Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A STORY FOR THOSE WITH ELDERLY PARENTS

(This story is posted here specially for those of us with elderly parents in their 70s or 80s.)

An 80 year old man was sitting on the sofa in his house along with his 45 year-old highly educated son. Suddenly a crow perched on their window.

The father asked his son, "What is this?"

The son replied, "It is a crow."

After a few minutes, the father asked his son the second time, "What is this?"

The son said, "Father, I have just told you "It's a crow".

After a little while, the old father again asked his son the third time, "What is this?"

At this time some expression of irritation was felt in the son's tone when he said to his father with a rebuff, "It's a crow, a crow."

A little after, the father again asked his son the fourth time, "What is this?"

This time the son shouted at his father, "Why do you keep asking me the same question again and again, although I have told you so many times 'IT IS A CROW'. Are you not able to understand this?"

A little later the father went to his room and came back with an old tattered diary, which he had maintained since his son was born. On opening a page, he asked his son to read that page. When the son read it, the following words were written in the diary:-

"Today my little son aged three was sitting with me on the sofa, when a crow was sitting on the window. My son asked me 23 times what it was, and I replied to him all 23 times that it was a crow. I hugged him lovingly each time he asked me the same question again and again for 23 times. I did not at all feel irritated. Rather, I felt affection for my innocent child".

While the little child asked him 23 times "What is this", the father had felt no irritation in replying to the same question all 23 times and when today the father asked his son the same question just four times, the son felt irritated and annoyed.

So..

If your parents attain old age, do not repulse them or look at them as a burden, but speak to them with kind words. Be patient and considerate to your parents. From today say this aloud, "I want to see my parents happy. They have cared for me ever since I was a little child. They have always showered their selfless love on me.They have sacrificed to make me a person presentable in society today".

Say a prayer to God, "I will serve my old parents in the BEST way I can, no matter how they behave.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

GEORGE CARLIN'S VIEWS ON AGEING

(Thanks for forwarding this excellent piece on ageing, Bulbir.)

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about ageing that you think in fractions.

'How old are you?' ' I'm four and a half!' You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.

You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.

'How old are you?' 'I'm gonna be 16!' You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life . . You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone. But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60. You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70!

After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday! You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30 ; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; 'I was JUST 92.'

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. 'I'm 100 and a half!' May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

HOW TO STAY YOUNG

1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay 'them.'

2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.

3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle. 'An idle mind is the devil's workshop.' And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person who is with us our entire life is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

GRANDPARENTING - A PLEASURE OR PRESSURE?

To a family with young children, nothing is more helpful than having supportive grandparents who are there to help as babysitters and care-givers. Young mothers, in particular, have the option of returning to work knowing that their little ones are in safe hands. Those who can’t afford to leave their children with a babysitter or at a day-care centre can always turn to their parents.

While most grandparents are ready to help out if they are able, there are some who feel they have paid their dues and done their duty as parents. It’s time their children did theirs. Says one grandmother, 62, “No more changing diapers and dealing with toddler tantrums for me. At my age, it’s too stressful. Sure, if there’s an emergency, I’ll be there. I don’t mind playing with my grandchildren or visiting them, but hands-on babysitting? No thank you."

There are many who share the same sentiments.

“My children and grandchildren don’t show me enough respect. They take me for granted, and can be quite rude to me at times. They don’t treat me as part of the family.”

“My husband and I have eight grandchildren from our three children. Babysitting for all our children leaves us with little time for our own activities.”

“I have to pay for my own transport whenever I go over to my daughter-in-law’s house to babysit the children. A small allowance would be most welcomed since I babysit for her on a regular basis.”

“Our son leaves his 2 year-old and 4 year-old at our house before he goes to work. By the time he picks up the children after work at 7.00pm, my husband and I are exhausted. Sometimes when my son has a lot of work at the office, he comes as late as 9.00pm.”

“My husband is 72, and I’m 68. Physically, we can’t keep up with our boisterous grandsons. Besides, I have high blood pressure.”

“My daughter and I don’t see eye-to-eye on how to bring up the children, especially when it comes to discipline, food and education. This has caused some tension in our relationship.”

On the other hand, there are doting grandparents who do a great job minding their grandchildren. They are also fortunate to have children who are very appreciative of their help. When both sides adopt an open and trusting relationship with reasonable compromising, they create the ideal home environment for the little ones.

Bulbir, 67, and grandson, Ajit, 2

With young parents busy at work, grandfather of five, Bulbir Singh, 67, believes that grandparents should get involved in nurturing their grandchildren. They should take on the responsibility of teaching their grandchildren about God, about values and ethics that will stand them in good stead all their lives.

“If we don't, who else can and will? We should make whatever time we have with the children count. Spend quality time with them, like reading to them, playing with them, or assisting them with their home work. And when you teach, do it with love and concern.”


I consider myself a hands-on grandma. I enjoy being with my grandchildren, Max, 8, Allie, 5, Hana, 4 and Reiya, 2. They are a source of joy, fun and laughter for me. Children grow up so fast. Before you know it, they are preteens. When they start having their own friends and activities, they won’t have as much time to spend with us. That’s why I value each moment I have with them now. My grandchildren keep me feeling young with their unconditional love and boundless energy.

Dr Benjamin Spock, world renowned pediatrician and best-selling author of Baby and Child Care, tells grandparents to take note. No matter how convinced you are that your way is the best, it should be understood that, ultimately, the responsibility and the right to make decisions belong solely to the parents.

As grandparents, we should know when to offer our advice, and when to stay on the sidelines. Through trial and error, young parents will learn, just like we did when we were young parents ourselves, the best ways to bring up the children.

Mandela celebrating his 90th birthday with his grandchildren

Saturday, July 12, 2008

PART II: GETTING THE BEST MEDICAL CARE

Singapore: Monday 23 June. Things started moving fast as soon as I arrived at Moon’s apartment at 3.00pm. Half an hour later, Moon and I were in the clinic of an old family friend, Dr Lim Kian Peng, a Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre. After viewing my scan results, he immediately made a few calls, and got me an appointment right away with Dato' Dr Tan Kai Chah at Gleneagles Singapore.


At the clinic, we found out that Dr Tan, Consultant Surgeon, Hepatobiliary / Transplant, heads the Asian Centre for Liver Diseases and Transplantation. He has been hailed as “The Liver Legend” by the local media for the pioneering work he has done on liver patients.

At the consultation, Dr Tan asked me a lot of questions, especially about my gall-bladder removal operation in 1989. Based on my answers and the scan report, he told us there was a high probability that my current predicament was related to the first operation done 20 years ago.

Dr Tan explained what the surgery would involve. I was struck by his confidence and assurance that the problem would be dealt with “once and for all”. These are words that all patients want to hear. They want to know that they can trust their doctor with their lives.

No time was wasted. I was admitted to the Liver Ward after seeing Dr Tan. That evening and for the next two days, I underwent a battery of tests, blood transfusions, albumin infusions, a chest X-ray, ECG and a second scan. The doctors had to make sure my condition was sufficiently stabilized for the surgery scheduled for Thursday 26 June.

Dr Tan’s core team consisted of Dr Lee Kang Hoe, Consultant Physician, Pulmonologist and Intensivist, and Dr Desmond Wai, Consultant Transplant, Hepatologist and Gastroenterologist. Dr Lee, who is also Director of Critical Care Services at the Centre, monitored my daily progress. He and Dr Wai made their rounds twice a day to see how I was doing. The ward nurses would accompany them on the morning round, but Dr Lee and Dr Wai would come on their own in the evening. Imagine my surprise when they dropped by early in the morning on Saturday and Sunday! Talk about walking the extra mile.

All the blood tests were done without any pain, and usually between 5.00am to 5.30am. The results were ready by the time the team made their morning round from 8.00am to 9.00am. The nurses who tended to me were truly my guardian angels during my hospitalization. They were there for me 24 hours a day. Their gentle touch, smiling faces and reassuring words helped me get through the initial post-surgery discomfort.

Just to give you an idea of how thorough the team was in preparing me for the surgery, besides Dr Lee and Dr Wai, several other doctors also attended to me before the surgery:
Dr Gong Ing San, consultant surgeon, who assisted Dr KC Tan
Dr Ranjodh Singh, anaesthetist
Dr Benjamin Mow, consultant hematologist
Dr Ng Kheng Siang, consultant cardiologist

In addition, I was assigned a physiotherapist, who taught me how to do deep breathing as well as simple exercises for post-surgery rehabilitation. I also had a pain management consultant who showed me how to use the morphine dispenser in case of need. Near the end of my stay, a pretty customer relations officer turned up in my room with a lovely basket of fresh fruits.

I’m not sure if this is standard practice at private hospitals, but I would be interested to know how the medical care I received at Gleneagles Singapore compares with that at private hospitals in Malaysia.

Thursday 26 June: Surgery was scheduled for 1.00pm. At 10.30am, the nurses prepared me for the surgery. The last thing I remembered was giving a thumbs-up sign as I was wheeled out to the operation theatre.


(Flashing a thumbs-up sign just before being wheeled to the operation theatre.)

Four and a half hours later, I heard a faraway voice saying, “Lily, it’s over. It’s 5.30pm.” In my semi-conscious state, I was vaguely aware of being transferred to a bed in the Intensive Care Unit. That night my sleep was filled with nightmares. I lay unable to move. My mouth was parched but I was not allowed to have water yet, not for the next few days. I could only have ice chips, just to wet my lips. For someone like me who always carried a bottle of water everywhere, it was torture.

Friday 27 June - I was moved back to my 2-bed room in the Liver Ward after only one night in the ICU. I was lucky to have the room all to myself during the entire post-surgery period. My daily progress was closely monitored by Dr Lee and his team.

The first day after the surgery was probably the toughest for me. I had developed a bad cough two days before the surgery. So each time I coughed, I had to hold a pillow to my abdomen to lessen the pressure on the stitches. I had all sorts of tubes attached to various parts of my body, and three drainage pouches dangling from the side of my bed.

Unable to move much in bed, I suffered agonizing lower back pain. This, together with the no-water-allowed rule, was my biggest gripe. To the credit of the doctors and nurses, I experienced no post-surgery pain.

Saturday 28 June – the second day after the surgery was also my 60th birthday. I received hand-drawn cards from my granddaughters, Allie 5, and Hana 4. Sister Vivienne gave me a balloon poodle that she did herself. Later that evening, Moon, Ansgar and their two little girls visited. That really cheered me up, as did all the text messages from family members and friends.

(Spending my 60th birthday in the Liver Ward.)

Sunday 29 June – my best day since the surgery. Some of the tubes were removed and I could enjoy more mobility. Over the next few days I continued to improve. Soon I was able to take short walks in the ward, and have regular meals. I spent most of my time reading, watching TV and writing in my diary. Moon continued to visit twice a day.

The doctors had to be sure that my bile duct was functioning properly before they could discharge me. Every day Dr Lee would ask me, “Have you passed gas?” or “Have you passed motion yet?” My stock answer was “Not yet.” It soon became a running joke, with Ansgar saying we were all waiting for shit to happen, and Moon asking if I had made any deposit that day. To my relief, I finally did both on Tuesday 1 July.

Wednesday 2 July – After spending a total of 10 days in the Liver Ward, Gleneagles Singapore, I was discharged. I was given six weeks of antibiotics, some painkillers which I have yet to take, and a bottle of Duphalac. Full recovery would take at least two months. In the meantime, I was advised not to do anything strenuous. That effectively ruled out my trip to Sarawak for the World Rainforest Music Festival in mid-July and to the Beijing Olympics in August. Well, there're always other trips to look forward to once I'm back on my feet :-)

(Some of my guardian angels of the Liver Ward, Gleneagles Singapore.)


At this moment of writing, I am recuperating at Moon’s place in Singapore. I plan to be back in KL on 22 July.

What I’ve learned from this experience:
Listen to your body. Do not dismiss persistent symptoms, no matter how minor, as something that will go away with a few days’ rest. See a doctor, preferably a specialist, and find out for certain what’s wrong.

Ignorance may not be bliss when it comes to health. Skipping blood tests and regular medical check ups merely delays early detection of a health problem till it’s too late. If you are in doubt about your doctor’s diagnosis, seek a second or third opinion. Look for an experienced doctor who is confident about his ability to solve your health problem, and whom you can trust with your life.

If you have no clue which doctor to see, or how good he is in his field, ask for recommendations from friends. Then do an Internet search on his medical qualifications, years of experience, professional achievements and publications.

Insist on getting your blood test and scan results the same day. My beloved sister, Molly, had to wait one week to collect her blood test results. She passed away a day before the collection date.

Share your health problems with your family members. Just knowing that they are there for you helps you get through the ordeal. And very important, remain positive at all times.

Friday, July 11, 2008

PART I: WHEN YOUR HEALTH IS AT RISK, GET A SECOND OPINION, OR A THIRD

My apologies for the long leave of absence from this blog, Seniorsaloud. Since the last posting on 14 June, an unexpected series of events have kept me pretty much incapable of anything more strenuous than getting in and out of bed. Even that proved difficult at times.

Well, the weeks have passed. Thanks to all your prayers, well-wishes and moral support, I am now recuperating at my daughter’s apartment in Singapore.

It all began on Monday 9 June. I experienced aching joints after my line-dance class in the morning. By afternoon, I had the shivers. Must be the flu, I thought. A couple of days’ rest, and I should be up and about again.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was so weak, I could hardly get out of bed. Moon, my elder daughter, happened to call on Wednesday night from Singapore. Alarmed by the weakness in my voice, she immediately called Belle, my younger daughter, and told her to take me to the doctor the next day.

On Thursday 12 June, Belle and I were at a private hospital just down the road from my apartment. Not knowing what precisely was wrong with me, we had no clue as to what sort of doctor to see. Belle had sought help at the information counter, but was told to refer to the board listing of all the doctors. She finally picked on a cardiologist consultant cum physician who said I showed symptoms of Hepatitis A – jaundiced eyes and a sensitive, bloated abdomen. Nothing to worry about, he assured us. A bottle of Jetepar should do the trick. Just to be on the safe side, he recommended a blood test for me. Not only was the experience painful, it also left me with a huge bruise on my arm that remained for two weeks.

I was told to return a week later for a follow-up. In the interim, I dutifully took 4 capsules of Jetepar a day, and tried to have as much rest as possible. My best day was on Tuesday 17 June when I felt strong enough to deliver a speech and presentation at my Toastmasters Club. Most days, however, I was too weak to do much. Obviously, the pills weren’t working.


(Looking and feeling weak, but still able to deliver my powerpoint presentation on 17 June.)


At the follow-up visit on Thursday 19 June, a second blood test was done. It was even more painful than the first. The results showed some abnormalities in the liver. A scan was scheduled for the next day, Friday 20 June. Moon was already in KL by then, so she went along with me. The scan revealed a fluid-filled abscess in the left lobe of the liver.

The first doctor arranged for me to see a consultant general surgeon in the same hospital who had handled similar cases before. So the next day, Saturday 21 June, Moon and I were back at the hospital. The second doctor gave a detailed explanation of what could have caused the abscess, and what he proposed to do to deal with the problem. A simple procedure, he said. The fluid would be aspirated through a needle, and the bile duct ‘washed’. Only one night’s stay in hospital required for observation. The sooner I had the procedure done, the better, preferably within the next five days. I didn’t know then that the abscess could cause a rupture, and that could be fatal.

I had done a number of medical examinations, scans and most recently, dental bone-grafting surgery in Singapore. Each time I was impressed by the professionalism of the doctors and nurses, and the quality of the healthcare services. It wasn’t that difficult to make my decision. If surgery was my best option, I wanted it done in Singapore.

Two days later, on Monday 23 June, I left for Singapore, still weak, still carrying the abscess in my liver.

(Dim Sum lunch in KL with family members visiting from outstation and overseas - just a day before my hospitalization in Singapore.)