Monday, May 30, 2016

Of Expirations and Best Before Dates...

Question: Is it safe to consume ikan bilis that expired 4 years ago, or sambal paste from 3 years ago, or rendang mix that expired in 2011?
Affirmative. Affirmative. Affirmative.
As with other few (precious) weekends when I get to play the role of bachelor, when my wife is away visiting family, or at some medical conference, I turn to my vices. And in some ways I wish I could say my life was exciting enough to have secret sex orgies, or drunken escapades, or spending the night in the 'lokap' when I'm a free man, no, what I really do is cook.
As in cook Malaysian food that my kids, wife, neighbors and American friends consider to be more pungent than fermented gym socks.
And because I can't usually cook certain aromatic, spicy dishes, I hoard racks and racks of Malaysian spices. If you're a Malaysian expat living in abroad, you know what I mean. That pack of Bak Kut Teh spices or Rendang paste is more precious than my left arm. 
So when you hoard stuff that you don't usually get to use, the inevitable happens. They expire. But who in their right minds would throw away otherwise perfectly 'good' food and spices from the Motherland??
After all, expiration dates are a government conspiracy. I tell my wife that nothing vacuum packed/frozen ever goes bad.
This weekend, with the missus being away at Boston  with one of the girls, I took the opportunity to make Nasi Lemak.
My wife would rather inhale the air in a small sauna with a dozen flatulent sumo wrestlers than to smell ikan bilis. And with my kid having a peanut allergy, this is a no-no in our household. But with me being semi-alone this week, the timing was perfect.
Except I then noted the print on the packets. April 2012 for the ikan bilis. Ogos 2013 for the sambal paste, and Feb 2011 for the rendang spices.
For a moment, I thought about tossing them and not risking it. For all of 2 seconds.
But then I realized I already have my last will and testament and trust all written up. And life insurance policy in place. And my retirement portfolio has done quite well so far. So the family would be OK without me should shit happen. Literally.
And so, voila:
Nasi Lemak with sambal ikan bilis, ayam rendang, satay sauce. 8 hours later, I'm still alive and kicking. No gastronomic catastrophe yet. I haven't gone blind yet.
Except Ava was getting worried for me, seeing how much I was sweating. The beads of sweat was literally dripping off my head.
In retrospect, perhaps making a spicy dish on a warm 30C day wasn't the best time. But man, it was worth it. And perhaps speaking as someone who hasn't tried it, but there is no way some orgy would be more satisfying that a spicy nasi lemak meal.
Or can it?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

On The Mend

Thanks for the well wishes. The trooper she is, she seems to be on the mend steadily. She had her "permanent" cast placed the other day, And being smaller, and below-elbow, it's proving to be more comfortable. And she was actually excited to be given several choices for color- she picked tie-dye.
The pain is completely gone. Gone enough that we have to keep reminding her to not do anything too physical. After all, my greatest nightmare is to need an ORIF.
And yes, that's a hula hoop she's holding- but that's about all we're letting her do. No slides, climbing, trampolines.
She was initially unsure of how her schoolmates would react. I have to remind myself that they grow so fast- and now she's already to the point where she cares about what others think.
But when she learnt that she could customize the cast, this gave her something to look forward too. 
And so, daddy hot-glued some crystals on it. And because she's always wanted to be a superhero, I put a Batman patch on her sling.

Now she's all set to take on the world. Just don't be breaking any more bones!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Poor Alli

It's one thing being the doctor.
It's a totally different thing being a father.
I learnt this the hard way a few days ago. Allison had learnt how to use the monkey bars at school, and so wanted to show us she could do it.
Inevitably, when you wage a battle with gravity, gravity always wins. And so she fell, and suffered a distal radial fracture.
While it was not life threatening, it breaks the heart, seeing her cry, and knowing even before the X-rays that the radius was fractured. After all, there was an obvious body deformity.
The X-rays and fluoro told us all we needed to know.

I've seen perhaps 20-30 fracture reductions during medical school and residency. Not a whole lot, since my career path was destined for a nonsurgical route. While I've always felt for the patient in pain, I've never experienced anything like this.
Seeing your own daughter, in so much pain, in so much fear, looking at the foreign white lights of the ER. Seeing the strangers in white coats (not something she is used to, since neither mom nor dad wear white coats to work), poking and prodding.
And then, despite the sedation and pain medication, seeing the orthopedic surgeon reducing the displaced fracture. Despite the sedation, she was somewhat whimpering. And it was sickening, nauseating even, to see your child's distal forearm manhandled, and twisted in abnormal ways to reduce and reposition the fractured fragments. I'm glad I sent my wife and other child out- even I could not keep my eyes dry.
Thankfully, that did not last too long. And so, after a 4 hour ER visit, she went home. With a cast that she will wear for the next 2 months, right into summer vacation, right into her birthday.
She's not happy that she has to miss swim class, or skip gymnastics, or riding her bike, or jumping on the trampoline. But she's being a trouper so far. And perhaps even finding things to look forward to, like how she wants to decorate her cast, or her sling.
Hopefully, this will all be over soon.
But it has me thinking wondering if playsets with monkey bars are secretly sold by companies owned by the American Orthopaedic Association?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

5 Years

I can't believe it has been 5 years since you left us.
How time flies, my friend. In those 5 years, the world continues to revolve but yet, our precious moments and memories of you become frozen forever.
Down here, much has changed. I've become more cynical, jaded, tired and aged. We now have two girls- you met the older one in your last weeks, remember? She's now in kindergarten, while the other is in preschool.
I miss our conversations; truth is with work and life as a parent, it's hard to form bonds like those we had, when we were relatively young and carefree, and it's hard to find a confidante to fill your shoes. I miss those sessions we would have over a meal, or Halo, complaining about work or life (usually it's me, with your patiently listening). Now, I like to imagine that when all is not well, somewhere up there you're still listening...
I sometimes think about the unfairness of life; of why someone like you would be taken away so soon, so young. Truth be told, I've asked myself many times in the past- why a man like you? Why not someone like me? After all, you'd leave a bigger mark in this world than I ever would. Or maybe that was the point- to teach the rest of us who have much to learn, how to life live and make the most of things.
I remember the time when you told us that you decided to not carry on with chemotherapy. Being the oncologist you were, you knew the odds  even before treatment began. And you knew when you had had enough, and you wanted to just make the most of your time. We both knew the implications of your decision, which was why we made that last minute trip back to Malaysia.
And I'm sure you knew, as I did, when we had dinner at that food court that evening in Penang, that that would be the last time we would ever see each other, at least in this world. Yet, in your usual quite demeanor, you seemed a bit embarrassed when Kris and I gave you our goodbye hugs. You were at peace and perhaps more ready to move on- but we certainly weren't.
You carried yourself with more strength and grace than I ever will know. You never once asked, "Why Me?". And did I ever share with you how I actually met the wife of one of your patients here; someone who was bitter and angry and had trouble accepting his diagnosis, until he found out that his oncologist had stage 4 esophageal cancer, and yet carried on in peace? His wife told me that you gave him newfound peace, that when he finally lost his battle, he was no longer angry.

Buddy- my best friend and confidante, my partner in crime during those 6 years at WFMC, my room-mate, my Best Man, my brother, my Halo teammate.

5 years ago, the world lost a wonderful man, brother, son, husband, oncologist. And yet, you remain near to those whose lives you've touched, never to be forgotten.

I miss you, buddy. Till we meet again someday... here's a toast to you. I'm sure you and our pal Gene are living it up there.