Saturday, February 20, 2016

of surviving dengue

I survived dengue. 

It must be one of the most trying and tiring times of my existence thus far. Dengue hurts. Spent a good time tossing and turning in bed. Every joint on my frail body was aching. Breakbone fever is an appropriate name. It wasn't going to be " that bad" so I thought in the beginning - I wasn't hospitalised. 

It all began after a long day out with my girls, all 3 - we went to Kent Ridge Park, hiked our way to a picnic at Hort Park before heading to Vivocity for water play only to be interrupted by rain. We had dinner at Secret Recipe before cabbing home. The girls were good, no major incidents. They slept through the cab ride home. It was a day well spent. 

I recalled my body aching bad when I got home, it must from carrying Rayyan a good part of the day. It grew into a fever, so I took some aspirin because we have aspirin at home. That was midnight. 

The fever didn't subside. 1 more dose of aspirin in the early morning and I knew it wasn't just a fever. 8am, with a body febrile and aching, I made my way to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Mind you, it was sunday - a day before Chinese New Year. 

The hospital was bare. It was one of those quiet mornings. I had noone in front of my queue. Temperature taken at the glass door was 39.1degC. That's hot. 

The nurse triaging me was a friend, didn't take much to convince her that I knew I was having dengue. The doctor  who I saw just 10 minutes after also agreed that it might be dengue but due to the recency of the fever, blood tests might show a false positive. But we took the blood tests and I waited for an hour, buying ribena at the hospital's 24h convenience store - my attending doctor shared his experience surviving dengue on isotonic drinks like ribena. 

An hour later - the results came back. Dengue IgM Antibodies: negative but Dengue NS1 : positive. Test results conclusive of a fresh dengue infection. Platelets were still high but not my spirits. My discharge temperature: 38.1degC.  One week of rest at home though termed "Hospitalisation Leave" was granted.

I collected my medicine - just paracetamol, maxolon (for vomiting) and famotidine (for gastric) - to be taken as I anticipate these classical symptoms of the dreaded disease. I lumbered my way to the ambulance bay, spoke to an old colleague, an ambulance driver masking my pain with smiles and small talk. 

It was homeward bound then. The toughest 1 km walk I have had to make in recent times, maybe ever. I survived like I survived the next week, barely. 

Would loved to have said that next few days went by like a breeze - more like a scorching hot gush of hail pounding on my body and head. I knew it was going to be painful but pain is not something you can truly anticipate without actually feeling it. Sleep at night was constantly interrupted by the sheer body aches determined to make me realise the immense havoc a minute virus transmitted to me by a flying insect can wreck.  

I am humbled. well, a bit. I was also touched by the kind words of friends on social media and the kind gestures of family and friends at home and during blood tests. Common were suggestions of foods to take to alleviate my condition: papaya leaves, beetroot and the likes. My daily diet was isotonic drinks and coconut water - fuelled by a loss of appetite and the fear of vomiting out anything I consumed. Blood tests at the polyclinic and the hour-long wait become a routine - a quantitive method to chart my recovery progress. Symptoms were endured as much as they were anticipated but it didn't make them easy to bear. Lethargy has become chronic. 

Twice the doctors wanted to refer me to the Emergency Department, twice I told them - I am doing alright and will watch my symptoms. My 2nd blood test had low platelet count but was higher by a wee bit from the benchmarked 50 x10^9 per litre of blood. 55 was enough to save me from a night's stay in the hospital. These are the times I am truly thankful that doctors do trust the words of a paramedic - especially because I was the patient. So, I went home right after each blood test and continue to rest or at least try to. 

It was rather debilitating - I wasn't able to accomplish anything worthwhile save for just merely surviving the disease. The abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting were only aggravating the pathetic state of my weak disposition. Felt so useless and at times, it did get rather depressing. By day 4 - the fever has subsided and though I thought, it would get better, the rashes came. 

Day 5 came the prickling sensation, urticaria and the swollen extremities, ushering the next phase of the disease. I wasn't prepared for it. The disease is almost designed to make one feel the most amount of discomfort via various means in the shortest amount of time. 

By then, the blood tests has shown an upward trend of platelets and white blood cells. Data indicated that we were winning the battle but the war was far from over. 

Yesterday was my last day of MC, today marks day 13. I still feel frail, far from 100% - whatever that maybe. Mobile messages remind me of the backlog of administrative work I have to get done. Life is back on play, maybe in slo-mo for the next few days / weeks. 

I hoped to have been given some insight into life or living and attempted to think through my experience as I type these words but unfortunately that wasn't the case. I suffered and I endured. I survived dengue and life goes on.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

of revivals (part 1)

#ignitefaiths - First Batch of Ignitors
from a Facebook photo album of Nabil Kapadia

TWO weekends ago, I was granted a seven year old wish: To run an interfaith youth leaders camp. It was singularly the most fulfilling experience of my life yet. Had a great team with me and the most enthusiastic bunch of participants. I wish to track my journey to that life-changing moment when I called out the names of the participants knowing that I did my best to impart almost everything I know about interfaith engagement and leadership to them over a weekend retreat.

 Eight years ago, I was a participant of a similar programme. Youth leaders from various religious background brought together with the intent of building friendships and bridging communities. Like the participants of the recent programme, we too had to conduct our own mini-engagements. But unlike them, we had more intensive engagements; visits to places of worship and "attachment" to other faith organisations. I attended my first bible study session in a catholic church - we read the Book of Luke, Chapter 1. In an attempt to bridge my own understanding, I read corresponding verses from the Qur'an which also tells the story of Zechariah losing his voice (Zakaria), The birth of John the Baptist (Yahya), the Annunciation to Virgin Mary (Maryam) and the birth of Jesus Christ (Isa, May God's Peace upon them all). The understandings and interpretations differ but fact that the scenes are similar and the appreciation of these events as not only divinely directed but important landmarks in the history of Humankind's spiritual journey got to me. I was growing out of my shell as a Muslim youth volunteer.

 Then, I was a member and active volunteer of Fellowship of Muslim Students Association - till today I am not sure whether we were a fellowship of "Muslim Student Associations" or an associated fellowship of Muslim students. We organised quizzes and engagements for generally Muslim students in post-secondary institutions. I was also just starting out as a volunteer at harmony centre - launched in 2006 as a grand initiative to bring interfaith dialogue into the heart of a mosque post-911. 

 My first task as the first male youth volunteer of harmony centre was momentous, essential in the overall experience of each and every visitor to the interfaith gallery/centre. Open the theatrette door, invite everyone in, switch lighting and play video, and slides all on cue to military precision. Made perfect sense once you know that the head of Harmony Centre then was a retired army Captain who have served in UN missions. One of the gentlest souls I have met and so kind was he even to his own heart; he had an oatmeal routine meal and morning jog every week at the adjacent stadium. Supporting him was a knowledge management specialist; he was the Seargent with OCD and a recent graduate of comparative religion; she was the subject matter expert. Behind them was an army of docents (German for guide) from all walks of life - we were housewives, students, young professionals, recent Islamic studies graduates and a young chap who skipped university studies because he wanted to go out and make the world a better place. 

 I learnt much from my Harmony Centre family, every small bit of information that I gathered during the visits I shadowed I would try to string them into knowledge of sorts about Islamic civilisation, lessons from scriptures, comparative religion, and history of arts and science. I read more then than my schooling days. It was my school. My first school of interfaith. That knowledge was paired with the great hospitality and kindness of every limb and heart who made the gallery walls come to life. I never left harmony centre hungry or without a smile except 1 particular unfortunate incident (another story for another time).

 Harmony Centre was became my workplace in the year 2008 - I was a part-time administrative assistant. Basically, I was getting paid to do my hobby and other admin work. It was a humbling experience being behind the scenes - sitting on meal tables with muftis and bishops who greeted each other as brothers, meeting great scholars of faiths, and sharing my love of living with and learning from the many faith traditions that occupy the hearts of Singaporeans and People of the World. I could not stay there long because the absence of a degree or diploma on my resumé bars me from full-time employment.

 Coupled with my service to harmony centre, I was given the opportunity to host youths from all over Asia who came to my home country to stand in solidarity with fellow religious youth leaders. Only because I had the support and trust of the only internationally active Singaporean interfaith youth activist I know. Some years later, together we represented our home country in another summit held within a region branded as a religious war zone. First hand experience open my eyes and heart to the fact that the people of Davao and the island of Mindanao was nothing but a kind and loving community.  I walked my first ever street parade calling for "Peace in Mindanao" - a pilgrimage to the town square, an open prayer loud and clear for everyone in the streets to hear and join in. Peace in Mindanao.

 This post only celebrates a scintilla of the vast experience i gained between the years 2006-2009 which continue to enrich me till today as I reflect on it. Yes, there were times when I fail to live up to the expectations and tasks trusted to me. I have let many people down. I struggled to mend old ties and rebuild my relationships. I have much to be thankful for. I pray I can continue to be of service to those who fly the interfaith engagement flag. I am not be the most organised, the content expert nor have the largest connections - I still do want to excel in this field. I am an interfaith youth activist.

Up Next post-2009 < life as a paramedic > if God so wills

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

of a lesson in humility

Life's lessons come in many forms. Some may hit you right in the face whilst others are gentle nudges steering you back to the right path. I believe these experiences we go through are part of God's education for us in our journeys of self-discovery and ultimately, self-fulfillment (in what ever form that may be). This is my attempt to narrate one such experience; one which got me questioning my sense of pride and me always being "overly" self-confident.

There are people you meet in life who just make you want to emulate them or learn from them. But they don't actually teach you nor instruct you. They motivate you to seek self-betterment by just being the people they are. I have been blessed with many great mentors in my brief time on earth. The best of them is a father of 5 and a man I once wished was my own dad.

We haven't met for ages. We didn't even plan to meet that day and as such the meeting was brief. I was in Tampines ( Suburb in Eastern Singapore ) to chat up with a fellow activist who I have seen grown over the years. I was inviting her to a part of youth development project I was working on. Needed the support and experience as the current team is made up of mostly freshies. Soon after our little chat, I headed to the neighbourhood mosque, Masjid Darul Ghufran. I deduced that the congregational prayers just ended as I could faintly hear the recitation of closing supplications as I made my way closer to this House of God. Lo and behold, standing outside the musollah (praying area) was Bro Helmy Isa. Decked in his usual office attire, long sleeve shirt (it was blue that day) and black pants; no tie, no frills. I spoke to him a bit before heading in to do my pre-prayer ablution. Truth is I missed him quite a bit.

So there we were, just having small talk; how are you? I'm fine, alhamduliLLAH and the like. Then from a distance; a familiar voice called out, "You were an AA (Ambulance Attendant / Medic) right?" It was Wak Leh, a retired firerfighter who served his last few years as an ambulance driver and that question was directed to my mentor. Wak Leh knew me as a paramedic trainee and an "AA". Bro Helmy did serve his National Service in the Singapore Civil Defence Force but not as a Medic. I was a provost, he politely replied with that ever so sincere smile on his face not embarrassing the elderly man - because for all you know, they may have never met and he was mistaken.

The conversation continued with Wak Leh asking more questions, "What are you doing now?" I help out in mosques. "No wonder... I have seen you around in mosques. Which mosque do you work in?" Oh, I help out here and there. Wherever I can. In that moment, I had to restraint myself. I wanted to just burst out and say - he is the director of mosques in singapore. i.e. He overlooks the management and operations of all the mosques in Singapore. Later I found out, he was in Darul Ghufran to personally meet the Mosque Executive Chairman, Haji Abdul Matin. Then without him noticing and he may never know, there I was being taught a very important lesson in humility.

1. He was pleasantly conversing with Wak Leh who is known to be a chatter in a good way. Though it began with a mistaken identity, he continued to speak and was discerning enough to put Wak Leh at ease and not make him feel embarrassed.
2. He did not reveal the true nature of his job. Instead he was humble enough to just describe as "helping out in mosques".
3. Though a director, he travelled half way across the island to meet his subordinate. They may have something to attend together but it was clear that he made the effort to go to the mosque and not make the mosque chairman go to him.

If these are not signs of servant leadership, I don't know what else would qualify. May I learn and internalize these lessons as I strive to be a better person with each passing day. God Willing.

I am not the best of mentors. I don't think I even deserve to be one actually. But there have been instances where I have to act as one either in official capacity or otherwise. So I dedicate this prose to all my mentors who never cease to inspire me and all my "mentees" from whom I continue to learn so much about human relations, the world and myself.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

of the hunt

it is over

Monday, June 21, 2010

of deliveries and deliverance ( Part 2 )

Everyone knew I was going to be late but not everyone knew why. I did not even try to rush back to the hospital. Fatigue and disappointment makes a lethal combo for the soul. Yet, I prevail reminding myself I have committed myself to be a paramedic and this course / experience is vital for my personal competence. Hope was waning; maybe I was not meant to deliver a baby this time round.

I headed straight to the pediatric ward where all my group members are. It was our last stop in the series of attachments within the hospital. In the footsteps to the ward, I did what I always do - suck it up. As soon as my face appears before the others, a smile masks all the negativities which reside within me. After speaking to my co-ordinator who advised me to stay and learn at the pediatric ward while she survey the potential mothers at the delivery suite. She will contact me should there be an opening for me. Was I ready to disappointed again? No. But agreed I to her plan, I did.

Dived right into the hustle and bustle in the pediatric ward. Management and care for patients in a ward setting differs from emergency pre-hospital environment I am used to. In a previous attachment to an antenatal/postnatal ward, I learnt best to tag along NYP student nurses and most fortunately, I recognised someone from that attachment now in the same ward yet again. So the student nurse assistant I became. Being busy does help chase away the memory of yesterday. I even was instructed to do a round of vital signs taking myself. Felt rather immersed into entire workings of the ward very quickly. But alas, fate beckons..

I received a cal from my co-ordinator. Her voice signals good news. The joy of actually doing something worthwhile in the ward seem to have lifted my mood. So I handed over the thermometer to some student nurses, returned a black pen ( recordings can only be written in black; I carried only a blue pen ) and rushed down to the delivery ward.

En route, managed to help a lady who was visting some friends navigate the maze of the hospital. Why is the neonatal ICU in the women's tower? Because the neonatologists are here - I knew that only because I met one during my observation of a delivery - baby's heart rate was below the normal range, a sign of fetal distress so the neonatologist was summoned to the delivery room to assess the baby.

Arriving in the delivery suite, i initially decided not to walk in as none of us were assigned there today. The fear of being chased out by the nurse clinician was real. but the staff nurse at the triage area told to just walk in; so I did.

Familiar faces greeted me. First was the receptionist at Counter B then there was the housekeeper "makcik". Got myself acquainted to them the previous times I was there. Next was one of the advanced nursing diploma students, to whom I enquired the whereabouts of my co-ordinator. Hope resumes itself in my hearts of hearts.

< to be continued >

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

of deliveries and deliverance ( Part 1 )

you make wanna write a love song
you make wanna sing all night long
you make wanna smile when i hear your voice
and when you speak, you drown out all the noise

in my head.

- yet another unfinished song.

Yesterday at 14:51, delivered a healthy baby girl - with guidance from a staff nurse.
Witnessed 2 deliveries before. Once was last week, the other 4 years ago in the back of an ambulance.

As much as the experience of delivering a baby is blog-worthy, the biggest lesson i learnt from the whole experience was about patience.

Each of us was assigned 4 shifts at the delivery suite ( labour ward ) in Kandang Kerbau Hospital. "Us" here refers to fellow paramedic trainees currently on Obstetrics and Pediatrics Course under NYP. We were also assigned to antenatal/postnatal wards, children's emergency and pediatric wards during our nine days attachment stint after many days of long lecture hours. It was a refreshing to get out of the classroom.

Of the many objectives we had to meet, the most daunting yet also the most anticipated is conducting a delivery/childbirth. First, we have to sit in and observe a delivery. I got my chance to do just that on wednesday. It was a normal vaginal delivery but at 2 instances the doctor had to use a vacuum suction to aid the baby's descend. Baby came out healthy embraced by happy parents. I too share their joy and am very much in gratitude to them as I was turned down by many before them - uncomfortable about having a male attendant present during their delivery.

Then it came to my very own hands-on experience. After yet another round of rejections, a young malay couple consented. I am very happy. It was about late afternoon then but the staff nurse assured me that baby will be coming out by 9pm. She even pre-filled many of the documents as they always do to smoothen the administrative requirements. So I waited.

Many hours, sitting outside the ward. Skipping dinner and proper rest. Once, the husband stepped out calling for assistance. They are instructed to press on the call bell if they needed to be attended to. He informed me that her blood has backflowed in the IV drip. I walked in and clamped the drip set - as taught in my paramedic training and went to get a staff nurse. She then replaced the IV bottle with a new one and calamity resolved. She took the chance to examine the mom. Baby's not coming out yet.

I waited till 11pm - way pass my shift time. Nudged several times by the nurses, asking me to go home, questioning my stay. I finally left the hospital down and disappointed when the staff nurse in charge of the patient said to me - Go home ah, don't waste your time. So i did.

That night, sadness overwhelmed me. Many of the things I was clearly worried about started to surface. Many of them i fail to express to anyone thinking there is noone to listen. and those who have listened to me are very distant.

Glimmer of hope came in the form of one speaks about the stars. I love stargazing. So I decided to camp outside for a while - mapping out the glitter in the sky. Called her up hoping to shared with her where the scorpion lies that night but my call wasn't answered. She texted back - with some words of encouragement - informing that she was at the beach with a friend. Her little respite and clearly, she did not need a whining voice to spoil her escape. I miss the beach and I was starting to miss her. But as it seems, she wasn't missing me.

Facebook status was all I could afford to call out to friends who only replied with comments on the status. No phonecalls no smses no other attempts to connect to poor old me. Noone cares enough for me.The old mantra of self-pity found its way to my playlist. I chose not to wake up feeling lousy the next day.

Unfortunately, I woke up feeling lousy. I woke up late after getting home late the night before. Rushed my way to the hospital. Had to sms my attachment coordinator of my late arrival. The morning did not start as pleasantly as I hope it to be.

< End of Part One >

Saturday, May 15, 2010

of saturday morning

im bored.

there is a politics forum happening right now. bunch of smart people getting together to talk about how singapore is a not a nation but merely a state. what is the difference you might ask? i stopped caring a long while ago.

never really figured out why i cared so much for the big-big, chim-chim issues of life and the world. it was a progression of sorts i guess, the culmination of years of self-exploration and the conversations in between.

far from being an expert on any of the things i ramble about in the presence of others, i choose to articulate my thoughts usually with the hope that i will make sense of the silent cognitive processes in my cephalus. most of the times, the memories of my public rants slipped away into the graveyards of embarrassing moments. buried with decaying tombstones.

dont remember names well. or faces. so facebook helps. to some extent.

yesterday, i spent 4 evening hours sitting on the same spot - staring at a fire garden. an arts installation which aimed to reach out to the public, the opening of an annual arts fest. met several interesting individuals during my short stay; fellow victorian batchmate with his wife, arts fest surveyor, ex paramedic-now-nyp student, *$ barista and gf and myself.

conversations in my head never cease to end. tiring they can be sometimes. haiz.

nyp has been very fun. kind individuals offered to show me around. managed to catch u with some close friends, made some new ones (:

i wish i have somepne to share the things which excite me. someone to care about my worries and woes. someone to bear with me when im down. someone who dare to be mine.

in return, i will celebrate her. every moment for the rest of her life.

mutual should our affection be and united are our destinations/purposes of life.

i pray to meet her soon.

sitting alone for 240minute. doesnt seem that long if you are not watching the time. if you are lost in thoughts. if you are me.

ok, saturday morning is coming to an end.

thank you God.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

of references

this is not about you

its about someone else.

i have yet to meet this person
but i know i will some day.

i hope the person is a girl
because with all due respect, i'm not that kind of guy.

she will be beautiful. she is beautiful.
i just haven't seen her yet.

she has the sweetest voice
and an angelic smile.

she will make each day worth living.

where is she? i don't know.
she doesn't even know she's her.

not yet. at least.

so if you happen to meet her,
tell her i'm waiting.

this time, for real...
no more games...