Garfieldhug's Blog

This & That Including What Ails

Living Graciously, Leaving Triumphantly!

Besides blogging on quality of healthcare and or I as I say, “This & That & What Ails”,  I also serve as an honorary volunteer DC in some corner of Singapore 🙂

My committee members and I will end our 2 year stint come March 2014 and I must say, I feel proud to have chaired a committee that looked into the needs of seniors. Last evening as we rolled through our accolades, I smiled happily that our flagship projects have been rolled to the ground and the funny names (I am good at creating taglines 🙂 ) given to gardening clubs (I call it Green Thumbs & Toes Program), Superminds, Seniors Camp etc etc was aimed at giving creativity to programs that would otherwise fail to distinct itself from others.

Our pet project was a “taboo” one as it dealt with dying & death! I remember speaking gingerly to a statesman about it and I could feel the hesitation and I knew where this gent was coming from – if it was not pitched properly or carried out in the most dignified manner, it would rile some feathers. Our society is largely Asian and many do not like talking about death or dying though we know it is our ultimate end. Besides it was ill omen to broach the subject of dying when one is in the pink of health.

Therein lies our challenge as our committee of 6 ( whom I shall call A, B, E, P, R & ME) pitched our brains to “de-stigmatize” this. I remember coining “Loving Hearts, Beautiful Minds” to de-stigmatize mental illness and I came up with the suggestion of “Living Graciously, Leaving Triumphantly” – this drew much excitement amongst our little group as we bantered on ideas as to how to make it work – i.e. without making our subject taboo to begin with.

Besides financial planning, making out a will and estate planning, one of the key topics we felt that many seniors felt or feared was the religious rites to be conducted when the time came for them to leave triumphantly. But this was not spoken of! Further, as a committee we respected the need to be diplomatic and respect the different cultural ethnicity of the people. Our best offered suggestion as a solution was to provide linkages for the different major religious groups as a resource for the seniors should they require assistance in this area. We were not the best qualified people to advise on this and it is best left to personal choices and not advocated by us.

Last night when we saw the statistics of the commitment from the ground on this topic, we achieved yet another accolade! Proud times indeed for our little group.

If we looked back at what we achieved in the 2 years since our appointment, we have spear-headed quite a few flagship items and most importantly, it benefitted the ground – our silver generation or call it in plain speak – senior citizens.

I laughed when we saw the T-shirts printed for the seniors whereby a tagline said “Active Seniors” – again I always wanted to dilute stigmatizing “seniors” and suggested that it should follow with “…..just getting there” or “….not quite there yet” – a tongue in cheek pun of words I would say!

Humour is the best medicine I think and humour can be used in many ways to lessen hard selling tactics. By making it fun, it attracts Seniors to want to wear the T-shirt or make them proud to stand up and say, “hey I am an active senior and I am proud of it!”

I am proud to walk away from this committee knowing I have made a difference to the lives of the seniors, albeit I must say, a small part but I sincerely hope it will go a long way to continue to make an impact to the many lives of the growing pool of seniors in Singapore.

As for the next term of service, let’s see what is next! If I have to take on duties to serve my country, then I must do it with heart, soul and mind – I dislike doing a half-baked job. I like leaving my paw print somewhere meaningful 🙂

I would like to think we did not too badly…………….

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Sunflower Seeds – A Rare Find In Stores

The humble sunflower seeds have not only escalated in price but they are hard to suss out.

Before my brother left for HK, he found some at Fragrance, a competitor of Bee Cheng Hiang chain of grilled bak kwa. Like a parrot, I whalloped an entire packet in a sitting.

Sunflower seeds are great diet food. It makes me full too, imagining a full meal when all that chewing produced 25gm after shelling them.

So, I was delighted to see some at Changi Airport Terminal 3 and grabbed 3 packets. I could have bought a carton but heh heh with my degenerated spine, it would be a feat to cart it home!

I read once on the web that too much sunflower seeds may cause neurological disorders. The article did not say how much per consumption?!

So, I practice moderation. I shall eat sparingly. Hmm this is not a problem as it is hard to find sunflower seeds in its shell form without seasonings. I am almost tempted to buy them from a pet shop as it seems to be what hamsters eat ha ha!

Anyway, today I was at a kopi tiam at Gleneagles and I was disappointed that their kopi set was limited and it costs $2.50! I miss my kopi french toast set at $2.20 at SGH.

But I digress….back to Changi Airport T3, there are loads of shopping to do. Watsons and Cocoa Company has GST absorbed. There’s plenty of food outlets including a gelato stall that sells interesting flavours like “cat mountain durian”, guava, Johnnie Walker Black Label etc! Cool flavours at $6.50 a pop!

As for the video shop at B2 they were selling chinese soap serials at $10 per set of 8 dvds to $79.90.

Yes, I find shopping at Changi Airport T3 a breeze as parking is plentiful, GST absorbed and enough space for me between humans to feel less claustraphobic!

You ought to try it sometime and load up on stuff.

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Dr Lui Hock Foong

I’ve known Dr Lui since his return from UK to Singapore as a gastroenterologist.

I remember as I had just tossed out his colleague who had trivialised my appendicitis as a gastric episode! I was fortunate to have this correctly diagnosed and recovery was uneventful.

Dr Lui is calming and speak in soft tones. He is not unapproachable and has the kindest heart. He has a pleasant disposition and has always put me as a patient first just like all his other patients.

I remember once texting him from a bad episode of food poisoning and he was there in a jiffy at A&E to take care of me.

That was a horrid experience and after 7 days hospitalisation and loads of drips and medicines, I was back on my feet.

So what distincts Dr Lui?

Besides being a terribly good internal medicine specialist, fantastic gastro doctor, he is also the only doctor that can fix my bronchitis whenever it rears its ugly head.

I remember once I was in Adelaide and bronchitis struck, Dr Lui never abandoned me as he prescribed meds to me via text messaging! He is one who is truly upholding his hippocratic oath with heart and soul.

As a specialist he could have charged an arm and a leg but he never does. He abides by reasonable charges and took care of my family members without charge if and when they consult him.

These days I am happy to see him at his clinic amidst loads of customers in the waiting area. It means he is a good physician!

I have personally sent a few good friends to see him and they all return telling me they are very happy with his doctoring and that he made each patient understand their condition without making them feel ignoramus of their ailment.

Dr Lui has been my doctor since 1995 I think. I feel blessed to have him as my good doctor on my panel of doctors and easily entrust my life to him each time I need to be hospitalised.

It is easy to be a doctor to a patient but it is harder to be a consistently good doctor with heart and personable approach time after time, despite my crankiness when fever hits or I am coughing like a banshee. I appreciate Dr Lui’s patience each time as he patiently solves my medical ailment.

My thanks to a doctor who is not arrogant, but kind yet humble and a fantastic specialist in gastroenterology and liver diseases 🙂

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Friday – My Long Awaited Weekend Ahead!

It has been a trying two weeks for me that literally exhausted me both mentally and physically! Each evening, I would crawl home and long to cuddle into bed with my favourite Garfield in a 22 degree Celsius air-condition controlled environment!

Yes, I one of those that prefers a cooler room temperature than those who say sleeping in a 25 degree Celsius temperature saves electrical cost.

I am not one of those as I find it too uncomfortable to sleep in a room at 25 degree Celsius- it is almost choking really!

Why has my week been hectic?

Work has been piling up and a colleague who sat with me yesterday said some wise words which made me ponder – he asked me why is my “book getting so thick” and if I understood or know how to use three words – “I don’t know”

Ha ha! Uncle R does make me laugh sometimes. He is not a fuddy duddy uncle per se. He is a graduate from a famous Newcastle university in Scotland and he is a senior manager with a full understanding of how the ground works in terms of engineering. He is one that “walks the talk” and can discard his long sleeve shirt and put on a PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and go to the ground to wreak havoc on workers not doing their tasks! I like his style! He is not a pencil pusher I must say or a glorified administrator but a seriously knowledgeable engineer!

Hmm…my book has indeed gotten thicker as the months go by and I believe I am arrowed for more things to come. If I looked at the tasks given to me, I could say I am proud as management seems to think I can do it OR I can be selfish for self and say, hey my bosses are milking me for every $ they pay me!

This is where I prefer the half full concept of a glass of water and choose to believe that my bosses think I am capable therefore they are making me apply myself very hard! I am happy with the achievements and yes, undoubtedly it works my grey cells to the bone, I find that my speed is higher and scope wider. I do not know if I am happy with it though but I suppose, happiness is elusive and to me, if I got the job done, it is one item out of the way.

But I do pity the team that works under me as it means if I took on more, they will also have to carry on more as my load increases, so does theirs!

I am proud of my team of 7 whom I see everyday and 8 whom I hardly see but once a month as they are located in the other locations. Still, work gets done with smart IT media these days.

I do have a lame duck and a bunch of idiots whom I am now making them more alert and taking ownership of their tasks. I have one particular team mate who works in a world of her own. Speaking to her or obtaining information from her is harder than trying to get into Fort Knox! I feel that to get information from her, one needs to peel an onion and with each peel, tears would roll down my cheeks. The facial expression I would get when speaking to her is a mouth opened blank look attitude.  I feel that she does not fit into her current job scope as she tends to “hide” information or clearly does not understand what is team work.

Another lamer duck is practically looking very busy everyday, disappearing acts and doing tasks that is not hers to begin with. Exasperating bunch and I call this one, “headless chicken” – truly no management skills yet taking on a manager’s title.

Under her reign, she has created a bunch of mini headless chicken and again her regiment is silo information and refusal to create a team. With 3 persons under her, she runs a mini empire with no clue as to what is expected of her other than fire fighting when deadline is up and her butt is under fire!

Life is peachy and hence I look forward to this Weekend with gusto before next week rolls by and it is back to my hamster wheel again.

Have a nice weekend ahead folks & may it be a restful one too 🙂

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Another Looming Surgery Ahead

I pondered over the remarks made by my anaesthesiologist which was conveyed to me through my brother last evening. He apparently saluted me and commented that I had to go through yet another surgery. So did my trusty other doctor who uttered “oh dear” to me through text messaging.

Yes, I have a panel of doctors. One could claim that they are paid to care. But I think not. I believe I have a genuine patient, friend, doctor relationship with them. I have their personal mobile numbers and they attend to me at any time of the day, regardless of weekends, public holidays or hour!  I have had one doctor responding to me and confirming medications when I am unwell – virtual over the handheld device to prescribe meds when I do need them. They have trusted me and given me a dosage of spare medicines to be used in “emergency” situations.

Others pay as well but the treatment is different as it is strictly, patient and doctor. There is nothing more than a “hi doctor” and after treatment, “bye doctor” relationship. I guess I have an aura that grows on my doctors as much as they have grown on me, in mutual trust and friendship. For this, I am appreciative and it is not about the fees that they could have earned. Trust me, I get a discounted rate too and it extends to my family needs if and when they have the sniffles or whatever! They are a benevolent lot I must add!

I am in short, a medical challenge to them. I am an atypical patient. I understand medicines, diagnosis and can exactly pin point the causes and anticipated drugs required. I work jointly with them as I have 56 known drug allergies and probably more untested.

The hardest part for me is if I do not co-operate with them, which makes it harder for the panel of doctors to treat me.

For each surgery I go through, I have to do my homework and write down the adhesives that I cannot tolerate, medications and foods. Yes, I too have to work with nurses and the chef at the hospital as nutrition is equally important to get me on my feet.

The nurses have come to know me and they know exactly what I can have on my skin, IV drip or catheter or otherwise. They would come in and teach me Tamil or Burmese or Malay! In turn, I listen to their personal or family issues. I give them a listening ear as they give me medical care. It is the least I can do for them as they wait on me hand and foot, nursing me back to health.

It is not easy being ill. It is harder being a difficult person when ill. Still I am asking myself how do I go through each of these sessions? I truly do not know. I am emotionless as I go through it clinically. My thoughts are if it is broken, then it has to be fixed, otherwise it causes me more harm.

Am I physically drained? Yes – my body is tired from being cut up so many times ( I believe I have gone through more than 8 major surgeries – I lost count) and believe it or not, anaesthesia does indeed wipe out memories. I find myself with not much memories left to recall and lately at work, the amount of tasks taken has milked my grey cells even more as I am multi tasking more than 10 items at one time.

I am one individual that can read and watch TV at the same time! This is how I train to multi task.

So when my brother asked me last night – how do I take it and that he felt I was very strong-minded. I suppose I am strong-minded but practical. I cut down the problem to smaller pieces and asked myself what can I do. If I moped, would it help me? If I give in, how will this impact others in terms of inconveniencing them? If I cried, how will it solve the issue when it makes me more tired and lowers my immunity system?

I tend to dissect problems and offer a solution. Is this then strength or practicality? I would prefer practicality to describe my action of overcoming an issue. I find that even when I am rigoured in pain, I can still soldier on as the adrenalin takes over to drive me to complete tasks. My biggest challenge is in the evenings when my body protests and in the wee hours of the morning when I wake up as it is indeed a test of physical pains!

Little things make me happy – happiness is transient as I shared with a silly consultant once (he was paid $109,000 to question 30 people in a company). Eating a piece of chocolate made me happy for that second. It tasted and made me happy as people would say “5 minutes of on the lips, Forever on the hips” – there you see 🙂

Happiness is transient and it eludes you. I am not Buddha and I am incapable of achieving Nirvana as Lord Buddha did! I rely heavily on practicality to drive me and shove mindless things aside as I have very little private hours in a day.

On top of this, I am now driving self to get back to attending meetings for charity work. Why do I do it? Why do I push myself after starting work at 5.45am daily and ending at 6pm and then rushing off to a meeting at 7.30pm? I have no answer except that I want to help others in the cause I believe in I suppose.

I now have the big task of assembling my surgical team and inducting my new surgeon on my medical allergies and hope for the best I suppose. On the bright side, I have a new surgeon to give sleepless nights to or get him to use his grey cells a bit more.

Morale of my story is – everything depends on myself. Only me, myself  and I can solve my own problems. I cannot rely or depend on anyone as there is only so much others can do. To depend on them is a false fallacy as they are not obligated to me. This I have proven over and over again – no friend nor loved one can continue to run this marathon with me. I know, as my supposedly “best friend, soul mate and someone who supposedly said he “loved” me dropped me like a hot potato when he realised that he was not going to gain from my estate even though if he put in the effort. Money, sadly, drives a stake in one’s actions! So, plan your estate carefully and remember, no one is true till the four nails are nailed to shut a coffin lid. Only then, will you know who is a person who was a sincere and good friend 🙂

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Prescribing Right Medicines

I had the opportunity to interact with physicians at Ward 54 at Singapore General Hospital these few days. Young and hardworking, I found them with the right heart ware.

In particular, Drs Lee and Gardner. Dr Lee is training to be a paeditrician and I think he fits the job to a T! Gentle and patient, Dr Lee has a kind and patient disposition to be a paeditrician. He will do well and be a successful one at it.

Dr Daphne Gardner is from the UK and she is an internal medicine consultant. Dr Gardner’s team includes Dr Lee.

I appreciate them listening to me, my views and options for treatment ideas. Receptive and patient, I worked with them in a partnership role.

However the standard of nursing care could be improved. As their “supervisor” for the day (an unpaid one I might add ha ha), I caught then giving out wrong meds to a patient and their gaps in ensuring right instructions are communicated to patients where tests and samples are required.

All in, I could tell that the nursing staff were tired and they did their jobs like robots. A few of them had a fair bit of heart and I do see them nursing with their heart.

Whilst the hardware of IT and digital ware are available, nursing and doctoring must be with heartware. This is a given for successful medical care!

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Seeking Consultants? Select With Care

Sunday Times is always my favourite read over the weekends. I literally read it cover to cover, including the Careers section.

I read once that one has to be careful selecting talent or procuring consultancy services. I cannot agree more. Given great IT technology, documents are easily milled. This is where HR’s mantra of “paper milling” is on radar to discern amongst those who may be guilty of this.

The same for consultants or where consultancy services are marketed. I went through an interesting exercise once. The consultant was from UK (do not get me wrong as not all consultants from UK are bad) and he is to me, a “freshie” with little work understanding of the culture or work methods of Singapore. I could understand that he wanted to garner experience working in Singapore through a consultancy firm but the question to me was if he was a good fit.

It is easy to come packaged as an expatriate, with glitzy brochures and or company souvenirs of note books. Still I shuddered when looking at the covers of the note book as it came in triangles and in multiple colors. It reminded me of turgid designs that Van Gogh used and I could understand Van Gogh as he was mentally affected during his painting years. To me, being a HR practitioner, this seemed unnerving as it did not put me at ease looking at the triangles and associative colors. It put me off really. I had wanted to give my 2 cents worth of feedback but held my tongue as I did not want to rain on their parade! Further, constructive criticism may not be welcomed.

I went through an hour of questions and answers by this Team whom I shall call John and Tom. John is a local Singaporean and Tom is the aspiring expat. Neither complemented the other and Tom led the question and answers using a recording device. To me, this was again a “no-no” to obtain constructive feedback. I wondered how many would agree to this interview commissioned by the boss for a tape recorder. It reminded me of how “honest” can feedback be elicited!

The questions came fast and furious with no time for a participant like me to think. It irritated me that Tom kept looking at his watch. I knew he was on a clock but to make me respond honestly and truthfully was a challenge when my interviewer kept looking at his watch. It showed me he was either disinterested in me or he was just going through the motion as he was not really interested but he had a fee to earn.

One of the 50 questions asked over an hour (which is about 0.83 minutes per question) – of which we started 10 minutes later, one of the questions asked of me was why I am with the job I chose and another was – use one word to describe the company I worked with.

Hmm – given the turgid triangles and Tom’s attitude for interview, I told him I wanted to see an SME grow ie use my talent and skills set to grow the company as I had a belief and a patriotic streak in me. As for the one word to describe the company, I told him “chaos”.

Tom’s fee did not come cheap and given the quality of his work, I must comment that it would be a sorry waste of resources as I have been a participant at larger organisations whereby consultants had elicited feedback in a formative manner with the right ambience and setting. I maybe bias but I was unimpressed with Tom. He had no understanding of our local culture, industry and the business specifics related to it. Further he failed to pick out that I was not a production operator – I am not a foreign worker nor do I work on the shop floor. I was in the business of people management.

As a consultant, the least he could have done was to read up on our company’s business, the people’s background or positions, roles they hold and ask specific relevant questions that can relate and augment his fact finding consultancy work.

So, I can agree with the articles recently featured in the newspapers – there are consultants and there are consultants. To select a consultant, we should not judge on if the marketing rah rah was good but the essence of the consultant and his team. Sure signs of potential set backs would be the consultant’s background, ability to understand and integrate what he knows of Singapore, economic trends and labor laws within Singapore and especially the business of the organisation it is intending to offer their service too.

In a nutshell, Tom did not impress and given my cynical outlook, he did not garner my respect and he pales beyond comparison with other consultants I have worked with in previous environments. UK or otherwise, it is not the country but the people who run the business that makes a distinct difference. This is my humble opinion and view in adding to the merits of the newspaper article reported. We must be alert to whom you choose to help you with your business ideals!

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Mixed Bag Of Blues Before Monday

I took a leisurely stroll to Cold Storage (CS) this morning. I bravely went without my back support as I have a degenerative spine. I had to know if I could comfortably survive the half kilometer walk as I do miss my usual 2.5km walks every day in under 20 minutes.

I did! I entered CS and went shelf to shelf browsing on goods to shop for. I made a mental calculation on what I could carry as I knew carrying more than I can manage would hurt me.

I happily got some ham, 2 loaves of rye bread and a tub of margarine. I read the fine print of food labels and realised that Buttercup butter was made of palm oil and contained sugars! Real butter had carbohydrates and sugars.

Margarine on the other hand had some but lesser. Margarine made from sunflower had no cholesterol and sugars.

My daily diet for breakfast for almost a year had been Gardenia’s walnut country loaf with either margarine (Meadow Lea slightly salted) or an occasional treat of a slice with Skippy’s chunky peanut butter spread.

Lunch was a no brainer as I work in the boon docks area where food is scarce. I pack my lunches comprising wholemeal bread with loads of lettuce and ham. I have a mug of 3 tbsp of oats with nestum to accompany my sandwich. I would alternate with oats and nestum mix with a pc of McVities Digestive with 3 wholemeal low sodium Jacob cream crackers.

I did not have to fret for lunch. Sometimes I would join my colleague for a bowl of fish and pork soup. This was usually a weekly or fortnightly treat.

I left CS happy with my groceries after plonking a tub of margarine into the basket for check out.

I reached home and my spine did not complain. Encouraged, I hope to do this weekly till I can do more. I also discovered McDonalds had a new fast food competitor by the name of Subway! I like Subway and would go there for a treat some time.

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Prophetic Speaker

I went to The Upper Room this evening. I enjoyed the sermon by Pastor Jeff and was told he ministers to the people on the street. He is humorous and rather entertaining. I found him insightful.

I met another Prophetic speaker. He asked me to “let go” and write to the people whom I felt had done me wrong and asked for their “forgiveness”. This hit a raw nerve as it reminded me of a man whom I let him to get close to me to hurt me.

Asking this man to “forgive” me?! I wonder if this man would write to ask me to “forgive” him for what he had done to me?!

Impossible task or should I say unbelievably impossible for me to do. Sounds proverbial i.e. asking your enemy to forgive you?

Call it emotional baggage or whatever, I cannot forgive the people who hurt me. I hate them for what they have done to me, especially this man as I cannot believe his Christian faith supports his action and that he takes no ownership of his actions. I look at the heavens and ask why? Why do I have to ask forgiveness from the people who made my life a living hell? I am prepared to face my maker and tell him that “sorry” is not a word I would offer them. Since these people including this man can get away with their deeds and actions, then they deserve my hatred.

Perhaps if this horrid man and the horrid people who did me wrong would care to call me or write to tell me that they have now in them an ounce of sorrow to say sorry, then maybe I may begin to forgive them. Till then, the prophetic speaker will not see me anymore.

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Thinking Positive Don’t Help, Practicality Does!

I do not believe in positivity rah rah sayings as I know no amount of positive thoughts can change a diagnosis or outcome.

If a diagnosis is made for any medical condition then dealing with it is far more practical.

There is much to do. Eg preparing for inevitable end or less painful process of treatment.

I always believe in a less painful death or easy death i.e. a swift one and a less costly one.

Medical cost to treat is expensive in Singapore and so, many would prefer a swift death. Lingering death is horrid as costly and no dignity to dying process.

Even with insurance, there is a need to pay and claim. One needs fluidity to sustain treatment before refunds come back in.

I think too much. I tend to be prepared and take battles head on. I cannot afford to sit back and pray for an immaculate solution as higher forces such as God does not seem to be in tune with my physical needs. This would be the single most stupidest act if I sat back and wait for a non existent divine intervention.

Que Sera Sera…..if my journey is complete on Earth then I must take leave. Perhaps then I will have eternal happiness, away from horrid life, people who sap all my energies and unnecessary financial issues made by man.

No more politics at work, home or anywhere. Now that would be ideal!

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