Sunday, 30 March 2008

When 'Madame Q' Speaks, You Listen...



Ms Pushpa and me, having tea together...





There is one teacher of mine whom I have always admired, and am very fond of. Her name is Ms Pushpa, and I have made references to her before in this blog. I have known her for the past 9 years, ever since I was a wee 13 year-old.


Behind Ms Pushpa’s back, a few students refered to her as Madame Q (MQ). It was a portmanteau of the names ‘M’ (the head of operations in the famed James Bond series), and of 'Q' (the ‘product specialist’ of the same series). Students often nickname their teachers, sometimes facetiously, but never in Ms Pushpa’s case…



Ms Pushpa said many things which I will always remember…




1) Of Treating People


Treat people like you would want your mother to be treated. Because every person you meet, whether he sweeps the road, or collects rubbish from the street, is someone’s mother. He or she may be only a rubbish collector to you, but he or she is a daughter, father, son, sister, wife, friend, husband to someone




2) Of Words


For a whole year, Ms Pushpa called me and my friends ‘names’ in class. I myself have been called everything from ‘pathetic’, ‘idiotic’, ‘weird’ to ‘individualistic’. Phrases like ‘never used brains’, ‘no brains’, ‘stoned’ and ‘cat got your tongue’ too has been made in reference to me…=)


It was only after one year that Ms Pushpa stopped calling us names, and one day she asked us if we knew why. We said no.


She said “Because you have all learned and you have all grown up. You have learned that no matter what someone else calls you, it doesn’t make you any less of the person that you are. Words can hurt, but at the end of the day, they’re just words”…




3) Of Being Damsels in Distress


Ms Pushpa was always known for her wit and sarcasm, and most pupils (except her Literature students who adored her) stayed far away from her.

One day, over lunch, she remarked (in response to one friend’s lament about her pancit’ed tyre): “Hello? I know you all very strong advocates of girl power and all. But next time your tyre goes flat, do yourself a favour and stand by the roadside and look pathetic. Somebody will change your tyre for you. Men can’t resist playing hero. You know that no matter what, you will eventually need help with the tyre anyway, so why get dirty in the first place? Just look pathetic, something you’ve all mastered to perfection anyway”.


She laughed, and we all did too...Lesson learnt!




4) Of Domestic Help


Ms Pushpa always maintained that maids and domestic help are there for one reason: They are there to help.


Help, mind you. They are not there to do everything. Some of you are rich brats. Don’t think that makes you above menial work. Next time you see your maid doing the dishes, help her. She is there to lighten your work, not make you lazy bums. In future, when you have your own house, remember that a maid is there to help, not take over. Because if she then takes over your husband, don’t complain. You made it happen. She does everything that will otherwise help you build a relationship with your husband. So, why not sleep with him too?




5) Of Falling In Love


Ms Pushpa said: “Falling in love doesn’t mean losing yourself. If any of you come and tell me you’d kill yourself over love and that your boyfriend’s life is more important than yours, than I’d tell you to go fly a kite. Being in love is never about losing yourself. It is for you to grow”.




6) Of Position in Life


You are not below washing toilets”.

Enough said…




7) Of Life


Macbeth said:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing
." — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 23-27)


That’s life. It is short. What you make of it is yours to decide. But in the final analysis, all the ‘sound and fury’ (bombastic stuff) don’t mean anything”, Ms Pushpa said.




8) Of Happiness


You don’t need to justify your happiness. A truly happy person never says ‘I am happy because…’. If you’re happy, you don’t owe anyone an explanation”.


Another gem from Ms Pushpa!



Whatever it is, Ms Pushpa goes down as one teacher I know who really did just that: She really taught...


Monday, 24 March 2008

Drug Withdrawal: The Little Boy in My Arms...



You know how people always tell you that your actions can have an impact on other people? And how we are responsible for all our actions as they come with consequences?

But as teenagers, we always tend to believe we’re invincible. We tend to believe ‘bad things’ won’t happen to us (in Psychology, that is known as the ‘personal fable’)…




I had heard a lot about HIV/AIDS and drugs as a teen, and although I was never (seriously) tempted to try and I understood all the basic facts of both the above, it never really hit me, hit me…


Not until I worked in the hospital…



The first time it really hit me was when I started working with Chee Keong (although this has nothing to do with HIV/AIDS or drugs)…

It hit me then because I realized how a decision we choose to make can have such an impact on another person…By choosing to give him up, Chee Keong’s parents assured that he had the medical treatment he needed, but they also assured that his future would be one shuttling from one home to another…(And I don't blame them...Circumstances were such)




The second time it really hit me was when I held a baby who was suffering from withdrawal symptoms, all 1.9 kg’s of him…

This little baby was tiny, had skin that was slightly blackish-blue in hue (like he didn’t have enough oxygen), and was trembling like he was in terrible cold…He was also making rasping sounds, that came in bouts…


That was what I thought at first. He was cold


And then I realized that below his cot was a box of latex gloves, and I knew instantly there was more to his story (as very seldom babies have a box of latex gloves under their cot)…



So I asked…


The nurses told me his mother, was an IVDU (Intravenous Drug User) nearly throughout her pregnancy. She was also HIV +, and had syphilis. Her son, having been exposed to drugs continuously in the womb, was now experiencing withdrawal symptoms…


I’m sure you have all seen people experiencing withdrawal on TV…They shake, they shiver, they are pale, they are delirious, they are in pain (sometimes)…

Now imagine all that in a baby that was 1.9 kg’s…





Now I knew why there were gloves…


When dealing with babies that are possibly immuno-compromised (like possible HIV/AIDS etc), we all wear gloves…Babies have immune systems that are not as matured, and add a possible HIV/AIDS infection, and it just about screams ‘very low immune system’…


So we wear gloves, to prevent us from transmitting God-knows what infection to them


We also wear gloves when dealing with babies whose mothers had a VDRL (Venereal Disease Research Laboratory) problem (another term for Sexually Transmitted Diseases), as direct contact might result in us contracting the problem…


In this little baby, he was born to a mother with syphilis and he was exposed to drugs (his immune system is very low), so gloves was a definite…



I washed up, put on my gloves and went to pick him up to feed him, making sure to completely wrap his body in a blanket first…The little thing drank milk like someone who was drunk…He made moves that were sudden, and most of the milk spilt…


And all the time, his eyes remained close, and I never got to see them…



And all the while I was thinking, God, more teenagers should see this…It might just stop them from ever starting drugs if they see how much that little baby was suffering…


In the USA, some states require people caught for DUI (Driving Under the Influence) to spend some time in the morgue to see autopsies being performed on people who die from being hit by drunk-drivers…The coroner will (sometimes) tell the life-story of the person being cut open, in hopes that it will drive home the message that these people who died have lives too, and that life was cut short because of the irresponsible acts of another…




I wonder if this kind of ‘scare rehabilitation’ can work here too?

But then again, we have hue-and-cry when the topic of sex education comes up…What more spending time in the morgue or seeing babies who are suffering from withdrawal?




Friday, 21 March 2008

The Huggie-Wuggie On My Bed...



Ah...Finally, back home! And back to Internet connection...The wireless in my hostel decided to not be slow anymore this week...It decided to stop working all together! *Grrr*


Anyway, it has been a long two weeks...Have been busy catching up on all the work I missed during my one week of medical leave (mainly of my horrible Statistics paper), and as much as I like taking a break, it seems the break gives me more work! In fact, one of my friends just told me that I've only gotten back my colour in the past two days or so...



But guess what was waiting on my bed when I came home this week?






Parcel from the UK...




One of my best friends, Ae Mi (who is studying in the UK) had been excitedly telling me she has something for me during our MSN chats; her only hint was that it is from the zoo and it's a huggie-wuggie (hug-gable lar)...=)



After our SPM, Ae Mi went to the UK for a holiday, and before she left, when I gave her a pair of gloves (were they red or blue? Forgot!) as a gift, she asked me what I wanted...


I remember telling her nothing, but a couple months down the road, I saw this lovely hot-water bottle being sold in one of the UK markets (in the newspaper) and I sent Ae Mi a message to ask her to please buy one on my behalf should she see them...



I have always wanted a hot-water bottle (a nice one, mind you, not the completely latex-looking one with no cover as I don't always tolerate latex very well) to help ease the discomfort during the times when my tummy decides to bloat...

But dear Ae Mi had trouble locating the one I liked, so I bought myself a cold pack instead (the type you can also microwave)...




So, surprise, surprise! Guess what was in the little parcel sitting on top my bed?






This little guy!





See the flat tummy? It hides a hot-water bottle!





He's actually a casing for the hot-water bottle which is stuffed into his body!

Whoopie!




What a great end to two very exhausting weeks, indeed...How I wish I had this little guy with me when I was in the hospital nursing a sore arm from all the needles...



So, thanks Ae Mi dear...He's part of the furry-family now...Now, would you like to name him? ;)



Saturday, 15 March 2008

RDA: Of Special Kids and Kissing Ponies...




9 year-old Rebekah Bakewell in front on Little Squaw, and behind her is 17 year-old Esther Pau on Landmark...They are doing exercises atop their horse-friends...All those walking are volunteers...




And finally, some photos of the RDA (Riding for the Disabled) that Jiun Wei and I go for every Wednesday!



As some of you know, the RDA is a therapeutic program meant for special people. It helps them in many ways psychologically, socially, emotionally and even physically...The program is practically fully sponsored (the kids pay a nominal RM 50 to encourage them to be committed) from the lessons, to the equipment to the horse 'renting'...






Special-education teacher Maria helping Rebekah with her helmet...




For one, these special people get to socialise with one another and with the not-so-special friends, and with an animal as grand as a horse! It also helps them tremendously in terms of posture, balance and confidence to do things on their own...






17 year-old Esther Pau, halfway through her Fish-o-Fillet burger, flashing a smile when I prompted...





9 year-old Rebekah Bakewell with her toy cars, stopping midway her game with me to pose for a photo...






Unlike last year's group of children (who were between the ages of 6 and 7), this year's batch is older, ranging from the youngest, 9 years-old to a 17 year-old...5 of them have Down Syndrome, while one is a slow-learner who has limited vision...Whatever it is, all of them are a darling in their own way!



It started raining halfway through the afternoon last Wednesday, so the result was an indoor-session with the kids...We used a wooden-horse (nicknamed the Earless Hairless Brownie!) and a plush horse for the session...What we basically did was help the kids get acquainted with the different body-parts of the horse, the equipment used, and ways to treat the horse, all indoors!






On left (seated) is Jean, a qualified horse-trainer with the Turf Club using a plush horse to communicate with the kids...Seated from left are Xin Ern, Rebekah, Esther and Bernice...Behind (in green shirt) is volunteer Shirley, and special-education teacher Maria (red shirt)...






Tiny Jean demonstrating how to mount a horse, using the Earless Hairless Brownie (nicknamed such because he has no ears, no hair, and he's brown!)...






Jean and special-education teacher Cindy Chan(half-hidden) helping Xin Ern balance on the wooden horse...




Altogether, it was another fruitful week, although I had a minor little accident with one of the ponies...He turned left at the exact moment that I turned right, and the result was a big-full-blown 'kiss'...It didn't help I had a mouth full of metal...



The result?

A badly bleeding lip, and a terrible swollen mouth...I now look like I tried the collagen-injected lip look aka some Hollywood stars...

Oh well, some guys find it ahem, sexy...*Winks*...

In retrospect, thank God I didn't fall and get trampled by the pony (it kinda panicked when it hit me)...







The pony whom I shared a kiss with...*Lol*






PS: If anyone would like to make a donation to the Penang Down Syndrome Association (PDSA), kindly contact me and I will help put you in touch with them...=)


Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Of a Blind Couple and An Idiot (Me!)...



I was on the bus just the other day, and I had two seats to myself...My mum got me two seats because I happened to know I would be carrying a lot of things back to Penang, so to save the trouble of being all cramped up and annoying the person next to me, we just went ahead and bought two tickets...



Anyway, as things would have it, sitting in the seat opposite the aisle from me, was a blind couple...They boarded the bus with the help of a friend, and sat down and started chatting among themselves...


Anyway, the highway was terribly jammed up and we took considerably longer than usual to reach the toll-booth in Juru...As we were approaching somewhere around Alor Pongsu however, one of the passengers had an 'emergency' and needed to use the loo...



I was happily snoozing all the way, and when the bus made the pit-stop, I woke up, and heard the blind man next to me ask, to no one in particular: "Are we in Butterworth yet?"...


I groggily replied: "No, Uncle, not yet"...


I saw he was looking a little anxious, so I said: "Don't worry, Uncle, I will tell you when we reach Butterworth, k?"...

He replied with a partially-toothless smile: "Ok!"...




So it happens that I never went back to sleep, because I was afraid I would miss the Butterworth stop...



Anyway, when we finally reached Butterworth (about 40 minutes later due to the jam), I leaned across the aisle and said: "Uncle, we're here in Butterworth"...


He immediately said, "Ok, thanks little girl"...



I helped him and his wife pick up and collect their things and then asked them if they needed help to disembark from the bus...

They said no...



I didn't push the matter because I know a lot of blind people who are very independent who would feel 'insulted' if you insist on helping them because it looks as if you don't think them capable of doing anything on their own...So I said goodbye and watched anxiously as they slowly made their way down...



After about 10 seconds however, I felt like kicking myself a few times, because it turns out, in the frenzy, the couple got separated...The man managed to get off properly, but the old lady was clearly having problems...


When she reached the door of the bus, she stretched her hands out and tried to get hold of something to help her find the steps to the bus, but luck will have it that she could not find anything to hold on to (and she didn't dare to walk any farther for fear of tumbling down the steps)...




And guess what? All the people behind her did not bother to help her at all...All they had to do was to take her hand and place it on something which she can hold on to, and help guide her down...


But everybody just waited in line and left the poor old lady to fumble her way (although to be fair, nobody grumbled)...



I was stuck in the middle of the bus, and there was no way I could do a thing, although I was tempted to growl out-loud "For crying out loud, will somebody help Aunty?"

But I didn't say a thing, cos I didn't follow my initial instinct of helping them off the bus in the first place...





After a while, she managed to get off the bus, and the couple were reunited...And then I saw this elderly man come up to them and after a brief conversation, I saw him lead the blind man by the arm (with his wife holding on to his other arm), and lead the couple to the taxi stand, where they sat next to each other, each holding on to the other...



And to think there were so many young people all around who just watched and did not even bother to do a thing...

What an embarrassment and what a sad thing to see that in the end, it was an old man that helped the blind couple, when there were so many young and able-bodied people who could have helped them...



I stand corrected...Next time, better get scolded for 'insulting' them, than to not be able to sleep becuase I did not help them when I should...


*Kicking myself*


Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Of Holidays in Hospitals and a Funny Old Lady...



Hey everyone!


Sorry for the disappearance...I just got discharged from the hospital...Was thinking of saying I was busy with schoolwork, but if somebody from school reads this blog, they will know that was a lie, so...


Anyway, I got admitted with a high fever and a disabling migraine, and it turns out I had a severe infection (my white blood count was almost 18 000!), which was the result of (you would never believe me!) my allergies gone wrong...This allergy of mine is wrecking quite a lot of havoc, isn't it?



I was very sure they would just keep me in the ER for a few hours, pump me with some super-powerful drugs and painkillers, and send me home (like a couple of years back), but the doctor said cannot...

My regular physician was in a seminar...Her colleague, the doctor-on-call, admitted me, but he was gracious enough to give my case back to my regular physician...




And so I thought I would get to go home the next day! So much for that, because *grumble grumble*, I had to stay on...Turns out, my blood pressure plummeted to a 70/40 very early the next day, so there was some frenzy (like wondering if the BP machine was right!), and the doctor forced in some IV-fluid to push my bp up....


And I kept staying on because my bp was just stubbornly low...




I can't remember what happened the first 2 days (what I'm telling you is what mum and the doctor told me), because I think the first doctor sedated me...My mum isn't sure because she said he said too many things and she couldn't remember whether he said he would...



Thank God for mum though, cos otherwise it would have been very difficult...The first 2 days, I could not even go to the loo on my own...




Anyway, I had a very interesting old lady for a neighbour...She was admitted for her diabetes and hypertension, which caused some dizzyness, but she was otherwise fine, so she chatted with my mum very happily...She told my mum she was very happy I was admitted because it meant she had company...(Note to self: I...will...not...take...it...personally...)



She was told by the doctor to call the nurses if she needed to go to the toilet or if she needed anything when her children were not around, because he was afraid she would faint, so the result was her pressing the bell very, very often!


At one point, 4 nurses appeared to take her to the toilet, and she told them "Ampat orang mau tengok saya kencing ka?", and she sent the other 3 back!



The next instant, she decided she wanted to bathe, and this time, she walked out of the room and hollered "Misi, tolong saya!", and 2 nurses came, to which they asked why she didn't use the bell...

She answered: "Nanti, lagi ampat orang datang. Saya takut oh. Lain kali, saya tak mau guna bell lagi".


She then got one nurse to take her to the showers, and ordered the other nurse to stand outside the door ("Lu berdiri sini tunggu saya keluar ok?") to wait to help dry her, and so it was that I had one nurse in my room waiting outside a closed bathroom door...



Seriously, they obliged that old lady's every whim!



When she saw my grandma, she told my grandma she was 100 years old, to which my grandma said she looked very young! And she giggled and said: "You believe me ah? Wah!" (She's 70)...



She also chattered about almost everything under the sun, and when one family friend came to say hi (only about 3? people knew about my nice little holiday in the hospital), she chatted with her too! And when she left, we said "Bye-bye, see you" and this old lady quipped: "Bye-bye, tapi tak mahu see you lagi. Kalau see you lagi, kena masuk hospital lagi ar"!



Real clown of a lady...



Then the nurse came to give her an injection of insulin to her tummy, and the nurse asked her "Ah Poh, tar cham ah (give injection)...Ah Poh takut ke?"...

Old lady replied: "Mesti takut lar. Itu jarum manyak panjang oh. Kalau saya cucuk lu, lu pun takut ma. Mari, saya cucuk lu pula"



Aiyo...



Anyway, I'm on medical leave to give my bp some time to completely stabilise (till end of week ler), so some nice time for me to catch up on some rest...=)




Oh, I had one regular visitor outside my window every day...I caught it on my handphone on the last day...





At a distance...




Close...




Closer...




Closest!





PS: Will answer comments and emails slowly, k?