Monday, July 21, 2014

Bringing Me Down

Once while I was working I witnessed the most insensitive way a doctor breaks bad news of having terminal cancer to a girl of my age. Funny thing is that I don't realize how wrong it was until I had my off-day some days later to ponder upon what had happened. The patient was my age, and the way she was told that she was going to die was so detached of humanity. The frustrating thing is that it was too common, that none of my colleagues commented on it, like it was the most normal thing to do. I don't fully blame the doctor or my friends, because it is too typical here. Maybe because terminal cancer is too common, but then again how did people do it in other places? I might not even thought of this if I haven't been around traveling

I am afraid of what our culture has become, but I am more afraid that being surrounded with this culture every single day, from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m, my brain is slowly accepting it. I've already started showing signs and symptoms. Why did it take a few days, and a day-off for me to realize how wrong it was? I would have straight away tell my colleagues "Isn't that wrong?". But being too busy with hospital work, everyone kept silent. I read again what I wrote while I was working for the WHO: "We Actually Get Stupider When We Work Too Much: The Case of House Officers", and I could imagine myself a few months ago being disappointed with my future self for succumbing into a life too busy, it sucks the life and humanity out of me.

Oh Allah, please save me from this, let me save lives without turning into one selfish, insensitive bastard

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Designer In Me Part III

So this is the third time I decorate my living space. The first was my room in Bandung, where I lived there for 3 years. Then in Kolej Kediaman Tun Dr Ismail UKM in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, where I stayed for another 3 years, and now this is my living space in Kuarters Integrasi Hospital Sungai Buloh. As compared to my other rooms, you might realize that this time I swerve away from my favorite colors white, red and black. My room is totally green now. It is not that I suddenly become an environmentalist after working under the department of environment and social determinants of health in Geneva, lol, but the room was already painted green when I went in. Furthermore, look at the view outside, it's so green. Sungai Buloh is well known in the Klang Valley for people to buy plants. In fact, my father always buy plants here until this day. So I decided to bring the green into my room! Here it is. I am not paid by Ikea but Ikea is just 15 minutes from here and most of the things I buy is from there

Friday, April 4, 2014

Candid Moments

Sometimes it does not take a great photo to remind you of a great moment. That is why I think there is beauty in classic film cameras or polaroids. You can only have like 24 photos in a film roll, and unless you are willing to spend a lot on films, you have no choice but to be prudent on your shots. You would take the most candid and spontaneous moment in time. No taking a bunch and deleting the bad ones, no redoing shots, no photoshops . One single photo. One single moment. Miniaturized into a piece of glossy paper. That is why you see a lot of shut eyes, blurry motions, glares and stuff. But those imperfections...they themselves tell a story. Digital cameras and all its editing softwares makes us look too perfect, sometimes to the point of being artificial. It is not wholly a bad thing, though. But I miss the times when we look ugly in film but do no not care to delete it because it has already been printed.

Anyway, back to candid shots, I took this picture below spontaneously, almost like a reflex. Like, who would take a picture of a dull fuel station? I totally forgot about this photo because it pales in comparison to the more amazing photos I took hours after this was taken: upclose shots of hyenas, lions, hippos and wild buffalos. But somehow, browsing through my pictures in Africa months later, I found this picture and it reminds me of the most exciting thing: the journey. This was taken on the way from Johannesburg to Kruger Park. We had to stop at this fuel station in the middle of nowhere. It was so sunny I bought ice cream and remembered eating them while watching a pack of buffalos crossing the dirt road.

Yes the safari is amazing, but one of the most exciting part of traveling is the journey, where you don't know what to expect in front of you, your head is filled with ideal images you found in traveling books and online travel guides, and also with plans on what to do once you've reached your destination. I also get the same feeling when the flight is taking off. It always feels like a start of an adventure, no matter where my destination is. I guess it is true, that in traveling or in life achievements, what we cherish most is not the destination, but the journey to get there. The struggle. The climb.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Time In-Betweens

I used to look forward for things to end. Like in high school I look forward for SPM to end so I can study medicine. In pre-clinical medical school I wish for pre-clinicals to end so I can practice clinical medicine. In clinical medicine I wish to graduate fast so I can become a doctor. However, once I have started working I realize that my eagerness for things to end has slowly fade away. A big part of it has to do with the daily routine of rushing here and there and the next thing you know the day comes to an end. A smaller part of it has to do with the fear of growing old. Time flies really fast when you are working 'in the zone'.

Now I just wish for time to pass by slowly. I no longer look forward for things to end. Housemanship may be considered a tough period of a doctor's life but I don't wish to rush though it. I wish to live in the present, enjoying life as it happens to me. There is so much things to do when we're still young. If I keep a mindset of wanting everything to end: finish Housemanship to become Medical Officer fast. Finish 2 years of Medical Officership to go into Master's program fast. Finish Master's fast to become specialist fast. Do subspecialization fast. The list will never end and the next thing I know I will find myself sitting in a clinic with a distended tummy.

Recently I've learned that creative endeavours, like writing in this blog does not necessarily happen when you have tons of time. It happens during the short periods between busyness. When you know you are going to be busy, you will try to find the time in-betweens. Like here I am, 5 a.m. and writing. I am still struggling to find the time in-betweens to do non-medical stuff, but I am trying. Creative endeavours are important, but it is important to make it in-between your daily job before it can flourish as an independent endeavour. As far as motivational speakers ask you to just jump and follow your passion to fully focus on what you're truly passionate about, it may take some time.

I am talking about a job in general, not focusing on the medical career. This is partly due many Malays that I see quitting their daily job to open an online shop or painting or playing in a band and stuff. Then realise it couldn't sustain them financially, and went back to their former job. A daily job gives you the security of a sense of belonging, a medium to keep in touch with people, and of course the financial security for you to keep a focused mind while you are doing your creative work. So keep your job, do things in-between, and when you're art has flourished, when people start buying your stuff like banana fritters and you become confident it can sustain you financially, then you make the jump.

My mom would read this and worry if I would quit medicine and go painting someday. But nah, this is just a general advice for people who are considering to make the jump in career too soon. I am just finding time in-between my shift duty to write more. I admire Atul Gawande, a surgeon in the USA whom wrote 3 books in between his surgeries, which all I read with much respect towards his thoughts.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Life of a Houseman

I could not even begin to describe how my life has changed tremendously for the last one month. My current and previous work is nothing like one another. I used to work 40 hours a week, from 9 to 5 in Geneva. Even if I go to the gym in the WHO building, it still counts as working hours. Even my 30 minutes nap after lunch in the 'Quiet Room'! Little could I imagine back then that I would now be working more than 85 hours a week, waking up at 4.30 AM everyday, drive 20 kilometres to work, arrive around 5.30 to 6 AM, and work non-stop till 8 PM. That's more than 12 hours a day.

Life back when I was a medical student was even much easier. We go to lectures and teachings. No class? Go to sleep. It is true that working as a doctor and studying medicine is a whole different thing. Medical school is all about medicine. Full stop. Working as a doctor, half of the time involves non-medical stuff like dealing with patient's family, implant company agents, police officers, wardens in the nearby Sungai Buloh prison, lawyers, private investigators, SOCSO agents, and once I have to even deal with SYABAS, a water supplier for one of their employees who they believe is faking or exaggerating his illness. It's a crazy world, this doctoring world.

I was overwhelmed in the beginning, thinking 'what the heck, is this really what I want to do all my life?'. During the start of my work, when I was tagging, the job seems so daunting that I wake up with anxiety and nausea everyday. As taggers, we have to know all 28 cases in the ward, expected to present them at any time during ward rounds, without looking or refering to any notes. The task was gargantuan, and we have to stay until 10 PM everyday, which is the earliest (usually we won't be able to go back until 11 or 12 PM because of more work), and come to work at 6 the next day. That left like 3 to 4 hours of sleep everyday. I did that for 19 days, until I finally got off-tag. It was really a tough time for me.

But I always believe that we can get used to anything if we expose our brain long enough to the new challenges. Our brain rebels when there is too much new information coming in all at the same time. It needs time to digest things. It has been a month and my brain has started to accept this new working environment. I no longer wake up feeling anxious and nauseous. I begin to take more responsibilities, managing clinics, scrubbing in to operating theatres, attaching to the emergency department. Work is still stressful especially in the morning before ward rounds, but the stress goes downtrend as the day goes to an end. At the end of the day, nothing beats the feeling of driving back home feeling good you had a patient's sugar or blood level controlled just by putting a sign on the drug prescription, you sutured close a gaping wound nicely and stopped the bleeding, you nicely trimmed some fingers that went into a cutting machine, and inserted a steel rod into the legs to temporarily help with fractures. It is a truly satisfying feeling.

I no longer have doubts if this is what I will be doing all my life. It can be fun, but we can't see it while we are in the middle of the hectic working hours. It is time like this current moment, where I have a half-day off and working night shift tomorrow, that I can take a step back, think about what I did for the past one month, remember all the things I went through, that I feel it is worth being a doctor. For me, if a work is too much it becomes stressful. But if a work is too little it becomes depressing. I remember times where I had a whole day to write just a single report, but it becomes so depressing because I kinda have a mental block when there is too much time and I don't know what to write. I start writing 2 hours before the deadline in the end and feel depressed again feeling that I could have done a better job. Working in the hospital, you never have free time to be depressed about work. It's stressful, but it's a positive stress. All the work is done in the ward, when you go back you pass over your patients to the night shift doctor, and you go home not needing to worry to much because you believe your patient is in the safe hands of your colleague.

So in the end...yeah, being a houseman doctor isn't so bad. The only thing I still resent is the inability to confirm and convince to your non-medical friends when you will be free. I have always been asked for appointments and meet-ups for either HBB or just catching up. It is so hard to confirm a date where you'll be free because we work on weekends and our day-off can fall on any day and changes every week. It sucks, but otherwise, life's OK ;)