Friday, August 7, 2015

'You have no idea how hard I've worked.'

You have no idea how hard I've worked. I barely slept enough, and I have been sleep deprived for weeks. Yet you didn't even say a word of 'thank you'. Nope, you didn't blame me, but I can feel your annoyance at me, for not working hard enough, for not being concerned about the project enough. 

I have been super busy for weeks, not just with a particular organisation, but with multiple organisations. At times, I feel like I need to duplicate myself into 3 or 4 me to get things done. However, no matter how hard I worked, I feel  people will be never satisfied with my work. There are always hints on how 'little' effort I've put in. The fact is, I've tried my best to make everyone happy, honestly. (maybe I shouldn't even bother doing that) Like you, I only have 24 hours a day and I've made 6-hours sleep a luxury I can never attain for the moment. If I get 5 hours of sleep, oh thank God for the blessing! With all the pushy messages and no words of appreciation at all, I became very annoyed, felt not appreciated and over time, unmotivated to work and burn out. All I want to do, is to mute my phone and completely ignore you. 

I do not blame you. When you are at home, enjoying your summer break, having all the time in the world to sleep and eat, the project is probably the only thing you need to handle at the moment. You can't fathom the reasons when I don't reply instantaneously. 'Why is she so irresponsible and unresponsive? Why can't she take the initiative? Why is she pushing all the work away? Why are her replies so terse?' you asked yourself. 

I don't blame you, really. Because I will do and think the exact same way if I were you. 

That's why it made me realised how we need to have a bit more of empathy. When we interact with a person in one context, all we can see is we need this person to get this job done, now now now, the way we want it. When it's not done properly, we get agitated, we complain over this person's incompetency, laziness. It's like when a junior doctor prescribed the wrong drug, we blamed his ignorance, incompetence and negligence. 

But during my fellowship with the Ministry of Health, I've learned to keep calm, take a step back and look at the big picture before you start pointing fingers at that 1 particular person.

That junior doctor wasn't sure what to prescribe that early morning. It was the 32nd hour in his 3rd 36-hours on-call shift. He rang the consultant, but couldn't reach him. When the consultant came to the hospital, he tried to ask him but was asked to wait because the consultant has more important cases to deal with. So he waited and waited. 2 hours passed, the patient's deteriorating fast. The junior doctor could no longer wait and there's no one else around to help him. He read up on some literature and prescribed what he thought was the best medication to help the patient. But it wasn't. The patient continue to deteriorate rapidly and eventually, passed away. The consultant was furious, no one could comprehend why did the junior doctor did that, the media blamed him and the hospital, under the public pressure, sacked him.

Who's fault was that? Was it the junior doctor's fault? Was it the consultant's? Or the literature? Or maybe the junior doctor's medical school's? We are always quick to point finger and assign blame to one particular person when things go wrong or not the way we want it to be, just because that's the easiest thing to do. (Read: easiest. not the right way) 

Keep calm, take a step back and look. If the system has made sure that there are 1 more consultant there to help this junior doctor out or there's a proper guideline for prescription in such situation, these wouldn't have happened. But if we were in that consultant's shoe, all we can think of at that moment, when the emotions were so intense, was probably only, why on earth didn't you ask me, you idiot?!

The point of this story is to serve as a reminder to myself that whenever I rant, complain and blame others, pause and try to put myself in another person's shoe. You can call me naive, but I like to believe that everyone's (or at least my friends and colleagues) sensible, nice and always trying to do their best. When that's not the case, something must be troubling him to be less motivated that he usually is or to result him making this mistake? What factors may have contributed to this? What can we do to improve the situation? Same goes when I am wronged, I need to remember and understand that others can't see what you've been through in your daily life, they  may not you've been up since 6am and they may not understand how tired you are, but it's not their fault for not knowing because you never tell them, so don't hate them. 

Empathy. empathy. Because what you see, is just a small facet of another's life. Try to put yourself in their shoes before making a decision.  

It's true, I have no idea how hard you've worked. Thank you so much. 


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Rules? What rules?

It has been 2 weeks since I was back and I have been waking up at 7 am almost everyday since then, except during the long weekend of Raya. . The morning sun was beaming, a tad too bright, directly into my eyes. I could somewhat see the Petronas Twin Tower and KL Tower in the distance, but the rest of the city scape was just a blur because of the haze. I've not seen a clear city scape since I came back. I wonder if haze is a norm now, because I remember the last I came back, I still hear the radio reporting every time there's a haze, but I don't hear anything like that now.

I was driving at about...100 km/h (please don't report me) and I saw a police sitting by the highway. I shrugged my shoulders and continued speeding. I used to slow down to the speed limit whenever I see him last week, I was anticipating for a police barrier in front to catch whoever's disobeying the traffic rules. But this morning, I thought 'he's sitting there every single morning anyway and he doesn't do anything, why should I bother slowing down?' Really, he's there every morning. But he's always looking down, probably at his phone... I wonder why isn't he more eager to fine those who break the rules, after all, he will get more 'pocket money'. Pocket money? You may ask. Yes, why not? Just turn on the radio and television and go online to read the news, I think our people's ability to perform advanced bribery and corruption, top to bottom, is worth to be our next national pride. 

After dodging several 'professional' drivers who think signal lights are only for decorative purposes (no wonder so many Malaysians have high blood pressure), I reached office parking lot at 8.29 am safely. I am rather proud of my fast reaction on the road. I locked my car and pulled the door handles a few more times just to make sure they are really locked, just in case, people try to break in. Even though this is the territory of our country's federal government, it doesn't harm to be cautious. After all, the security guard only guard those big black cars in front of the buildings. Who cares about my humble (but cute) MyVi? 

I thought I'd be late for clocking-in so I ran up to the machine at 13th floor. To my delight, the clock on the machine showed 8.27 am. Someone must be rewarding me for being late, I earned an extra 3 minutes in my life. 

So I strolled into the office (since I am 'early') only to realise, there's no one's here yet, not even the supervisors! I couldn't believe this. Isn't 8.30 am the latest we should be at work? I went back to the clock-in machine to check if everyone's really late. To my surprise, most people have already clocked in at 7.30 am. But why isn't there anyone?!

Molly the admin secretary arrived. 
'Where's everyone?' I am allowed to ask stupid questions because I am an intern, and interns are 'meant to be dumb'. 
'Oh, downstairs for breakfast. They will be back before 10 am.' 
Damn, they made me feel stupid for rushing my breakfast at home when I can have it leisurely in the office cafeteria after I clocked-in. Then my record will show that I am always on time and I can have my breakfast properly. What a win-win solution, why didn't I thought of that? 

It has only been 2 weeks since I came back from the UK, where rules are not mean to be broken. Otherwise, you will, not only, get fined (and you can't bribe your way out, damnit) but you can really cause accidents if you don't obey the rules (maybe because everyone's not trained have 'fast reaction'). That life on the other side of the world seems so distant in the past now when it has only been 2 weeks. 

This routine. This daily dose of rule-breaking act is perhaps what makes this mundane, mind-numbing routine that bit more exciting. Love it or hate it, this is home. We are told to 'fit in', to be complacent about it, you know, just for the sake of maintaining 'national stability'. 

There is nothing so pitiful as a young cynic because he has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing. - Maya Angelou

Monday, June 1, 2015

Lucky fool

I thought: That was it. I can never possibly get up anymore. I can never trust any single soul in the world anymore. But I was wrong...

There is actually someone
so strong yet gentle and caring,
so outstanding yet humble,
and most of all,
so God-loving.

I am a freaking lucky fool. Thank you, Lord.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Exam craziness

"Hey, how are you?"
"Too good for Easter. I'm practically laughing like a mad woman everyday," I said.
"This is normal. What happened for the past 2 years, isn't normal."

Perhaps. What have exams done to us? When we are stressed, we complain; when we are not stressed, we complain. Oh dear... But I guess it's better to be in the latter group. :)

23 more days to finals! 33 days to freedom! :D

Saturday, May 2, 2015

What is Good?

And here comes a point in my life when I am confused about 'good' and 'bad'. No, I am not the slightest bit depressed; in fact, I am a bit too happy for Easter term because I have been blessed with so many good friends around and opportunities to grow. But recently, I had a conversation with a friend and we talked about how some people we call 'good' or generally perceived as 'good', were actually very mean to us. And we were like, 'how are those people good?' And there were just times when unjust things happen to good people (like the flood of political stupidity happening in my country now), when bad things happened to innocent people (the recent earthquake in Nepal) or things which I think were not fair happened to me (I have been holding grudge against generally well-perceived mean people). These moments really made me go, 'God, you are a good, loving God. I am sure you have your plans, but why all these unjust sufferings? If this is good, I don't know what is good anymore."

There are times when I thought something is good for me but when it turns out to be really bad; and there are times when I thought I've been through hell, but on hindsight, those hellish days are the ones which pruned me most. I don't even know how to judge what is good anymore? I mean, I know what loving is and how a loving act should be like, but what is 'good'? How do you define someone/something as 'good' or 'bad'?

Thank God for Psalms 73. 

We can never judge each other when we are on the same plane as them. Who are you to be more superior to judge over a fellow human being? What gives you the right to be the moral police and label someone as 'good' or 'bad'? There are times when you, yourself is so mean that you hate yourself too, remember? 

Indeed "When I tried to understand this, it toubled me deeply, till I entered the sanctuary of God, then I understood their final destiny". It is not to say, "you, non-believer go to hell, burn!" Really, no. But rather, it teaches me not to judge others, because since we are all of the same level, how can we ensure we can judge rightly/justly? The only One who can judge is God, who is on a higher level and can see clearly all that is happening.  Only He can judge justly. Things that may seem unjust, bad for us on plain sight, may not be completely bad. I never ever mean to say earthquake/other natural disaster that took away thousands of live is a good thing, I empathise with the lost of those precious souls. I don't know what God's plans is through all these devastating disasters that should not happen to good and innocent people, but it is not up to us to judge God. The fact that Jesus died to remove our sins from us, the fact that we are still here and the fact that we still know what 'love' is - those are enough for me to come to a conclusion for my faith in God.

So let's not judge others then have selective treatment, because no good will come out of that and we don't know the full picture. (Unless you're a judge, then you judge according to the law because you have the full knowledge of this human construct.) Rather, let's just keep our hearts pure and be loving towards everyone, because it will not be in vain when the day comes. 

(I need to work on the habit of constantly passing judgement onto people) 

Friday, April 24, 2015

New found motivation

To be honest, I was never that interested in 'medicine' medicine. Shocking, I know. Whenever I tell my colleagues or people around about it, they would be so shocked. "WHY?! It's such a noble job? You will save lives!" "But you're so good at it..." (not true.) The thing is you can be an expert in things you really don't give a damn about, especially in the academia. Just put in the hours, read, you'll get to the top. Maybe you weren't interested at first, but given the right guidance, you'll get to there. I don't hate, medicine. I was good in chemistry, biology and maths, and I am remotely interested in human biology, so when I was offered such rare, precious opportunity to do an interesting course in a prestigious, interesting place (+ an immensely quality lifestyle), I took it. Let's just say, I did it for the sake of, first, because my parents wanted me to; second, I had somewhat an ability to do so(?); thirdly, for the sake of proving social mobility is still possible in our society.

And satisfying those 3 points has got me quite 'happy' life for the past 2.5 years in Cambridge. No really, there were moments when I was truly happy to be here. 

But you know, people grow up and meet people, see the world. I saw there are actually so many others things which I am interested in the world. There are so many things that I want to do in the life! Life isn't that long you know. 2.5 years of this is fine. But I can't continue wasting time, doing what I am barely interested in any longer. I can't bear the thought of doing something I am not really passionate about for the rest of my life. I can't bear the thought of wasting my life just like that...So I started exploring what really resonates with me. It's a bit late, I know, to only do this when I am half way through a course and people have already invested so much money, time and energy in developing a hopeful-medic. But how can you expect every 17-years-old to know exactly what he/she wanted to do with his/her life when we don't even have sufficient life exposure, experience to know what we really like?! Gap year is a way to do it, so I had a gap year before but I still didn't know what to do by the end of it. 

"I am truly grateful that I have the opportunity to be in Cambridge. Not because it's one of the top university in the world, but because of the way we are taught."

I said similar thing while filling in the SAQ form during my university application without being consciously aware of what I was really talking about. I was just trying to please the interviewer. Halfway through my 6 years here, I became conscious of what that sentence really mean. I love the collegiate system. Because of how Caius forced us to dine in the hall almost every day during term time, we get to meet people from other courses. I also love how we can be involved in a society like CUMaS, where you meet all sorts of 'interesting' people from our country. People from different courses really do have different mindsets and opinions. And having the opportunity to talk to them on a daily basis opens up my mind to the world beyond medicine. I know you get to do that in other universities too, but over here, you essentially live, eat and breathe with experts from all sorts of fields. I see medics during lectures, I hang-out with engineers, economists and lawyers and my tutor is a linguist. I believe (or i like to believe) that these people have impacted the way I think in a very significant measure. 

Then I became interested in economics and sociology. The humanities used to be painted in very bad light in secondary school. Everyone was trying to get into the science stream in Malaysia's secondary school because that's where smart people go; because art stream classes are for less capable students.How far from the truth can that get!?I love how these disciplines touch on almost every aspect of life in so many different ways. The things they do are really meaningful and impactful on a larger scale, and not just on an individual basis in clinics. I started to doubt whether I am in the right course. I went "omg being a doctor is such an ineffective waysof solving problems. Omg I am in the wrong course, I hate my life, how do I get out?!" (Please don't get me wrong, I respect all doctors in every way. I just don't like the idea of doing the same thing for 40-50 years for the rest of my life.).I was reading the journal of a doctor who went to Sierra Leone under Doctors without Borders (MSF). After reading those horrifying accounts, I twitted back to MSF, "omg these doctors are so noble, sacrificing themselves and putting their own lives at risk to save those poor souls! But they are just putting bandages on a bigger, deeper problem! There's must be a better way to make lives of more people better, more effectively." I think designing and implementing good policies is the way to go. Don't get me wrong, we definitely NEED doctors to be at the front-line, otherwise those marginalised would not have any care NOW. I really salute the doctors in MSF and I look forward to be part of it one day. But I can't picture myself being that noble for long, and I really, want to do something more impactful in a larger scale with the short amount of time I have in my life on Earth. Then I realised I can't get out. I was in dismay. I started to explore again.

In our third year in Cambridge, we can choose to do any course we like. I, for some unknown reason, chose Pathology in Immunology and Microbiology and Parasitology. I had no idea what is coming up. I was taught about the molecular mechanisms of microbes, parasites and our immune systems. I was shown pictures of Ascaris lumbricoides (those icky spaghetti-like worms in the intestines) and hepatosplenomegaly while my family was enjoying Chinese New Year Eve's dinner in the far east. I was quite...frustrated.

Then we were taught epidemiology and public health. We were taught how to do simple math models and how to it has been used to affect health policies on a global scale; we were showed how our lecturer has helped WHO in planning vaccination programmes in Latin America, in Africa and in my very own home country, Malaysia. His math models have helped save billions in various cost- and time-effective ways. What the lecturer did really resonates with my interest. I went on to investigate the background of those working in WHO. I went on to check Margaret Chan's profile. Then I realised, they were all practising doctors for many years before they went on public health.

Today, I am able to see how a doctor/clinician scientist too, can impact billions of life, in very specialised, extremely demanded and significant ways, be it in research or policy-making. I see how we need to be trained this way: to know the science behind and to gain actual medical experience in the field, to really make a difference in the world. There is really a place for every personality in Medicine.

I often wonder why God opened these doors to put me here. 
 I can only pray that He reveals more and more of His will every day.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


You are a builder,
not an attacker;
All you have to develop and to protect yourself are you bare hands. 

You built yourself  a nice comfortable fort, 
with no weapons inside,
and filled it up with sunshine, pillows, balloons, cotton candies,
and happy thoughts.


When you made yourself vulnerable to a person, 
you opened up the windows, weaknesses in your wall, 
opened up the chances for him to slip in, 
to ravage through your stuffs,  
to stab you 
and to let you bleed.

'Why me?'
you asked;
You were at that person's mercy, because you consented to. 

Because in the first place, 
you trusted him;
You knew he could hurt you anytime,
but you believed he has no reason to
and he would not.

But he did it. 
In fact, he lifted you up from the ground 
only to drop you again. 


It's ok, builder. 
Forgive and forget,
both the good and the bad.
You still have your bare hands;
They are covered with callouses and wrinkles,
but they are still your most faithful hands,
more durable than ever. 

Repair the gates, 
build up a stronger, bigger fort!  

Do not fill it up with weapons. 
Fill it with sunshine, pillows, balloons and cotton candies;
remember the beautiful ribbons and flowers you've always wanted? 
Get those too! 
Top it up with tunes of happiness;
And there, your beautiful home. 

 Keep your eyes open. 

Open the gates,
share your beautiful new home with your allies. 
Do not let the prospect of an enemy slipping in scare you.
For your Father is still with you;
For your allies will not hurt you, 
and if the hurtful ones try to get in,
the Almighty and your allies are with you. 

For you are a builder, 
a builder of a happy home.

'Don't turn back. 
Promise me, from now onward, 
you will be more accomplished than you will ever be.'