My recent (lifetime) journey in Malaysian health care

I kind of grew up in Malaysian hospitals, my entire life. Okay, that might be overstating it.

When I was born, in General Hospital, Kuching Sarawak, my mom had to be admitted in the hospital for a good 3 weeks before labour because I was a heavy pregnancy, that was what I’ve been told. So I started getting familiarised with the hospital before I was even born.

And when we first arrived back from 1 and a half years (1987 to 1988) residing in Melbourne, the first month in Malaysia, I got my first ever athsma attack.

I remember the attack, not when it happened, but when I was rushed to the hospital (early 1989), the nurses took me to a room and suddenly I have about 10 doctors or maybe more surrounding me. It seems that they just bought the nebuliser and they were demonstrating how to use it, on me, to all the doctors there. I was 6 (going 7) years old then. It was too momentous to not let it skip my memory. Plus, I went to the hospital too often because I remember playing with the big saga from the saga tree in front of the hospital block (we were in Johor Bahru at that time).

When we move to Ipoh in 1991, the late night visits to the rumah sakit angkatan tentera (my dad was an army officer), I became such a pro with the nebuliser. At that time the doctor had to give me 2 inhalers, the blue and the brown one. My athsma came from dust allergy. And that was my identity. It was so easy to skip school, but breathing was like playing violin, wheezing all the way in, and out.

My worst attack had to be when I was 16. I was in MRSM Terendak, and I collapsed when walking from the bathroom heading to my room. And when they put me on my bed, I was struggling to breathe, I remember my friend had to stop holding me because I was gripping her hand way too hard. They asked the warden to take me to the Kem Terendak hospital. I was warded for 2 or 3 days, I think. My parents were overseas at that time, my dad had to bring his students on a field trip and my mom followed (I think to Istanbul).

After school, I no longer have my athsma attack, but instead, it was so easy for me to get tonsillitis. Almost every 2 months, I’m down with it. I was in my Diploma programme and the health officer in UiTM Alor Gajah probably see me more than his own mother in the kampung. But my tonsillitis was never severe enough although it’s constant, so doctors never advised it to be removed.

When I entered the working world, I didn’t fall sick as much. Although my dad know how hard I push myself to work, to one extend, he said, “Abah tahu badan kamu adik. Your body is not strong. I raised you, I know.” Of course he knows, he raised a sick child.

Last February after a family vacation to Lumut, the moment we arrived back in KL I fell down with a severe cramp on my upper left thigh. I never felt that much pain and my siblings had to hold me walking to the clinic. Doctor diagnosed Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) to be the cause after finding some infection in my urine. After the stretch of antibiotics, I was well again. Middle of April, I fell down with my cramps again and after going to the doctor and explaining that it was similar pain to my first UTI, he diagnosed me with UTI without taking a urine test and just by slightly touching my abdomen. I wasn’t fully convinced and after 2 days, the pain didn’t go away so I went to another clinic and the doctor took a urine test and diagnosed me with UTI but with a different set of medication. After the series of antibiotics, I was fine again.

Last Thursday (23rd May), I started having a mild cramp at the same place. The pain starting throbbing worse after I broke my fast later that day and my partner rushed me to the clinic to check. The doctor diagnosed me with UTI again and asked me to come back after 2 days if the pain doesn’t subside.

That night, I couldn’t sleep as my entire abdomen was so in pain and I kept waking up every hour to pee. It was too painful that the next day (Friday), I insisted to go back to the clinic to get a referral to the hospital. I felt like admitting myself into the ward because I just couldn’t bear the severe abdominal pain that is causing my tummy to bloat.

At about 8:30pm, my younger sister brought me to the clinic where the doctor who treated my second UTI (the second doctor I went to in April) said it could be bladder stones and referred me to Hospital Selayang because that is the nearest hospital to my parents’ house. So about 9:20pm, we arrived in Hospital Selayang.

And there we started a journey of waiting….

Waiting to get registered, because at 9:20pm, the outpatient clinic of Hospital Selayang is like a pasar tani (farmer’s market). Thank god the pain wasn’t too throbbing at that point and we braved through waiting to be consulted by one of the General Physicians (GP) there.

You see all kinds of people at a government hospital. All kinds of faces, attitudes, races, sizes, and conditions. It’s sad to know that illnesses do pick the poorer people more because health is such a luxury these days, especially if you’re living in a metropolitan city like Kuala Lumpur. Because a normal consultation at a private clinic is RM 20 – RM 40 per consultation (that probably takes less than 15 minutes), not adding medication yet. And although Malaysia still have one of the better health care services in Malaysia, with the inflation and urban affordability especially for the B40 urban poor groups, not many can afford private clinics because government hospitals only cost RM 1 for consultation.

Anyway, we got to see the GP at around 10:45pm, and I showed him the referral letter. He asked me to do an X-Ray and take a urine test. He couldn’t see any stones in the X-Ray but he also said that C-Rays are only 60% accurate. He also said he did find an infection in my urine but since this is my third UTI, he will refer me to the urology department. But urology department works on office hours so I could only go on Monday morning.

So this morning (27th May), I went to Hospital Selayang’s urology department and showed my referral letter. After 20 minutes, the nurse told me that she can only schedule my appointment to meet the urologist on 21st June 2019.

That’s like for another month! And that, is with a referral.

I went back home and thought for awhile.

In my mind, I was scared of bladder stones, because then it will cause recurring pain if I don’t have it removed. My eldest sister called me and told me to go and get a CT scan to be perfectly sure. I gave it a thought for a few hours before deciding to really go ahead to a private hospital. I called KPJ Damansara to check on the cost (nurse told me around RM 1,500) and had to borrow money from my parents and told them if anything persists from the scan, I can always claim from my insurance. So I went to KPJ Damansara in the afternoon.

When I arrived in KPJ Damansara, I went straight to the Imaging Services department and inquired on the CT scan. When the nurse saw my referral letter, she asked if I have seen a urologist and I said Hospital Selayang would only let me see one in June. Then I asked if she can refer me to the urologist in KPJ Damansara. She referred me to one Dato’ Dr. Kamil Nordin.

Probably one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Dr. Kamil sat me down and took me through what constitute urinary tract infection and explained that GPs would not do a special test called Urine Culture which could determine what is the bacteria causing this recurring infection. And then he told me that there’s a lot of possibilities and bladder stones could be one of them. He suggested an ultrasound instead because CT scan has radiation and he advised to avoid it if possible.

So he did an ultrasound on me. My kidneys were fine until he went to my abdomen and found something that caused my tummy to bloat. He suspected fibroid but he recommended me to see a gynecologist to confirm. Apparently the suspected fibroid is 7cm in diameter as he can see in the ultrasound and he said it was quite big. My mom requested for a referral to Hospital Selayang since it’s nearer to our house, or maybe Hospital Tuanku Mizan because it’s a government military hospital that she’s more familiar with.

Upon leaving KPJ Damansara around 3:30pm, we rushed to Hospital Selayang to make it on time to see if we can meet the gynecologist there.

When I got to the counter at 4:30pm, the nurse told me that the doctor can only see me in July. Yes, what??!! Nurse said, there’s too many patients and that’s how it goes. She said that if I feel too much pain, I can just go to Emergency ward later. And when I asked, which gynecologist will I be seeing, she then said any doctor will come in and attend me then.

I returned to the car and told my mom that tomorrow, I’ll go back to KPJ Damansara to check with a gynecologist there.

Here’s the deal.

1 out of 3 women have or will have fibroid. It is a common thing for women, as how UTI -is common for women.

I’m not going to die, of course I know that.

I just want it removed as soon as possible. And to wait until July, the probability of the fibroid growing bigger is also high. 7cm is quite big already. And I don’t want it to grow bigger until it crushes my bladder and cause more pain when I need to be on my feet, working and berkhidmat for the masyarakat that I’m serving. And what if it’s not fibroid? It has a probability of being something else as well. I won’t wait until July to know.

But imagine, what about people who can’t afford private hospital fees?

What about people without medical insurance?

What about people who doesn’t work with companies that provide panel hospitals?

They have to wait for a month to meet a doctor in a government hospital, and maybe another month to get a slot for the procedure.

I wish there are better ways we can improve this system.

Imagine the money that Jho Low stole from Malaysia and spent on wining and dining Hollywood superstars, imagine the money Najib Razak and his crony stole from Malaysia and spent on his families’ luxuries, imagine all that going to employing more doctors in government hospitals, then maybe we would have a leading and exemplary health care services in the world.

I’ll see a gynecologist tomorrow and keep you all updated with my procedure.

I wish to share my story so people can understand the process and journey should they experience the same in the future.

Remembering a national treasure

Today, since I’m sick, I’ve dedicated my entire content consumption to Sudirman Haji Arshad, since today is his birthday and I saw Google paid tribute to him via the search doodle.

I was (and still am) an avid fan of Sudirman. His music, his comics, his film, everything about him affected me growing up. I remember always asking my Mama to buy me a can of Sudi cola whenever we go to Chow Kit Road and Sogo back in 1986 and 1987. At the age of 8-9, I’ve memorised all his songs.

I also remember about 10 years ago, I wrote a blogpost about Sudirman and I received a comment claimed to be from Atai, his nephew who thanked me for my tribute post.

Now at 36 (going 37), it has been almost 30 years since I first fell in love with Sudirman. I am still in love and at awe with his remarkable and iconic persona.

I watched both the History Channel Biography feature on him and his one and only film, ‘Kami’. Kami was a film released on the year that I was born, 1982, but I only got to watch it a few years after that, during his glory years of late 80s. I remember how the film affected me so much, the hard and gritty life of 2 kids, living on their own and taking care of each other. Watching back ‘Kami’, it is such a great story which deserve international festival recognition.

His strength in performing is remarkably amazing. Every stage presence is an opportunity to impress. He studied, researched, and made sure everything is planned to perfection.

And then there was the Chow Kit Road concert in 1986. I am sure my dad didn’t allow my mom to go because of the massive massive crowd but to know that this 5’2″ small man managed to convince everyone around him to close the road, build a stage, bloody got him a crane for his grand entrance and made it all free for public was more than what any Prime Minister or any person in Malaysia could do. I don’t think even BTS (the Korean pop group) could do it either. That was such a communal thing to do, by such an accomplished performer.

Then in the SEA Games Closing Ceremony in 1989, he wore a 200 feet cape where he made all the athletes hold while he parade in to sing his songs. That is such a commanding charisma.

I remember when he passed away in 1992, I was 10 years old and I remember crying especially when I learned that one of the last songs he performed was ‘Salam Terakhir’. It was such a big impact for a small girl of that age (but at that time, I was already listening to Sheila Majid and Anita Sarawak thanks to my mother’s cassettes). Sometimes I wish that he would still be alive so I get excited to get the opportunity to meet and talk to him.

Sudirman would’ve been 65 years old today. I’m sure, if he is still alive, the entertainment scene would’ve been slightly different. He would’ve raised the benchmark for every living performer in Malaysia.

But I hope he would be so proud knowing that 27 years later, there’s still so much love for him.

Rest in Peace, Sudirman. May your soul be blessed in many ways that you have inspired all of us.

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(Photo Source from News Straits Times)

The next generation?

Today I want to talk about my feelings for the next generation in public schools in Malaysia.
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I have gone to so many public schools all around Malaysia and seen so many issues.
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But, here are some troubling situations I’ve encountered:
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1. Chinese students from vernacular school system who refuse to acknowledge Bahasa
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What is most concerning is the Chinese students in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (previously from SJKC) who refuse to acknowledge or participate in any programmes that is delivered in Bahasa Malaysia or English.
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These are children of working class Malaysian Chinese. Majority of them refuse to write in Bahasa Kebangsaan and refuse to participate in our workshops which is delivered using Bahasa Kebangsaan and English.
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One time, my colleague who is Chinese told them,
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“Why wouldn’t you want to learn Bahasa? What if they tell us to go back to China if we refused to learn Bahasa?”
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and the boy (14 years old) answered, “We go back to China lah, who cares about Bahasa.”
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Just to note, we’re not encouraging racial segregation but the children really refuse to respond to us because we didn’t know Mandarin and this is a Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan.
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But my colleagues who went to SJKC told me that peralihan students really couldn’t be bothered by anything because in SJKC, they were really pressured to study and behave with such strict rules so when they go to secondary school, they’re like “Whatever, we don’t care and we’re reclaiming our freedom now”.
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2. Students who do not respect their teachers nor any outside grown-up facilitators
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We have been told by teachers how they had to chase students who talks back and challenged them because they don’t care about schools.
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We have seen students shouting back at teachers because they feel like they’re entitled to raise their voices to whoever they want including educators, teachers and adults.
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I once sat down beside a 14 year old Chinese boy whom I asked to just write his name on his form and he looked at me, saying, “Nope.” And when I told him, I will sit beside him until he writes his name, he grunted loudly and still refuse to write his name. A 14 year old boy in a school.
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3. Teachers begging their students to participate and respond
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It’s sad when we have so many teachers who asked for our free programmes and when we go to schools, the students threatened to even sue us if we force them to participate in a programme that the school have scheduled for them.
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And I have seen teachers trying to beg and lure students to just sit down and participate with the programmes while the students act like gangsters, provoking and refusing to participate.
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Even we, an outside programme, had to beg the students to just put in their names, or to say hi, or even to look at us when we’re teaching in front.
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4. Students who thinks that sexual harassment is okay
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In one of the schools we went to, a group of boys were doing rude sexual hand signs and whistling when a girl goes up front to answer a question. They refused to admit to their wrong doing and told the teacher to shut up when she questioned them. They were sent to the discipline teacher but they were adamant that there was nothing wrong with what they did. And when we asked some of the girls, they admitted that the boys always do that to them, tried to touch them, and they had to accept that ‘that’s how boys are’.
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We have seen male students whistling to our young female facilitators without any guilt.
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We have seen students filling in survey forms with the number 69 all over the answer boxes.
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These are some of the issues that was really troubling me.
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While we do address children’s right to participate and children’s right to be heard, we also wonder about entitlement,
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whether it is children’s right to disrespect anyone they want to?
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So where’s the gap? The parents? The community? The environment?
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Most of the parents are within the age range of 35 to 45 years old, which is basically my peers.
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It’s as if the parents allow their children to be Lords while everyone else bows to them (including their parents).
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While some schools scrutinise our team for wearing a slightly tight long pants and have facilitators with coloured hair, what about their students who are really not participating at in programmes approved by the Ministry?
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I am not saying that we need to be authoritative in our handling of the children, but why aren’t the children of the next generation have any respect for the people around them.
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What did we not do as parents, educators and members of society is making sure that we have a young generation that respects each other?
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And the saddest part is that, why does the majority of Chinese students refuse to participate in any programmes with Bahasa? We already have about 80% of the private school students who could not speak the Bahasa Kebangsaan, and now we’re facing the same problem in public schools.
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Now, when the Minister of Education made comments like non-Malays prefer private education/institutions than wanting to enter public institutions, all the urban non-Malays slams him left and right.
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But that’s the reality of the matter.
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And I still wish for better younger generation that are really the essence of being what a Malaysian should be.
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I still have many workshops to conduct in public schools all around Malaysia, that’s my duty in raising this nation.