Sunday, January 31, 2010

Operation Share International 2010: Bringing the gift of healing to the nations Part 1

As I gazed into the merry, beautiful eyes of the little girl in front of me, I cannot help but feel elated. A deep sense of fulfillment descended upon me as I sensed the gratitude and happiness emanating from the girl’s mother and the impish 6 year-old patient. I’ve just operated on the girl’s hernia and she was about to hop onto her mother’s old, rundown motorbike (without any helmets).

“Sakit?” I enquired. “Olak, olak….” She smiled and they rode off in the sunset.

This is just one scene out of many in my days in Sogod, Cebu. People streamed in and out of the tiny district hospital, seeking help as the doctors and nurses worked non-stop in few makeshift theatres. Some were sitting down as we removed the lumps while others were sedated or put under anaesthesia in 2 little rooms shared by 4 operating teams.

I consider it pure joy and absolute blessing to be able to work with the wonderful, selfless surgeons and surgical residents from CBUH (Cebu Doctors University Hospital) and the group of volunteers from Singapore various hospitals (namely 8 surgeons, registrars and MOs from NUH and 2 doctors from SGH and AH respectively)

When we arrived in Cebu City in the early, pre-dawn hours of Tuesday morning, Dr A Yu and Dr H Chua from CBUH sacrificed their precious sleep in order to ‘deliver’ us safely to a pension house for some much-needed rest. When we woke up, we met a few other surgeons in Ayala Centre for an extremely sumptuous lunch at Laguna Beach CafĂ©.

A short sight-seeing tour around the heart of Cebu City marked the very good beginning to a wonderful trip. Each day, we were fed with delicious Cebuano delicacies and housed in the amazing Alegre Beach Resort, 5 minutes away from the Sogod Hospital.

This exceptional resort is the fine epitome of Filipino hospitality and grace..we don’t deserve of such a favour and yet we are here, housed in one of the most beautiful seaside resort in Cebu. Each classy room has soft beds, big couch and world-class bathroom.

Not only that, I was so fortunate to meet KLL, a beautiful young surgical trainee from Adelaide. This girl blessed with exquisite skin and a cheerful, humble disposition is a fellow KLite. The talented new roommate is also a photography enthusiast and loves God and His children. No wonder we clicked so well….

Anyway, the first day was quite eventful as I discovered that we could take out lumps with only 3 or 4 instruments…a blade (without blade holder), artery/clamp, needle holder and a pair of scissors (and when its not necessary sharp, we made do with the blade!). Giving the patients LA was actually breeze-free as the tough Cebuanos didn’t even bat their eyelids as we tackled large lumps with just 10 or 20cc of lignocaine. Amazing people! Working non-stop, we operated on 5-10 patients per session per surgeon in the minor OT.

At the same time, many other teams were working hard in removing big uterine or ovarian masses, thyroids and hernia in the major OT. I joined them when the minor OT became way too hot and unbearable in the late afternoon and discovered that the major OT was almost equally as hot.

Sweat trickled down my scrubs as we operated with table lamps and head lights. Light was inadequate, equipments were at times lacking but we know that we must work under whatever circumstance, pushing our endurance and skills to the limits. Yet I applaud the nurses, nursing assistants, anaesthetist and triage doctors. They are the unsung heroes for supporting and aiding us all the way. Without them, without the wonderful human spirit of love and giving, we couldn’t have done all these operations in extreme circumstances. Bravo and well done!

Furthermore, this experience of a lifetime, my baptism of fire in mission marked a few first times for me. I did a herniotomy without any diathermy, 2 thyroidectomies (with guidance from the consultants) with minimal equipments and a few lumps in children without GA (just LA). Of course people might baulk at the lack of sterility and warm temperature, but I seriously applaud the mission organizer for organizing this wonderful experience. Bringing surgery to the underprivileged in Sogod involves marvelous logistics, impeccable skills and people with humble, willing spirit.

Most importantly, I am sure that this exchange of skills, cultural experience and knowledge between the surgeons from Singapore and Philippines will culminate in better ties and regional co-operation in the future. As I observed the wonderful, skillful hands of the surgeons I’ve met here, I realized that I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities given to me in Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines.

In each country, I’ve found precious, priceless ‘gems’ in my journey in surgery. For example in Cebu, I am truly amazed by the beautiful parotid operations, the precise anatomical hernia repairs, the exquisite cleft lip repair under LA. It was indeed medical textbook came alive.

Although the whole trip ended so quickly, I know that I will see Cebu again. For the warm, friendly souls I’ve met and the grateful patients have truly touched my heart. Even as I walked down the warm ward on the last day, checking on all the patients that we operated on, I knew that this is the first of many more surgical missionary work that I will do in the future. For much is given to us, much shall be released to the nations….

Therefore, a big thanks to all the people I've met the past 1 week. I look forward to many more wonderful missionary work in the future as my promise to God when I first entered medical school came into fruition...

P.S. : I've uploaded a few more pictures that displayed here in my fb album and I'm sure that many more pictures will appear as more than 8 dslr cameras appeared in the tiny Sogod hospital. Seriously, I've never seen so many doctors interested in photography before. Astounding!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Carnivorous creatures sighted in PS cafe

If you happen to walk down Orchard Road on any given day, the last thing you would expect is a quiet restaurant with few people and hardly any signs of traffic. Of course, some might suggest that we could go explore the Dempsey area (which is near the Orchard area). I concur that Dempsey is indeed hip, secluded and gentle on the soul but that’s an easy answer and I shall blog about that area on another day. This time round, the focus is on PS cafe @ OR, as I’ve found another place which is smack in the middle of Orchard Road by a chance coincidence and it was truly a hidden gem.

Saturday after worship service is usually the night for elaborate dinners with some serious social networking in mind. However, the usual suspects are not around, i.e. most of my gang seem to be M.I.A except for my big sis, M. So we set off from Paya Lebar in search of good food in Singapore.

Initially, M and I had this serious craving for ribs (errr, the non-halal type). I’ve always wanted to try Tony Roma’s on this island and thus, off to Orchard Road we go. However, the moment we arrived…this hugely popular eatery was jam-packed with homo sapiens.

Urgh! Hungry…famished…can’t wait..and I don’t wanna be a sardine. Then M had a bright idea…she suggested this place tucked in a corner of a posh mall called Palais Renaissance. It’s a place where all the rich (and presumably, slightly desperate) housewives do their monthly shopping in branded goods. I was only interested in food (and the possible sightings of cougars are entirely incidental although highly-anticipated!)

The ambience was superb and almost cinematic. There is soothing classical music being piped in as we ordered our food, almost as if it we were in a movie. I was half-expecting some glamourous Hollywood actresses of the 1920s and 1930s walking in amidst the rattan chairs and white furniture. The crowd is strangely young, with bountiful displays of youthful long legs and plunging necklines. Being in jeans and my usual shopping top, I felt slightly underdressed but it’s good to be low-profile once in a while.

Being hungry and carnivorous, we ordered the porcine wonder that we craved for. As I'm always so mindful of our bowel ‘well-being’, we soothed our conscience with a big helping of Caesar’s salad and the signature chicken soup.

Firstly, service was prompt and top-notch. When the salad arrived, I haven’t even finish reading the first page of Sunday Times. I loved the Caesar’s salad. The croutons were bursting with onion/garlic-mixed goodness and the bacon bits were crunchy and fresh. There were huge chunks of cheese scattered liberally on juicy, sweet lettuce.

Even the soup was gratifying and yummy. It was lovingly made with robust chicken broth, free from MSG with generous pieces of chicken and cute alphabet pasta in it.

When it came to the main course, I was quite pleased with the ribs, with meat succulent and literally melting off the ribs. I think the portion was just nice although M feels that it could be bigger (after all, most of us are accustomed to Tony Roma’s giant ribs but that is frank gluttony and we shall not fall into deadly, calories-laden temptations!)

After this long, leisurely dinner, I decided that this is definitely one of my top ten list of 'Places that I’ll visit again in Singapore', especially on special occasions. The drawback is of course the cost, about $30-40 per person but I think the meal was scrumptious and the ambience superb. Guess it's really, really for that 'special' occasion once in a blue moon lor.

By the way, I’m not pleased with how the pictures turned out. It was captured on my phone. I still have not found my camera charger. Darn…I think it’s gathering cobwebs in another country!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yearning for the 'gastronomic team'

I think its the season for me to resume blogging about food. The last time I talked about makan was during Christmas before everything went serious, contemplative and slightly morose this month.

However, the limiting factor in my food-blog experience is finding the right gang of people to go eat with. You know, a group of foodies that I can call up anytime. I guess it's difficult here because everyone is staying so far apart from each other and most of us are stuck at work until way past dinner-time. So different from tiny Ipoh hor?

Moreover, I feel that without a car, I'm stuck with bus No. 11. Thus this 'adventurous' eater is now resorting to places I could reach easily, i.e good accessibility. Suddenly, I miss my silver Myvi zooming in and out of traffic and the ease of picking up my friends from their homes for dinner. Having to deal with logistics everyday is not-so-fun, you see.

In the meantime, I'm still looking out for the G-team members in the Singapore chapter :-) So until the time I could go explore more gastronomical wonders, I think I'll have to stick to eateries around my little HDB habitat lor

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Eventful week and a peaceful spot

Today sort of wrapped up an eventful week that started from last Wednesday. Surprise, surprise...a week seem to start on a mid-weekday for me as events seemed to happen in fast forward mode.

First the interview that fared so differently from my expectations. Then, new outlook and plans for the entire year as I shape up for the 'battle' ahead. Shortly after that, my church became the first church in Malaysia to be intentionally torched down. Our blood, sweat and tears really went up in flames, due to some Molotov cocktail and evil, devilish intent.

1 day after that, for the first time ever, I fell down while running.

Yup, the ever careful girl who always run with caution (yeah, i know, i'm slow) decided to wear specs while running. Being blessed with the typical 'Oriental' nose, my specs tend to slide down on my lack-of-a-nasal-bridge, especially when I was perspiring. So guess what? I mis-stepped, couldn't see properly, tripped on a tile on the uneven ground and fell in motion. Of course I protected my face and head! As a result, suffered some abrasions to limbs and ego bruising, but that's about it :-) I think I'll stick to running in the gym for now until I get stronger again.

Nevertheless, I was so busy that I didn't tend to any of my injuries. Instead, I end up staying in the hospital for a few nights in a row as there were trauma cases at night to attend to and I was oncall in between. Setting up temporarily in my window-less room, the days and nights merged into one and I felt almost institutionalized. Thank God that yesterday I found a very peaceful, shady corner in the hospital that I could get some fresh air while reading. It was by a koi fish pond, complete with sound of trickling water, lotsa green plants and cooling breeze. I think I shall upload picture of my 'secret reading spot' the next post and let u guys decide whether I should find a better hang-out place. In the meantime, let me indulge in the 'luxury' of my own bed and desk for the first time this week....

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Prayer for my beloved church, Metro Tabernacle

Lord, today I pray for my church and for the people of Malaysia. It was a dark day when a church, my church was burnt down but surely hope and love will prevail. Although forgiveness is difficult, we sought with all our heart that justice be done peacefully and with love and grace. We forgive those who trespasses against us. Abba, Father, we know not why this is happening to your people but I know surely, there is a reason for this season of never-before-seen challenges.

Most importantly, we know that our earthly belongings and our church structure is just an external shell. A church is made out of people, not a physical building. Although our physical structure is destroyed, our spirit, love and sense of community-giving and Christian love shall never cease.

Lord God, we are thankful that our Senior Pastor, associate pastors and their families are safe and protected by your grace. I am thankful and grateful that the attacks didn't happen during daytime when my family (brother and father) and my sisters and brothers-in-Christ are in church attending worship service. Surely, if it happens on a usual Sunday, many would have perished in the fire as the only exit from the main halls were on the ground floor where the firebombs were thrown in.

Lord, although I am ashamed of the government and the lacklustre investigations into the root cause of the issue, I know that one day, strong, moral leadership with bright intelligent leaders will come back and bring about a renaissance to the state of affairs of Malaysia. The current state of governance is sadly below par and abysmal. We need better explanations and swift, fair actions against the perpetrators and a good solution to a problem started by the Home Ministry a few years ago.

Dear Jesus, there is hatred and violence being stirred up in the minority. These are the same minority who holds the potential of great infamy. These are 'people' who belongs to fanatic, emotional and easily-swayed category of semi-human. I call these semi-human,as they are driven by personal anger, irrationality and lack of self-control. Violence begets more violence. Destruction reaps eternal damnation. I know that we, your children in the light, shall not resort to hate and destruction but will pray for those who persecutes us..exactly like how the Lord Jesus loved his executors.

In the end, I pray for my church and the body of be an example of love, peace, tolerance and to stand for all that is good in this world. The forces of good shall prevail over evil! Amen.

P.S: Do check out my senior pastor's reply to the current events on

Friday, January 8, 2010

Like phoenix arising from the ashes

Even the strongest, most optimistic person could hit bad patches in life and felt unbelievably disappointed and disheartened. That was me a few days ago.

I guess, every new day is a better day as I recover from the shock of an unexpected decision from the training committee. I know that there are rules and regulations governing all professional bodies, especially in a tightly-regimented country, but I was caught off-balance at the finality. 9 months of delay is not very long...a small blip in the course of eternity. However, for me personally, the deep anguish was due to the fact that I have high expectations upon myself and I set very high standards for my personal goals and dreams. I thought I could enter into advanced training sooner rather than later.

Yet I'm reminded gently by much-wiser counsellors that time is not a benchmark of excellence. I also consoled myself that the events that occured is not because of my mistakes or because I made a wrong decision in the first place. Furthermore, the surgeon who graduated the fastest doesn't mean that he/she is the best. I thank God that I am reminded to be humble and grateful for the chance to be here and to receive solace and counsel from such wonderful seniors.

Not only that, a lot of people prayed for me, before and after the news. I know it's due to the power of prayer and love that I am able to recover back to my usual rejoicing and cheerful self today, with just a tinge of sadness at leaving this team (and department) for a short while.

In the meantime, I think I have outlined in my heart, a battle plan in the next few months to further improve in my training as a researcher and also a surgeon. This energy and new determination unleashed in me a new force unlike before, as I vow to do the best in wherever I'm posted. I'll not let anyone down, especially myself. With the Lord as my guide, witness and protector, I know that this challenge in life shall make me a stronger person and spur greater spiritual and personal growth....

Friday, January 1, 2010

The derailed train goes back on track

Yesterday, a new friend asked me : “How did you celebrate New Year’s day the past few years?” That seemingly-innocuous question actually triggered this post and a whole day of retrospection. I tried to recall my past few years and I don’t remember any significant celebrations except for 2 particular New Year Eve events, 2 years in a row. Now to add to that, I discovered that this is the third celebration that’ll go down memory lane.

Let me explain. The first time I ushered in new year with a group of friends was in 2000, the year of Y2K. It was the only time that I stayed awake the entire morning of 1st Jan, wandering the streets of KL and Bukit Bintang with a group of friends from school. The massive crowd in front of the huge Swatch watch was incredible as we ushered in the 3rd millennium. That was the first time I discover that people actually celebrate New Year in public squares and huge outdoor parties…one of my first few rites of passage into adulthood, perhaps? It was memorable to a young girl, after all....

The following year, I went for my first watchnight service in memory. It was the year I gave testimony in front of the entire church spontaneously (it was in the days when Metro Tab was pretty small and we could do a lot of things on spunk, spontaneity and sheer courage alone). I was telling about how I got into the medical school that I want, the most highly-demanded medical school for post-STPM students in Malaysia. The audience chuckled when I said I’ve only got 4As 1B for STPM…Those were the days when fewer people score straight As. Guess this person with high expectations upon oneself was quite a perfectionist and a nerd to boot!

After that, I think my life went a bit out-of-sync. I guess when we achieve a big milestone in our lives, we begin to rest on our laurels. The drive and expectation to success was further dampened and diluted when my mom passed away. She was the one who inspired me to be the most outstanding among my peers and after her passing, at times I settled for less. I rather fade into the crowd, albeit an ‘highly-intellectual’ crowd. Nevertheless, I hung on to the God amidst the crazy workload and fluctuating social life. There were indeed some dramatic peaks and challenging troughs in life after graduation.

It was only recently, when I reviewed a decade of my life, that I realized that I’ve fallen short of the initial idealism and calling 10 years ago. The service last night was monumental for I am reminded that I could be released to be a blessing to others, for I am truly blessed in so many aspects. 6 weeks into living in this dynamic city, I’ve met many charismatic, brilliant, driven and God-fearing friends that I know that God wants me to go back on track again, towards reaching my original 'destination'.

Anyhow, for me, the first half of 2010 will be the ground-breaking months. Firstly, it will be the time whereby I know for sure whether I could achieve my immediate goal, my initial aim for coming to this country. Secondly, I look forward to a life of great impact to people groups and nations in channeling my skills to help in underdeveloped areas of the world. Of course, there are other secondary goals too, but at this present moment, I shall pray and prepare myself for the days to come as this derailed little ‘CPD train’ go back on track again