Sunday, November 27, 2005

COAMS #7- Visit to the Leprosy Centre

(November 27, 2005, Sunday, at 18:37)

I find it easier to blog than to express myself verbally. Today, I went to Rumah Harmoni, Kuala Kubu Bharu. It is a spastic home, about two hours bus ride from my campus. What I saw there was nothing like what I had expected…

The place was rather damp, with a foul-smelling odour. Beds were arranged in two rows, facing each other. The beds looked like enlarged metal cradles. In each of these ‘cradles’ was a child, a teen or an adult. I thought that is was almost cruel to put those people behind bars. Perhaps it was worse than staying in prison as they are confined to a 6 X 4 feet bed, where there, they eat, shit and play. Little did I know, they not only have difficulty in speech and movement, they also have mental disorders, almost like big babies who never grew up.
But that was not the worst thing. Some of the kids had their feet and arms tied to the corners of the bed, which was very scary. I realize this is done to protect them, to prevent them from injuring themselves or eating their diapers. Others, being physically disabled and paralysed, all they could do is stare at the ceiling all day.
There was one kid that really caught my attention. The kid had encephalitis. He’s head was huge, almost like the size of an oval-shape watermelon. His body was thin, cachectic, almost the same size as his head. When I was cutting his fingernails, I notice that the nails are long, soft, thickened and brittle. Its structure differs from ours that are collagenously hard. The poor kid couldn’t lift his head. He just stared back blankly.
In another isolated ward, the inhabitants here didn’t even have the luxury of a mattress. They had to sleep on hard icy metal cradles. According to the nurse, they have to tendency to eat the mattress. They weren’t even given diapers. So, the cleaners would clean the beds by just splashing water on them. Imagine how cold that is!
I tried to communicate with the people there. This, was the toughest part. They couldn’t express themselves and I wasn’t sure whether they understood me. Some managed to mumble a few words slowly; some replied in smiles, others just stared back. Later on, we found out that they actually loved music and dancing. So, we find ourselves laughing, singing and dancing with them. Perhaps this is one of those cases where - actions speak louder than words.
There was an aunty who happily added my bracelet to her collection. Yeah, I treasured that bracelet a lot, but to see her smiling, I guess it was worthwhile. If only we could be easily contented and rediscover with our innocence.
At the end of the day, I felt that I was not really to leave yet. Sure, I’ll go back to my everyday life, complaining about practically everything. Then, in time, I might even forget about what happened today. Therefore, I shall blog this down, to make sure I don’t.

I felt sad, I felt empathy for them, and above all, I felt hopeless.

So, I lived in a cruel world. I asked God, why do you allow this? Why can’t everyone be healthy? Then negative questions like, where are their friends? Where are their families? Do they even have families?
There are many people out there, lonely and in need. Yet, very often, we couldn’t find the time to lend a hand. Some of my friends, who initially planned to join us on this service, changed their minds to watch Jolin Chai in person. Some were busy preparing for minitest this week. Some were just too lazy to get up… I wouldn’t brag about myself, because, if Lee Hom was in KL this morning, I would probably not be writing this now. Then again, we, being luckier, should be thankful of what we have. We, being luckier, should help the less fortunate, making them feel cared, loved, ‘belonged’.

Review on 2008:
reading back this post after 3 years, brings back all the old memories and feelings... the kid, by the way, had hydrocephalus..

Saturday, November 12, 2005

COAMS #6 - The CULTURAL SHOCK at Medical School

(November 12, 2005 at 11:52 AM )

Did I talked about the first time I entered medical school, I thought that EVERYONE HERE WAS MAD??? I cried on the first day of university. Yeah, hate to admit that. Laugh at me and I’ll delete this. I had been away from home for camps, visits, vacations, yet this was the first time I felt home-sick. And I didn’t know who to complain to, everyone was encouraging and perhaps more excited than me. So, I started writing my diary. Somehow, writing helps me think, writing calms and soothes the emotion.

To me, coming to university was a ‘culture shock’. The biggest obstacles, okay, maybe I should put it this way, MY biggest problem was - the language barrier. Noone told me that ALL Chinese in university communicate in Mandarin. Well, it’s not that I totally don’t know Mandarin, but it’s just that I didn’t thought I could survive Mandarin ALL DAY LONG. Of course the Malays talk in BM but there were only a handful of Indians. So, well, it’s just BM and Mandarin. Hmm… Welcome to the -WE-DON’T-SPEAK-ENGLISH- world. I don’t know how well I hid my hatred towards this place at that time. I did consider pretending that I don’t know Chinese or joining the Christian Fellowship (which is pointless as the Christians here uses Mandarin as well).‘Why must I adapt to them? Why couldn’t they adapt to me?’ I thought.

I remembered clearly, a senior paused and asked, ’Who doesn’t understand Mandarin here?’. Thankful, I raised my hand only to hear the reply ‘you can get your friend next to you to translate’. I really couldn’t blame him because there was like only 5 hands up and majority rules. But of course, at that time, I was disappointed and it only made me hated this place more. I made a point to try speaking in English to the juniors only to find that most of them were more comfortable with Mandarin. I wanted to help people like me, yet little did I know, I was simply torturing others, so I switched back to Mandarin.

I realised how naïve I used to be. Later, I found out from my friends that it wasn’t just UKM, the same condition is present in USM, UPM, UM… u name it. They complaint and recovered, I remained stubborn, refusing to adapt, until months later… Well, I should consider myself lucky that I didn’t have to communicate with my Chinese roommates in BM (like my friend, Boon Lee). I did wonder though what happened to all those people like me- the Georgians, Paulians, Convent Girls and ACS. They simply vanished into thin air and I had my entire life history wiped out. OK, they went to collages and only a handful studied form6. Oh well….

I’m OK with Mandarin now. In fact, sometimes I subconsciously speak Mandarin even to the Malays, which was kind of embarrassing.

Being already depressed during first semester, discovering that ALL MY COURSEMATES ARE MAD only make things worse. MAD as referring to the way they study -MAD. It was kind of scary, I have to admit. Some can just study for hours, like some machine programmed to work. Of course, at that time I didn’t realised that some people genuinely enjoy studying. And I really envy those people - people who possess the PASSION to be a doctor. What separates me from them, besides the language barrier is that PASSION.

Like I said before, DOCTOR to me at the beginning, was just a profession, interesting, secure, challenging and a little ‘cool.’ Well, if you can’t decide what course to take, might as well take something that would help the people. Hoping that the ‘satisfaction’ will drive me, I took the back seat.

Being welcomed by lecturers who made us felt that medicine is a nightmare itself was a nightmare. Medicine is a lifetime sacrifice, they said. I started to deceive myself that I’ll learn to like this course, like the way I was deceived by TV series that doctors in white coats are cool; and perhaps by Dominic, this UM medical student who gave us such a motivating speech during form6. Nevertheless, I forgotten that for those PASSIONATE ones, it was a whole different story. And no, I did not get to keep the eye from the dissection hall.

Later on, I realised that I’m not alone. Many of my course mates didn’t have this PASSION. Some wanted to be pharmacists, veterinarians, one of them wanted to be a pianist, another a ballet dancer. If I was bold enough to follow my dreams, I would probably be studying journalism instead. But, hey, I’m no Robert Frost. The Tertiary Education Ministry Board would probably commit suicide once they find out how many of us didn’t really wanted to study medicine THAT badly. I did felt a little guilty for those who wanted this place more than I do but did not get it. But of course there were those who REALLY wanted to be doctors. Yeah, I envied them.

Honestly, medicine is not such a bad course after all. Perhaps it was the way I hated UKM when I first arrived, the ‘cultural shock’ that made me bias towards the course. Everything was fine except for the exam part. Simply because I naturally hate exams (who doesn’t anyway? I blame our exam-oriented educational system).

I enjoyed the dissection sessions we had for anatomy, one of the few things I often looked forward to. I loved PBL (Problem-Based-Learning) sessions where we were given medical cases to solve, they made more sense to what we learnt in lectures. The Basic Clinical Skills were fun too, though we had like only 2 sessions. And I loved the anatomy tutorials. And I hated all the tests, regardless mini test or exams- all of them! Lectures? Some are interesting, some were just merely reading from the text, sometimes I wonder-hey, maybe I’ll take his job-. But no, I don’t sleep in lecture halls. I either pay attention or skip them.

Perhaps it is unfair to put the blame on TV, parents and friends. The year I had my STPM, Grandma had a fall. She could barely walk back then and had to use a wheelchair. My uncle and cousin tried traditional medicine, messaging oilments, bandaging herbs. My cousin, Kian Guan happens to be studying Chinese Medicine. It’s not that I don’t trust traditional healers, it’s just that we tried everything, even acupunctures, but the condition did not improve. I felt helpless. Finally, we brought Granny to the hospital, she had her femur fractured and had a minor surgery. I don’t know how she endured the pain. Granny is now on walkers but things were never quite the same. She lost the freedom of walking freely.

Let’s put it this way- yes, I’ve the interest, but not the passion, not yet I suppose. Hey, I have 3 years till I graduate. Perhaps time will tell.

Friday, November 11, 2005

confession of a medic student #4

(November 11, 2005 at 02:18 AM)

It had been 2 weeks already since I last online, a record I’ll say... funny to think that I did’t have the net-addiction during the holidays... perhaps it was the stress-free life, or maybe it was because i was simply doing what I liked best - rotting... somehow, it was nice just relaxing, going shopping, reading non-academic books (novels), chit-chatting, hanging around, or just couch-potato-ing... *siGh*.... yet, apart of me felt a little guilty not doing anything productive, somehow, I felt like I lost purpose... 'don’t worry',i said to myself, as usual, I always managed to suppressed the latter feelings,.. So my books and notes left untouched… *siGh*… what’s new anyway?

My sister is having her SPM now, yet she seemed so relaxed. “I don’t have to study very hard because I don’t want all A’s… I don’t want to be a doctor or a pharmacy or an engineer.. I want to be a teacher…lots of holidays! A teacher don’t need a string of A’s” I wasn’t sure how to react to a remark like that. I told her to do her best, tried to convince her that a teacher’s job ain’t easy either. The thought of -hey, maybe I should consider being a teacher- did secretly crossed my mind though…

The week before my holidays, I went to church. I can’t remember the last time going to church. Mind you, I’m not a Christian, so going to church wasn’t an obligation for me. I remembered in primary school, I argued with my Muslim friends that most of us follow our parents religion… If your parents are Muslim, you’re probably a Muslim too, same goes to Christian, Buddhism, Taoism, etc…I told them, if you were borne to Christian family, chances are, you’re probably a Christian as well,.. If I am borne to a Muslim family, I’ll most likely be praying to Allah. Being afraid to sin, they all disagreed with me, saying that they’ll convert to their own religion no matter what!! I remembered clearly, all of them disagreed except one. His name was Kamal.

I BELIEVE IN GOD. Or rather, I chose to believe in God- the creator, a greater power. Humans had spent so much time, sacrificed so many lives in search of HIM. They concluded with many different religion you see today. I’m not saying that religion is bad or fake - this is a very sensitive issue (God knows, I might even get sued for this). In fact, I truly support and encourages religion as all of them tell us to do good. If EVERYONE follows their religion, I’m sure this would be a better world. No more fights, No more cries, No more war.

So, I labelled myself as a free-thinker. Note, a free-thinker, not an atheist. Yeah, I don’t believe the monkey thing. I don’t deny evolution either. Perhaps, there is another origin of humans, one that we haven’t discover. Maybe God is watching as, like the way we watch the tiny ants.

Buddhism is probably just a phrase I used to fill in the blank next to religion in forms. Hell, I don’t understand a thing about Buddhism, the karma law and stuff. There’s the Buddha statue at the alter, next to the Guan Ying, Guan Gong and yin yang symbol. There’s numerous 7-star-crystal, silver papers and josh sticks. Then there’s Jesus on the cross, all of them in the comfort of my living room. As a kid, I used to wonder whether all the different Gods would fight. My dad claims he’s a Buddhist, mum said she’s a Christian, yet they both burn silver papers to the ancestors- which to me is more of an act of Taoism. Perhaps it’s more of a ritual than a belief. I don’t know…

My parents brought me to this Siamist temple two days ago. It was this Sangkasa Celebration (Robes Offering Celebration). It would have been easier if I understood what the monks were chanting. Sometimes, it really amaze me how people can believe so much without understanding the meaning. My aunt actually memorized the whole 1-hour chant and no, she does not know Thai Language!

Where was I.. oh yes, I went to church the week before my holidays. I realised how much my mandarin sucked when I could not understand half of what the priest was preaching in front. (yes, that church was in Chinese, and i was my first time attending a mast in Chinese)However, I like the feeling of being in church or a temple. Perhaps it made me feel closer to God. Perhaps, it gave me peace. Perhaps, it made me felt sheltered, protected, reassured. Perhaps, it gave me hope, faith.


Author's Note

Dear friends and readers, Thank you for dropping by and leaving comments/ shoutouts. More importantly, thank you for being there... please accept my apology that, lately, i may be busy with work and not have time to reply youir messages/comments, but rest assured, each and everyone is read, and highly appreciated :) have a nice day! ^^

of love

Today, i heard a story which was not a story of falling...
of living in the dark end of winter turmoil..
instead, it was a love story..
of a couple who did not live happily ever after...
but they live, loving each other..