearing her rings..but there were none on her finger as she emerged out of the theatre, rushing to do procedures elsewhere.

Thus busy Thursday flew by and she went home. Being an aspirant 'housewife' she decided to cook dinner and after dinner, fell asleep peacefully. Again unknown to her, her rings are not even in her house at this point.

Then came stormy Friday. Upon waking up from a very blissful and dreamless sleep, Dr L suddenly remembered her rings, wanting to store it up at its usual location. Lo and behold! It's gone. Disaster struck...she couldn't find it. The other half was also equally concerned but clueless. He has to go to work for night duty and so he left her to look for it frantically at home. Yet it was not to be found.

She went to work in really low spirits but determined to find her rings. She retraced her steps and interviewed every single person she encountered on Wednesday night and the whole of Thursday. Dr L knew time is not on her side as 24hours has elapsed since the rings were last sighted. She reported the incident to the hospital cleaning services and laundry, hoping something will turn up.

The weekend came. Still no news. She was even on duty on Saturday and has to put this important matter at the back of her mind as she concentrated fully on her surgical patients. Material goods carry certain symbolic meaning but that's all...human lives matter the most.

Not giving up on hope, she began to pray earnestly to God. There is surely a way for the rings to come back as long as it's within God's will. However, God wanted Dr L to learn something. He wanted her to learn to trust him completely and not to think about something she can't change now. Dr L learnt to let go. She surrendered it to God completely. With a heavy heart, she stopped searching on Sunday, 48 hours after the initial loss.

Another 2 days has passed by. No news. By now, she has gained the nickname of Gollum, with her "Preciousssses" gone. Life goes on. Suddenly on Wednesday morning, she received a call from the cleaning supervisors. They found her rings!

It was actually found all the way in the pockets of the surgical scrubs. This had travelled quite far to the hospital laundry services in Singapore's only prison. God has touched the hearts of everyone involved, with all the Singaporeans honestly doing their duty and returning them to their rightful owner.

Of course, Dr L is extremely overjoyed and relieved. It has only been few months since the wedding and with such a busy life, a lot of things happened on the daily basis. Yet one thing remained, the faithfulness and goodness of God trumps the lapse of memory of a human being. God is indeed wonderful and loving!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What 2013 meant...

A year of excitement. Wonderful adventure. Start of a new chapter. 2013 has been one of the most challenging and happiest year of my life.

It started with a bang...Opening up with the biggest financial commitment of my life. If before I was a rolling stone, this is the major anchor cemented my decision to set root in Singapore. Y and I decided to purchase a house together. As we worked on the reconstruction plans, e.g. the artist's rendering of our new home. The dream became a reality 2 months later as our little nest was completed.

Then the master's program culminated in a tough practicum project leading to my graduation in mid 2013. Another milestone as I join the ranks of public health practitioner amidst my surgical practice. 2 years of hard work after-hours, learning priceless knowledge on preventive health and knowing good classmates..It was truly worth all the efforts...

Of course the main highlight of 2013 would be undisputedly the awesome Docs Tie The Knot 2013 held in both Singapore and Malaysia. Y & I worked very hard on preparing for 2 joyous days of celebration as we hold each other's hands and made solemn promise to have and hold, in sickness and health, till death do us part. What lifted my heart and soul is that I know my late mother in heaven would rejoice on this happy occassion too..even as my siblings and I remembered how she loved us. She would love Y as her own too...I am sure of it.

Thoughts as Y and I enter into a new year of 2014? May our good Lord continue to watch over us as we dedicate both our lives in serving Him - in bringing the art and science of healing to our patients daily, in enriching the souls of our oikos and in loving one another. Even as we rejoice and give thanks for all that has happened in the past, we are sure that God will continue to amaze us with greater things to come as we face life, together.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Odyssey to the centre of Europe 1 - Pretty Prague

Quarter of my trip down and just discovered live-blogging from European trains. Better late than never. Sometimes it's cathartic, at other times, strangely poignant, recalling our travels as we zoomed pass giant wind-farms & golden fields of rural Austria. 

Marvelous European railways

Our first day was a seemingly endless day of cruising at 35,000 ft above sea level as we tried to sleep on the huge Lufthansa Airbus. Thankfully, we drifted off into a dreamless sleep as we were fatigued from 2 weeks of wedding prep & festivities. Frankfurt airport was ruthlessly functional but forgettable. At least I managed to clear customs (always a few minutes delayed compared to Singaporeans that I am traveling with). Don't these people know where is Malaysia?

The cathedral in centre of Prague Castle

Quoting from our guidebooks, these fertile soil is also sites of famous battlegrounds since medieval times. Blood had been shed defending the glorious Austro-Hungarian empire. But mostly, the empire blossomed from the times of the Spanish Hapsburg to the First World War. 

Beautiful vista of Prague

Before my mind began to wander back in history, maybe I should record down the chronicles of our recent foray eastward across the plains of the Donau Valley (Danube River).

This is Vltava River, not the Danube..with Charles Bridge in the distance

On our second day, a quick connecting flight brought us to the ancient capital of Czech Republic..Prague or Praha. Weather was sunny, with brisk chilly wind reminding us that it's autumn after all. Apparently the town is always brimming with tourists from all over the world, eager to explore the castle, the bridge and the clock. 

Elegant houses of Prague

Prague castle looms large over the city's skyline with the spires and buttresses of St Vitus cathedral piercing the blue sky. This is the largest medieval castle in the world according to lonely planet if you count the entire corner of Hradcany as part of the castle. To me, the abandoned castle with no actual inhabitant or a royal family is such a melancholic relic. 

Smaller bridges of Prague

Charles bridge across the Vltava river, on the other hand, seems so lively and functional as it spans the giant question-shaped waterway that is the lifeline of Prague since it's foundation by princess Libuse.

View from the riverbanks of Vltava River, Prague

Steamers, ferries, paddleboats gently sailed from the riverbanks as we strolled slowly pass the meandering waters. Alas, the inevitable jet lag overtook us and we retired early into our hotel on the Katerinska in the Nove mesto.

Malostranska subway station, Prague

After all, we were looking forward to our first time on European trains. So, bright and early on the third day of our sojourn, we say hi to stately, proud Vienna with majestic Habsburg castles, museums and pretty parks bathed in stunning autumnal colours.... 

Habsburg Castle complex, Vienna, Austria

to be continued...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Haze Myth: PSI vs Visibility vs PM2.5

Rumours abound in times of trouble...and its' human nature to 'panic' and fear the unknown or unnatural. As a medical doctor and recent public health graduate, sometimes we see things differently through broader lenses. Rational, educated mind is a good defense against irrational feelings and emotions. Despite what our eyes tell us, let us focus on creating solutions and calming those around us, instead of creating more anger and fear. That's why I was quite impressed with what PM Lee said recently regarding this crisis - no megaphone diplomacy for this statesman.

Firstly, the PSI has been adopted in Singapore to give the public an up-to-date information on the air quality in this country, as opposed to the different indices used in US, Malaysia, etc. It's a composite of various substances in the air which may cause harm to the human body if we are exposed to it in significant concentration, depending on what is your health status. A normal healthy adult obviously could tolerate the pollutants a bit better than a sickly person, the young and the old. However, if you are exposed to it in significant amounts over a prolonged duration, there may be both short and long-term effects.

Secondly, I would say of all the pollutants being reported, the most insidious and hardest to clear from our body is the PM2.5 particulate which is lodged in our alveoli. These particulates are suspended in the air, but invisible to the naked eye and odourless. When its consistently high (as reported by various authorities), it can cause long-term lung damages, especially lung fibrosis in the future. Not now. What's happening now is the sequelae of direct irritants in the air, to our airway - sore throat, cough, asthma attacks, shortness of breath, conjunctivitis, headache etc. It's usually a brief episode unless the hazy condition persists.

Thirdly, staying indoors is a good advice, provided that you have air purifier or a good working air-conditioner with functional air filter. Indoor air quality can be worsened if u open the doors/windows intermittently and trap the haze within the closed compound. Especially for those susceptible to the effects of haze, please take precautions - wear a well-fitted N95 mask properly whenever u are exposed to hazy outdoor air but do not hoard. There are more than enough masks around - just be patient and resourceful. Visibility is not equivalent to high PSI. Check the official results regularly to be well-informed.

Lastly, public health problems require public health has be long-term sustainable solutions, tackling the root causes and not just a one-off assistance. Short term measures like creating rain artificially or fighting the fire are temporary measures. We have to work together to tackle the root causes of why these fires are started at the first place. Eradicate poverty, improve on peat-fire surveillance, tighten legislations and change this burning practice. This is a man-made calamity, which means, we can work together to eradicate the cause and not point fingers. Empty vessels are of no help now. Human behaviour may be hard to change, but it's not impossible. The collaborative task-force should be sustained long-term and not hastily convened at the sight of trouble. Prevention is better than cure....

Meanwhile, continue to keep calm, drink lotsa water and pray on.

Caveat: This article is purely personal opinion and doesn't amount of professional medical advice. Please seek a doctor's consultation if you are suffering from the effects of haze. Thank u.