Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year That Was

I can't believe the year is almost over (yea yea, you people in Malaysia are 13 hours ahead of us, I know). This time of the year, I'm sure I'm not the only one who reflects on what has happened in the preceding 12 months.

Much certainly has happened in 2011. For one, after much suffering and time being apart, my wife finally completed her program in nursing anesthesia. After 3 years of 2-hour commutes and weekdays apart, she pulled it off, graduated and joined a group in town. That was probably our high time; I remain so proud of her. Also, our dear Alli has grown so much this year, from sprouting little baby teeth, to learning to walk and then run (and now to climb down the stairs, much to my chagrin), so saying "More!" when she wants more to eat. It's so fun seeing her silly personally starting to show.
Yes, we have much to be thankful for in 2011. However, if I can take a moment to be selfish and ungrateful, taking a step back, 2011 has been a difficult year for many reasons. It has been a year of losses. And the most tragic, was my best friend losing his battle to esophageal cancer after a 4-year batttle that spanned his wedding, honeymoon and his fellowship training to be a cancer doctor. Though we knew that was coming from day 1, knowing this was stage 4 cancer, losing a dear friend is never easy. Especially at such a young age. Nonetheless, we count ourselves lucky that we were able to travel back to Malaysia to spend some time with him and his wife, shortly before he passed on.

And so, I think I'm ready to move on into 2012. Though we can never foresee what the year holds, I hope this year will have fewer tears for all of us.
Have a safe New Year's countdown, folks!

Monday, December 26, 2011


Any accidental death is a tragedy, especially around the holidays.
However this seems heightened when it involves one of your peers, on what started off as a life-saving endeavour.
 (CNN) -- Three people -- a surgeon, a medical technician and a pilot -- were killed Monday when a medical helicopter crashed in Florida, the Mayo Clinic said.
The helicopter crashed at about 5:23 a.m. ET about 12 miles northeast of Palatka, Florida, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen. 
The clinic said the helicopter was carrying two employees to the University of Florida in Gainesville to harvest organs when the crash occurred. It identified those employees Monday as cardiac surgeon Dr. Luis Bonilla and procurement technician David Hines.
It's sacrifices and risks like these that I never have to take, that reminds me of what these surgeons and their teams have to go through in the name of helping patients. And in the recent years, there seems to be quite a few of these accidents, probably in part due to the increased numbers of transplants that are performed nationwide.
These guys are heroes.
Our thoughts, prayers go out to the families of those killed in this noble mission. Though I have never met either of them, I know the medical community will mourn this tragic loss.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

One of my patients came by Friday. I was surprised to see her in the waiting room as her appointment wasn't due for another month, but she wanted to bring me this.
A simple jar of homemade apple butter for Christmas.
Sometimes the simplest of things are the most precious.

She wouldn't let me pay her back. But she said I could pay her in hugs so I did (she's 71 so I wasn't worried of any misunderstanding).
Merry Christmas, dear readers.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deafening Silence

My family left today. For my parents, after a month of being here. My brother and sister-inlaw had been here for a week.
With all the commotion and activity and the screaming kids, admittedly it took some getting used to. But then when things settled in, it was heartwarming to see our daughter look up to, and play with her cousins. Or to have my mom and dad teach her the same Hokkien phrases I grew up with. Or have her coo at them. Or simply to share a beer and a nice conversation with my big brother and dad; it's fun in a way, realizing that we're all adults now, and we can have a grown up conversation.
After some migraine-inducing moments with United Airlines (which I won't go into today) they finally caught their flight out to LAX.
And so, for the first time in a month, the house is quiet. There is peace.
Except suddenly it doesn't feel like a home anymore. Like there's something missing. And the silence seems deafening.
I'm sure we'll get back to our own routine, but it'll take a few days. And just a few hours into it, we're missing them already.
Have a safe flight back!

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Our home is a madhouse right now.
Utter chaos.
We have family visiting- my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and their two kids. And then there's Kristin, Alli and I. Plus the two dogs. All cooped up indoors because of the cold weather outside.
And so, our house looks like a tornado ripped right through it. One that smells of sambal belacan and ikan bilis.
And yet, I caught myself thinking this over the weekend when we had our (early) Christmas celebration: It's funny how, amidst all the chaos the family reunion brings, one can be filled with peace, warmth and love.
It's been awhile since we were together for Christmas, and though not everyone's here, it's still nice to have family around. And it's so heartwarming to see our daughter play with her cousins, and her grandparents.
Yes, it's easy to forget what this season is really about. It's easy to get sucked into the superficial faรงade of presents and ornaments and sales. When truly, it's about family. 
Season's Greetings, and Best Wishes, from mine to yours. Safe travels.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Christmas Wish List

  1. Miraculous scalp hair growth
  2. World peace
  3. To have my patients be cured of their diabetes
  4. A Ferrari 458 Italia Spider (in red, of course)
  5. To have no late-night DKA or thyroid storm consults for the next year
  6. As much as I'm a fan of Vettel, to see poor Schumacher win at least one podium finish in the 2012 season
  7. To get my six-pack back again
  8. To be rid of corrupt politicians (something tells me this will be the most impossible)
Failing of all which, I'd just then humbly ask Santa for a $10 gift card to Caribou Coffee.
Happy Shopping, everyone. Just 12 days to Christmas, Lalalala-lala-la-la.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Difficult People

It's sometimes hard to deal with difficult people. And though sometimes the rational side of your brain tells you it's not you but them, admittedly I'm guilty of taking things personally.
Today was one of those days, and truth be told, I'm still reeling from that verbally abusive patient I saw on what started out to be a nice Monday morning.
Even before I went him, I heard him yelling at my nurse. And then when you have someone accuse you of being a bad physician, in part because you refused to prescribe antidepressants (when you were consulted to assist in his diabetes management), and accuses you of being rude to the pharmacist (I'm not even sure where this came from), and blames the high cost of healthcare on doctors like you who make him get his other nondiabetic prescriptions from his GP (hence giving him two co-pays), and so generously throws out F-bombs at you as he accuses you of intentionally making his diabetes worse so that you have an excuse to put him on insulin, it's hard to even give a response to any of that.
I tried to explain my stand on things and tried to make my case, but in situations like this, there was no way he was going to listen.
We both agreed I should never be his doctor again and offered to have a colleague see him from now on.
But deep down, I catch myself wondering, how could our doctor-patient relationship has gone so wrong? For the rest of the day, I caught myself in doubt, of both as skills as a physician, and as a person.
For, as unreasonable as the accusations may be, if someone yells at you loud enough, you can't help but take it personally.
It's on days like these, that you almost wished professionalism and ethics would let you confide in the other patients you see. The patient who have been coming back for years, and with whom you get along, and who seem to trust you. You almost wish you could ask your patients, "How am I doing? Am I treating you well as your physician? Am I taking good care of you?"
But no. We aren't allowed to do that, are we?
And so, you grin and bear it. Life goes on.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

My patient said to me today that she felt lucky that she has such a smart, handsome doctor looking after her.
free smileys
Never mind that she's
- 86 years old
- Has bad cataracts
- AND, has strabismus

This patient's a keeper!