Tuesday, June 30, 2009


We all have a cancer killer in our kitchen and probably are not aware of it. Some did not like the smell or because of the heat it produces in the body. I love ginger and it fragrance. A friend sent me a write up on the medicinal properties of Ginger and I like to share it with you.

GINGER has powerful healing effects and has been well documented. It is a proven remedy for upset stomach. Reams of studies show that it inhabits inflammation and there is substantial evidence that it fights cancer.

For instance, a recent University of Michigan study showed that when ginger was added to ovarian cancer cells in the laboratory, it caused the cancer cells to self-destruct (a process known as “apoptosis”).”

For health benefits, try using ginger as often as you can. The best was I have found to get a good serving of ginger is to juice it. You can juice it together with apple, carrots, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and it gives a great flavor to the drink.

I had a friend who burped badly. This is due to the cold food he consumed without
heating it up. I beat up two eggs, juiced a ginger, added rock sugar and steam it until the egg turned into custard form. I made him eat it before he goes to bed. Immediately we saw the effect the next day, the burping is lesser. With another one more dosage and the burping stopped totally.

There are many type of gingers and use it when you cook. I have always sliced ginger into thin strips when I steam a fish, or add it into my plain porridge. It is best when you stirred -fry vegetables. Another way is to blend ginger, add a little table salt and oil. Eat it with steamed chicken and black sauce, it is yummy.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Falling of the King of Pop

With news broadcasted all over the world on the death of Michael Jackson, I thank him for various reasons. He has given us good music, slick dance movements, his talent in song writings and many things he has done, known and unknown to the public. Because he is a Pop Icon, therefore every little moves he made is no longer a privacy. People censored him for his actions. They choose to believe he is bad. To some, they want to make the most out of it. People get close to him with ulterior motives. He is human, he is not a Saint. All these years of scandals probably took toll on his heart. I believe he is not well for a long time. 50 years is a pretty young age to die but to some, they do not have 50 years at all. It is not how long you live, it is how best you have lived.

Michael started with Jackson 5. That chubby little boy who belted "BEN" and hit it BIG. Subsequently he discovered his own unique music style, dance style and dress sense. His slick dance moves are something I love to watch. All the dancers with him are as good and as precise and matching every movement Michael made. His songs are wonderful. His attempt with Lionel on writing the lyrics and arranging for all the singers to belt out "We are the World" is commendable.

Why are we always finding faults about others, why can't we see the other way? Most of the time it is the media...media wrote juicy reports because the public wanted it and supported it. It leaks the privacy of people, it blemished their names, it caused pain and heartaches and many more. PUBLIC need NEWS but I no longer trust the truth by the media. They are out to make money, not there to give you the real picture. Anyway Michael is dead, the MEDIA can take a rest now. All those that scandalized Michael, they have one person less to create more verbal karma - thank Michael, he saves you from going to hell with that bad mouth.

Those that felt that he is a child abuser and a bad person, to me, I see an unhappy child who is trying to find his childhood. Those that sued him for child abuse, can now follow him to where he is ... to get money or justice. NO, I am all out for Child Abuse, but what evidences? I hugged my god-son, I bathed my little nephew...will that makes me a child abuser?

Above is just some on my feelings. Michael can finally take a rest from this FAKE world and all the accusations that comes with it.

My message to Michael - you can't avoid it because your persona is larger than life. There will be no one like you. May you Rest in Peace. People who loves you will genuinely mourn for you, and you can bless those that have wronged you.

I wanted to share a video here with you on Michael's contribution to the green movements. The World is sick, both nature and human. Here is Earth Song by Michael Jackson. This is my way of saying good-bye and thank you Michael.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My first encounter - Gratitude

I was called upon by the Doctor and Matron to visit a patient at home. The case file showed an old lady of 80 years old. She lived with a daughter in a landed property. These are old houses and they are only ground floor. Area is not as big but there are 3 rooms and a big living room.

Before I left for the house call, I was given a background history of this patient. She is diagnosed with cancer of the stomach. She has been fretful and she refused to sleep. She had a God son. He is actually a boy she looked after and he lives across the street. His Mum and Dad worked so Dan was looked after by this old lady and her daughter. Dan loves this old lady like his own grandmother.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, he was the saddest of the whole family. He brought her to hospital. He brought her to chemo. He feed her food and medicine. He sat with her. He was like a son to her. He refused to leave her side and only do so when he had to go to work.

Dan is a General Manager of a company. When I first laid an eye on him, he looked like he needed a shower. He looked tired, hair uncombed and literally at the verge of breaking down. It was his wife that ‘shouted’ for help. She was very upset that Dan spent so much time with the old lady. She was not even related in blood. Maria was even more upset when Dan had an accident while driving to work because he dozed off when driving. Fortunately he was not injured but his wife could not take it anymore. She spoke to him. She asked him to take a break after all the old lady's daughter was there to attend to her needs. Dan refused to listen and they both have heated arguments because of this.

Taking the case file, I arrived at the house. All the furniture in the living room was moved to one side. The old lady’s bed was parked against the wall and she was sleeping in the living room. I introduced myself and spoke to Dan.

Looking at him, I admired him. He cared about an old lady, someone not related in blood. She was only a nanny to him when he was young. His eyes were blood shots and he really looked like he will faint any minute.

Me : Dan, so how are you taking all these?
Dan : I am very sad. She is like my mother. When I was young, both my parents were at work. She cared for me, cooked for me, washed me and she walked me to school.
Me : Isn’t that wonderful. I can understand why you felt this way.
Dan : She is such a good person, why did she need to get such terrible illness?

He put his hands on his face and bent down for about 5 minutes. I knew he was sobbing. I patted his shoulder and rubbed his back consoling him.

Me : Dan, looked here. You have given her all the best attention. You paid her medical bills. You sent her to hospital. You feed her and you sat with her. You did all you can. I am sure she knew you love her.
Dan: No, I did not do enough. I should have visited her more often. My work needs to travel. I did not know she is not well until my sister told me.
Me : Your sister, you mean auntie’s daughter?
Dan : Yes, she is like a sister to me. They are even closer to me than my parents.
Me : Oh I see.

I turned and smiled at a woman of about late 30s to early 40s. She is very much a home person in the way she dressed. She was standing silently when we were talking and on and off feed the old lady with little spoonful of water.

Me : Dan, Doctor asked me to come and sit with Auntie. Why don’t you go home and have a shower and take a good meal. Rest for tonight. You need to sleep because I can see that you are very tired.
Dan: No, it’s OK. I can stay with you guys.


Dan : My wife cannot understand why I need to do what I am doing. She grumbled and picked fights with me. How can a woman be so unfeeling?
Me : No, Dan. Your wife loves you. She is worried about you. You had an accident right? What if you hurt yourself badly? Who is going to look after the old lady? Who is going to look after your wife?

He kept quiet.

Dan : But she needs to understand and support me and not give me more pressure when I am feeling so sad.

I held both his hands with my hands.

Me : Look here Dan, you know Hospice sent me. Their purpose is for you to take a break, will you? For the sake of yourself, your wife and most of all the old lady?

He ruffled his hair..gosh! he did not shave as well.

Me : Dan, I am going to be here. So go home. You are just across the street and I will inform you if I need you. Nothing is going to happen yet, I promise.
Dan : But my nanny does not like strangers. She will look for me.
Me : (very firmed) NO, Dan – you go home now. I don’t want to see you as long as I am here and I am here for the next 3 to 5 hours.

Reluctantly he went home. Before he did, he went up to the old lady, stroked her head, spoke to her in her ears and unwillingly walked away. He smiled at me and said ‘Thank you’.

Me : Nothing to thank! Go…o.o.o.o.!

I walked up to the old lady….she is Cantonese, so below is a translation of my conversation.

Me : Po Po (granny in Cantonese dialect), how are you?
Old Lady : Looked at me and did not say anything.
Me : My name is Lian..or Ah Lin.
Old Lady : I am going to die soon.
Me : Po Po, are you afraid?
Old Lady : No, I am not. but Boy Boy will be very sad. (She was referring to Dan.)
Me : Are you painful?
Old Lady : No, Doctor gave me medicine.
Me : I heard Nurses and your family members said you don’t want to sleep.
Old Lady : I cannot sleep. I won’t open my eyes if I do.
Me : No, Po Po you must sleep. Boy Boy is worried so if you sleep, he will be happy.
Old Lady : Looked at me…no respond.
Me : Po Po, you sleep and I sit here holding your hand.
Old Lady : You will wake me up?
Me : Yes, I will wake you up! Now close your eyes.

I tried to close her eyes but she still opened her eyes widely. I kept telling her to close her eyes. Maybe I said it too many times it was like hypnosis, she closed her eyes. She kept opening and closing and it took her about 15 minutes before she really sleep.

So the whole house quiet down. Her daughter sat on the sofa. The old lady slept. Dan went home to sleep. I sat there alone holding her hands.

In today’s society, when people are so cold – people like Dan is hard to come by. It warmed my heart. Some people cannot even be bothered about their own parents let alone outsiders. How many people remember kindness and how many practice gratitude?

The old lady passed away two weeks later. She passed over very peacefully. Dan came to Hospice. He bought us cakes and thank you cards. There was a special card for me. I was not there when he arrived and the card was handed over to me by matron.

What he wrote made me cry –

Dear Lian

Thank you for being there when we do not know how to cope with nanny. She was more relaxed after your visit. She spoke about you and you will never imagine the impact you made on her. She was not frightened anymore. It must have been your love and reassurance that she was calmer. Forever in debt to you for what you did. My wife and I managed to sort things out too. Do keep in touch and call me if you need anything.

Gratefully Yours
Danny and Maria

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Brushes with Death....#2

I realized that I have many encounters Death. However I believe we are born to die. Dying is not a problem but how we die is definitely important.

It started with a happy occasion. We drove in convoy of three cars in a row to a town 2 hours away to attend a colleague's wedding. We left in the evening at 6pm. In total there were 12 of us in 3 cars. After dinner and all the merry makings, the group decided to go to a Disco. We returned after 12 midnight.

Being the lady driver in the group, I was signaled to move and the two cars followed behind. In the remote Indonesian countryside there were no street lamps. It was scary and I had to pay full attention because some animals may cross the roads, or human cycling without lights or walking along the dark road which was difficult to identify them until you get too close.

When we went up slope, my car began to slide to the right. I turned my steering wheel to bring it back to the center of the road but it keeps sliding right. To my left was the rocky surface of a hill, to my right was a steep drain. I panicked. I was driving at 60 and I was not speeding. I used all my strength to steer my wheel back to the center of the road and I stepped on my brake. (This is an act of an inexperience driver. I should have pulled my hand brake at the same time but I was not in the correct mind frame with this frightening experience.)

Immediately my mind said "The car is going to turn-turtle"...and before I could finished my thought, the car turned turtle twice and came back into a standing position. I did not know how the windscreens smashed. The person sitting in front with me flew out of the front windscreen and landed on the road. The couple sitting behind me was thrown back into the boot. I was driving a 5-door Suzuki Vitara. The top of the car was badly dented and came down like a sharp knife. It missed my head by 1 inch.. If it came a little more, my head will be cut opened.

I sat with both my hands holding tightly on the steering wheel. My fingers were bleeding badly and finger nails turned up. My back was wet but I did not know what it was. The two cars behind stopped and were shocked as they saw the whole accident happening. They were only one car length between each other. I was pulled out of the car. Fortunately no oncoming cars or the guy thrown on the road could have died. We quickly called the workshop in the middle of the night to tow away the car and we were rushed to hospital. The passengers of my car have bruised and small cuts. I am the one with abrasion on my hands. I later realized that there was a big abrasion on my shoulder blade and it was bleeding.

Going to an Indonesian hospital in a small town was an experience. I realized that there were no doctors and no one came to check on me. The medical help that attended to me probably was probably not qualified. She used cotton wool on my ten bleeding fingers and wrapped it with gauze. A big piece of cotton wool was placed on my shoulder blade and secured with plasters . I started to feel the pain on my fingers and shoulder blade. We kept asking for Doctors but she said the Doctors went home. We must wait until morning. We asked for pain killer but she said she did not have the keys to open the medicine cabinet. I was groaning in pain. My colleagues went out and bought me panadol. One of the cars drove back to my apartment and collected my passport and some belongings and bought a ferry ticket for me to return to Singapore.

My senses were hazy and I was running a fever. I was groaning in pain and it was so bad that it numb my senses. I am not able to focus or know what was happening. Upon reaching Singapore, my Singapore colleagues were waiting for me. They rushed me to Changi General Hospital A&E Department.

Doctors and nurses were amazed at the way my wound were handled. They have to give me an injection to stop the pain and started to pour warm water over my fingers to wet the dried bloodstained cotton. It stuck to my wound and to the nails and flesh and the pain was extricating. I was screaming when they touched me and when they started to tug at the cotton wool stuck to my fingers, I passed out.

The Chinese said that the 10 fingers were linked to the heart and therefore you can imagine the pain. Partly the wound was infected without medical attention that caused the high fever. I was in a dazed and yet I felt the pain. After a long while, nurses managed to clean the wounds on my fingers and shoulder blade. I am already mentally drowsy from the pain and the injections. I dozed off. When I work up, I saw my Mum, siblings, colleagues and good friends standing around me. Mum was crying when she saw my wounds.

Another narrowed escape. I am glad that none of the people with me were badly injured. It would have left a mark on me if anything happened to anyone of them. Later I learned that the whole car was badly smashed. All the windows were broken except for one which I have the 'Kalacharkra' sticker on it. All the malas and protection amulets on the front panel of the cars were gone. Of course there were speculations. The spot where the accident happened were notorious and claimed many lives. Many motorists died there. The Indonesian believed that it was haunted. They speculated that all my prayers amulets and charms protected the passengers and myself. Funny as they said that after my accident, that place have no more accident happening. They believed I broke the spell....did I?

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Whether young or old, we all love 'A Magic'... Cyril's magic is amazing. This is one of his many.

Hamburgers lovers would love to have this ability, pluck it from the advertisment and eat it free. Therefore, I suggest you learnt from Cyril this 'fulfilling' tricks. If you think that it is too dusty as all these advertisements are along walkways and high streets, well if you are equipped with "magic", you can make it rich and eat 'real' bugers in real haunts.

Enjoy this breathtaking feat!

Friday, June 19, 2009

INTENSITY.....my word of the day!

Today is not a good day for me. My heart is bleeding not 'Romeo is bleeding' of Bon Jovi's 'Always'. I think my blood pressure has shot up to at least 180 degree. I told myself to remain calm.

My staff prepared macaroni for me. She heated it up and put it in front of me but I lost my appetite. The fragrance of the chicken and the soup is tasteless. She warned me that there are chili paddies but I did not feel the burnt. She came by and asked me again whether the food is OK and I said 'Yes'. I did not want to hurt someone who has so kindly thought of me when she is preparing food in the morning. I am sorry.

Being a frank and opened person is not an advantage. People are just too sensitive. People like me are too tense to be associated with. Openness is not a virtue. Frankness is not seen as sincerity. Anyway who wants sincerity? The word should be hypocrite or sound better EQ.

Recently my niece posted something on hypocrisy. I kind of agree with her although there is a fine line between hypocrisy and EQ. We just want to be congenial to everyone so we just agree to be agreeable.

When we do not like someone, we pretend to be cordial in front of them. When we hate to do something, we have to agree to appear to be agreeable. When we hate someone, we pretend everything is fine but in our hearts we are saying ' Get the hell out of my life'. When we have no desire to be in the company of someone, we pretend to say 'yes' when we are asked. Not me, I am a rebel.

Loyalty is dead. Kindness is also dead. People are selfish. They only think of themselves. They just want you to agree with them and if you don't you are outcasts. People do not speak what is in their mind, they beat around the bush. It is Live and Lets Live, in corporate world it is You Scratch my Back and I Scratch Yours!

I am blamed for being unreasonable. I am blamed for upsetting some calm mind to the extend that the Mind lost focus on work. Now I lost my mind as well. I am blamed for ' I cannot understand WHY you are so intense and reacted that way'.... I cannot understand....I cannot understand... I cannot understand!!!!

I just kicked myself in the face. For all my actions and verbal actions...I always explained myself. I regretted doing so. Because people only Listen, they do not Hear. They are so full of themselves....do not bother to try and understand. They only know 'I am Hurt'...but not 'I have hurt you'.

How far can a person go...if a person do not know how to put aside work....and worries?

I need to throw flowers and flower garlands over myself...for being the best Hypocrite around. When I am down with worries over my parents’ illness, I have to go to work with a 'sane' mind. I have to concentrate, smile, focus, work....the company should not suffer because I got problems. When I am down with financial problems, I go to work with a smile. I owed the company and they pay me the salary to work and not bring my problems to work. I thought of all kinds of ways out of my financial problems....at one time I am thinking of selling myself, it did not happen. I found myself a job...when I finish at 6pm, I rushed off to another job that starts at 7.30pm. It finished at 12 midnight and by the time I reached home and bathed and sleep, what time is it? I did not shortchanged the company and blamed it on anyone for my problems. When I don't have a house to stay as the Owner wanted the place and we have no money, I did not shortchange the company with my problems. WHY should I be blamed when Mind cannot focus?

I have always been sincere, considerate and think for others. I always standby people when they are angry with something, unhappy with something and upset with something. What did I get? I am feeling like a FOOL! I never asked for gratitude.... GRATITUDE is dead long ago. I just asked to be treated FAIRLY....fairly is also dead. It is only people you care about that you treat them fairly. The funny thing is Mind picked my problem to the extend that I am wrong.....and....the excuse....I want to be happy. The Mind forgets that when it is upset....who standby? Mind forgets...you know why Mind forgets - simple answer lah!

The best part is Mind does not know what upset me? THAT IS KILLING ME....Oh My Dear God... I KNOW NOW... I DEFINITELY KNOW...MY SCORE IS 'ZERO'.

I KNOW I AM AN IDIOT! No need to tell me. I tell myself. I asked for it...not the game show...but in true life.

So finally I ACCEPTED the facts. I dig my grave and I better sleep in it myself. After all some innocent people may falls in so better I fall in. The reason because I KAY POH! Next time anyone...before you KAY POH, think twice!

My reputation is probably BAD! News probably gets around to all LONG AGO - from A to Z. That I am an extremist. That I torture people by upsetting them. They want peace and happiness. I am Creator of Unhappiness....

People take advantage of kindness. Friends, relatives and strangers alike. Too bad, I am not MISS CONGENIALITY! I am not running for Miss World contest. I do not need to collect VOTES.

So, you either accept me for what I am.... OR...stay away!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My second ecnounter - 2nd Muslim Patient...

In my course of volunteering, I had two Muslim patients. Aisha is gone and now left with Nora.

When I first got her file, I realized that this lady leads a traumatic life. She married three husbands and they all left her. She was at that time living with someone 10 years younger than her. I was arranged to visit her. She lived in the East.

On that day, I left with my partner after taking the file from the office. We arrived and knocked on the door. A young Malay man opened the door and we introduced our self. He seemed to speak little English so I attempted speaking in Malay.

Lian : Hi, Nora ada di rumah? (is Nora at home)
Man : Ada, silakan masuk. (please come in)

He led us to a bedroom. The room was neat. The color was purple and the bed linens were purple in color too. I saw a lady lying in bed. She wore a sarong, aged around 40.

Lian : Hi Nora, I am Lian and this is my buddy Steve.
Nora : Hi. Thank you for coming to see me. (She smiled. From that smile, I saw a good looking woman. She was charming.)

Nora indicated that we could sit on the bed. As usual we asked her conditions, is she comfortable and is there anything she needs. (That young man who showed us in went back to the living room watching TV.) Nora mentioned that she craved for mee goreng(Malay fried noodles) so Steve went to the nearby market to buy it for her.

During my conversation with her, she mentioned she had vaginal cancer. Unusual. This was the first time I came across someone with such tumor. I asked her how she discovered. She said that she had difficulty passing urine. Urine came out bit by bit so it took her a long time to clear her bladder. She also realized that something is growing out from her private part so she went to a Malay witch doctor. When the growth did not subside, she went to a specialist. She was diagnoised and she had final stage Cancer. She had medication to control her pain. Mostly her pain was from the backbone.

Steve came back with mee gorang and pisang goreng and all the Malay kueh kueh. We ate on the bed. This lady was very clean. Her bedroom smelled fragrance and clean. No smell of urine like some of my patients' have. Nora mentioned that before she fell ill, she loves to eat lobsters. She would buy herself a lobster and cook it whichever way she likes - butter lobster, grilled lobster, deep fried with oats, sambal lobster - lobster was her first love. Because she cooked very well, she gave us a list of her best gourmet recipes. So talking to Nora was talking food. I am curious why that young man did not join us. Seeing my unspoken curiosity, Nora mentioned that he was her boy friend, he was 10 years younger and he understand little English. They met at a Pasar(market) when she went to pick lobster. We took our leave. We promised to see her the following Friday.

Come Friday, Steve and I took some Malay cakes to Nora's house. The door was again opened by the young man. Looking at him, I wondered whether his mother taught him how to smile. He was stern and spotted an Osama's beard. He spoke in Malay that Nora was in the room. However Nora heard us and she spoke to us from closed door.

Nora : ' I am passing urine and it will take some time. Please wait in the living room.'

Steve and I sat silently watching Channel Suria. A Malay variety show was on and was interviewing Anita Sarawak. We waited for 25 minutes and Nora called for the young man. He disappeared into the bedroom. We heard toilet flushing so probably he was cleaning her up.

Lian : How are you today? (She looked frail. I was wondering why she deteriorated so fast.)

Nora : My pain is getting worst. Sorry you guys waited so long. As you know Malay ladies need to wash our private parts and in my condition, it took longer. (Yes, I understand)

Steve : Do you want us to mention to Doctor so that she checks and changes your medication?

Nora : Thank you Steve. Can do. I will also mention to the nurse. ML is coming tomorrow.

With that we were silent for a while. This time Nora spoke again. What she said took us by surprise.

Nora : As you both know that I had cancer of the vaginal, it is painful when I urine. The growth is painful.

Looking at Steve...she said.

Nora : Steve, I am going to show you and Lian my cancer. Because it grows from the private part, please see it as an education. Nothing dirty about it. Are you comfortable? (Steve nodded his head)

Slowly Nora undo her sarong. She wore nothing underneath. She was shaved and clean. What shocked me was there was a red angry looking piece of flesh sticking out of her vaginal. It curved upward and it looked like half the pincer of a lobster. Steve looked and me and I looked at him. In my heart I screamed 'Oh My God...how could this.....' We were speechless. She must be in tremendous pain with this alien looking thing sticking out. It grew from inside out. Every time she urine, she insisted that she wanted to wash up herself without assistance. When she did, she will surely touched this painful looking 'flesh'. I admired her for her endurance. After 5 minutes, she tied up her sarong. Steve and me still in the disbelieve stage of shock.

We took our leave. When we were driving home, we knew that we both were thinking about the same matter. We are Buddhist and we believe in Karma. Nora loves lobsters and she liked live lobster. To Buddhist this is breaking the precept..this is killing. How can 'that piece of flesh' looked exactly like half a pincer...like the crab, like the lobster's pincer?

We did not get to see Nora again. She passed away three days after our last visit.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A burst of lights...

Yesterday I drove around aimlessly...I love the countryside away from the noisy city. I did this alone most of the time during weekend...I will drive to the beach and swim for half an hour or I will drive leisurely along a secluded road or I will drive into unknown lanes...always taking my camera with me.

Yesterday... I drove to naval base....This is one part of the countryside that I like....the roads are free of many cars. I love all those colonial houses... those Black and White ones....I wish I own one....Dreaming....and if you dare to dream... it will come true...Hopefully!

I drove myself to the end of the road and ended at the seaside. Never knew that there is such a beach and are packed with picnickers...fishing enthuse..and children running around. The Ice Cream Uncle was so busy cutting up ice cream and sandwiched them with wafers...and handing them out at the same time collecting monies and smiling widely! Nothing like making an honest living.

I parked my car, bought an ice cream and strolled along the beach. I do not know when I became used to being alone...yes, alone! I begin to feel connecting with people involves too much emotions. I do not know when I started to love nature..be it a tree, a small little insignificant tiny flower...to whatever I lay my eyes on...without the human factor in it.

I took lots of pictures during my travels and my stay abroad...and they are mostly nature. My favorite is to take pictures from the sky..of clouds and reflections. However today I am posting pictures I took of an oil rig tanker under repair. The full lighting of the tanker was beautiful and my camera did not do justice to this scene. Therefore I called it a 'burst' of lights....The sharpness of a picture or the blurring effect both are beautiful in their own credits.... enjoy and share these with you........!

June is the month we celebrate Father's Day. Happy Father's Day to those with DaD. Let DaD knows you love him.....to those without DaD, lets share these masculine pictures (I see vessel as masculine because it is a masculine dominated arena). Let these pictures remind us of DaD.. strong, solid, sturdy, full of life...and always has been a silent pillar behind us.....

DaD, wherever you are..... I Love You....!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My first encounter - Baby with Cancer

During my term with Hospice, this is one of my most ‘heartrending’ story.

I was asked to go to a house to help baby sit and allow the mother to take a rest. Taking the case file, I read it. This is a family consisting of a husband and wife and a baby girl of 1 year old. The patient is the baby girl. She was diagnosed with brain tumor.

I hesitated. The matron looked at me, waiting for my comment. I think she watched my reaction because normally I will say ‘Leave it to me’. This time I was silent. Many thoughts went through my mind. ‘How am I going to handle this?’, ‘How am I going to deal with the parents?’, ‘What am I going to say to them?’, ‘How will I react to the baby?’ ‘Is she alert?’……thoughts after thoughts…’Will I breakdown?’, ‘Can I take this case?’…….I realized the human brain is astonishing…within seconds so many thought processes came and went.

Matron was silently waiting for my consent. I looked up and I said ‘I really don’t know how to handle this case?’ I have never done kids and I don’t think emotionally I can handle this? Matron was very kind. She nodded and smiled ‘Maybe I should give you another case and pass this on to another volunteer’. At this point a thought flashed across my mind ‘Lian, take this. The parents are young and they must be very hurt by now. Go with an open heart. React to situation. Don’t anticipate and don’t think too much.’ Immediately I said ‘No, Sister Janet, I think I will take this case.’ Matron smiled widely and she said ‘I will get Nurse Lin to go in with you the first time. You will see what she does and tell me again whether you are comfortable’.

We made a date and I met Nurse Lin at the void deck. We went up to the 12th floor and Nurse Lin knocked on a door. It was a corridor 4-room flat. There was no door bell.

A man came to open the door. Nurse greeted him ..

Nurse Lin : Good afternoon Alan, I brought you a volunteer.
Me : Hello Alan, my name is Lian. I am assigned to be your family volunteer.
Alan : Please come in. (He unlocked the gate and and we walked into the living room. It was a bit messy. I looked into the kitchen. Pots and some unfinished food were on the kitchen dining table.)
Nurse : Where is your wife?
Alan : She is in the room with Tammy. I think you have to talk to her. She has been carrying Tammy and did not want to let go. She did not eat and shower. I don’t know what to do with her. I need to go to work and my Mum came over. Mum complained that she did not even come out of the room.

I was silent, trying to gauge the situation. I saw a young man of about 28 to 29 years old. Tall and slim but look tired. There are stubs on his face so he hasn’t been shaving. I peeped into the bedroom as it was slightly opened. I saw an unmade bed with blanket and pillows not arranged.

Nurse Lin : {knocked}…Teresa, I am Nurse Lin, can I come in?
(No sound)
Nurse Lin : (opened the door softly and walked in. I followed behind her with Alan). Hi Teresa, we are here to see you and check on the baby. This is Lian, your volunteer. She will come in once or twice a week to help you with baby.

She was a petite lady with long hair curled to the top of her head. She wore a white tee and a black short. The room has a baby cot, a pram, and soiled baby clothes in a basket, baby powder on a counter. I saw a small baby curdled in the arms of the lady. The baby was not alert (meaning the baby looked like she was sleeping).

Nurse Lin : Let me see the baby? (She took the baby however Teresa was not willing to let go.)
Nurse Lin : Teresa, I need to check the baby so that I can give her the medicine and see if we need to change.
Alan : Give the baby to the Nurse. She is checking the baby and if you don’t let go how she can help us. (Alan was a bit unhappy and impatience).
Me : (I walked up to her). Hi Teresa, I am Lian. Please give your baby to Nurse. (I gently touched her arm.)

This is the first time I had a close look at her. I saw an undernourished lady. Her eyes were blood shots. She smelled probably from her clothes. Her cheekbones deepened and I can still see she had dimples. She gave her baby to Nurse Lin reluctantly and looked at her husband timidly.

Me : Teresa, maybe you should go and take a shower. Change into clean clothes and your baby will smell a nice smelling mummy.

She looked at me. I saw sadness in her eyes. I saw volumes of unspoken words choked in her. I saw that she has been crying. I saw a helpless mother in pain. My heart broke.

Me : (I held her hand)… come Teresa, let me help you. (I followed her to her bedroom. She took the trouble to make the bed a little .) Sorry my bedroom is in a mess. Only my husband sleeps here. I sleep with the baby in the baby room. (I nod my head. The bedroom smelled too. Gosh, where are the family members, relatives etc. No one came to help them?)
Me : You go and bathe. Let me help you clean up the house. I think you need to change fresh bed sheet and pillow cases.

Her husband came in and help me pulled out the bed linens, collected all the soiled clothes, change fresh bed linens and put all those dirty clothing into the washing machine. I asked her husband for paper bags and I cleared up all the food left on the dining tables, take all the dirty plates to the sink and soaked them. I took a piece of wet cloth and wiped the table and coffee table and furniture. I swept the floor and the husband took a mop and cleans the place. I washed up the plates, cups, and dirty table cloths. As I was doing all that, my heart hurts badly. I am thinking if I am the mother, I probably will be in this state or maybe worst. Where are the relatives? Don’t both the husband and wife have families?

Nurse Lin was bathing the baby, changed her clothes and powered her. I changed the bed sheet on the baby cot and sweep and mop the baby room. Actually the baby room is clean. The only thing is baby powered fell on the floor and on the baby sheet. Pampers were not kept properly. Nurse Lin put the baby in the cot. We looked at each other, speechless and we knew we are not supposed to comment. When Teresa was bathing in her room, Alan too bath in the kitchen bathroom. When both husband and wife were cleaned, all four of us sat in the living room. Nurse Lin asked about the medicine feeding, how is she managing and coping. Nothing much were said. Nurse Lin took her leave and I wanted to stay a little longer. It was about 5pm. Alan said he was going to buy dinner and left me with Teresa.

Me : How do you feel after the shower? Better right?
Teresa : Humm.m.m. (She slumped on the armchair. She got up and wanted to walk to the baby room.)
Me : (I held her wrist and said) Baby is sleeping, sit down for a while. It is not good to carry her all the time because she will feel hot.
Teresa : (Looked at me with sad eyes. She sobbed) I rather I am the one who is sick. Tammy is so small. Alan’s mum blamed me for giving birth to a girl. Now Tammy is sick, she blamed me that I have sick genes. (I was shocked at this outbreak. I asked….)
Me : Where is your family?
Teresa : My Mum is too old to travel here and I have no relatives except Alan’s family. (She sobbed. I cried in my heart. Lonely and no support. Our duty is to support the patient and patient’s family and not suppose to remarks or comment about any family matters.)
Me : No, it is not your fault. No one wants the baby to be sick. You will be the last person. You are the mother and you will feel the most pain.
Teresa: (nod her head)…but they don’t understand. I am very tired. I wish I can just carry Tammy and we just jumped down and end these sufferings.(I was shocked!)
Me : No, Teresa, that is not a wise thing to do. What will happen to Alan. He is very sad too and if he lost both of you, what is going to happen. (I tried to change her thoughts.)

We spoke about how she met her husband. Where she worked. I talked to her about anything to take her mind off. Alan came back with fried rice, fried noodles and duck rice. We sat eating at the coffee table. Conversations were casual. I told Alan that he should take turned so that Teresa can sleep. With that I took my leave, it was near midnight.

I went back again after 3 days. When I stepped into the house, I heard Teresa crying. I saw some relatives and I believed one was the mother-in-law. Alan was crying too. I quickly walked into the baby room and when Teresa saw me, she cried even louder….

Teresa : Lian, baby is jerking…why? She is vomiting….what can I do?
Alan : Yes, she is like that 15 minutes ago… should we call the ambulance. I called Hospice Doctor and they are coming but we have not seen them yet.
Me : Calm down, let me check. (I called the Doctor and they just arrive at the block.)
Doctor : Hi Lian, what is the situation. ( I waited for them at the lift landing.)
Me : The baby looks like has gone into a fit and she is foaming in the mouth.

Doctor rushed into the room. Took the baby from Teresa. I hugged Teresa and we stood watching while Doctor listens to her little heart. She asked Alan what happened and after a while, Doctor said that baby probably will not make it tonight. Teresa went hysterical, Alan cried and I am holding onto to Teresa. Teresa took the baby in her arms, rocking the baby to and fro….she kept saying…

Teresa : Mummy loves you…mummy loves you…please don’t leave me… (Alan hugged his wife and they both hugged the baby.)

At this point, Doctor knew that the baby had died. Teresa was crying. She refused to let go the baby. Alan is like in a daze. The mother in law and relatives gathered outside the house were crying and whisperings and some were making phone calls. As for me, I cannot hold back my tears. I hugged Teresa as she hugged the baby. What can I say? I just wanted Teresa to know she was not alone…Teresa kept rocking the baby…she keep murmuring ‘Mummy loves you…mummy loves you…please don’t leave me’. Teresa has gone into stage of shocked and she was in a daze. She refused to let anyone take the baby, not even the Doctor. Doctor wrote the death certification. Nothing much can be done. The grieving ones grieved deeply and painfully. The heartbroken ones cried for the grieved parents.

That is Life…but this life is too tender to expire this way. It took three hours before anyone can take the baby away. This was possible because Teresa cried for too long, she fainted on and off. When she woke up, she kept asking for the baby. Alan although heartbroken has to arrange for the funeral but he was lost too. More family members arrived.

For me, I cried in the house and I cried at home. I cried for the mother who lost her child. I cried for the child not having a chance to grow up. I knew I cannot do children…it breaks my heart.

I went back to see Teresa and Alan after a week. Teresa went back to stay with her mother. She needs to grieve with family member around her.

For me, this case is close. This is one of the most heart rendering case I undertook. Little Tammy, wherever you are, may you be well and happy.!

I still cry today when I am typing this....
P/s Alan and Teresa were divorced. Teresa went to Malaysia. Alan married another girl and have a baby boy of 18 months old.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My first encounter - Shared case

I hesitated and pondered whether I should post this story. Since it is a story, kindly just take it as a story.

This Case belonged to another volunteer. Due to her family travel plan, she had to leave for two weeks holidays. I was in the office and Matron asked whether I am able to take on temporarily.

Taking over the case file, I studied the record. This was a family of four. Consisting of Father, Mother and two kids - both were boys of 7 and 10 years old. The patient was the Mother. She had breast cancer and it had spread to other parts of the body. She underwent chemo which was very costly for her family to bear. The man of the family worked as a delivery man in a logistic company. The two children were in school. The volunteer following this case had been with them for 8 months now.

Lian : OK, I will take the case so that Maggie can take a break.

I visited the family. It was a neighborhood in the East. It is a 4-room HDB flat.

Boy : Ma!..someone from hospital to see you. (He shouted and opened the gate. I believed he was the elder boy. Too small built for a 10 year old. He looked like he just returned from school as he had uniform on.)

Lian : Thank you.

My usual habits - I scanned the house. There was a 20" TV in the living room and a simple sofa set. The boy was doing his homework on the dinning table. The house was clean and neat. Clothes hanged on the cloth lines inside the kitchen area of the flat.

Gina : Hi, you must be Lian. Matron called yesterday that you will come today. Thank you for the trouble. (I saw a lady lying on the bed. She lost lots of body mass and she looked like a skeleton. When she spoke, her voice was shaky. I took a quick look around the room and to my surprise, the room was clean and neat too.)

Lian : Thanks Gina. Maggie is on holiday so I am standing in for her. She sends her regards. How are you today?

Boy : Aunt Maggie said she will buy presents for me and Jack. (He smiled happily. Kids are kids, even adults love a present, don't we? I smiled and nod my head.)

Gina : I am having a lot of pain today. This is my boy Jeff, he is the eldest and Jack is his younger brother and he is in school now.

Lian : Oh I see, where is your husband?

Gina : He had to go back to work. The company called today that they have goods to send out. He is actually on leave but they are shorthanded. We feel very bad because Teck has been taking leave since I am sick. He had to look after me, the children and do all the housework. (So I see. The cleanliness and neatness of the house is the Man who did the job. It must have been tough for him. Not that Man do not do housework...but I know many left it to their mothers, wives, sisters, maids, girl friends...etc. They will do a little if they have no choice. I looked forward to meet this Man.)

Lian : Is there anything I can do for you? Did you eat something today? You want me to cook something for you?

Gina : No, I have no appetite. Can you pass me the panadol and some water? The pain is bad. Teck left early today and did not clean my wound - you think you can do it? All the medicine and items are on that table.

I handed her panadol and water. Doctors sometime advice patients to take panadol as a pain killer. If the pain is worst, they will administer morphine. Yes, morphine as in the drug Morphine...it is a pain killer and a very strong one. I went over to the table and saw gauze, cotton, saline water, some cream, scissor, bandage, plasters etc. I gathered them and went over to the bed.

Lian : I learn some First Aid, may not be as gentle as your husband. So if I apply to much pressure, please tell me.

I slowly took off the bandage, the gauze and I saw the wound. Deep in my heart the first thing that appeared was 'Oh My God'. The wound was the breast. I believed she had mastectomy and the wound did not close. Now she lost so much body mass, I could see the whiteness of the bone. It must be very painful. I took some warm water, pour some antiseptic lotion and with cotton, I slowly clean the wound. It smelled...but I can bear it. Breast to a woman signifies womanhood and motherhood, let alone the aesthetic aspect of it.

She did not make any sound of discomfort. I tried to be as gentle as I can. I wrapped up the dirty materials, applied clean gauze and plaster and bandage the wound. I laid her on the bed. She closed her eyes and probably was exhausted. With such 'killer' and the energy level, simple thing that we do or lift is an extra burden to her. I took the dirty water and materials to the washroom. I threw them away, washed up my hands and came back to the room. She was sleeping? I walked back to the kitchen, rearranged the clothes on the bamboo and put them out to sun. I went to the living room. This time Jeff was watching TV.

Lian : Jeff, did you finished your homework? Do you need me to help you? Did you take your lunch?

(Aiya! why do I keep asking questions when I came into this house. I was concerned but I found myself long-winded! Sometime concerns are seen as interfering..and meddling..and instead of being appreciated..people think you talk too much. I always say what I feel..and I don't say it 'gently'...because I ask direct questions and expect direct answers. Jeff was curious about me so we talked. He asked about my work, where I live, how I got to his house, will I go fetch his brother from school with him because Dad does it but today he will be late. “Of course” was my answer.

Lian : Jeff, how are you and your brother taking Mother’s sickness?

Jeff : Mother used to send us to school and picked us from school. She gave us tuition. Mum is a good cook you know. When she is better, you should ask her to cook Laksa, taste very nice and better than hawker center. We don't know how sick is Mother. Starting, she and Dad cried a lot but now better. Dad used to take us swimming or to MacDonald but now he got no time and no money. He said money must use for Mother's medicine so she can get well.

My heart bleeds. Young boys, they knew that their parents were in difficulties. They knew Mother was sick but how sick? Not for me to tell him. He missed all the family outings and at his tender age, he tried to understand. It puzzled both of them why their parents were crying. They have bare minimum...I opened the freezer, nothing much inside. No chocolate bars, no butter or jam, no coke, just some left over dishes and some vegetables. To those out there...that has everything...half eaten food and throw them away...keep changing new toys, new everything...they will never know and appreciate 'difficulties'. I said before, Hospice makes me a better person. I learn how to love people…other than my own people. I learn to give...unselfishly within my capacity.

I went with Jeff to pick up Jack. Jack is 7 years old and still too young to know anything. He was chirpy and happy. I bought them ice creams. On the way back I asked them what they wanted for dinner. They were hesitant at first but I said it was OK. So both have chicken drumsticks and rice and both wanted a can of Coke.

I went in to check on Gina again. Cooked her some porridge and she can only managed two spoonfuls. The medicine and all the chemo probably have numbed the taste buds. I stayed to give her medicine. I do not want to leave her and the children alone until the husband is back. Looking at my watch, it was half pass ten at night and he was not home yet.

I finally saw Teck. He looked exhausted from the day's works. He went into the room and talked to Gina. He held her hands and listened to what she told him. He turned back and smiled at me and thanked me. He asked the two boys about school works and told them to leave their soiled school uniforms in the pail so that he will soak it tonight and wash it before he goes to work the next day. Jeff told him I bought them dinner and his dinner of roast pork is on the dining table. Again he said 'thank you' and he went to shower and ate his rice silently. He was a man of few words. It was my first day so I did not really had a conversation with him. Moreover he looked troubled, tired and deep in thoughts. I took my leave.

The next time I went back was four days later. I bought MacDonald for the boys. I hope to make up for what they missed...but I think it is more the family togetherness.

Maggie bought big boxes of chocolate for Jeff and Jack and she bought each of them a nice school bags. I saw the joy on their faces. My visit with Maggie was to have a proper closure and informed the family that I handed back the case to Maggie. It is rude to just disappeared without saying goodbye.

After that I was busy with work and my own Case. I did not see Maggie until we had our Monthly Support Session. We were sharing our cases...and when it came to Maggie..there was a long..long pause.

Doctor : I want to talk to you all about Palliative care. You all have been doing very well. Palliative care does not stop when patient died. We will have to follow the families for a little longer to give them support and I know some of you continue to see families. You all did the right thing. Tonight Maggie has something to share with you.

Maggie : My patient Gina, passed away two weeks ago. Lian supported her when I was on holiday. (Maggie broke down and cried. We allowed her to cry. I was crying myself...because I was also connected to Gina.)

Maggie : I went back 7 days ago. I saw Teck. He was very down. The company dismissed him because he took too many leaves within that one year to attend to his wife. He mentioned that now that he lost his job, he will not be able to pay back the debts owe to relatives and parents. He will not be able to pay back the funeral services. (Maggie paused and cried harder and she finally said...)

Maggie : Doctor had a call this morning from Teck's family and we rushed to the house. Teck committed suicide! He jumped down from their 10-storey flat in front of the two boys....He left a note saying that Gina was his motivation to live. As long as she lives, no matter how hard life was, he can bear it. Now that she is gone...there are no more reasons for him to go on. No one understands him. He had lost his job and he will not have the means to take care of the two boys. He asked that his younger brother and sister-in-law to take in the boys and love them like their own after all they have always love Jeff and Jack.

We were all crying...my heart broke....my thoughts went to the two boys...how are they taking it...how are they going to go on in life...will it be a stigma on their growing up?...Thoughts ran through my mind....endless thoughts.)

Till Death Do Us Part...a vow the married took....Is this what it means? I am in no position to comment. Is he right? Is he wrong? Who can censor him? We are not in his shoes.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My first encounter...a Muslim patient

In the whole of my Hospice journey I had two Malay/ Muslim patients. Today I want to talk about Aisha. I was asked by Matron to take this patient.

Looking at her case history, she had cancer of the stomach. Aisha worked as an attendant in a hospital. She stayed with her daughter and grandchildren in an affluent district.

Together with my partner I went to visit Aisha. I found her in good spirit and she was very happy to see us. We chatted and she got her maid to give us hot tea with yummy biscuits. As you know our Malay friends are mostly good cooks and good bakers, we were in for a treat.

As we spoke about her illness, apparently she was not ignorant about what to expect. She detailed the discovery that she had stomach cancer because she had indigestion and felt bloated all the time. She took us through her history from checkups to radiation and followed by chemo that made her lost all her hairs. She was wearing a bandanna (the type the Muslim women wear).

Although Aisha worked as an attendant in the hospital, she was well dressed and pleasant. We conversed in mixtures of Bahasa and English. This was one case that I do not have pressure. We took our leave after three hours. All these while we only saw maids and she explained that her daughter is a business woman and travels. Her grandchildren were overseas except for one which was in school. We promised we will see her soon.

The next time I saw her was two weeks later. This time she acknowledged that she had pain. She was still in good spirit and sat up to talk to me. We were in her bedroom but she insisted that she wanted to go to the living room so I helped her by holding her arm. This time she told me a little about her life story. She was divorced from her husband who cheated her of the retirement CPF to keep a woman in Batam. She was very upset and sad in the beginning and when she got this illness, she forgives him. I saw her discomfort and took her back to the room to lie down. She held on to my hand and closed her eyes. I knew she was lonely. Although she lived in a nice landed property with maids and she had nothing to worry about food and money, mentally she was lonely. The children gave her all the best medications and care but that probably was not enough.

Many of us overlooked that for a dying patient, it is not just physical pain that we need to be sensitive, we need to be sensitive about mental pain too. I rubbed her body and felt that she was hot so I told the maid to give me panadol and a tower. I stayed with her until evening..

Following weekend I went to see her again. When I entered the house, the maid told me that Aisha was in bad pain. I walked into her room and when she saw me, she held out her hand. She kissed my hand and held it tightly. I saw her breathing hard and I am sure the pain was bad. I am amazed at this woman. With so much pain she still did not groaned or uttered a word. The pressure she applied on my hand spoke volumes. I knew the time was near. I told the maid ‘Please gather the family’. The maid went out and a young man strolled in. He introduced himself as Aman and he is the grandson. I told him to gather his relatives and call his mother.

All these while Aisha held on to my hand and closed her eyes. I saw the heaved from the breathing. I told my partner to call the Hospice doctor. I checked and realized that the doctor had administered morphine by a syringe. I spoke to her…

Lian : Aisha, how are you feeling?
Aisha : sakit….(she breath in and out heavily)
Lian : I have called the Doctor and they will be here soon.
Aisha : I am frightened Lian.
Lian : Aisha, relax and let go. There is nothing you should be afraid of. You have been a good person, a good mother and a good grandmother.
Aisha : (nodded her head..and did not speak).

Aman came in again. I saw the sadness in his eyes and I saw tears. He went to hold his grandmother’s hand and begged for forgiveness. Aisha did not open her eyes. Relatives started to arrive. They came into the room, held Aisha’s hand and spoke softly into her ears but she did not open her eyes. They sat around doing prayers. The men came too but they all sat outside the room. Among the congregation, I am the only Chinese girl. A bit wired isn’t it? Aisha held on to my hand and I am not able to move or go anywhere. I was hoping to give some private moment to her relatives because some were sitting around her bed looking at her and curious about me.

I could see Aisha slipping way. Her elder sister came and sat at her side. She called out to Aisha and Aisha opened her eyes slightly but I saw that her eye focus was not there anymore. She probably recognized the voice and wanted to take a last look at her sister.

Doctor arrived and checked on Aisha. She spoke to Aman and his Mum. They were expecting that Aisha will pass away that night. Doctor did her duty and left a message that they call her when it happened so that she could sign the death certificate. Doctor patted my shoulder and asked if I am OK. I nodded my head. I stayed with Aisha until 11.30pm. More and more people arrived. The room was getting crowded. Aisha was silently heaving but she still held on to my hand. I looked at my watch and I said to her daughter that I should take my leave and let them have some private moment with her mother.

Aziza : Mak, Lian is going back. It is late so you let go her hand.
Lian : Aisha, I should leave now. Your daughter and relatives are here and they will stay with you.

Unexpectedly Aisha opened her eyes very wide. She looked at me. It was like she wanted to look at me for the last time. All these while she did not even open her eyes to look at her relatives. I was very touched. Between us, it was mutual…it is not words…but the look and the tenderness in the stare that she said ‘thank you and good-bye’. She unwillingly let go my hand. I took my leave. Aman promised to call me if Aisha passed away. I took the last bus home and I arrived home half an hour when I received Aman’s called that his grandmother has just passed away.

Muslim law is such that the body cannot be kept and because Aisha passed away at night, they arranged for all the cleaning, wrapping and prayers. Aisha was buried when dawn breaks.

I said goodbye to Aisha mentally and wish her well. I saw a documentary that when a Muslim die, the person leading the prayers will teach the dead person what to say when they are resurrected. It goes something like this…I may not remember them in the correct sequences..

Ask : Who is your God?
Answer : Allah is my God

Ask : What is your religion?
Answer : Islam is my religion

Ask : Who is your prophet?
Answer : Mohammad is my prophet.

…..and it goes on. During burial, women are not allowed to go to the cemetery.

Aisha is a wonderful person and I am glad I have known her.

Friday, June 5, 2009

My first encounter - AIDS

I supported an AIDS patient because he asked for Buddhist counselors

When this case was brought up in our weekly meeting, Doctor asked whether any Team is keen to embark on the case. Not all Teams are Buddhist counselors. We were asked whether we will like to consider the possibility. Thoughts floated through my mind as I knew that AiDS is a contagious disease. From all the rumors that you will get it when you come into contact with a with full blown AIDS made me hesitate.

Both I and my partner pondered for a while and finally we decided that we will give it a go. We asked the doctor a few questions.

1) How should we handle this patient?
2) Can we touch him - like shake his hands?
3) How can we avoid getting infected?
4) All the myths about AIDS, what to believe and what to drop?

With this, we learnt that AIDS virus died immediately it hit the air. We will not get AIDs breathing the same air as the patient. We were told to wear gloves. This is for precaution. AIDS will not be transmitted when shaking hands but if we have a cut and we are not aware of it, there is an opening for AIDS virus to enter the body.

SEX is the transmission of AIDS. Unprotected Sex. Myth that Gay gets AIDS but it is not true. Even the Heterosexual is prone to AIDS. This is due to a series of sexual partners. Transmission has many ways e.g oral - saliva, sexual contact without condoms, reused syringes, blood transfusion etc.

I wondered all these while where are AIDS patients housed? This place is not publicized openly and therefore I will not mention it here. My purpose is to avoid people flooding this place as if it is a Zoo. It is also to keep the privacy of these sufferers as many do not want the public to know or their friends to know. When we heard someone has AIDS or HIV, the public shunned them. People point fingers and talked about them like they deserved it. My old lady Boss told me once 'Lian, Sex is beautiful...but this is Sex gone wrong'.

So off we went to visit this gentleman named Bob. He was 28 years old. He last worked in a hotel as an Assistant Manger of F&B (Food and Beverage). He contacted HIV positive 2 years ago. He went through treatment but his immune system did not respond to the drug. Now he has full blown AIDS and of course he was waiting for his 'final call'.

When we entered the hospital, we saw each room has a patient. The nurse in charge gave us a white plastic overall and gloves.

As we walked along the corridor, I peeped into rooms. I saw patient moaning in pain, I saw patients wearing nothing but pampers - yes, those that baby wears. I saw some tossing in beds. There was a group of 5 men sitting in a common area talking to each other. They were patients too. They looked at us with curiosity. I later learnt from Nurse that there are minimum visitors to these quarters because of privacy. We finally came to a room.

Nurse : Bob, how are you today. Look, you have visitors...(she smiled).
Bob : (was lying in bed and when he saw us, he sat up) Hi, you must be the Buddhist volunteers I asked for.
Lian : Hi Bob, my name is Lian, this is Steve.
Bob : Hi Lian and Hi Steve!

He thanks us for so sincerely extending our friendship and indicated a chair for us to sit down. Steve was apprehensive and he decided to remain standing. To avoid hurting Bob, I sat down.

Bob : I have no visitor and I have no friends now. My family is vexed and they felt ashamed to visit me. They are afraid that neighbors, relatives and friends know that they have a son who has AIDS.
Lian : I am sorry to hear this Bob.
Bob : Is this the first time you are having an AIDS patient? You both looked a bit worried and lost. (Oh...sh*ts! was it so obvious?)
Lian : (I decided to be opened) Yes, Bob. We have not had an AIDS patient before. We were wondering what we should say and what we should not say. We do not want to hurt you further. I am sorry for our insensitivity, we really do not mean it that way. We are not experience enough.
Steve : Sorry Bob.

Bob started to talk about the hospital. It is on the ground floor and opened into the green lawn outside. Birds were chirping from a few nearby trees. It was breezy. He told us that he used to visit certain temples and we spoke about various masters that we know and laugh about our ignorant in practicing. Bob was a kind man, he puts us at ease and he succeeded. Steve started to sit on the arm of the armchair I was sitting on. We had good time exchanging Buddhist news.

I took stock of this young man. He was good looking. He spotted a GI hair style and it is easier to keep and clean. Probably lost lots of weight but he still looked good. From the time with him, I kept hearing moans from a nearby room. After two hours, we took our leave. We asked if he wanted us to bring him anything the next time we come. Bob said no.

On our way out, I peeped into the room with the moaning man. I saw a nurse with him. She was fully wrapped from 'top to toe'. I saw soars on the arms, legs and body of the moaning man. Are these AIDS boils?

We walked out of the premises with a heavy heart. I have never really understood AIDS except that it is deadly and doctor have no cure for it. How was it transmitted and where it came from has a long trace back to Africa it seems. Although talks about careful sex and what should be done, man is thinking ‘I may not be so unlucky, try’ and BINGO! Caught it!

We went back to see Bob after a week. He looked thinner. We saw sores forming on his arms and some liquid were seen. Bob said it won’t be long. He actually looked forward to it. He said it is going to be painful and he did not want us to see him in that state. So this should be our last visit.

Bob told us that he contacted HIV positive from his girl friend. They have been together for many years. At one time the girl friend was posted overseas for training for 6 months. Apparently she contacted it from someone whom she had sex and transmitted it to Bob. Bob was not aware of her sexual activities. He started to have symptom of flu and persisting fever, constant headache, sore throats and muscle aches. He later had bleeding nose. When she saw Bob developing such, she confessed to him that she had caught HIV but she was not aware of it when it was transmitted to Bob. She had tested positive and was on medication. Bob went to see a doctor and after all the tests, the results confirmed the worst. They had splited up. She died half a year ago and now Bob is dying too.

It was a sad story. A betrayal of love and it brings heartache and death. Bob said that he had been faithful and he was looking forward to a marriage life. We really do not know our partner do we? The trusts accorded are not treated with respect. People cheat anytime they have the chance. When I am typing this, my heart still ached for Bob.

He passed away 2 weeks later. We did not see him. I saw with my own eyes how a dead AIDS patient was wrapped up in black colored garbage bags, sealed and tied. I asked whether they were sent for embalming and back home for wake? The answer was no. The body was sent straight for cremation. What a way to die. In pain, in shame, no proper clean up, nor family members to say good-bye. Of all the terminally ill, AIDS is the saddest.

I believe one should be loyal to one’s partner. Mum always says ‘Forbidden fruits taste the sweetest’. Anything ‘stolen’ is thrilled and fun but it brings death.

I have no more advice on this issue – SEX and AIDS. The authority is doing all it can. The education of safe sex is everywhere. The recent survey showed a drop in AIDS in Singapore but it doesn’t mean we are safe.

On Bob’s first anniversary, Steve and I joined the lighting of candles on World Aids Day to remember our friend who died of this incurable illness. We joined in the quilt project. Many people were sobbing in these gatherings, many...who lost their love ones to this terrible ‘life snatcher’. I pray that all those that died rest in peace.

Please practice safe Sex.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My first encounter - Embalming

I have always wonder what goes on behind closed door in the backyard of a funeral parlor. Did anyone of you ever wonder? Since kiddo, I am both inquisitive and yet scare to know. I heard rumors that the undertakers will take off the whole organs of the dead persons. Imagine a person holding up the whole bloody looking lungs, heart, intestines....etc.

I know this topic is both gross and morbid. However my curiosity was answered. I witnessed a total embalming procedure. This is due to one of my patient passing away.

When I got his file, I read through his history and as usual did my house visit. Ah Tan lived with his wife and three children in a four-room HDB in the West. He was a lorry driver. His wife was a homemaker. One elder boy just got into secondary one, second girl in Primary 5 and one boy in Primary one. The company that Mr Tan worked with has been giving them money since he was sick. They had insurance and the wife family also supported them financially.

When we arrived, a young lady opened the door.

Steve: Hello, I am Steve and this is Lian. We are from Hospice. Can we see Mr Tan.
Lady: Please come in. He is in the room.
We moved into the master bedroom. As usual I scanned the family environment. It was neat. This means that they are handling well.
Lian : Are you Mrs Tan?
Lady: No, I am Mrs Tan's sister. I am Mandy. My sister went to the temple with my mother to pray for my brother in law.
Lian: Oh I see.
Mandy: They will be back soon.
I saw a big eye girl with jet black hair. She is dressed in school white top and blue short. She probably just got back from school after school physical exercise class. I also saw a little boy in white uniform too. He must be the youngest boy. I smiled at them.
Lian: Hi, I am Lian, What is your name?
Little girl: My name is Ling Ling and my brother is Jason.
Lian: Good to know you. I am Lian and this is Uncle Steve (I shake their hands).
Mandy showed us to the room. Mr Tan was lying in bed. He was wheezing when he breathed.
Lian : Hello Mr Tan, we are from Hospice. How are you feeling today?
Mr Tan : (He shakes his head breathlessly). No good and I have pain (in Hokkien).
Steve looked at his medicine and he had a morphine syringe embedded into his arm.
Steve : With this (pointing at the morphine) you still feel painful?
Mr Tan : Yes, I cannot talk too much. (We heard him wheezing when he spoke).

Mrs Tan came back with the mother in law. She acknowledged us. She went to talk to her husband and gave him a charm that they got from the temple. We were ushered to the living room and Mrs Tan joined us.

During our conversation, Mrs Tan cried. The little girl was leaning against her mother and the little boy was hanging onto his mother’s arm. They both looked puzzled and at the same time needed to cling onto Mum for protection. Mrs Tan told us that she worried that the children education will be affected. We told her not to worry and we will request for social worker to call on her. The social workers will be able to assist to arrange with school for bursary etc.

Mrs Tan spoke about her husband illness, about support from the families and friends. She acknowledged the support of the husband's company and his colleagues. This is a fortunate family. They have all the support from people who love and care about them. We reassured her that she can call us anytime she needs us. With that we took our leave. On a Wednesday at about 3pm I had a call.

Mrs Tan : Lian, please come fast. I think my husband is dying. (She cried loudly on the phone).
Lian : Mrs Tan calm down. Let me call the doctor for you. (I heard the children crying in the background).
Lian : Is no one there with you?
Mrs Tan : I have no one here with me except the children. I called our family and they are rushing down. Lian, please come fast, please (she cried loudly).
Lian : Mrs Tan, I will take leave from the company and will come down as soon as I hand over some works. You stay calm for the sake of the children. (She stopped crying loudly. I heard the children calling 'Papa, Papa, Papa'. I felt so sad and I cried for them. At such a tender age and they are losing their father).

I asked for a few hours leave and rushed to the house with Steve. I know Mrs Tan must be sad, helpless, frightened and lost. I wish I had wings and I can fly there.

As we entered the house, we saw Mr Tan's body in the living hall. The three children were sitting around the body. I saw a gentleman with pails, plastic bags, hose, needle, scissors, knife and the place have a terrible medicinal smell around. It got into my nose and stayed there.

Steve sat with the children while I went into the children's bedroom. When Mrs Tan saw me, she rushed over, hugged me and cried. When the children heard her crying, they were crying in the living room too. I let Mrs Tan cried. I did not stop her. Her body was convulsing and jerking from the extreme sadness of losing her beloved husband. Mrs Tan's family started to arrive. They all went into the room and sat with her. I left for the living room.

When I sat down, I saw the man inserting a knife into the abdomen and held a plastic bag. He kept pressing the stomach of the dead man. I saw liquid, feces and blood draining out. He poured them into a pail next to him and continued to press. Oh My God, I was thinking how he could do this in front of the children. I was shocked and dumb folded. Imagined what will go into the children's mind seeing their Dad handled like this?

I realized that this is the process of embalming. They need to get as much as these 'rubbish' out of the body. He kept pressing the stomach, I huged the little girl. I do not want to sound alarmed so that I do not frighten the children. Steve looked at me and in his eyes I know he was asking am I OK. I nodded my head and he nodded his head. How many pails...? The man sewed up the hole he made and proceeded to cut a hole below the neck. He did the same thing.

I looked at him and he had a blanked face. I wondered whether he had feeling or it is a matter of a work? He continued to press and more water and blood came out. I lost count how many times he pressed the body. I saw bags and bags of water and blood. I realized that we have more water than blood in the body. He closed up the hole. He sewed it neatly. He poured all the items in the pails into the toilet bowl and flushed them away. GOSH! Imagine sitting on that toilet bowl? This time he took out a bottle of liquid. It was so pungent...this must be the liquid use for embalming - formaldehyde. The purpose of doing this is to delay the dead body from decomposition and to promote hygiene and suppressed bad smell.

Later he went to ask Mrs Tan for the apparels for the dead man. He proceeds to clean, dress up and make up the face of the dead man.

Can you imagine I sat through the whole process?

In my volunteering journey in Hospice, I have seen things that I never imagine I have the guts to do so. If I have to do so purposely, I will not do it. Most of the time I chance upon it...and therefore have no time to FEAR about it.

I can see that the Undertaker respected and treated the body carefully. However I still cannot agree that he did the embalming openly and in front of children

Monday, June 1, 2009

I've never been to me....

This is one song in particular that I like. It is very much a woman song. I mean about woman, their desires, their sacrifices, their dreams, their venerability and what is the status of woman in the eye of men and the World.

The song goes about a woman, got 'locked' up doing all the routines. Once married a woman is tied down with all marriage commitments. I particularly like the verse "a regimented' wife. Yup, like in the army, you follow discipline. Be it in the East nor in the West, Women although fought for equal rights...but is there? We hold important positions in the society, in the countries in the World but we are still secondary to the Men. We are daughters, wives and mothers.

However in a woman, there is a free spirit. She wants to be free. To be able to make her own decision and with added responsibilities, she wants her place to be seen, heard and recognized.

However sexist reigns long ago. Women who moves around in the society are named 'society women'. They have to make rooms if they want to move in the affluent arena. You have to have look, you have to have connections, you must be able to play the games and men only treated such women as plaything.

The beauty of this song that I like so much...is...A woman is not complete if she is not a mother. I cannot agree more. The blood, sweat and tears of a woman in motherhood, irregardless of what she went through...if you ask her again...she will still go through all the pain to be a mother.

This song is beautifully sang by Charlene. The lyrics are so well written that whoever sings it will still brings out the forlorn, the longing, the deception, the price a woman has to pay to play this game. Sadly to say after going from pauper to richness, bright lights and glamour, fast cars and parties...to realize that all these are but illusions. It is nothing like being a mother and that... makes one a complete woman.

To me this song teaches self respect. All that glitters are not gold. All the pretty pretty faces one day will wrinkle and grow old. All the richness and glamour will one day disappear and wasted time in chasing something unrealistic will make one regret that she has wasted her time.

You would say that I think this way because of my religion. You are not wrong. How than can one work on salvation if one do not recognized the fact that everything in 'Red Dust' is but passing fantasy?

But after saying and knowing all these, it is harmless that I indulge myself with all these songs and lyrics and sing along. It helps me to understand emotions better. It helps me to understand sufferings better. It makes me realized that there is nothing that is not changing because we live in 'Red Dust'. When the wind blows, the dust formation changes and the wind will keep blowing.