Tuesday, December 19, 2017

One life

An acquaintance just bought a sports car....you know, the flame-red turbo-charged coupe type. The kind I thought you'd buy if you struck a lottery.
Or when going through a mid-life crisis. :P
Anyway, he said a-matter-of-factly that he has only one life & wants to live it to the fullest. At 60+, that doesn't leave him much time.
On the other hand, I thought a-matter-of-factly, that if you only have one life, you shouldn't be making so many enemies.
Ha, ha. I am just being my cynical self.

The Good Samaritan

This is the oft narrated parable of old. It tells of a Jew who was waylaid by robbers on a quiet road. Battered & bruised, he lay helpless as a fellow Jew and subsequently a lecture priest walked by without so much as lifting a finger to help. Finally, a Samaritan (a native of Samaria whom the Jews regard & detest as a tainted race) came to his rescue. Dressed & clothed him & placed him in the care of an innkeeper & footing his expenses.
Friends helping each other is common practice but for a stranger or an adversary to do likewise is indeed commendable.
Recently, my daughter spent time in hospital with a classmate she hardly knew when the latter's mother was admitted with a critically illness. Truth be told, compassion is an attribute she rarely displays, so this came as a pleasant surprise to me.
Shortly later, she was in some distress waiting for her year-end exam results, having been
unsure of one of the papers she sat for. That got the wife in sixes and sevens, but the boy and I weren't perturbed.
All things worked for good to those that love God and are called according to their purpose. Paul said so, and I held on to the premise, that her act of random kindness at the hospital will provide reassurance she will pull thru.
It does and she did.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

final destination

If you have seen the movie, you'll be convinced you can't escape death. The movie makers & movie-goers alike must also believe it because there were another 4 sequels after that.

I have seen three of my late colleagues in the obituary page - one from a stroke, another from a delibitating disease & the 3rd from a ravaging cancer. Then I look at myself in context & wonder whether mine will be cut short like in the movie.

If my number had been up, it would have happened years ago.

When I was about 12, I tried to mimic a pole vaulter at the home garden. Strung a rope across & used a stick to jump over. Fell awkwardly facedown & felt excruciating pain over the whole abdomen. On hindsight, I could have ruptured the liver or spleen.

When I was 14, I opened the fridge at home during a thunderstorm & felt a sharp slap-like pain at the back of my calf. Was that a teeny-weeny electrocution?

When I was 27, before I could afford a car, I rode the motorbike to do part-time locum at a clinic along Jalan Jelutong, Penang. Many times, I had to stop in the middle of the road while waiting to turn right. If you live in Penang, you will know it's a very busy road & I had to depend on the goodwill of vehicles passing behind me to keep a safe distance.

When I was 29, while driving down from Penang to KL, I drifted off to the left of the main trunk road (before the NSE was opened) & as a reflex, turned the steering wheel excessively to the right & the car jumped up the kerb & veered sharply to the opposite lane. I lived to tell the tale because there was no oncoming traffic.

My personal belief, and I stress personal, is that my time is not yet up because in the grand scheme of things, there must be a role I still need to play, the reason for my very existence, as is for everyone else who is still alive.

It is my wish that all of us do whatever we can, while we still can, for the betterment of mankind.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

student nurses

nurses played a major role in my life.

my mother was one and that may have inspired me to follow a certain career pathway, but there were student nurses in the hospitals that I trained at or worked in that changed my outlook in adult life.

I thought I had found the girl of my dreams before I left for varsity. We went steady for over 3 years despite the long distance relationship & during term time, we kept in contact through public phones & letters.

It all changed when I started going to the wards during the clinical years. There was this student nurse PB in the surgical ward that drove me crazy. Her friendly & bubbly personality gave me crazy ideas. Like if I didn't see her in the morning, I would make it a point to pretend to see the patients during her afternoon or night shift. Her roster was on the notice board, that's how I tracked her movement ....*evil laugh*

my preoccupation with her drove me to break off with the erstwhile girlfriend, who was distraught beyond words. what do you expect, one day it was lovey-dovey...the next, it's adieu. well, not really because our parents knew each other well, so it wasn't really a clean break.

Coming back to PB, the chemistry was definitely there but it somehow just wasn't enough to clinch the deal. The one memorable moment I spent with her wasn't alone with her but at her home with her parents during Chinese New Year. Her mum was truly charming & I was sure PB inherited that attribute from mum. We remained friends to this day.

After that, I got to know CP, a classmate of PB. Like PB, she stayed at the nurses' hostel, so it was easy to meet. CP is from Penang, so we continued where we left off after I graduated & did housemanship in Penang. Just when I thought I will clinch it this time, she married someone else - the son of the landlady she was renting from. I attended her wedding but was a tad disappointed she couldn't or wouldn't or didn't wait for me. I still see her at church when I go back to Penang. Our families have met & we remained friends.

Then came AE...a student nurse at the Penang Hospital. Woo hoo......she really got me eating off her fingers. Bubbly, charming & intelligent....graduated top of the class even. Even met her parents when I spent a weekend at her home. This one was definitely a "done deal" but guess what?

I got cold feet & chickened out. Eventually, she married my colleague - personally & frankly, I think she was better off with him.

Which begs the question : was I really ever ready to commit in the 1st place? Probably not because there was a string of short term relationships after that which never really took off....no lasting chemistry...no sparks.....

But three years later, the stars ignited & planets lined in place. The one I thought will never happen ....the outside bet...the dark horse....actually did. After a 2-year courtship, we married.

Oh yes, she also a nurse.

(did I not allude to this at the beginning?)

Monday, November 06, 2017


The exam starts today. I sat for its predecessor, the HSC, when it was in English.

I didn't feel I had prepared well for it & I remember I had a particularly torrid time with the Biology papers. The results certainly reflected that sentiment.

How I ended up doing Medicine is a rags to riches story.

Just take my word for it - zero to hero.


Sunday, November 05, 2017


The exam starts tomorrow. It used to be called MCE when the language of instruction was still in English. It's a faint memory for me but I remember the 1st and last papers well.

Traditionally, BM is the 1st paper. I remember writing 3-4 pages of karangan. The answer sheet has a hole punched in the upper left corner & a string is used to tie the sheets together. On each, the student was supposed to write the index number & IC number. However I wrote them only on the 1st sheet but forgot to write it on the subsequent ones. If the sheets got separated, unlikely if fastened securely, then only the 1st sheet can be traced to me. Imagine the anxiety I went through for the rest of the exam lasting 3 weeks and another 3 months waiting for the results. 

The last paper was Add Maths & it fell on the day AFTER my birthday. Unfortunately, my best bud came a-calling on my birthday, thinking Add Maths was a walk in the park for me, so we ended up chatting & going out for dinner. Didn't get home till about 9pm, which gave me just a couple of hours to revise. 

I scraped thru with a P7 for BM, still enough to get into 6th Form and got a C3 for Add Maths, which dismissed the notion about the stroll in the park.

All the best, SPM candidates, esp to those in flood-hit Penang.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Specs #2

I didn't stay long in the last class. After a couple of good monthly test results, I got promoted to J class, was made class monitor by midyear, & went on to stay in EC till 6th Form.

I met 2 best buds there - TS in Form 3, a fellow chess & football enthusiast whose sister I had the hots for, and TzC in 6th Form, a fellow delinquent & partner in crime.

I then had 4 other crushes in quick succession, one in Lower Six & THREE in Upper Six. How I got into Medicine despite the bruises is another tale for another day.

I had 4 soon-to-be eminent schoolmates - 2 captains of industry (Liew at Setia/EcoWorld and Jamal at Maxis/Axiata), a chief minister (Khaled) and royalty (HM the Sultan).

Believe me when someone tells you that school days are the best times in one's life.


That was the name the BM teacher called me in Form One. She didn't know my name then & I was the only one in class with glasses.

There were 10 classes of Form One that year, Form I A to F, then J to M. I was in Form 1M, the last class.

That was an anomaly that year. The premier secondary school for boys was EC. Every smart kid wants to get in but admission is by location; you get in if you live in the area. I lived far from that & ended up in the not-so-glamorous neighbourhood school, SAB. As we were gathering to register on the 1st day of school at SAB, after much delay & confusion, we were told to report at EC the next day.

Because we were not the original EC batch, we were temporarily allocated to J-M classes and because they couldn't trace my Secondary School entrance test results, I was arbitrarily banished to the bunch-of-losers last class.

Yes, that's me, Specs, starting secondary school right at the bottom of the pit. But there's one consolation, though - from thereon, there's only only one way to go.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ten ten

Some one took the trouble to create such a day. I wouldn't have known about it had not someone posted on FB.

Not sure how to celebrate it, if at all. For me, all I want is for the patient to leave the operating room alive and healed.

That alone is reward enough.


Sunday, October 08, 2017

some loose ends tied

it was a pretty good week...

the real Unifi guys finally turned up.....I meant not the earlier pretenders who came & checked up the place and yadda.....yadda......yadda......can only do internal wiring....Telekom need to pull the external wires from the router box....RM500 excluding the modem....

a whole month after registering for it, the earlier installers really gave me the run-around.....and finally, Unifi finally sent these fellas who did everything in one go, for just extra RM200.

oh yes, there are more than a few installers out to make a quick buck.

and finally, got the daughter's accommodation sorted out for the next (and last) 2 years of her course. every year at this time, since she has been in varsity, we agonized whether she could secure a place to stay near the varsity and we are glad this predicament is a thing of the past.

hope your week has been good, too.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

a wedding dinner in 2017

My colleague's son is having his wedding dinner at an upmarket hotel.

For the 1st time ever, in addition to the menu, this was placed on the table...

Personally, I didn't think it was a good idea. It's as if the diners don't already have enough of surfing at home, at work or while waiting at the traffic lights. But then it's the sign of the times. Even if the free wifi is not provided, most will already have their own data plans anyway, but with this added service, it will certainly encourage more people to surf in between & during dishes.

So, if you don't mind, just hold the yam seng while I reply to my WhatsApp message.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

10 commandments of marriage

Commandment 1.
Marriages are made in heaven. But then again, so is thunder and lightning.

Commandment 2.
If you want your wife to listen and pay strict attention to every word you say, talk in your sleep.

Commandment 3.
Marriage is grand -- and divorce is at least 100 grand!

Commandment 4.
Married life is very frustrating. In the first year of marriage, the man speaks and the woman listens.
In the second year, the woman speaks and the man listens. In the third year, they both speak and the neighbors listen.

Commandment 5.
When a man opens the door of his car for his wife, you can be sure of one thing:
Either the car is new or the wife is.

Commandment 6.
Marriage is when a man and woman become as one;
The trouble starts when they try to decide which one.

Commandment 7.
Before marriage, a man will lie awake all night thinking about something you say.
After marriage, he will fall asleep before you finish.

Commandment 8.
Every man wants a wife who is beautiful, understanding, economical, and a good cook.
But the law allows only one wife.

Commandment 9.
Marriage and love are purely a matter of chemistry.
That is why sometimes they treat each other like toxic waste.

Commandment 10.
A man is incomplete until he is married.
After that, he is finished.

Bonus Commandment Story.
A long married couple came upon a wishing well. The wife leaned over, made a wish and threw in a penny. The husband decided to make a wish too. But he leaned over too much, fell into the well, and drowned. The wife was stunned for a moment, but then smiled, 'It really works!

** #8 is my personal favourite**

Friday, September 22, 2017

primum non nocere

that, in latin, means 1st, do no harm.

i've not always adhered to that principle - blame it on immaturity, anger, or just plain callousness. i recalled an incident very early in my training when the senior consultant of the department ( aka The Boss) hauled me into his office to give me a mouthful.

on that morning, i had a dispute with a consultant of another department over the management of a child. in anger, i walked out on the child, to whom i had just given some sedation. that consultant rightly complained to my Boss about what i just did (the argument & subsequent abandonment of the child) & that was just 1 of many reprimands for wrongdoing in my career. yeah, i was a serial offender - bad, bad doctor!

however, i learned valuable lessons that day....

1st, my patient becomes my responsibility, no matter what i had for breakfast, how miserable i felt or who i fought with. his well-being is my priority.

2nd, to err is human, to forgive is divine. my Boss censured me in the privacy of his office, thereby sparing me the humiliation of a public flogging. that, IMHO, constituted a pardon in itself, & till this day, i appreciated that magnanimous gesture. therefore, it was with much sadness when i read last year that he had passed away from cancer.

so, it's ok to be human - to resent, to antagonise, to show displeasure. were we not from the fallen beings of eden? paul has this valuable counsel:

"in your anger do not sin. do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." ephesians 4 : 26,27

** this post is a saved draft from 2007. I don't remember why I didn't post it then, but here it is...a reminder to myself that it's OK to start badly but must finish strong **

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Trigger happy nurse

No, she didn't use firearms but was certainly quick to the draw.

These are 2 monitoring devices we use for patients in the ICU. One for arterial blood pressure, the other for central venous pressure. Sometimes we use one, sometimes the other and sometimes both, depending on the patient's condition.

This time, I just wanted one but the nurse without thinking, opened both sets. Why, I asked, and she replied she thought I normally use both. Of course, that's just an excuse for her own error, the cost of which the patient will unfortunately bear.

Some days, I do wish they'd stop thinking and listen more instead. Ah....now I get it, 2 ears but 1 brain and 1 mouth...does that mean to listen more but think & talk less?

Whatever, there will still be an additional (but unnecessary) of RM124 plus GST to the patient's bill.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Double whammy

As if having an allergy is not enough, how about having an allergy to the medication used to treat the initial allergy??
40 year old woman admitted for nose surgery. In the OT, just before commencement, she developed an allergic reaction to the anti-vomiting injection. We treated the severe coughing and breathlessness with alternative medications, for fear of triggering another allergic reaction should the standard anti-allergic injection be used. The surgery was subsequently postponed for safety sake.
The allergic reaction subsided the next day & surgery proceeded with no further untoward incident, with administration of alternative anti-vomiting injection.
We really have no idea what we are allergic to until we develop it. Some  are mild, e.g. to prawns, while other maybe severe or even life-threatening, e.g. to peanuts. As doctors, we were taught how to treat it, but it is safest to avoid the offending food or medication, if we are aware of it. Patients should communicate these previous incidents to their doctors, too.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Good deed for the day...no, nite.

Do you remember the last time you went beyond, maybe even far, far beyond, the call of duty, or in this case, for the sake of friendship, to do a favour for a friend?

My ex-classmate AT rarely calls me; the last time he did, he wanted to find out about schools in S'pore because my daughter went thru that path. This time, at 2am, he called me to ask for the contact of our other ex-classmate (TI) because the latter's son studied in UK. AT is currently in UK, hence the desperate 2am call, to send his son to the same university.

The tricky part is that I myself don't have TI's contact because we communicated only thru FB or Messenger. The truth is that, not being particularly close to AT, I could have just said I don't have TI's contact & go on to sleep (2am, remember?).

But I know I wouldn't be able to, with an unresolved issue in the backburner. Anyway, the happy ending is that I messaged TI, who should be asleep, to inform him that AT is trying to contact him & added AT's contact.

The next morning, I read TI's message that they have contacted each other. But not a word, least of all, one of thanks, from AT.

**if AT had thanked me profusely, or got me a token something from UK, I suppose I wouldn't consider this a good deed. Get it? Heh, heh**

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

26-year memory lane

I met up with an ex-colleague over the weekend after a lapse of 26 ( yes, TWENTY SIX !!) years. And we both concurred that we didn't change much physically, as we immediately recognised each other.

Initially, we feared we had lost much that we had in common before, besides being in the same discipline, but when we took that walk down that decade-old memory lane, the flood gates just opened.

Having pre-dinner drinks at his clubhouse, he ordered 2 glasses of Guinness draught, only to realise that I don't take stout. So, to accommodate me, he ordered a beer. When I asked him about the other glass of stout, he coolly said he'll polish that off as well.

Spoken like a true ex-pubcrawler. Four of us did one crawl back in 1990 during the World Cup Finals. Besides our interest in watching the game, one other thing we shared after that crawl was the drain we all peed into when we didn't feel bothered to look for a washroom.

And yes, we all became (respected??) medical specialists several years after that.
Woo hoo !!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A tale of 3 siblings.

T was my Best Bud in secondary school. We clicked because of our interest in chess and football. I then came to know his family very well.

T is the eldest of 3 siblings. We played chess in school & at our homes, talked and played football at other times. He supported Spurs while his younger brother J supported Liverpool, so we really had a good banter every time we met.

T is in banking in Canada, and I keep saying I will visit but haven't yet did, while J runs an entertainment outlet in our hometown in JB.

M is the little sister, now in Sydney, whom I had the hots for (and their parents didn't mind....woo hoo!!) and sure, many times I have wondered what could have been but that's a story for another post.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

An Act of Random Kindness

My Primary One class teacher, Pn RB, passed away last year. I've only  fond memories of her. You see, I was the proverbial teacher's pet & it helped that my parents were friends with her.
One particular incident endeared her to me in a life-long way. I was 1st in class in the mid-term tests but came in 3rd for the year-end exams. I bawled like a spoilt brat because of the high expectation and failure to maintain top position. However, later in the day, I was told that I was actually 1st because of a calculation error.

I knew that was not the case only years later. I was 7 and naive. I recalled the ink correction to the test marks & came to realise what Pn RB did for me, to make me look good. An undeserved act of random kindness.

I  did feel sorry for my classmates, FM & WW, both of whom remained my FB friends but don't read this blog. One of them should have been 1st & the other, 2nd.

I continued to study hard & work diligently & I write this for closure.
Thank you and rest in peace, Pn RB.

Old timer

This 60+ gentleman has been with the hospital since it started in 1990. He's an operating theatre assistant, preparing the room & helping the surgeons during surgeries. Very likeable chap & adept at his work.

Also very conscientious. Here he is preparing the OT table well over an hour before surgery is due to commence. I state this in contrast to the lackadaisical work attitude of the younger generation.

Preparing the OT is like a pre-flight check. Would you board a plane scheduled to take-off at 2pm when the crew only starts checking at 2pm? Which means the flight can't possibly take off at 2pm. As if there aren't enough delays already!!

That's why I appreciate this guy very much. In this case, indeed old is gold.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

what i learned at the football stadium

I was at the stadium to watch the Malaysia v Hong Kong AFC qualifying game, as I wanted to savour again the "live" experience of a competitive football match.

What a difference it was from watching in the comfort of home!! I never realised there was a section where local fans called ultras congregate and sing patriotic songs to the beat of drums...

...and no, I didn't hear them sing anything offensive to their opponents.

Speaking of patriotism, I am convinced sports is one unifying activity (food being the other) that transcends age, gender, race and religion. In unison, the crowd cheered when we scored the equalising goal & in one voice, boo-ed vociferously at the referee when he unfairly awarded an injury time penalty to the visitors. But just was served when HK missed the penalty. woo hoo!! unfortunately the stadium was less than a quarter filled, so the intense atmosphere was sadly missed.

Because it was windless, the air was a tad stale & reeking of cigarette smoke. I also missed the action replay like on television. I got distracted momentarily & completely missed the 1st goal.

Despite the unique experience at the stadium, I doubt if I would be back any time soon....

.....unless Barcelona or Real Madrid comes to town.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017


if Mr Oon had been stopped at a police check point in the wee hours of the nite, how would he explain the axe?
So glad that didn't happen. 

Instead, he was the right person at right place and time with an axe.

He deserves praise.


Monday, September 04, 2017

F1nale - another one bites the dust

I always feel sad when businesses close down, like the shuttered units at the mall, these being challenging times amid global economic slowdown. the Speedy video, aL-ikhsaN and gym equipment shops all closed within the last 3 months.

so also with the Malaysian F1 racing for the last time this month. this after the initial novelty of 1999 has worn off, plus the more attractive night race further south (alcohol on freeflow, city centre location, and entertainment by One Direction, Seal, Chainsmokers & Duran2), it's not surprising that something has to give.

with Proton, Bandar Malaysia, Forest City & Iskandar, amongst others, sold to foreign interests, the signs aren't good.

let's hope the F1nale is only restricted to motorsports racing.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

My orthopaedic colleague in another hospital is ranting.

Every time he sends patients to the Xray department, either
1) the queue is long,
2) the report takes ages to be issued

and worst of all....

3) the report is unreliable, inaccurate or inconclusive.

So, imagine you are the patient. You arrive at the clinic at 9am, see the doctor at 10am, go to the Xray department at 10.30am to see a long queue before you, get the Xray/scan done at 1pm, & wait for the report which is issued only at 4pm, and go back to the clinic only for the doctor to  tell you that the diagnosis remains uncertain.

And you may need another scan.

You spent the whole day & loads of cash only to return to square 1.

You are upset, the doctor is upset and the cycle repeats itself.

No wonder my colleague is ranting.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Saved by the ECG

33yr old male doctor admitted for nose surgery. Overweight 100kg with high cholesterol 8.7 (normal upper limit 5.2). No known medical problem.

On the operating table, it is routine to attach wires to patients for monitoring the heart & respiratory functions. This patient's ECG showed a bizarre pattern, even after adjustments were made to rule out artifacts.

When I asked him what his previous ECGs were like, he said he never had one done, understandably since he is only 33. so, I decided to postpone surgery till the cardiologist has given him the full workout.

In what I do, the patients who enters the OT alive should similarly emerge likewise.
I want to keep it that way.

**contrast this**

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Naughty post

Rojak without prawn paste;
Satay without peanut sauce;
English breakfast without bacon;
Nasi lemak without sambal;
Cendol without gula melaka;
ABC without red beans...

No lah, it's more like sex with a condom on....

Isotonic drink WITHOUT carbonation.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

My father's son

I had a bit of a rollercoaster growing up.

My father used to work with the British army in Singapore. We were quite financially well off. Staying in the clan's home, we had 2 rooms & we were the 1st family with a TV. We eventually moved out to our own home.

When the Brits withdrew, he was laid off. We tightened our belts during this difficult period. He then worked for a while with a timber company in Temerloh (Pahang) & then Paka (Trengganu), which means he was away from home a lot. When the company closed down, he came back & became a driving instructor. I still mention with much pride that I was taught by him.

He's always been thrifty in his spending. In fact, when we go to the supermarket, he'll just wait outside because he said he has nothing to buy while we filled our trolley with groceries.

I still retained that DNA. Which is why I was ecstatic when I found this ......

After all, I AM my father's son. I think I'll wear this to church tomorrow.

Friday, August 25, 2017


my son says he wants to be a pilot. either that, or play for Manchester United.

my daughter says she wants to do internal medicine. either that, or cancer research.

i feel it's good to have an ambition. at least, there's something to look forward, and work towards, to. an objective to focus & channel one's energy & time.

but the wise man has this to say....

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (prov 19:21)

i should know. after all i wanted to be a bus conductor, and then an aviation engineer.

see how i turned out.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

1st time on a plane

I was a houseman in the medical ward when this middle-aged Sarawakian gentleman, visiting Pesta Pulau Pinang with his family, suffered a massive heart attack. Although he made good recovery, he was apprehensive about returning home, so his family requested for a doctor to accompany. Guess who was given the free trip responsibility to transfer the patient home? Unrecorded leave, some more, yayy!

The journey (Penang-KL-Kucing-Sibu-Kapit) was largely uneventful. Truth be told, if anything should happen, there's not much besides CPR that I can offer but I suppose my presence was all that is required.

Reached Kapit after a nite in Sibu & a boat ride on the Rejang. Found out that the guy owned a coffee shop. Looking back, they really took care of me throughout the whole trip. Funny thing, I can't remember his name or his shop, but the name of the hotel he checked me into remained in the backburner all these years. Mahligai Kapit.....and I was treated like a king.
Thanks for the memory, Towkay.
Kapit, Jan 1985

PS. I met an old flame on the flight from Kucing to Sibu, but that's a story for another day. :P

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


 16th July 1984

1st day as a houseman, posted to the Paediatrics ward at Penang Hospital. I must confessed that I was disappointed that I didn't get my 1st choice posting to Johor Baru Hosp. Having lived away for 5 years in med school, I thought I 'd rather enjoy staying at home for a change.

As it turned out, Penang was a game changer for me. Chance for me to live fully independent in a place I am not totally unfamiliar with. I spent a week here in 1975 for a national level chess tournament and another 2 weeks in 1983 for a community health survey as part of the medical curriculum.

So, what happened in the 4 years in Penang?

Earned my 1st paycheck, found out I can date Penang girls on a motorbike, owned my 1st car, started post-grad training, spent a memorable 08-08-88 with a few close buddies and met the girl I was to marry.

(And others events I can't mentioned without getting indecent. Heh, heh!)

A game changer.

6th Form

English College, 1977

I love this class USSB. Upper Six Science B.

Marvelous Chemistry, Biology, and General Paper teachers, and special mention to the late Mr GV Pillai, Physics teacher. I did apply to be an engineer, you know, but I digress.

And my beloved classmates who were comrade-in-arms in work & play.

I'd like to think you've all impacted my life as much as I have yours. 

We should have organised our 20th year anniversary this year. 

I should have.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Never been overseas

Thailand, 1984

Other than Singapore, I have never travelled overseas until med school is over. Four of us took on this ambitious 2week self-planned tour of Thailand, as a reward for passing out as medics.

We got a ride from Penang into Haadyai with a friend & stayed with him as he showed us around town as well as a day out to Songkla.

But the real trip began when we ventured ourselves into Bangkok by bus, asking for help & directions from what little Thai we learned from guide books. No mobile phones, internet, Google maps or Agoda...it doesn't get any more basic than that.

So, we made our way to Grand Palace & Floating Market & watched a Thai boxing-cum-cultural show, all this on a shoestring 50baht-a-nite guesthouses.

Took the overnite bus to Chiangmai, & went on a boat ride on the Mekong river by Burma's border to Chiangrai, the northernmost Thai town, just for the fun of it. Watched natives smoke opium, kids beg for money & girls dance on bartops. That was the closest to anything naughty we ever did...scouts' honour. Nope, not for us the tiger shows, no siree!

That was the 1st & last time we travelled together. 2 months later, we were posted to different parts of the country to begin our new lives as working adults.

Return to Innocence

Jason Bay, 1978.

It was the 1st church camp I ever attended.
Living off well water & kerosene lamps.
Fresh (sea) air & sunshine.
Played football by the beach &
Watched sunset at dusk.

The mosquitoes were relentless but the snakes stayed away.
The camaraderie was strong & the fellowship warm.
I was a new believer.
Love was in the air but I made a mess of it.

Ha ha, that's why I will never forget this.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Right time, right place.

It's often proclaimed that wherever we are, whatever we do, it's for a reason. Like if we had not gone there, then ...... or, If we hadn't done that, then...........

If you are religious, you'd feel it's even like a divine decree.

Last Wednesday, I was at such a place and time. My scheduled case didn't not take place & at 4pm, I was just walking pass the surgical ward, getting ready to change & go off.

I got an urgent call from that ward that one of the patients I had anaesthesied earlier that morning was having a convulsion & was not conscious.

I was by the bedside before you could say Code Blue. With the help of the nurses, we proceeded to do CPR. Although the heart momentarily stopped beating, we managed to restart it because  prompt action was instituted early, which is the essence of CPR anyway.

The stay in ICU was quite stormy, and we weren't sure if the patient has suffered brain damage because he remained unconscious for 2 days after that. But on the 3rd day, as we scheduled him for  CT scan of the brain, he suddenly opened his eyes & started to respond to instructions.

All I could say was Hallelujah. It felt like a religious decree that I was at that place at that time.

The patient was discharged very much alive from hospital today.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Falling below expectation

In a way, looking back, I felt I was indifferent at best & negligent at worst.

The nurse called me last night about a late admission. This patient was supposed to have surgery this afternoon & I would usually see & assess on the morning of the surgery. Not knowing any detail of this patient, I refrained from giving any medical advice over the phone, lest it was inappropriate. Besides, once I start getting involved, I know the nurses will call me for every discomfort the patient may complain of throughout the night.

Therein lies my predicament. I am a doctor and yet I want a good nite of uninterrupted sleep, because I am not on call.

At my age, I dislike, & try to avoid, on-call duties, because I am on my worst behaviour without sleep.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Grumpy old men

I've always held the belief that as we get older & approach the sunset of our lives, we tend to be less uptight & bothered about trivial matters. But 2 recent encounters with my colleagues didn't attest to that.
The 1st, already in his mid-60s, was upset when we met in the doctors' lounge. I casually said he's come early to the lounge for breakfast. It was about 10am then. Apparently he took offence to that remark, that i implied he has no patients in his clinic. Hey, buddy, lighten up lah - it's a downturn that is affecting everyone - why do YOU think I am also in the lounge having breakfast?
The 2nd encounter just happened today, also at the lounge. This mid-50s chap remarked that I was being cynical & sarcastic when I mentioned that he was on a rampage with the food. He was already on his 2nd helping then. Hey, buddy, lighten up lah - the food is for everyone & there's more than enough to go round, even for 2nds.
So apparently I have offended 2 colleagues in as many weeks. Maybe I should look at myself. Maybe I am the grumpy one.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The elective posting

It's time for the daughter to pick the hospital elective posting for next year.

Her 1st choice is a popular district hospital 160km away because there are more hands-on & practical experiences there. She will have to find new accommodation in the district & may be on the road often.

The 2nd is the city hospital only 12km away & 25 mins by train. On top of that, she already lives near the train station. For logistic reasons, being a foreign student, I much preferred she remained in the city.

As it turned out, she was allotted the city hospital. I was glad. And I forgot to mention that had she been posted to the district, she planned on getting a car & driving the 320 km round trip every week.


Thursday, August 03, 2017

1st Christmas in the UK

this would be remembered for the wrong reasons.

i was on-call & the 1st case for the day was a 70+ year old lady for a DHS insertion, a procedure to fix a broken hip. the standard anaesthetic technique in that hospital was to give a general anaesthetic supplemented with a local anaesthetic (epidural).

the general anaesthetic went smoothly but i had some difficulty with the lumbar epidural, resulting in the accidental puncture of the dura. instead of abandoning the epidural & just have the general anaesthetic, i proceeded against better judgement to attempt again at a different (higher) level. after administrating the full 20mls of the local anaesthetic, true to form, the blood pressure crashed & the patient heart stopped. resuscitation was unsuccessful.

i can't tell you how angry i was with myself for such a novice mistake. maybe i was indifferent, maybe i was over-confident but i will never, ever forget how a lapse in concentration resulted in this unnecessary death. one good thing that came out of this was the unwavering support the consultants gave me, even at the inquiry for peri-operative morbidity and mortality.

i want to believe this made me a better doctor today & that death was not in vain.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Last day.

Having worked at the hospital for 25 years, from a shoplot practice to a new independent medical centre, and then to be part of a major healthcare chain, you'd think she'd be missed when she finally retires.

Truth be told, I can't remember the last time I have worked with a nurse so obnoxious, I just dread if we had to assist surgery in the same theatre.

I won't miss her. Seriously. Honestly.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Mini culture shock

In my 1st job in the UK, I was waiting for the hospital transport to get me to another hospital. As the van stopped in front of the lobby, a middle-aged gentleman in a full suit, coat, tie & all, disembarked from the vehicle. Trying to be friendly, I approached him.....

Me: Hi, is this the van to the WH hospital?

Him : Yes, indeed it is.

Me : By the way, I am Dr T & I am the new SHO. And you are Dr........?

Him : I am Ray & I am the hospital porter.

Lesson #1 : in the UK, most men in the service industry, from top down, wear full suits.

Lesson #2 : Introduction is commonly by 1st names.

Therein, began my memorable 4-year sojourn in a foreign country.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Looks are deceptive

My friend's daughter is having her wedding reception dinner tonite. I am going to be late. I am thinking about the peer pressures of the modern day matching of life long mates.

I sensed that my friend was a bit disappointed. You see, the bride is a dentist and it would be expected by some quarters that she would pick someone with a similar honorific, e.g. Dr. Whether she wouldn't or couldn't doesn't matter, at least to me. I played table tennis with the guy last week and from that brief encounter, I was impressed with his soft spoken manners & politeness.

Doesn't matter if he's just plain looking or just an architect. He's in for the long haul. A successful marriage goes beyond looks & vocations. They both love God & that counts for everything.

And love is all they need.

Congrats, Ivan & Yen.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Am I losing him ?

I've always thought that I have fostered a blood-is-thicker-than-water bond with both my kids.

It's our (the boy's & mine) ritual to have breakfast on Saturdays when we have no commitments - he, to the school and extra-curricular activities, & I, to the hospital. Usually we'd have either the chicken briyani or tosai/canai.  Yes, we're that set in our ways. So when I asked him today if we are OK for breakfast at 9.30am tomorrow, he said it depends if he could wake up on time.

His response rankled me a bit; if he really enjoy having breakfast with me, he'd make every attempt to get up by that time, as I would. Besides, 9.30am is not that early by any measure.

I know when kids grow up, they often have their own circle of friends which they would want to hang out & chill out with, at the expense of the family

But I'd rather hope he'd choose dad over sleep. We'll see.....

Sunday, July 23, 2017

glutton for punishment

The hospital requires all doctors to undergo basic training for resuscitation to maintain its quality control status. Actually, it's already part & parcel of what we were trained to do, except that most of us have lost touch with the actual practice & may not have kept up with recent advances.
What's required is the attendance at the one-day in-house training & testing, again to satisfy the quality control status. All will naturally pass the tests, although some may need a 2nd attempt to pass. Basic stuff really. Once every two years routine.

However, what I did to fulfil the title of this post, is to take the advance course run by the Health Ministry. Not necessary to do this but I did it anyway. One full day of training and another half for the testing.

The price to pay : hefty course fees, unpaid leave on a Sat, 2 sleepless nites, and (to my colleagues and I) unnecessary self-inflicted stress.

The reward : a refresher on the theory & practice of giving life a second chance.

The course wins hands down.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Reminder to self

Made this decision in 1979 & never looked back since.

Through thick & thin, sleepless nites in the four seasons, forgoing social activities & staying beyond appointed working hours (what's that?), in life & in death, the Lord sustained me.

I have found my calling.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Learning from others

Many years ago, in the 80s, when I rode on the MRT in Singapore, I was so impressed by the almost seemless connectivity between North-South and East-West lines, that when I rode on the LRT in KL, the contrast couldn't be more glaring as I had to exit one station, walked to another in the vicinity, buy another ticket to ride on another line.
Years later, our transport minister finally realised his & his predecessors' folly at the disconnect of the whole system.
Too many crooks....err.....I mean cooks, spoil the soup, I guess, but we all end up slurping the unpalatable stuff.

New world hotel

I was staying at this downtown hotel & had a look at the snack tray. And guess what's in it?
Aphrodisiac and prophylactic.
Are we a progressive society or what?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


This is a malignant growth of the ducts that connect the liver and gallbladder to the small bowel. These ducts deliver bile to aid digestion of fatty food. Diagnosis is often late & the downward course is often rapid.

My colleague's brother had it & he just passed away today. This condition struck a resonant chord with me because the very 1st patient I had as a medical student in the surgical ward (circa 1982) was this cheerful and obese middle-aged gentleman who was admitted for jaundice.

Mah Hung was his name & how I can still remember that, I don't know  ...... maybe it was because he was my 1st surgical patient & I saw him every weekday till he finally passed away.

But I will never forget his kind words to me during one of our meetings. He advised me to work hard to be a good doctor and hoped that I will be a specialist one day.

Dear Uncle Mah, you are long gone but your kind wish did come true. I was touched then, just as I am today. Thanks for being my patient & my  teacher, for who you were, what you had & what you went through. May your soul rest in peace.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Extended invitation

Yesterday, the drug rep invited the 6 of us out for dinner. 3 of us couldn't make it, so the senior colleague, on his own accord,  invited a few nurses to take the place of the absent doctors.

In the end, 5 nurses turned up & 1 even brought her grown-up daughter. Even though the dinner came under company expenses, I felt it was highly inappropriate for my colleague to invite the nurses for what was clearly an invitation for doctors only. And to bring your daughter for a department function spoke volumes of the lack of etiquette & common sense.

I felt sorry for the rep. I wonder how she is going to explain to her boss about the extra (non-medical) heads for dinner, at RM85 net per pax?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mt Kinabalu

This is the Big Event of my year so far. Last August, my walking buddy told me of a vacancy in his group going up to Mt K in April this year. Having been mulling about doing the climb for some years, I jumped at the opportunity to realise this dream.

We started training by climbing the local hill (vertical ascent 140m) & despite carrying backpacks of 7kgs, it was far short of the 8km trail & 3200m vertical ascent of the real thing. But it was better than not hike training.

There were 6 of us in this group. They had originally planned for 2015 but the earthquake put paid to that. So, after a 2-hour bus ride from Kota Kinabalu, we finally arrived at the park HQ in Ranau, which is already 1800m above sea level. We will spend a nite here & the adventure starts the next day.....

Should I start blogging again?

It's been 2 years since my last entry. This morning I had a brief chat (read: 2 sentences each) with an ex-classmate from 6th Form & she persuaded me to reconsider blogging. So here I am.

I think I was more diligent previously because there were stuff I wanted to share.

And  rave.....

.....and vent.

But I stopped because I felt it was time consuming, to fire up the laptop, to draft & rewrite the narrative, so that it sounded credible, with punctuation in the right places & tenses correctly emphasised.

But mostly because the smartphone was a gadget from Mars & I hadn't subscribed to a data plan yet. That all changed now, & I can literally blog anywhere, anytime.

So here I am. Feel free to welcome me back.