Hospitalised! – The Facebook Postings (Days 4-6)

During my hospital stay, I managed to execute an unexpectedly popular microblogging event of my hospital experience (possibly due to my morphine-induced state; and these are all true accounts) on my Facebook profile that had everyone who was reading in stitches. Here are some of the best.

*** 10 September (continued from here) ***

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(This is after the new plug was inserted into my left hand)

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(And the morning after I was discharged)

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It must be said (again) that the nursing staff (even the attachment students from the polys) were fantastic. The doctors sometimes a bit gorblok, but still I’m okay now. That’s the important thing.

Hospitalised! – The Facebook Postings (Days 2-4)

The first couple of days of my hospitalisation, in between X-rays, CAT scans and the most painful ultrasound scan I have ever experienced (they had to dig the scanner under my ribcage to look for gallstones, and they ended up not finding any; I cried),?I couldn’t do anything other than physically manage the pain (besides, the wife took most of my belongings home when I got warded, including my phone, so I couldn’t play Candy Crush in the meantime). On the third night, however, the mood changed. And it was chemically induced.

8 September. The pain was still adamant, so the doctor decided to put me on a constant morphine drip.

//

The drip stayed on me for a good 3 days, during which, out of boredom, I executed an unexpectedly popular microblogging event of my hospital experience (and these are all true accounts) on my Facebook profile (I don’t anyhowly add friends, but just about everything in there is public, and you can always subscribe) that had everyone who was reading in stitches. Here are some of the best (read the comments as well!):

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Days 4-6 continued here.

Top 6 Questions You Should Never Ask a Guy Who Just Got Hospitalised

Those of you following my personal Facebook profile will know I was warded in hospital for what was eventually diagnosed as an inflamed pancreas, or pancreatitis. It was a painful first 2 days, followed by a rather well-documented following 3 days of drug-induced happiness, and a final determined effort and planning to get out of hospital and get on with life that some have remarked bears some resemblance to the show Prisonbreak.

But the most taxing part of the whole ordeal wasn’t the pain, the needles, the prodding and pushing of the organs that really should not be prodded nor pushed, but the fielding of questions, from family, friends, and even medical staff, when the wife and I decided to announce my hospitalisation (which in this day and age, meant a simple Facebook update, though I decided to go further and turn it into a live microblogging event).

Here are The Blogfather’s top 6 questions you should never ask a guy (or girl, or, well, everyone else) when he gets hospitalised.

DoNotAbuseStaff

1. Are You Okay?

I got asked this at the clinic that decided to sic the ambulance on me by one of the older reception staff that I thought meant well when she patted me on the knee in the midst of one of my ab-crunching pain waves and asked, “Are you okay?” I looked at her incredulously and snapped back, “What does it look like?!”

If you have to ask, you’ve either never been sick, never seen anyone sick, or haven’t seen the sick guy yet, but chances are if he’s going to or already is in hospital, dude’s not okay. Next.

2. What Happened?

This question does sound pertinent, but in a situation such as mine where I got hit with an alien pain (meaning a pain I never felt before, and not an alien hit me in the stomach), the immediate response can only be “I don’t know.”

I cannot blame family and friends for this, but medical staff should know better and phrase the question more specifically. “What happened?” asked the A&E resident. “Gnnnngnnnggnnnn-idontknowdoccanyoutellme-gaaaahhhh” I say. Calmly.

(I did actually say that to the evaluating physician at the A&E I was sent to. Not calmly, though.)

3. Do You Need Help?

There will be people that, by habit of not wanting to intrude, don’t want to trouble anyone, will say “No, it’s okay, I can just — GAAAAH.” But honestly, if you need to ask, it’s because the fella’s making the answer really obvious already, so skip the question and just help the poor sod.

4. Why Are You Here (or, How Did You Get To Be Here)?

I was asked this by a couple of 3rd year med students who were doing obligatory patient engagement exercises around the wards as part of their coursework on diagnostics. It started like this:

“Hi, we’re 3rd year med students. We’d like to ask you a few questions. Could you spare us a minute?”
Me: “Um, sure.”
Med Student 1: “Thank you. So, how did you get to be here?”
Me: (looks at her skeptically) “I get to be here by ambulance.”
Med Student 2: “Oh, sorry. What we meant to ask was, why are you here?”
Me: “Because I’m sick. How did you get to 3rd year?”

I would later give the two poor young medical academics a rather thorough lecture on how asking stupid questions will get you stupid answers.

5. Does It (Still) Hurt?

Do not ask this when the person in question is already writhing?in pain?and groaning like a hungry ghost in a closed food court (although if I had to describe my own groaning at the time, it would have to be like one of those stuntmen lying on the ground after a group attack on Jackie Chan failed.)

6. Where Are You Warded?

This is a very clever question. It sounds like an innocent ?query seeking to find out which hospital you are currently residing in, when actually it turns out to be a fact-finding mission so well-meaning friends can visit you.

I did manage to find a way to field this question directly and honestly by saying: “Think of it this way: I wouldn’t invite guests to a house I’m trying to get out of.”

At the very most, I’d say which hospital; if people really wanted to know, they can call the hospital admissions department to find out which block, ward and bed a patient is located in. I found out about this when a fruit basket was delivered to my bed by my school volunteer group when they found out I was warded (thanks, guys).

The Fairy Tale Must End

Last week, friend and mum blogger Rachel of Catch Forty Winks published a post about a set of answers by a child from a Primary School test paper (it’s since gone viral) that were marked incorrect based on the contextual understanding of fairy tales instead of grammar and sentence construction (which would otherwise have been no problem at all).

I left a comment there saying it was an extremely problematic test question if the teacher were to bank in on a single model answer in an “answer scheme”. If you’ve seen the questions Rachel featured on her post, then consider the following answers:

The snake turned the fairy godmother into a handsome prince.

The handsome prince turned the snake into a fairy godmother.

As far as grammar and sentence construction goes, absolutely faultless. And if put in context of a properly twisted story, easily proven sensible (prince found a wand, scared of snake, so turned him into a fairy godmother instead lor).

Or how about this:

The castle on the green field was beautiful.

That brings the context back to what the teacher would deem as conceptually correct. But if this was not provided as an alternative in the answer scheme, what would be the course of action?

Well, I do know of at least one story where the fairy godmother would likely turn a prince into snake.
Well, I do know of at least one fairy tale where the fairy godmother isn’t nice.

The commentary about local educators’ staunch adherence to an established/archaic academic standard?has been pretty well-covered over the years by parent bloggers and education pundits around the island (even me); I won’t revisit the argument here. But there was a comment in the discussion following Rachel’s post that I just had to take issue with (with no offence to the commentor specifically), which cast fairy tales (as we know it today) as an established genre carrying “certain predictable plots and characters”, an “element of magic and fantasy” and stereotypical “good vs evil” plots and “happily-ever-after ending(s)”, some with a moral of the story meant to guide children along a correct path, both in terms of character education and – by understanding the genre thoroughly – in creative writing as well.

The argument actually sounds quite, uh, sound… until you dig a little deeper into how fairy tales evolved, from spoken word to written form and its modern iteration in media and pop culture. But (rather more frivolously), it also gives me an excuse to give you a brief introduction on how fairy tales came about, and why, as the closet perverts most of us are, you will undoubtedly get more curious after reading this.

(I may ruin a number of children’s fairy tale plays running in a few theatres right now. You’ve been warned.)

I grew up on the same understanding of the mainstream fairy tale genre as everyone else; saccharin sweet damsels-in-distresses waiting for their charming prince to defend them against monsters and witches who would eventually be cast away for a happy ending. Then, a few years ago, I spotted a copy of the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales sitting in my sister’s bookshelf. Knowing it to be a collection of short stories, and having a couple of minutes to burn, I flipped through the stories. And the more I flipped, the more my eyes widened; I ended up borrowing the book for an extended study.

A Gustaf Tenggren illustration in an 1823 edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales (via Animation Resources)
A Gustaf Tenggren illustration in an 1823 edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (via Animation Resources)

Wikipedia has a good summation of what I read from the original Brothers Grimm stories:

“The first volumes were much criticized because, although they were called ‘Children’s Tales’, they were not regarded as suitable for children, both for the scholarly information included and the subject matter. Many changes through the editions – such as turning the wicked mother of the first edition in Snow White and Hansel and Gretel (…) to a stepmother, were probably made with an eye to such suitability. They removed sexual references – such as Rapunzel’s innocently asking why her dress was getting tight around her belly, and thus naively revealing her pregnancy and the prince’s visits to her stepmother – but, in many respects, violence, particularly when punishing villains, was increased.”

The argument for instilling fairy tale morals as values to be followed becomes more flawed over the next paragraph (which I can also attest is present in the original Grimm’s stories):

“The tales themselves have been put to many uses. Hitler praised them as folkish tales showing children with sound racial instincts seeking racially pure marriage partners, and so strongly that the Allied forces warned against them; for instance, Cinderella?with the heroine as racially pure, the stepmother as an alien, and the prince with an unspoiled instinct being able to distinguish. Writers who have written about the Holocaust have combined the tales with their memoirs, as Jane Yolen in her Briar Rose.”

Having read the old tales, I will say with some authority that the Brothers Grimm qualify as the 17th?19th century (thanks, JoAnn!) German writer’s equivalent of Quentin Tarantino. I mean, there’s a lot of sex in there! And violence! And… stuff. And it’s not just the brothers, either: many of the fairy tales we’ve come to know and love that aren’t Grimm’s products have similar less-than-savoury elements.

Needless to say, our modern versions (available at all neighbourhood libraries and your nearest video store) have been quite well-modified for a much more acceptable G-rating. And the most defining traits of the genre – the stereotypical characters, the good vs evil premise and the feel-good endings – are the result of the editing, manipulation and?extensive exercising of their creative licence?of one corporate entity that we all fondly know of as The Walt Disney Company.

The modern-day fairy tale may be regressing to its original coarseness though.
The modern-day fairy tale may be regressing to its original coarseness though.

It’s all well and good, but there’s a little niggly feeling inside of me that finds the whole argument for a fairy-tale module hard to swallow, particularly if the morals and values of said fairy tales, so well accepted by our local language educators, were in fact shaped by a multinational media company, and not, as all other primary school subjects are, subject to scientific, mathematical or (at the risk of contradiction to the “archaism” argument) historical or even (at the risk of sounding like I support this) governmentally underwritten socio-democratic standards.

I remember putting down my sister’s book, feeling like I was living a lie this entire time. One can view this with nonchalance, or even say “Well, it’s been corrected now, so what’s the problem?”, but somehow, I cannot bring myself to live down the hypocrisy. I guess The Blogfather is not as forgiving as he would like to be.

And the scariest thing is, this is just one facet of the many complexities over the different subjects, modules and syllabuses we have to face as parents when we try to contend with the education system at large our children enter into; the debate can go on forever (and I’m fully expecting someone will say something to contribute to this discussion, too).

***

Oh yes. If you want to borrow my sister’s Grimm’s tome for a look-see, she says no.

Hospitalised! – The Drama Before the Drama

When I said I’d go on hiatus, fate will make sure I REALLY go on hiatus.

6th September. It was my first day at a temp job for a friend. I clocked in at 10am, full of hope that I would be able to perform well for the next couple of weeks and wriggle my way into a full-time corporate communications position they needed to fill.

Then at 12,I went out for lunch with the department I was working in. No sooner had I sat down and taken two sips of my teh peng, I felt this excruciating pain in my upper abdomen, scarily close to where I thought my heart was (please ah, no jokes about my wife stealing my heart at this point). For the next 5 minutes, my friend was looking at me funny as I clutched my chest and abdomen with my left hand, and asked if I was okay. Not one to lie, I shook my head. But I motioned for everyone to carry on while I compose myself.?Then I tried to eat. After swallowing 2 spoonfuls of rice, I knew I couldn’t continue, so I excused myself and said I’d see them back at the office after lunch.

I never got back to the office.

hospitalised-before-after
Before and after; I had to take a photo that morning for an office passcard which I never got to use.

I subsequently checked myself into a toilet cubicle and sat on the toilet bowl wondering how I was going to get rid of the pain and get back to work. But it was so bad I could barely walk, and it was so consistently bad that after 45 minutes in the tiny cubicle sweating buckets in cold, I messaged the wife to tell her what was happening, describing the symptoms and the area of pain as best I could. The wife sought the advice of the most accessible doctor we knew – Google – and our online physician advised that I go see the doctor immediately.

I hobbled through two buildings trying to find a clinic I could walk into. It was 2.30pm by the time I finally found one, and the pain was so unbearable that I couldn’t speak. The doctor kind of freaked out when all I could do was point to my abdomen and blurt out single-syllable words, saying, “I can’t diagnose you. We have to call you an ambulance.”

The doctor put me in a room with a bed for me to lie down, and asked one of her receptionist staff to call for an ambulance (she had to repeat it three times to her staff, and later I overheard a young voice asking, “What’s the number ah?”), and another, older staff member to keep an eye on me while she administers some painkillers to help me with the pain. I was getting quite annoyed by my circumstances, knowing there’s no way I could go back to work, and no way I’d ever get full-time employment at the company any more (and I really liked the place, too). So when older lady kept standing there – literally “keeping an eye on me” – and started patting my knee (which unfortunately aggravated the pain) asking in Mandarin, “????” (or “Are you okay?”), I managed to catch a gap in between the waves of pain to snarl back at her, “????” (or, with consideration of said snarling, “What the hell do you think?”)

The ambulance finally arrived and I was loaded onto the stretcher, but the damn clinic wasn’t done with me. As I was being wheeled out, the same older lady stopped everyone just before I made it to the door, saying rather sheepishly, “Uh, Mr Tay, you need to settle the bill.”

What. The. Fuuuuuuuuu…

I thought to myself, the fools have my freaking address, a required piece of information for their record-keeping when I walked in and registered. I stopped my internal griping right there and decided I didn’t want to have anything more to do with this clinic. So in my stretcher, with 3 paramedics looking on impatiently, I dug for my wallet, wincing as my abdomen contracted for me to reach my back pocket. Then I slid out the first card I could find, and if not for the pain, I’d have thrown it into the face of whoever was standing closest to me.

***

I was lucid throughout the journey to the hospital, feeling, grimacing and groaning with every slope, brake and bump despite the ambulance driver’s best efforts to maintain a smooth ride.

My dad said over the phone to me while I was in the clinic that the most effective way to get attention at an emergency ward is if a clinic called an ambulance for you – it’s considered irrefutable professional opinion from a doctor to a hospital that you need help. I would stop short of saying said doctor’s opinion was professional (she said she couldn’t diagnose me), but my dad was right. I’ve never been attended to so quickly and attentively in all my life’s experience in getting warded into the A&E. And then when they asked me for the third time what score I would give my 0-10 pain scale (all three times I gave an 8 or 9, because the pain was performing so well), someone said morphine, and I thought, “Oooh.”

And it all got a bit fuzzy soon after.

Learning Contentment

Dear Xander,

A year ago, I wrote to you about chasing dreams and seeking happiness.

A lot has changed.

As you grow older, you must not take for granted the fact that you are constantly on a learning journey, with your graduation and convocation scheduled to happen only on the day you die – as it still is for me.

I was hospitalised two weeks ago. During my recovery, I was given a lot of time to think and reflect on the way I lived my life the past year. It began with hope, then quickly peaked with much anger, which spurred almost exactly one full year of intensive soul-searching (which some people may also accurately define as bumming and skiving), and ended with the minor health scare which I am still reeling from today.

But I met a student doctor during my hospital stay who had a profound conversation with me that began as a compulsory doctor-patient engagement exercise. As he cleared his first obligatory question with me (“How are you feeling?”), the discussion somehow branched off from how bits of my life flashed before my eyes when I first got wheeled into the A&E ward to a scene in The Gladiator in which the rather-insightful-for-his-age medical student managed to quote from – word for word – about how important it was to keep the people entertained in the gladtiator’s arena,as a reflection of managing the political arena.

More importantly, I shared with him what I learned about living a good life. Recounting what your mother said about needing me to be happy in order for the family to be happy, I said to the doctor-to-be that over the years I have had to modify that ideology. I learned that happiness is fleeting and temporary, and needs to be sought and given; you cherish the moments gifted to you, but you don’t know when it will next happen again.

Contentment, on the other hand, can be learned and nurtured. And contentment, once learned, is a lifelong skill in avoiding grief, accepting diversity, and ultimately finding peace.

Probably in the first 20-30 years of your life, you will wonder if you will ever be content with your lot in life. I cannot hope that this letter will automagically grant you the wisdom I have taken my 35 years to earn; indeed, I doubt I can consider this wisdom, as I am actively disagreeing with my own writing from a year ago. But I do hope you see something in my writing that will be of use to you in your years to come.

***

Hospitalised

The day you first came to visit me in the hospital, my sisters told me that you said were aware I was in hospital, and that you were worried for me. when you first saw me, you only took one glance at my dazed expression marred by the many tubes in my arm and in my face, and you turned away, burying your face in your grandmother’s lap to cry.

It broke my heart to see you cry for me. But it also made me realise how important I was to you, and that moment, I only wanted to be your father even more.

I’ll take care of myself from now on. One day, when you become a father yourself, remember how you cried for me when I was down. Your children will need you, and you will need them too.

Love,

Dad