Category Archives: General Commentary

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.

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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)

Pulang

Last Tuesday, I was privileged enough to be given the opportunity to watch a new movie called “Pulang” (Coming Home), directed by the amazing Kabir Bhatia based on a true personal story shared by Primework Studios’ CEO, Ahmad Izham Omar. It is a story about his grandfather who left his grandmother and father to sail, see the world, get more fortune so he can come home and provide a better life for his family but in the end, he never came back.

Poster Filem Kabir Bhatia Pulang 1

I think people have soft spots for real/true stories that we don’t really have much comments on the story itself as it is a personal journey by someone. I will try not to give any spoilers because it’s one of those movies I really want people to watch.

Kabir Bhatia is one of the renowned directors in Malaysia. I remember being invited to do a blogger’s screening for one of his earlier movies – “Cinta” back in 2006. Having Kabir Bhatia on board to direct and visualise Ahmad Izham’s story was a great choice – and knowing Ahmad Izham from his unique eye for talent, quality and standard, I’m sure he won’t settle for anything less than what the incredible Kabir Bhatia could bring to life on screen. So we are already assured that it would be a stunning movie.

But I was more blown by the visually stunning shots done by the Director of Photography/Cinematographer, a new name I have yet to see as an audience (or maybe I haven’t been paying that much attention) – Zambree Haras. The movie is beautifully shot so it create an ambiance that is close to Lovely Bones and The Big Fish kind of feeling.

I am really trying my best to reserve my comments on the acting. The only spot on acting was Erwin Dawson’s being Ahmad. (I’ve deleted many sentences for this part of the review, haha).

I wish it has a better or heavier percentage in just one genre. Right now it looks a bit 50/50 – 50% action and 50% drama. However, we all like a lot of elements in a movie so we can always be distracted to something else when something else doesn’t catch our attention.

My other comment is that I wonder if there are different types of make-up artists in the Malaysian film industry – like one for really transforming someone into a different age and one just to make up a character to look nice on set. Maybe it’s time for our make-up artists to consider really exploring expertise in these areas – transforming characters.

It’s a story with many angles of development, this movie in particular focused on narration by the main character, Che Thom, wife of Othman, another character who also narrated it from his story and the grandson, Ahmad who narrated on his journey to fulfill his grandmother’s last wishes and put the pieces of the story together to find closure for everyone. I wish we could also see Omar’s story, the son who was left behind and how he grew up having an absent father as his ultimate role model and his life with the mother, waiting for his father to return back home.

I am very glad I get to watch this movie and have discussions about it afterwards. My boss, Ngai Yuen who watched the movie too told me, if we’re having such a discussion about this film, it means that it’s a film good enough and worthy enough for a discussion. We need to bring back intellectual discussions to the film industry, not fluffy media questions like “What did you do to cry for this scene?” or “Was it good working for this director?”. I rather ask “What would we do differently?” because that shows another person’s ability to adapt the story and the story’s potential to be presented in a variety of ways.

Pulang the movie opens today, 26th July 2018 in cinema nationwide. My mom already asked me to bring her to watch this movie. So let’s all bring our loved ones to watch it.

Hopefully we have more people talking about movies, constructively.

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Akuan Penonton

Movies is all socio-economics and culture.

Why Bollywood is a thriving economy?

People simpan duit sebulan to watch a movie and it’s their escapism. My dad once told me, how the peladang and pesawah di India simpan duit semata-mata untuk tengok kehidupan ilusi for 3 hours. Movies for them is escapism. Satu kehidupan yang mereka impikan. And going to the cinema is a whole day outing. They get to watch one and a half hour of the first half, then during intermission they get to keluar panggung to makan and discuss on what has happened and what will happen, then masuk balik panggung to know the ending.

Kalau ending orang jahat tak mati, ini memang boleh sampai bakar panggung punya type of audience.

For us, the Malaysian culture masih music, not so much on movies. Look at what is flooded and hyped for. Konsert Jom Heboh. Konsert Gempak Astro. Imam Muda pun buat ala konsert sekarang.

Masa kecik kita grew up dengan Bintang RTM. Hiburan Minggu ini. Konsert boybands la apa la. Urban ke, mainstream ke, music it is.

Masa zaman 80s, mak saya akan bawa kami naik bas dari Selayang ke pekan Kuala Lumpur, just to watch movies. Kami akan makan kat Chow Kit road. Minum air Sudi – a can drink produced by Sudirman.

For us it was outing yang ditunggu-tunggu. Sekarang it’s sad sebab saya tiada masa untuk bawa Mama to go to the movies.

Last 2 years, Mother’s Day saya ambil cuti. Bawak mama tengok filem Chow Kit. Panggung kosong. Saya beritahu Mama, saya booked panggung for her. Felt quite cool although in real nature, it was sad to see a Malaysian film with only 2 person filling up the hall.

Going to the movies also became a ritual antara saya dan adik-adik. Zaman Harry Potter dan Twilight. Itu quality time saya dengan adik-adik. Usually it is a much anticipated outing with them. Especially sebab selalunya saya sibuk belajar di kampus dan pulang hanya ketika cuti. Now, both of them have their own driving license. Mereka lebih suka pergi tengok wayang bersama rakan-rakan.  And saya pula, sekarang saya sibuk tolong orang lain buat movies. Saya tiada masa untuk do my former rituals with loved ones. Sedih sangat.

Bagi saya, going to the movies is my culture. Kalau orang tanya siapa Abby Latif, apa yang dia tahu pasal buat filem? Saya audience kamu. Since 1982. Itu je.

For me it’s easy. The culture you want to create, you got to live it first.

Sekian mukadimmah hari ini. HAHAHAHA.

Setuju Tak?

In #UWRF13 , almost every writer talks or relates to poetry at some point. In Malaysia, writers are all about films, TV, novels, journalism.

It’s amazing how NONE OF THE MALAYSIAN MEDIA picked up Malaysian writers featured at #UWRF13 | Are we not good enough for you? *sigh*

I think poets di-anak tiri-kan di dalam bidang penulisan di Malaysia despite how emerging and thriving scene it is. Do you agree?