Sunday, August 28, 2011

Superstitions in the Sarawak General Hospital

"The general root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss; and commit to memory the one, and forget and pass over the other."

Sir Francis Bacon

The man created the scientific method. Represent!

Twice or thrice a week, I would be put "on-call", which means that I would start working at about 6:00 am on one day and finish at 5:00 pm in the next. There are "bad calls" (in which the doctor on-call would get little to no sleep because of the glut of patients to attend to due to unforeseeable complications) and "good calls" (when one gets paid for sleeping mostly). So as you can see, there are many unpredictable elements which ultimately dictates how good or bad a call can be - and when there's a situation in which a lot of variables lie outside our control, superstitions would mushroom precipitously on its moist, slutty soil.

"That is what prayers are for," the Long Suffering Girlfriend™ once told me. "After doing everything you can, you pray that those things that you can't do anything about would go your way."

I've been working in the Sarawak General Hospital for little more than a month and already have I learned a sizeable number of silly superstitions associated with being on call. One of the first ones I learned is to avoid wearing anything red in colour - not even red undies. I can imagine how that started: a house officer must have had an especially bad call at some point in the past and was looking for things to blame that could have caused it.

"I am wearing a red shirt! That must be it!" he declared (perhaps even jokingly), and thus this particular bit of bunkum get passed on as oral tradition amongst the medical staff of the hospital forever after. It's a pitfall of human thinking to try and turn something inherently undivinable, like bad calls, into something that can be easily manipulated like the colours of one's attire - and many who aren't given to thinking rationally would readily fall into such stupid exercises. We are pattern-seeking animals, and that particular mental faculty have served us well throughout the history of our species. It's what allows us to engage in higher brain functions like planning, predicting and innovating. Imagine if our ancestors did not realise that seeds would grow into food crops, or that seasons come in cycles - we'd still be hunting gazelles on the savannah. I'd even go as far as to say that recognising patterns is the very cornerstone of modern medical practices because that's pretty much how we diagnose diseases and treat them. However, our tendency to seek patterns can get overactive sometimes. That is why we think that clasping our hands together and mumbling to an invisible deity helps to make our wishes come true. That is why we see divine faces in pizza pans and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Of course, after the colour red had been banished from the hospital on call nights, people realised that bad calls still happen. A right-thinking person would immediately realise that not wearing red does jack squat in determining the nature of one's calls - but right-thinking persons are frightfully scarce in the medical field. Another bright penny of a house officer who had a terrible call (but was wearing blue at the time) must have thought to himself: "I'm not wearing red, so why am I still having bad ca... I know! I did not take my shower as soon as my call started! I must shower as early as I can from now on!"

Showering early is in fact a real superstition in the Sarawak General Hospital Unquestionable Guide to Having Good Calls, I shit you not. If you ask the senior nurses (which are literally old wives), they would even recommend that you shower with flowers for extra bad-call-repelling effect. This is why superstitions grow in number rather than decrease when they don't appear to work - people just keep making up new variables to control. The doors to the ward must be kept closed. If you're having a good call, you must not comment on it or you'll jinx it into a bad one. The in-tray for new patients must be turned upside down, so as to avoid inviting more. Women in labour must not wear anything circular in their hair (hairbands, scrunchies, etc) or they will have a difficult childbirth. Blah, blah and blah. The funniest one I have encountered so far is the condom I see taped to the Labour Ward's double doors at night - the rationale being that since it protects against anything sexually transmitted, it will protect the ward from impending babies.

Every time someone drop me a new pearl of superstitious wisdom, I always ask: Do you seriously believe in it? Some would sheepishly say that they don't - not really - but they were just playing along for fun. Mostly, the answer I get is, "Well, sometimes it's very true."

Holy mackerel fucking a pair of daschunds on a hotdog bun! Are they even listening to themselves? Sometimes it's very true? How about sometimes, bad calls just fucking happen? Ever thought of it that way?

Imagine that instead of bad or good calls, we are talking about the head or tail sides of a tossed coin. According to their brand of magic logic, if you avoid wearing anything red, shower early in the evening, and fulfill the thousands of other superstitious commandments, your coin will sometimes come up heads. Doesn't it scare you that the people whose job is to save lives have such a poor relationship with reality?

Sarawak General Hospital
The Sarawak General Hospital, where superstitions are born but never ever die.

Besides that, pretty much every doctor working in the Sarawak General is assigned with the labels "hot" or "cold" (the terminology may defer in other centres). A hot doctor is someone who attracts difficult, rare or complicated patients and emergencies, while a cold one doesn't and is therefore a desirable person to work with during calls. The funny thing is when someone who was designated as hot gets a good call night, people wouldn't notice - or simply remark how uncharacteristically relaxing the call was for him or her - rather than realising that the hot and cold thing is just a lorry of manure.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a colleague right before my call, and I asked her if we are equipped to perform deliveries in the maternity ward - y'know, just in case I couldn't get a patient sent down to the labour ward in time. I also expressed worry that a couple of rather complicated patients will be giving me headaches throughout the night, and joked (in private) that maybe one of the twins in an expectant had died in utero because I was having trouble monitoring the little pipsqueak on the cardiotocograph.

"You shouldn't say things like that!" she chastised me. "Now that you said it, those things may actually happen. Haven't you heard of the law of attraction?"

Oh brother, Fuck Rhonda Byrne and that fucking Secret of hers. Yes, I've heard of the so-called "law of attraction", and I've experienced that same bollocks throughout my life in its myriad versions. You see, I'm given to indulging in black humour and I frequently joke about people dying or getting hurt in gruesome manners. As a result, I have always received shocked rebukes and beseechments that I should touch or knock on wood right that instance, young man. I'm pleased to say that I have never complied with such moronic requests. By the way, no one ever met their demise or gotten hurt just because I fucking said so. If the law of attraction is a real thing, everyone would be zooming around in ridiculously expensive cars, no one would be starving in Africa, and every football team would be winning every game they played in ever.

"Do you really believe in the law of attraction?" I asked.

"Yes!" she said. "It's very true sometimes." There's that word again: sometimes.

"You'd think that if it's a law, it would be always true - like the laws of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics - instead of being true sometimes. Shouldn't that be true of all real, predictive, scientific laws?" I commented drily.

"Kok, why must you always be so scientific?" She laughed, as if I just said the silliest thing she ever heard.

That night, no one deposited their babies in the maternity ward and both the twins came out screaming and kicking into our very overpopulated world. It was also the best call I ever had.

Only sane man,
k0k s3n w4i

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Life in Progress

"Hold the city to your ears
You can hear the winds come in"

Believe Me (2010) by Ellie Goulding

This blog has not been abandoned - the ghost of its former blogger still resides here. I apologise for the famine of new posts, but I had been cruelly separated from the teats of the internet by completely foreseeable circumstances. You see, I had finally moved out of the spare room of my former college mates (now coworkers) and now resides at an address that shares a name with a very posh property on the British Monopoly board. I have yet to reestablish a permanent, devoted connection to the One True Goddess, the World Wide Web, so expect further spotty updates.

I'm loving my new place. It's got an automatic gate, double doors, two-storeys with an obscene amount of square feet, a compound that is big enough to park three cars, and a backyard which is half as spacious. It's located five minutes away from the heart of Kuching town, the hospital where I work, and the least embarrassing mall in the state of Sarawak. It also has a burglar alarm system, a four-piece sofa set, a refrigerator, a microwave oven, a gas stove, a washing machine and a broken telly which no one wants to watch anyway. I live with two other doctors who I did not know a month ago and each of us got our own private bathrooms attached to our fully-furnished, air-conditioned bedrooms. Most importantly of all, my shower has one of those fancy hotel faucets that magically rains hot water when you turn it one way, and cold when you turn it the other way. I have yet to solve the mystery as to where the hot water originates from, and I suspect I will not bother finding that out until it stops coming on demand.

Anyway, I'm only paying RM 400 a month for all that (RM 300, if we can rope in another tenant). The moment I found this place, I stopped looking. True story.

My New Room
My new room. I stitched this from two pictures - the photo, not the room.

Another accessory to my new life is my new car - a freshly baked Myvi filled with that inexplicably gratifying new car smell. The plate has letters which will score 19 points in a game of Scrabble followed by four numbers that I have yet to memorise. Then again, I still have not memorised my girlfriend's phone number either even after seeing her for two five four some years.

My father did most of the liaising with the car sales-bloke owing to how little time I have to spend outside of my new job - which I was completely grateful for except for a few hilarious hiccoughs. Initially, the Dad suggested that I purchase the car after the Chinese Hungry Ghost Month, and my response was basically a blasé declaration that I don't believe in the existence of spirits except those that make me uncharacteristically happy when I consume them in immoderate measures.

After that, I found out that he had asked the salesman to avoid getting a car plate number with fours in it (because they are homophones of the word "die" in Chinese). I immediately voided that weird little request and told the salesman that if he can get a plate that is all fours, I'd totally want it. Or thirteens, because I have a soft spot for unloved numbers.

Side and Front of My New Car
I wanted it in orange actually, but Perodua hates happy colours.

Back of My New Car
Yes, orange is my favourite colour. That, and electric blue.

I'm seriously considering repainting the bonnet, the roof and the hatch at the back at some yet undetermined future date (y'know, to differentiate it from the bajillions of Myvis currently on the road and to make it easy for me to spot it in a crowded parking lot). To decide which colour that would contrast grey most strikingly, I inverted the colours of a picture of my car and found out that the opposite of grey... is another shade of grey. My palm met my face followed my the marriage of my forehead with the desk at my own stupidity. Of course it is!

Anyway, does anyone have a colour to suggest? I'm thinking of a blindingly bright shade of orange, but I'm not known to be a great thinker at the best of times.

Playing The Sims for realsies,
k0k s3n w4i

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Mind-Soul Gambit

"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

Stephen Hawking

According to one of the smartest genii in the world, if you believe in the afterlife, you are a gullible coward.

In my few short years as an outed outspoken atheist, I have encountered all manners of asinine arguments for the existence of God, gods and the general incorporeal, but one which struck me as particularly groan-worthy is the assertion that the human consciousness is somehow proof that all of us possess a soul. I've seen this hoary old chestnut printed in how-to-debate-atheists pamphlets and proselytisers' edition Bibles, and I suspect that when a theist uses this argument, he probably expects to fluster me with what he considers to be an exceptionally clever "gotcha".

On the contrary, it only signal to me that I am dealing with an utter lummox a particularly inexperienced god-botherer who is profoundly ignorant on how the brain works. I usually get this line of argument from Christians but on the rare occasion, I have also crossed words with Muslims who want a slice of the stupid pie too,

Existence of the Mind
Why do some religious people believe in God but not in prepositions?

I have brought up most of the main talking points in my comment above, but I like to cover a bit more ground here in this post.


The belief that our mind is a separate phenomenon from our material bodies is called mind/body dualism and it's a really antiquated idea which had been around since the barmy old days when the Earth was still flat and diseases were still caused by malevolent ghosties. The manifestations of this concept ranges from those who claim that all our mental faculties (consciousness, the conscience, our ability to do sums, et cetera) is a product of spirit stuff colloquially referred to as the "soul" - to people who merely think that this soul substance is just the seat of our consciousness. While I have always enjoyed struggling with the philosophical underpinnings of the Platonic theory of Forms (which I first encountered in the momentous sci-fi novel Anathem as the Hylaean Theoric World), dualism is probably the least fruitful idea to have been inspired by it.

I'm baffled when this unproven, hypothetical, immaterial mind or soul was simply declared by religious people to be "immortal", but I really shouldn't be surprised since they frequently skip inconvenient steps in their logical reasonings anyway. Then, they make an even more stupendous leap of logic by saying since this immortal soul exists, therefore there must be a God, a Heaven and a Hell, and they are exactly as described in the Bible or the Qur'an. This is what a lot of them consider to be a sophisticated argument for God, but look at it: it's just an assumption built upon an assumption built upon an assumption built upon yet another assumption. Holy crap! Holy crap indeed.

The less "sophisticated" apologists simply use dualism as a rhetorical wedge to try and get unbelievers to admit to believing in an alleged supernatural construct, when the mind is anything but. They somehow think that God would be less hard to shove down someone's throat after they've jammed this funnel into their mouths. No doubt, some just swallowed their garbage like a bitch, but anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of basic neuroscience will not be impressed. Read my points in the picture above; for all intents and purposes, there is no mind or consciousness without the organic brain, and there is no evidence which implies that we need anything more than our organic brain to generate all of our mental functions.

Religious Experiences as Mental Phenomena.

I think that attempting to use the human mind as a proof of God and the supernatural is a rather self-defeating strategy because it is actually a rather powerful argument against the spiritual leanings of religion.

Physicians have known for decades that epilepsy (especially temporal lobe epilepsy) can induce strong religious experiences, even causing an increase in religiosity in between seizures. This suggests that psychic phenomena such a the sensation of "being touched by God" (which have actually persuaded more than a few patients to convert) are far more likely to be malfunctions in brain rather than anything genuinely ethereal. Such seizures have also been known to cause subjective experiences of feeling like one is outside of one's body or the presence of powerful unseens entities like gods and devils. What is even more damning is that such experiences can be replicated in the lab using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Furthermore, evidence have shown that some individuals are simply more susceptible to being magnetically fooled into feeling spiritual and uplifted compared to others (having more "talent for religion", so to speak) and this is reflected in society where there exists both theists and atheists, and everything in between.

In other words, it's really all in your head.

How many times have we heard believers say that they are convinced of the existence of God because of some "transformative personal experiences" they once had, even when they have no concrete proof that their religion is true? It turns out that what they felt can easily be explained scientifically. They probably had a few cerebral "hiccups", that is all.

One of the most striking evidence for the organic basis of consciousness is the sensation that we reside inside our own body. Most of us take it for granted and does not even realise that a mental process is required to maintain that illusion (yes, you heard me). By using TMS on the temporoparietal junction, scientists have managed to successfully interrupt this process, resulting in the test subjects feeling like they have been displaced outside of their own bodies. That's very, very cool science.

Even something as highly abstract as morality (traditionally a domain claimed by the religious) have its basis in the little grey cells. The brainiacs at MIT have found out that by using TMS, you can even affect a person's moral and ethical judgments. Is the goodness of heart from our eternal soul bestowed by God himself so easily hijacked with a weak magnetic field? Are magnets God's kryptonite?

I don't know about you but it seems to me that the more we learn about the human brain and its mind, the more we realise that it's really nothing more - and nothing less - than an unimaginably sophisticated computer. There are a great deal of wondrous, unexplained things within our material world, and we are learning more about them all the time. I wonder how believers ever learn anything if they think they already have all the answers in between the pages of some ancient texts written by pre-scientific yahoos?

Oh, and how unimaginative it is - how unsatisfactory! - when their answer to everything is "Goddidit."

Soulless but not mindless,
k0k s3n w4i

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Good News, Everyone!

"There are no men like me. There's only me."

Jamie Lannister in A Clash of Kings (1998)

For my 25th Name Day, I ordered the present I have promised myself earlier this year from a bookstore here in Kuching.

My Hardcover Copy of a Dance with Dragons
Hell yeah!

It arrived just a couple of weeks ago and I'm already about a quarter of the way through it. I would very much like to take a two-day leave from work and meditate on the tome cover to cover in one long unbroken marathon - that's the best way to digest an epic, if you ask me - but that would also mean I would sooner have to start weathering another few years of waiting for my next fix of A Song and Ice and Fire while hoping that George R. R. Martin remains hale and would not pull a Robert Jordan or a Terry Pratchett. So far, the book is burning rather slowly and that's a bit uncharacteristic for the series in general, but it remains just as engrossing as ever.

Oh, when will The Winds of Winter blow through my life?

I also just finished watching the Game of Thrones HBO miniseries based on the first book before I relocated to Kuching and I must say it surpassed all expectations I harboured for it. I will not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who have not read the books, and to everyone who had.

On a completely unrelated note, I was apparently named the "Blogger of the Week" on DiGi's myInternet homepage last week - something I was unaware of till quite recently. How dare they award me accolades without informing me?!

I was Digi Blogger of the Week
The important question is: did I win an iPhone 4 or iPad 2?

The bloke or sheila charged with cooking up a cookie-cutter introduction to my weblog clearly hadn't a clue what he or she was talking about. For example, I am no longer a medical student from Malacca but is currently a house officer in the general hospital in Kuching; a major oversight on his or her part considering that most of my recent posts orbited around the renovations in my alleged life. Also, he or she evidently only read my latest post at the time of writing, which was the one about Eddie Izzard.

Um, if there is a good, non-stupid, gender-neutral substitute phrase or word for "he or she" or "him or her", please let me know. And no, I will not consider "shkle", you crazy Futurama fans.

Anyway, I confess that the half-assed measure by which my personal site was described did not feed very effectively into my delusions of grandeur. Besides, any description of your truly is not complete without the inclusions of words such as "godless" or "can be a bit of an asshole". I certainly approve of and appreciate the comparison of my person to a delicious sundae, though.

P.S. I was never one for promoting my blog since I mostly write for my own amusement, but if you like what I'm doing here and think that more people should know about it, do kindly +1, tweet or share my posts on Facebook. These buttons at the bottom of my every post are begging to be clicked on.

k0k bL0k's Blogger of the Forever,
k0k s3n w4i

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

We are Small People

"I’ll leave the door on the latch
If you ever come back, if you ever come back
There will be a light in the hall and the key under the mat
If you ever come back
There will be a smile on my face and the kettle on
And it will be just like you were never gone
There will be a light in the hall and the key under the mat
If you ever come back, if you ever come back now
If you ever come back, if you ever come back now"

If You Ever Come Back (2010) by The Script

She was a waifish and anaemic creature, and she carried a freakishly distended abdomen which looks like it doesn't belong on her body at all. She is what we refer to as an "unbooked" mother; someone who have not submitted herself for regular checkups during the entire course of her pregnancy and had only turned up when her unborn child insisted on coming out at an inopportune moment in time. I was struck by the impression that to this particular impending mother, no time at all is opportune.

"Unmarried," the nurse informed me in a conspiratorial whisper as I walked into the labour theatre, and what a theatre it was. A show was playing and it's one of life's little tragedies. She was attended to by midwives and their apprentices, and they were suppose to give her encouragement to push. I said "suppose" because what they were doing were not at all encouraging no matter how hard one stretches the definition of the word. They slapped and pinched her when she was slow to comply with their instructions, and sometimes when she wasn't. When they re-position her limbs, the did it with a malicious forcefulness that made me flinch. One midwife in particular was practically punching her in the belly, trying to force the baby out from above. Their words were as sharp and hard as table corners, if table corners could spit demeaning insults into your face. I could tell that they absolutely despise her. I could tell that they think they are better than her, and that she is not deserving of their service. I scanned the floor, searching, because I was certain that I would find the carcass of professionalism lying in a corner somewhere in an advanced stage of decomposition.

Boris Pasternak said, "At the moment of childbirth, every woman has the same aura of isolation, as though she was abandoned, alone." Those words were hauntingly true in that room that night. Here is a girl weeping in pain and also probably because of many other things. In my mind, I imagined a wide-eyed, trusting romantic who have yet to outgrow fairy stories and happily-ever-afters; a girl who loved without reserve, daring to hold nothing back. I imagined a sociopathic older man who used her and then left her with his bastard growing in her womb. I imagined a pair of parents who are ashamed of their wayward daughter, while frequently and openly showing her just how much. In her immediate community and circle of friends, she had ceased to be human being but is now a cautionary tale and a buttery slice of gossip that goes down well with tea and biscuits.

Now, a roomful of caregivers whose very job is to give her care decided that they rather be her judges, jury and executioners while she's hurting more than she ever hurt from the birthing of an unforgettable reminder of her first real mistake. The human condition has many nadirs, and surely she was in one of them. Utterly abandoned. Utterly alone.

Her accoucheuse conveniently neglected to anaesthetise her sore and torn vagina when she was sewing her up but yet oddlly enough, she felt justified in scolding the girl whenever she yelped and whined in pain with every bite of the needle. Empathy and prejudice has an inverse relationship. The nurse had forgotten that the girl she was attending to is as much a human being as she is - or as recent events suggested; probably even more so. The nurse had forgotten that someday, each and everyone of us will find ourselves in our very own metaphorical labour theatres, utterly abandoned and alone.

She is just seventeen, a child, and already a casualty of circumstances. In our traditional, puritanical Asian country, she is a pariah and a leper; a disgrace to the unearned good name of her family. This is why I have never given a fuck about the mores of society because they have always felt wrongheaded to me. If you ask me, it's the behaviour of the self-righteous, prejudicial bullies who mistreated her which we should repudiate and lapidate instead. Not the victim. Not her.

The girl was later referred to me for a postnatal review and the first thing I did was to apologise to her for how she was treated during one of the most difficult moments of her life. I did it because I felt I owed her that. Then, I asked her if she would like something to drink.

"Yes," she said timorously, and so I went to the pantry to make her a mug of Milo. There are many medicines in the hospital's pharmacopoeia but none is quite as restorative, wholesome or beloved as a hot chocolate drink. That's something they didn't teach us in med school, and I thought that that's a pity. She thanked me for it, and for the first time in her long, cold and cruel night, she smiled.

You know what? That smile made me want to change the world.

Trying to be the difference,
k0k s3n w4i

Saturday, August 06, 2011

What You Should Know Before Getting Yourself Knocked Up

"I have always wanted to act ever since I was a little girl. I would put a blanket under my shirt and pretend that I was pregnant. Then, I would go through childbirth."

Dakota Fanning

I often find myself stricken by how unnatural natural childbirth is and after working for three weeks in the labour ward, I am becoming increasingly convinced of that notion. Pregnancy is perilous from conception to delivery. An embryo can get itself implanted in a woman's tube instead of the uterus and tear it apart, causing substantial internal bleeding (and death). A woman can be afflicted with eclampsia from the fifth month till weeks after the baby was expelled, and that can cause seizures (and death). The placenta can anchor itself far too low in the womb or get dislodged, and that also predisposes to massive hemorrhages (and death). Our intelligence have left us with freakishly large heads while our upright posture cursed us with dangerously narrow birth canals, and that can arrest a baby's passage through it (resulting in death). The mother can also suffer from severe infections (and death) if some nasty bugs make it through the amnion. Even after the baby comes out, severe blood loss can still complicate things (therefore death). I'm not even going to go into the even longer list of other less-directly-fatal diseases that pregnancy can cause like anaemia, diabetes and hypertension. Evolutionarily speaking, we are perched upon a very precarious position of cutbacks and compromises. I fear that very soon, we will be like English Bulldogs; 95% of which can only whelp through a Caesarean section.

The procedure of birthing in a Malaysian government hospital is, frankly speaking, quite devoid of any kind of dignity for the mothers in labour. When you come to us, we will give you an enema so you don't get faeces all over yourself when you are trying to shit your kid out. We put a rubber tube up your pee hole to get rid of your urine so your bladder won't be in the way. We stab your veins so we can hydrate you and if the need arises, transfuse you with blood. Every two hours or so, a random stranger will pop in and stick his or her fingers up your kitty to see how much your cervix has opened and how far the foetus have progressed. When you are finally ready to push your little bastard out, your hindquarters will be exposed to everyone in the room (which includes medical students and student nurses). They will study your nether regions with great interest while you squirt amniotic fluid, blood, mucous, piss and crap all over your bed like an animal. Your midwife or obstetrician may also give you an "episiotomy", which is a very uninformative way of saying that he or she will take a pair of scissors to your vagina with extreme prejudice (without any form of anaesthesia, of course). The alternative is to allow your freakishly bigheaded baby to rip you ragged on its way out. Mind you that I'm only divulging what is normally done to mothers in labour, and I have not even go into the details of just how fucking painful it is for a human being to come out through your pelvis.

This is one of the reasons why I do not want to have any children - I simply cannot put anyone I love through all that.

Also, I hate kids.

Phoebe on a Riverside Bench
Not to mention that it will also ruin the Long-Suffering Girlfriend™'s svelte figure.

Not father material,
k0k s3n w4i

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

From Hell

"There's no escape
No sleep tonight
You won't get no sleep tonight"

No Sleep Tonight (2005) by The Faders

I'm in my third week of Life holding down the unenviable position of a House Officer in the Sarawak General Hospital while holding on to the soundness of my mind. For my first ever posting, I was paradropped far behind enemy lines into Obstetrics and Gynaecology to fend for my life, and for the first time, I truly appreciate just how microbial my present position in life is. In just one short day, I had all my self-respect and dignity wrung right out of me. I am now subject to the whims and moods of my immediate superiors, the Medical Officers, who are in turn subject to the mercy of the Registrars. The Registrars bow to the Specialists, and the Specialists answer to the Consultant. Shit rains down from above often and bountifully.

My initial 10 days were called "tagging", which had me in the hospital from 6:30 am till 10:00 pm learning the ropes, knots and whatnots. After which, my average working day starts at 6:30 am and, if I'm lucky, ends at 5:00 pm. Two or more times a week, I will be "on-call", two words which are no where close to describing a solid 35-hour stretch of non-stop servitude. When they tell me that slavery had been abolished, and I ask "when?"

My Medical ID
Object in the picture may no longer look so well-fed and well-rested.

The only thing keeping me going is a week-old memory of a patient I attended to at 3:00 am in the morning. She told me that I am a good doctor, not knowing how much that meant to me.

"It's my job," I said to her. Yes, it's my job now, however much I loath it. I want very much to quit it and write, but writing isn't going to feed me.

Or help pay for my new car.

P.S. Last Sunday, a staff nurse asked me if this is my fourth or fifth posting. She was surprised to find out that it is my first, and told me she thought that I am very efficient. If someone would say something like this to me at least once a week, I think I might just pull through my 2 years of housemanship without plunging a scalpel into my carotids.

k0k s3n w4i