Tuesday, May 01, 2012


"Black clouds are behind me
I now can see ahead
Often I wonder why I try
Hoping for an end
Sorrow weighs my shoulders down
And trouble haunts my mind
But I know the present will not last
And tomorrow will be kinder"

Tomorrow Will Be Kinder (2012) by The Secret Sisters

Today, I squeezed two navel oranges dry and produced about 150 mililitres of fresh juice. To that, I slung in a 50 mililitres shot of vodka and floated a half shot of Galliano on top of it. The resulting Harvey Wallbanger tasted almost like it's actually good for me. Fresh juice is surprisingly a lot milder compared to store-bought OJ's, but it's probably because I'm using navels. After a night in the belly of the on-call whale, it was positively rejuvenating.
Harvey Wallbanger
My homemade Harvey Wallbanger.

One of my bosses like to brag at me twice daily that back when she was a house officer, she used to come to work at 5:00 AM to review all the patients under her care and laboured to ensure that all the blood-works' formal reports are ready by the time the specialists turn up leisurely at 8 o'clock. It's all that good ol' days jazz when folks are more honest, work harder and music isn't the ungodly din the young 'uns listen to these days. I am always sorely tempted to remind her that children in Victorian Britain used to work 16 hours a day crawling through tunnels in coal mines too narrow for adults and ask her if I can stick a pickaxe in her kids' tiny hands before shoving them down a hole somewhere. Just because something was done in a certain way in the past doesn't necessarily mean it's not a fucking stupid idea.

Senior doctors also like to talk about how house officers are being too pampered these days because the on-call system is in the process of being abolished in Malaysia - completely ignoring the fact that I, and my colleagues, are still doing calls in much the same way they did. They talk about it like it's a good thing, forgetting the fact that the soul-breaking work hours of doctors were invented by a junkie surgeon who kept himself going using cocaine and decided that everyone else should follow suit. But to avoid anyone from accusing me of poisoning the well, there is actually good evidence in the scientific literature which shows that sleep deprivation can significantly increase the number of medical errors executed by a doctor and if my supervisors honestly give a soaring coitus about the wellbeing of our patients, they'd be championing the reduction in work hours.

There's a recent half-assed institution of a policy to allow house officers to go home at 8:00 AM the next day after an overnight call but in the two weeks in which it was in effect, I was only allowed to go home at noontime, earliest.

Last Friday was one of those post-call mornings where I spent it accompanying a patient to the radiology department to get a computerised tomographic angiogram of both her legs, which were rotting to bits. The old girl was quite far along down the path of dementia and had been confined to a bed of some kind or other for more than a year. Her knees had stiffened so much from arthritis and infection that the mere act of touching them would send her screaming in pain and weeping like a year old child. The specialist whose team I work for once saw her in one of these moments and remarked, almost to himself:


With the help of some sedatives, I managed to straightened her legs enough for the scan without her remembering it clearly enough to hate me later. After that, I volunteered to escort her to a private hospital where she usually undergoes haemodialysis because her kidneys had failed. Transfering her from a gurney to a chair there also sent her into bloodcurdling howls of agony, and after that was done, I was just glad that I could finally ride the ambulance back, head home, and rest.

Just as I was saying goodbye to her, she suddenly looked up to me and in one of those rare flashes of lucidity, she said:

"Thank you, doctor."

Four days later, that still haunts me. I left work today at 2:30 PM after another night's call. When I said goodbye to her before I left the hospital, she was waiting to get both her legs amputated.

She doesn't know that.

Feeling that he had somehow failed at something,
k0k s3n w4i


yuhhui said...

being a doctor is tough especially when dealing with emotions. I saw a patient who was bedridden and his son just neglected him. He was retained in the hosp coz he has no where to go. Ergh...
btw, how often do you drink anyway?

k0k s3n w4i said...

yuhhui: 2-3 drinks a day.