Screwing Around at Beach Road – A Gary Pride Story

Pink Dot may have come and gone, but the propagation of love has to go on. To that end, there is something I must confess. I’ve scattered hints about this little known fact about me on Facebook now and again, but it’s time I just came out and said it in no uncertain terms.

There’s someone else in my life.

For the days when things don’t go well at home, when the wife and I have a disagreement, or the children are just too much to bear, or even when work pressure drives me into a very bad place, there’s someone I go to, who is able to bring me to our very own secret place, and be there for me while I physically and mentally vent my frustrations and let loose my inhibitions for hours on end, most of the time with me straddling on top.

His name is Gary. He’ s about 12 years old, and we’ve been going out for 2 years now.

Oh, Gary. <3
Oh, Gary. ♥ ♥ ♥

I’ve been on and off the bike scene for a good 20+ years now, and I’ve always dreamed of owning a Gary Fisher. But when I finally got this old bike (second-hand off a Togoparts listing), it needed a lot of work, a lot of which I wished I could do myself.

That sets the foundation for why I’m writing about a bicycle mechanics school.

A fellow blogger whose husband ran a local outfit called Bike School Asia happened to be paying attention to my cycling-related posts on my Facebook account, and sent me an invite to try the school’s basic bike maintenance workshop. My first reaction was, “Got such thing meh?”

Then I was told the workshop would be conducted over two 9am to 4pm days, on a weekend to boot. My second reaction was, “Got so much to teach meh?”

When I was told how much this basic 2-day workshop cost – $350 – my third reaction was, “Got people want to pay meh?!”

But the offer made me think about Gary. How he was always there for me during the good times and the bad, making sure I forgot all my troubles after rubbing me in all the right places for hours. How he would be drenched in my sweat after a good 2-hour midnight session, bearing the burden of my body while my legs were wrapped around him. And how after 2 years of riding each other (because over longer runs, sometimes I can’t tell if I’m riding him or he’s riding me), how I still didn’t really know how to take care of him in return, and give him the loving care he so sorely needs and deserves after still being there for me despite the abuse he suffered from his previous relationship.

So I got permission from the Mother of Xander to get a weekend off, and wrote back to say I’d be happy to attend.

BSA-Entrance

And when I said the love for my bike would bring me to secret places, I wasn’t kidding. The Bike School Asia workshop is nestled in a non-descript backdoor unit of the Sultan Arts Village, at the end of a dead-end street leading to the Malay Heritage Centre entrance, with no signage whatsoever indicating there was anything bicycle-related in the vicinity. Fortunately, Kenneth Wee, the school’s founder, saw me roaming aimlessly about at the front gates of the Arts Village and ushered me in, just in time for the lesson.

Toys for boys - and there's a lot of them.
Toys for boys – and there’s a lot of them.

Camera-shy Kenneth (or Coach K, as he prefers) would later tell us that when he first started out, the school was obliged to maintain a low profile because the local bike shops felt he was a threat to their businesses, a feeling he said was unfounded because he felt teaching people how to deal with their own bikes would only bolster component sales for the bike shops while alleviating them of the low-yield, labour intensive installation, repair and maintenance tasks.

The workshop itself is cozy, with one side enough to hold up to 6 students on 3 bicycle workstations lined up to one side. Coach K jokingly called it his man-cave, for when he needs a time out from the wife and kids (man, does that sound familiar). With a roundtable introduction of my other five classmates, Coach K got down to teaching us the basics.

Or I should say, all the basics.

BSA-Hands-On2

When someone with a coaching diploma from Union Cycliste Internationale (the governing body for Olympic bike racing) and a bike mechanic certificate from the United Bike Institute based in Oregon, USA teaches you the basics of bike maintenance and repair, you can be sure you’ll understand and appreciate not only why it costs $350, but why it takes him two whole days, and why his classes (6 at a time, usually on the last weekend of every month) are usually fully subscribed.

Over the whole workshop, Coach K covers a crash course in the anatomies, histories as well as the evolutionary, design and functional differences of popular bicycles and bicycle componentry, complete with a nearly 80-page student’s manual and a good part of the workshop spent doing hands-on training, removing and reassembling headsets, inner tube replacements, brake tuning, calibrating drive trains, right down to precision Vernier caliper measurements and screw and bolt torquing. And if you own a decent foldie, fixie, roadie or mountain bikie, yet didn’t understand 3/4s of what I just said, then you should consider taking a weekend to attend a basic two-day bike maintenance workshop.

Its not to say the workshop is very cheem; Coach K is just really in-depth. He does put things in palatable terms for his students, and his candid demeanor, subtle ad creative’s humour (he ran his own advertising agency prior to starting the school, so his in-class on-screen graphic presentations also got a bit of standard one, okay?) do make his lesson plan easier to digest. More importantly, the professional all-round bike guy isn’t afraid to bring up examples of his own mistakes, thus inviting everyone in the class into a very open atmosphere where questions are never stopped, and never left unanswered. That’s also the reason Bike School Asia has ladies-only classes as well, so the womenfolk can release their inhibitions (so to speak) without worrying that a random guy might throw a wrench in the works.

BSA-Mantel
A grim reminder of past kills from previous students. Stop the cruelty!

That said, there are a few things you will need to take note if you do attend any of the school’s bike mechanic workshops. Firstly, you will get your hands dirty; it’s really the only way to learn. Second, wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting a bit of grease on, and covered footwear, because a changing to the toe in the event of butterfingers is not funny. And thirdly, don’t bring your own bike with the premise that you want to use it for your own hands-on practice (I thought about it, too), because inevitably you’ll be doing cable replacements and recalibration, and you’ll be prone to drop your tools, scratch up your bikes and even break stuff (during the workshop, we’ve managed to break a number of bolts, mangle a rear derailleur and cut a cable too short on the shop bikes), and the school can’t guarantee you can ride home with a replacement part, because they’re not a bike shop. Besides, Coach K already has a collection of $2,000 bikes on hand, all set up properly for you to ruin. So don’t be vain, can?

On a personal level, I’ve come away from the workshop with a much clearer idea of why Gary sometimes does the things he does, and how with the right tools and knowledge, I can help make him feel so much better, whether he’s at home or when I have him straddled between my legs. But the certificate that comes with Coach K’s course doesn’t just pay lip service to a weekend of screwing around with 5 other strangers. The course has a potential commercial takeaway as well; Coach K’s had students come out of his courses to start their own boutique bike shops, too.

And as I asked around the class for the reasons why they were there, the family men raised a motivation for learning bike maintenance which, admittedly, the Blogfather also has a strong inclination towards, and one I am very sure is not lost in Coach K as well as a dad of two himself.

Xan-Cycling

Bike School Asia is located at 71 Sultan Gate, in the Sultan Arts Village compound, around the corner and at the back. If you’re interested in taking up their basic bike maintenance course or any other workshops they have on offer (Coach K also conducts ladies-only classes, and also does wheel-building courses as well as a full professional bike mechanic course), do check their workshop schedule at their website for registration and fees.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! The Blogfather will not leave you hanging without a little incentive, would he? For a little extra something-something (waggle eyebrows), use the promo code BlgfthrBikePorn (or click this link and select your preferred date corresponding to “Certificate in Bicycle Maintenance and Repair” to book) from now till 31 December 2014 and get a $35 discount (that’s 10% for those that like to do maths) off, only for Bike School Asia’s Basic Bike Maintenance & Repair certificate course! BlgfthrBikePorn only applies for the first 10 slots, and the slots fill up fast, so put some leg power in your pedal, can?

My First Week with Yvie

It’s been a week since Yvie was born. I’m happy to report we all survived, though I have to say with some surprise that the Wife and child are doing much better than I am. More on that later as I recap our first few days as a family of four.

Day 1: At the Hospital

You may have read about the minor drama surrounding the delivery. As we settled in at the hospital (we were there for only a day, so it wasn’t much of a settling-in), I notice the hospital staff were rather extremely adamant about their maternity patients taking up breastfeeding. We had no problems since we said yes immediately upon being asked, but our bed neighbour did not, and we overheard a very-close-to-angry exchange between patient and nurse when the staffer tried to insist the mother opt to breastfeed – after the woman straight declined no less than 4 times.

You will also be interested to know that when we had Xander at a private maternity hospital years back, the staff there were rather extremely adamant about us taking up formula feeding – the exact opposite. We would eventually take up mixed feeding for Yvie (at least for the first few days, though the Wife is much more confident of providing for Yvie naturally (we needed the formula as a timeout feed because the poor woman’s boobs can only take so much abuse every 2 to 3 hours). What disturbs me is how such maternal ideals are so polarised between medical institutions, and how the staff are trained to force their hospital’s prescribed ideals into their patients, who probably spent the last 7-8 months pondering over and making their final decision already.

The whole debate in the next bed kind of reminded me of the current LGBT war of words going on the last few months (or years, if you count the 377A debate). No prizes for guessing who the nurses resembled.

Day 2

The confinement nanny we booked had to fly down from Perak on short notice, seeing as we were discharged only a day after we were admitted. Thankfully, it worked out well… until I got into a car accident whilst driving her to the supermarket to get our first batch of confinement groceries.

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The confinement nanny was incredibly apologetic for distracting me with her questions and causing me to lose focus. After I paid off the guy whom I induced to take off my bumper (really, it was my fault), I told her, “Look at it this way. If not for the accident, we wouldn’t have been able to break the ice so quickly, right?”

In my heart, I was thinking, that was some damn expensive ice breaking.

Day 3

Now, let’s get this absolutely clear: when you’re hiring a confinement nanny, you are in fact hiring a trained professional to take care of mother and baby, and not a maid. With this understanding, I had to rearrange our bedroom such that the confinement nanny be able to stay with the Wife and Yvie with as little obstruction and disturbance as possible.

That also meant I would be sleeping in the living room sofa for the entire month. I don’t sleep well on the sofa, partly because the sofa’s been broken for a while now. In fact, it really does seem the Wife, the confinement nanny and Yvie are all much more well-rested than I am.

The confinement nanny did say to me that besides caring for the mother and child, she would also try to take care of the household chores that the woman of the household would normally be doing were she not recovering from having another person forcefully ejecting out of her nether regions. That being said, she was only going to be with us for a month, and The Blogfather knows better than to take for granted that someone else was cleaning up the house on a much more regular basis than we were for the last 8 years.

So I’ve been mopping the floor, too.

Day 4

Grocery shopping is now a three-times-a-week activity, each trip costing between $20-80, car accident notwithstanding. You also learn the proper Chinese terms of a lot of premium meat cuts, fish species, herbs and vegetables you would normally just eat and not sit down and get to know on a first name basis. Like I said, the confinement nanny’s a professional, and Google is your (multilingual) friend.

Day 5-6

It starts getting a little blurry by this time. I am told I lasted some ways longer than the average new dad, but I did reach my breaking point somewhere in between day 5 and day 6.

On day 6, I got into a minor spat with the Wife at the polyclinic, lost my patience with the nanny whilst she was trying (and not quite succeeding) at teaching me how to bathe Yvie, and I was this close to swearing at my own mother when she unexpectedly expressed her disappointment at my not driving carefully enough and losing money over the car accident.

But the biggest victim was Xander. Throughout this time, he’s been the ultimate trooper with all the changes that’s been going on. He been nothing but loving, courteous and patient while we’ve been busy cooking, cleaning, planning and fussing over Yvie. And yet, on a Saturday afternoon, I managed to not be the loving, courteous and patient dad I should have been to him by flipping out on him for not paying attention when I called his name or asked him a question. In all honesty, I knew I was flipping out on him for being what he naturally is – a happy, playful, sometimes distracted 5-year-old boy.

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That thought was my wake-up call to end what would otherwise have been a pretty ugly meltdown.

Day 7

It’s 1am into Day 8, as I think about the things I did on Day 7 that days 1-6 prepared me for. I’ve relearned how to change diapers, give baby baths, and how, while doing these two things, no matter how you take care not to, you will still get peed on. Every. Single. Time.

And boy, am I glad.

It doesn’t matter what you do for a living – self-employed, full-time employee, part-timer, or freelancer – the first week of your child’s birth is your most crucial week in fatherhood. You have got to be there with your wife and your child, no matter what, or you lose the one precious week that will inevitably define your relationship with your entire family as a husband, a father, and a person.

I’ll be back at work today, not only missing the first 7 days of having Yvie in our lives, but knowing that it was one of the most well-lived weeks I have ever had.

Now That's Expedited Delivery

8.08am: “Please come back when u drop Xan off at school.”

The Wife had been spending the last couple of weeks at home while I drove our son to and from school every day as I went to work. Today was no different, until my phone buzzed just as I was pulling over at Xander’ school entrance. She would be a good one week earlier than scheduled if she were to deliver today, but we sort of knew she’d deliver earlier than her estimated delivery date.

Suppressing the inner freak-out I was experiencing after reading that message the Wife sent me, I stayed calm while Xander took off his seat belt, opened the car door, took his school bag, and trotted happily into his school, unaware of what I was now gearing up for. I gave him a big tight hug and kissed him goodbye for the day, knowing all our lives would have changed by the time I saw him again in the evening.

8.29am: I got home to find The Wife in the bathroom, scared stiff, and screaming in pain every 2 minutes. “I don’t dare to move,” she said. “I think you have to call the ambul- AAAAAAAGGGGHHH!

8.34am: It didn’t take long. The paramedics came; 6 to 7 strapping young lads and a stretcher. She said the same thing to them as well. “I dare not move.” To which one of them replied as he set down the blood pressure monitor on the floor just outside the bathroom, “Ma’am, This is probably not the best place to give birth.”

8.39am: Once she was loaded up into the ambulance, I was instructed to meet them at the A&E where I was to do up the paperwork for her admission. I drove off first, thinking I wouldn’t get caught in the peak-hour jam if I avoided the expressway.

8.58am: I got caught in the peak-hour jam.

Meantime, the ambulance arrived and The Wife was wheeled through the A&E, straight into the delivery suite.

9.32am: I only just pulled into the hospital parking lot when a call came in. It was the paramedic informing me that the wife was in the delivery suite, and asking where I was. I managed to spot a car pulling out of a lot, and slotted myself straight in, much to the chagrin of a car waiting just ahead (experienced drivers will know what is the ideal spot to wait for a vacating parking lot; the poor sod wasn’t at that spot).

9.38am: I reached the admissions counter. One of the paramedics was there, and he looked at me with a half-apologetic look, saying, “Mr Tay, I have some good news to tell you. Your wife has delivered.”

“Shit.” I sat down.

He stuck his latex gloved hand out. “Congratulations.”

“Ah, shit,” I said again. Then I took his hand, and shook it with a smile. “Thanks.”

2 minutes later, I was in the delivery suite, looking at this sweet young thing for the very first time.

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Her name is Yvie.

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(Domain name register liao.)

Take Care, and Watch The Diet

I mentioned earlier that health was one of the issues behind my hiatus late last year. The past few months have a number of people in my social circle confused and maybe just a little annoyed with my rather drastic post-hospitalisation change in diet. I’m hoping to clear the air once and for all with just this one post.

I got my second blood test results last week. Besides the high (bad) cholesterol reading (touted to be the cause of the pancreatitis), I now also have diabetes.

Given my family history of the ailment, it’s not a big surprise. Whether it was a result of the pancreatitis or not, is just niggling after an inevitability. Nonetheless, the news hit me pretty hard. Didn’t help that I didn’t like the doctor, either. Poor lady must get this kind of response a lot from the way she announces things:

Doctor: “Well, Mr Tay, your diabetes is confirmed. So we’ll put you on a course of oral pills for the next 14 weeks so your body is more sensitive to the insulin… uh, Mr Tay, are you all right?”

Me: (staring hard into nothing in particular) “No.”

Doctor: “Why?”

Me: (staring at her) “Well, it’s not like you just gave me good news now, is it?”

Yes, like I said. I didn’t like the doctor.

Subsequently, I decided to test the ground by telling a select number of people what I had, just to see how everyone (me included) would react.?One friend went, “Crap. Take care, and watch the diet.” Another went, “Must be the diet.” A colleague at work seemed rather lost for words, so she started talking to me about food. Another friend started talking to me about essential oils and natural alternative sweeteners (which I am actually taking into serious consideration), but by friend number 2, I knew where the trend was going.

To be completely blunt, it sucks to be reminded about what caused my downfall in the first place. So I understand completely that you only mean well, but you’ll excuse me if I leave your well-wishing comments online if they consist of the word or connotation of “diet” or “eat healthy” in it, just so the people who have read what I write here will know you didn’t read this post thoroughly (or at all). You might want to take note of this if you want to communicate the same to people who are suffering from diabetes, too.

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The day I got diagnosed, I asked the doctor for a medical certificate for the whole day; I was no longer in the mood to do much else, much less work. But I did want to do one thing.

I spent the rest of that day with The Wife, talked with her about it, got a light pep talk from her, had a late, light, vegetarian lunch, then picked up Xan from school and went to a nearby park where we gave him a little picnic meal, and hung out at the park playground. It turned out to be a good day. I had everything and everyone I wanted in life with me, so I must have done something right. And they reminded me what I was living for, so I know I must do it right.

… aaaaaaaand he's back.

Three months was a tad longer than I expected to be out of commission, but life happens, and blogging tends to take a back seat as a result.

At first it was, “I need to focus on getting a job.” Oh My Word, as promising a proposition as it is for me, sadly wasn’t paying the bills. With No. 2 on the way (we’re due in March and still we haven’t settled on a name!), the Wife made very clear that I had to do better than a monthly take-home of $200 or so. My absolute lack of salesmanship aside, I realise it was important that I embarked on the idea anyway, because I learned exactly what I could do, but would rather not if given a choice, and what I really wanted to do. And what I really wanted to do was write.

Then it was, “I need to focus on getting through my probation.” I managed landed a job in the middle of my first hospital stay in September. It didn’t help that a couple of days into my new job, I had another pancreatitis attack and was knocked out of commission again for nearly a week. The good thing is, I hit the deck running when I got back to the office, because I really, really liked the work. Three months later, I am now a full-fledged copywriter in an ad agency; I get to write. I get to be a professional smart aleck. And I get paid.

But the biggest thing holding me back from blogging again was, “I need to get healthy again.” Those following me on Facebook over the last three months would note that I’ve been going to the gym, and developed a personal vendetta against food photos (it doesn’t help that a number of mom bloggers I’ve made friends with over the course of the year are certified kitchen goddesses). Allow me to explain, as various doctors have explained it to me.

You see, boys and girls, the pancreas is the second last stopover point in the digestive system. It takes care of breaking down any oil and fat (cholesterol) that you’ve ingested, and is also the organ responsible for producing the insulin that takes care of the sugar in your body as well. And the whippersnapper happens to have an incorrigible attitude (particularly in my case, given my family history); you hit it with too much work to do, it’ll turn around and inflame on you. And once it does that, your relationship with your pancreas will never be the same. That contract has to be renegotiated; you can’t give it too much cholesterol, and you can’t load it with too much carbohydrates and sugar, either, otherwise it’ll bring the full force of the Union on you. And sometimes, that contract is permanent.

I held back on writing about this, firstly because I’ve got family reading this, and secondly because the doctors aren’t even sure if this will turn out to be a lifelong ailment (not until my next blood test in a couple of weeks, anyway). But 3 months into finding out I’m only human, the more I get into this new regime of food and exercise, the more I don’t mind regarding it as a permanent lifestyle change. Regretfully, this restricts me from ever being a food blogger, but that market is quite well taken care of, I think.

Now, put all these things I needed to get done together, and you might be able to appreciate why even the Blogfather has to take a backseat sometimes; because for all the roles that I play in my life, nothing matters more to me than living for my family.

I can’t say when I’ll be able to write again, but I sure hope it won’t take another three months.

Hospitalised! – The Three Old Men

Probably the best story I have on my hospitalisation experience came from a sort-of fight that occurred in my ward, which I documented in 2 Facebook postings below:

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I felt this incident deserved a post on its own, not just because it was completely unexpected and downright hilarious at the time, but you sort of get the feeling that the people in the ward are under a lot more stress than they let out.

It was later on, when my bed neighbour, Old Man 3 (I’ve mentioned Mr Teo in a previous post) would share his reason for disliking Old Man 1 so much, that I came to empathise the possible social underpinnings that led to Old Man 1 being there in the first place.

Old Man 1 was suffering from gangrene on his right leg brought about by his severe diabetic condition. According to my bed neighbour, up until the fight occurred, he had already been warded – and bedridden – for 2 weeks, and he did not look like he was going to leave any time soon.

He would insist on being served by the nurses for just about everything, from opening his drawers to plugging in his mobile phone charger for him, even though we would witness him being completely capable of doing these menial tasks on his own. And he was stubborn; refusing to take his medication, have his dressing changed, and even sponge baths (from which the resultant smell led to the argument). He also seldom had visitors; I’ve only seen his wife come by once every 2 days or so, and when he received phone calls, it would be late at night (much to Mr Teo’s irritation). He even asks the nurses and patients for money whenever he has the opportunity, though none would oblige.

As I sat in my own bed looking at Old Man 1, trying to figure out the reason behind his attitude and actions, it started to look like Old Man 1 actually didn’t want to leave. Given he is likely a C-class patient as I was (they ran of beds in the C-class wards, so they bumped us up to B2-class beds instead), it could well be that he never gets the kind of attention and treatment at home that he is getting now from the doctors and nurses. It doesn’t matter that his hospital bill is running up by the day; it’s another concern for another day. He lives in the now, and now he’s literally got servants tending to him at the press of a button. Why would he want to leave, ever? Why would he want to go home and reintroduce himself to the misery and suffering of… poverty?

And then I thought, how many more of these patients are there in our society?

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.

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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).

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.