Saturday, August 31, 2019


As Malaysia celebrates its 62nd independence day, it is time again to ask ourselves how far have we travelled on the road towards one nation, one people. When my former high school friends and I got together recently, we bemoaned how racially divided our schools have become, and how we wish for those good old days in the 1960s when we studied together, played together and ate together without any issues.

Today I would like to share an article from my blog archives. The message is still relevant today, perhaps even more so.

"Racial prejudice and religious bigotry have always been with us. We find it hard to talk about these topics in a cross cultural environment for fear of our emotions. Some of us would deny these things existed and would rather go into self-denial than grapple with this insidious moral and social disease in our midst. The problem unless we admit it, can balloon out of proportions. It has all the hallmarks of a major mental epidemic. We as a group who have been exposed to global cultures and have experienced first hand of these evils should help contain them from rearing up their ugly heads in our society.

It is convenient to put the blame for this prejudice and bigotry as part of the legacy of the former colonial masters. However, the reality is that much of this prejudice and bigotry is of our own making and enforced by interested parties driven by the fear-based environment. These parties need to perpetuate the prejudice and bigotry to exist, because these whether real, perceived or invented are the reasons that justify the existence of these extreme chauvinistic groups.

As a member of the endangered species, what is of concern to me is to see a more stark polarization of races in our schools and institutions of higher learning. This polarization opens the door to prejudice and bigotry amongst the various races. One group would have a sense of superiority from believing that they are members of some elitist group that is superior to others.

Unfortunately the adults at home and the mass media give support to re-enforce this sort of thinking. It is common amongst certain groups of society to believe that they are the chosen ones over the others. They refuse to recognize the worth and contributions of others.

There are enough examples of an artificial importance being placed on everyday happenings reported in the mass media. With a journalistic twist and inflection it could make it appear racial. When young riders are involved with a fight with another rider, all of the same race, it does not make news. But if one rider is beaten up and happens to be of another race, the media dresses the story up in a way that will sell fear and in so doing perpetuate racism and racial hatred. We are being re-enforced through the media, that the respective colors of the skin are more important than the crime itself.

Religious bigotry may well have been the most common form of bigotry for much of the world’s history. In parts of the world people are being persecuted to no end not just because they are of another ethnic group but of another religion as well. We read about these happenings daily in the papers.

Religious bigotry manifests itself as a holier-than-thou attitude towards others. Religious bigots have in their heads the idea that those belonging to their religious group will be saved and the rest will go to hell. They firmly believe that they and they only have a special connection with the Almighty that others lack. This in turn leads them to think that they only have His special favors and others do not.

In my jagged career path, I had occasions to visit countries where people of different religions live together and in so far as ethnicity goes, there are no physical differences between them. They speak the same language. They share a common origin and one would not be able to tell the difference from a member of one religious group from another on the street outside the mode of dress. The only difference is religion, and due to religious bigotry, they are willing to kill each other.

In the more sophisticated societies there are more subtle means of persecution than physical violence resulting from religious bigotry --- character assassinations, harassment of members of religious minorities and the people associated with them. Other members of religious minorities find themselves in the position of an outsider.

Now let us take the racial prejudices and religious bigotry on to the global scale. To these we add to the mix the concept of political correctness which has been in vogue in the last decade. We then have a new category called the ‘Axis of Evil’ which political correctness has been established to eliminate. In reality political correctness needs the ‘Axis of Evil’ so that the ‘Hate Crime’ Industry can continue to exist. Attempts to artificially combat hate, racism and terrorism have created ‘Hate Industries’ in themselves which focus on an attempt to control others. Those who are highlighting the inequality of discrimination are being called religious extremists, or worst still, terrorists.

In a multi-racial, multi-religious nation like ours, where the practice of the religion and culture of one’s choice is protected by the Constitution, there is no reason for any kind of race prejudice and religious bigotry. All of us wish to achieve the same ends, the enlightenment of the soul and well-being of mankind. These ends can be achieved, all the so much easier if there is mutual understanding, trust, respect and to practice what is universally accepted – kindness to others.

With a multi-cultural, racial and religious mix we have all the ingredients of potential social hotspots in the country. We recognize that social conflicts are inevitable, but there are strategies if we care to sit down and work them out for their resolution or at least minimize or divert them before they become unmanageable. It is important that we recognize potential hotspots as we are dealing with human lives, their jobs and their children.

There are enough hotspot indicators which we should take cognizance of. Every day we open the dailies, our computers or turn on the TV, we get reports of street demonstrations, strong public statements airing disagreements. We see increasing lack of respect for Heads of Institutions. There is open disagreement regardless of issues.

For too long we have backed away from displaying the dark side of our social problems, preferring to sweep them under the carpet. What can we do as a group to offer for avoiding and or resolving conflicts which affect our daily lives and the future of the young generation? Institutions of Higher Learning could be roped in, if they have not yet been harnessed, to help gather and analyze data and information on socio-economic matters so that honest discussions and recommendations could be made for a sound apolitical management decisions on the concerns of the people.

At the same time, acceptance and recognition of our diversity through the use of the mass media are conducive to dialogue among the various races, cultures and beliefs, promoting respect and understanding for each other. Our cultural diversity is an asset. It has intrinsic value for development as well as social cohesion and peace. Harnessing our diversity could be the driving force for development not only in respect of economic growth but also of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.

Have a re-look at the linguistic dimension for our national development. Should we not encourage our young to be multi-lingual which would give them an edge for an appropriate and harmonious use of language in our society? Furthermore, language is of strategic importance for us. Educators amongst you will agree that acquiring languages offer unique modes of thinking and expression which can be an asset to a multi-racial society such as ours."

~ Excerpt from a keynote address given by the late Tan Sri Ani Arope in 2009 ~

( I first posted the above on SeniorsAloud blog in 2009 with the late Tan Sri Ani Arope's permission. Today, as the nation celebrates its 62nd Hari Merdaka, I am reposting it as a reminder that we are all one people, one nation, with one vision - to work together for the progress and prosperity of our country so that we can all live in peace and harmony.)

2010 - With my students at Wawasan Open University. Diversity in ethnicity enriches the learning experience.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


'Diet, exercise, lifestyle, prevention, mindset...' - these words were repeated over and over at the recently concluded 9th Malaysian Conference on Healthy Ageing (MCHA) organised by Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society (MHAS). So too were the more ominous words 'cancer, diabetes, depression, dementia, death'. A total of 6 plenary sessions, 30 symposiums, 11 workshops and 5 forums. Quite a smorgasbord of topics covered in the three days. I had a tough time deciding which ones to attend. My personal copy of the daily programme was covered with ticks and crosses. I had to skip many e.g. Dr Lim Poh Hin's 'Smart Ageing in the Information Age' and Prof Tan Maw Pin's 'Falls Can Be Fatal'. I missed Dr Tan Hooi Chien's talk on 'Volunteerism' but made up for it with Mr James Lim's sharing of the diasaster relief work carried out by Tzu Chi Foundation. Many are not aware of the health benefits of volunteerism.
(For the full programme, click here.)

When I first received the event brochure (above) a few months ago, I was impressed by the broad coverage of topics. All this in just three days? Wow! Then I remembered the same key people had also organised the highly successful 1st World Congress 2012 at KL Convention Centre. MHAS was just a fledgling NGO then, but they proved more than capable of handling an international event. I had no doubt they would repeat their success with the 9th MCHA. The theme this time was 'Ageing, Health and Community'. Not all the topics listed in the brochure ended up in the conference programme, but kudos to the organisers for giving the delegates so much to take away on how we can make lifestyle changes to enjoy quality of life in old age.

(Above) The organising committee with guest-of-honour Dato Mahadev Shankar (centre) after the opening ceremony. From left: Prof Tan Maw Pin, Prof Philip George, Prof Nathan Vytialingam, Dato Shankar, Ms Ranuga Devy, Dr Wong Teck Wee and Mr Matthew Teo.

Not only were delegates spoilt for choice of which sessions to attend, they were also well-fed. The daily lunch saw long queues patiently waiting to fill their plates and cups. It must have been quite a challenge to stay away from the food tables for those on weight loss programmes, on intermittent fasting or on the keto diet. Chow time was also an opportunity to network and make new contacts. The little tumbler that MHAS included in the goody bag was an excellent idea. It allowed us to replenish our drinking water (thanks, Biolux) as many times as we liked, and did away with single-use plastic bottles of water. 

Most of the delegates were doctors, allied health professonals, nursing home operators, academicians and representatives from NGOs. For folks out there who were unable to attend the conference, here's a brief roundup of some of the sessions I attended. It's simply not possible to cover everything on the programme. 

Dr Ravindran Kanesvaran started Day 1 with a very informative talk on 'Cancer: Prevention is Better Than Cure'. Many cancers are curable if detected early. So, people, go get your medical check-up done if it is long overdue. You will save a ton of money and more importantly, add more healthy years to your life. Dr Ravindran stresses to avoid or reduce intake of red meat if possible as it contributes to a high risk of colorectal cancer.

There was a lot of focus on nutrition and diet, and some confusion arising from conflicting advice on foods to avoid and foods to take. Not surprising. Examples: Egg yolk - good or bad for our health? Diet: Mediterranean, Okinawa or Malaysian? Is diet closely associated with ethnicity, culture, religion and geographic location? Should we follow a diet that is meant for a culture and lifestyle that is vastly different from ours? Our Malaysian diet is generally not healthy - too much sugar, salt and saturated oil. We also need to reduce our daily consumption of white rice as it is high in carbs which the body converts to sugars. Opt for brown rice instead as it is healthier. Keep an eye on our weight as obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and stroke. Malaysia has the highest obesity rate among countries in Asia. So take heed.

Prof Gerard Bodeker's wealth of knowledge on medicinal plants for disease prevention is truly amazing. Great to know that ulam and pegaga are on his list, and that he advocates nature therapy (e.g. forest bathing) and personalised therapy i.e.what works for you may not work for me as we are physiologically different. Dr Johan Manez had an interesting point to make on whether a plant-based diet is good for us. Based on the type of teeth we have and the way we chew when eating, he believes that humans are meant to eat more vegetables and fruits than meat. He proposed six lifestyle changes for better health: increase physical activities, manage stress, maintain good relationships, get enough sleep, eat healthy and avoid substance abuse.

Prof Tan Maw Pin was next after Prof Bodeker with her talk on 'Do Older People Need Vaccination'? Her answer was an impassioned plea to get ourselves and our elderly parents vaccinated or be at risk of getting pneumonia which can be very bad news for older people. The reason why I was initially hesitant about getting my 93-year old mother vaccinated was her advanced age and my fears of possible side effects. In the end, I caved in. Now after listening to Prof Tan, I am glad I did. My mom is fine and did not show any of the contraindications mentioned after her vaccination. 

I agree absolutely with Dr Wong Teck Wee in his interactive session on 'Healthy Ageing Revolution'. To age well, we have to start early to lay the foundation. Healthy living and financial literacy should be introduced in the school curriculum. This would ensure quality of life in old age. From womb to tomb. Prevention is always better than cure. As Dato Mahadev Shankar so aptly put it: "Money is the 6th sense, for without it you can't enjoy the other five senses". 

Good advice from Dr Rajbans Singh regarding supplements. Check out the above five points before you purchase any supplements. Too often we listen to what our friends tell us, or believe MLM sales pitch. We end up spending huge amounts on expensive supplements that show little results. We should do some research first on the internet and find out what reputable sources say about a particular supplement and whether we really need it. 

Day 2 and 3 began with half an hour of Laughter Yoga conducted by certified LY trainer Debbie Rodrigo. Beginning with some exercises, she soon had the room filled with laughter, releasing all the endorphins and prepping the delegates for the morning sessions. 

We often hear the term 'patient-centred' used to refer to care given to patients receiving treatment in hospital settings. But what happens after they are discharged? How does a post-stroke patient, for example, deal with recovery and rehabilitation? Based on her research, occupational therapist Kim Walder believes if the patient understands and accepts his physical limitations, the journey from initial turmoil to wellbeing can be smoother for himself and his family.  

The lunch symposium on Day 2 raised quite a few eyebrows. Prof Dato Dr Hj Mohd Farouk Abdullah didn't mince words (or images) when he spoke on 'Sex in the Golden Years'. His message was loud and clear - older couples can still enjoy sex, with some creativity and the use of various aids. It was definitely a no-holds barred presentation that probably made many in the audience feel a little uncomfortable. Time for a change in mindset about post-menopausal sex. 

Dr Ainoriza Mohd Aini's talk on 'Ageing in Place: Design and Infrastructure for Healthy Ageing' covered both home renovations and city planning. She shared about providing elder-friendly facilities for ageing safely at home and in the city. It is good to know that housing developers and town planners are now giving importance to designing for a growing ageing population. Take a walk in the city streets or visit a public housing complex, and you will agree that the government has a monumental task ahead to improve public housing and city infrastructure for all ages.

Speaking about the government, do you think it is doing enough to protect the rights of older people? Are there laws to prevent financial abuse? Should we advocate for a Maintenance of Elderly Parents Act similar to what Singapore and India have already implemented? The jury is still out on this. The general conclusion is we have laws and regulations to protect the elderly, but enforcement is poor. We already know that. 

This was one presentation I didn't want to miss as I felt the govt should step up efforts to promote productive ageing now that healthy ageing is firmly on their radar, thanks to the positive image of Tun Dr Mahathir, 94, the world's oldest prime minister. With the cost of living going up, not all senior citizens can afford to retire. I was glad to connect with Dr Amuthaganesh Mathialagan after his talk on 'Entrepreneurship for Older Persons'. He was receptive to my proposal to conduct a training course on entrepreneurial skills for our warga emas.

The above sessions on Intermittent Fasting from Dr Vaikunthan Rajaratnam and Ketogenic Diet from Prof Dr Raghu Vadarajan had me wondering seriously if I should follow their advice to lose weight. Both diets seemed drastic but the doctors were themselves proof that intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet worked for them. However, it requires mental strength and a huge amount of perseverance to stick to the diet given our love of food.

The most humorous presentation came from Dr Tan Seng Beng on 'The Art of Dying'. If his intention was to remove the social stigma attached to talking about death, he succeeded. His wry sense of humour in dispensing advice filled the room with laughter. This was in contrast to Prof Dr Saw Aik's talk on 'Turn a Loss into a Gift: Silent Mentor Program'. I was quite moved when he shared about the dignity and respect shown by the medical students to the silent mentors and their bereaved families. As should be. 

Dr Lam Chee Loong spoke on 'Resources for End of Life' and provided a list of hospitals that offer palliative care and another list of community hospices. Most useful for families looking for end-of-life care for a loved one. Dr Yau Weng Keong's talk was on 'Decision Making in End-of-Life Care for Older persons'. Unfortunately I did not attend his talk. Kudos to MHAS for including these topics. It is high time society stopped viewing death as a taboo subject. Not only should we live well, we should also leave well, and that includes having a say in how we want to make our final exit. 

The final session saw Prof Dr Nathan Vityalingam explaining the differences between retirement homes, nursing homes and daycare centres. Know what to look for when visiting an aged care facility, and check whether it actually provides the services stated in their promotional materials. 

For the organisers, it was a daunting task to ensure everything went without a hitch, from making sure registration was smooth, technical problems were minimal, food was served on time and speakers turned up as scheduled. If there were hiccups, they were hardly noticeable. To the delegates it was three full days of learning, sharing and networking.

So a round of applause to the organising committee for a very successful conference. Looking forward to the next conference in 2021.

Friday, June 28, 2019


I turned 71 today - 28 June, 2019. 

When each birthday comes around, we get well-meaning reminders of how quickly the years have rolled by. It's not just the number of big and small candles that announce our age on the celebratory cake, but also the family members that gather around us for the all-important customary birthday photos. Our adult children and our grandchildren are yet another reminder of our age and of how fast time flies.

My elder daughter celebrated her 50th milestone a month ago. My younger daughter has another two years to reach that same milestone. My grandson will be 19 in August, followed by my three granddaughters at 16, 15 and 13. My youngest grandchild is 5. 

I am reminded of the lyrics from the song 'Sunrise, Sunset' from the movie 'Fiddler on the Roof'. 

Births, weddings and deaths are all part and parcel of life. As we live, so shall we leave - hopefully surrounded by people we love and who love us. 

Let's be proud of our age, whether we are 50 or 80. Never mind if society thinks we are past our prime and over the hill. It's more important what we think of ourselves. If we think we are 'useless', 'unproductive' and a 'burden' to the family and society, then we are. Time for a mindset change. 

I can never understand why women in particular fear this stigma of ageing. Why are they so defensive about disclosing their age? It's funny how those in their 40s and 50s want to keep their age a secret, and those in their 60s want you to guess their age. But once they have reached 70 and beyond, they wear their age with pride like a badge of honour. They will voluntarily tell you their age. And why not? After all, old age is a privilege denied to many. It is a mark of having survived all the ups and downs of life. 

Growing old is natural and inevitable. So why fight it or try to reverse it? That would be like trying to stem the tide. We should look at our wrinkles as life-lines of experience, and our greying hair as threads of wisdom.

Let's not waste precious time wishing we could turn back the clock. Let's not fill our days with regrets, of things we could have done but didn't. Worse, let's not get stuck in that negative mindset with the all-too-familiar refrains of “Old already. Cannot study anymore. Cannot travel anymore. Cannot dance anymore. Cannot chew anymore. Cannot hear well anymore. Cannot wear bright colours anymore. Cannot enjoy romance anymore....” Aiyoh!

And we wonder why young people see us as decrepit old fogies ready to crumble into dust or ashes any minute. That’s how many of us see ourselves too. Is that why we avoid looking at the mirror unless we have our make-up on? A smile works much better than cosmetics - it lifts up our face instantly and pushes back the years.

No need for expensive botox, hair treatment or facelifts. Throw away those anti-ageing, anti-wrinkles cream. Invest in joy, love, forgiveness, gratitude. Eat sensibly. Exercise regularly. Nourish our skin with moisturizers. Smile often. Have a hearty laugh every now and then. Make positive words a part of our daily vocabulary. Think good thoughts. 

Add fun, friends, and fantasy to our lives. Spice it up with a dash of colour and romance. Dance in the rain, sing in the sunshine, enjoy the outdoors, see the world through the eyes of a child eager to discover and learn once more.

We can't stop growing old, but we don't have to BE old. We need to think outside THAT dreaded box or we'll be six feet under sooner than we want.

I can never understand folks who say they don't want to live too long and be a burden to their children. Why not prepare for a happy old age and make it happen? Surely we want to be around to see our grandchildren graduate, get married and start a family? Or simply just be around to see them go through life as we have done before them? And if they need our counsel, we'll be there to provide it. 

As for me, I hope to live to 100 in good health, God willing. Here's a toast to myself - to many more happy birthdays to come. 

(Above photo: The original words were 'My Last Portrait' but I changed it to 'My Best Portrait'. The photo was taken by a photographer who specialises in funeral portraits. He had a charity booth at the Death Festival organised by Xiao En in November 2018.)

Friday, May 24, 2019


I didn't get the results of the biopsy till my third follow-up visit on 4 May as Dr Chan was on leave. Frankly, on all my visits I was more interested in knowing when I could stop wearing the compression tights than in the biopsy results. When I found out that male patients had worse issues with the tights as they had to adjust their 'jewels' all the time, I felt I should be grateful that my situation was not as bad as theirs - I had no jewels to protect!

I didn't even ask about the biopsy report. Still, it was a relief to know that the lump was benign. However, Dr Chan advised me to get an MRI done every year for the next five years to make sure everything was okay. Attached to the report were some images of the removed lump and the tissues surrounding it. As they are too graphic for public viewing, I shall not post them here.

The first few days when I was back at my daughter and son-in-law's apartment I had to get used to moving around gingerly with the aid of a walking frame. I have always been a fast walker ever since I gave up driving almost 20 years ago. Lots of practice! I had to remind myself to slow down. I also had to get used to taking prescription drugs. For someone who had stopped taking supplements years ago, I now had to take an array of antibiotics, gastric protectors and pain-killers. 

What was more challenging was having to lug around the bottle of post-surgery drainage fluid 24/7. My granddaughter Hana figured out a way to hook it to the walking frame so I could have both hands free for the frame. At night I slept with the bottle beside me. When I woke up I had to make sure the clamps, green vacuum indicator and the green connector were still securely in place, and to note the level of the drainage. The bottle literally became an extension of my body. Imagine my immense relief when Dr Chan removed it on my second follow-up visit on 30 April. 

Having to wear the panty-hose compression tights day and night remained the biggest hassle. My daughter Moon and Heden, our helper, had to assist in helping put them on for me. I had to wear them for at least a month. With the current hot weather, imagine how warm it was to sleep with the tights on. On top of that, the tights made my feet swell and my right knee too. The latter became bulbous and sensitive to the touch. I later learned that this could be due to seroma - fluid that sometimes builds up in the body after surgery. It had probably collected around my right knee. I had a choice of draining the fluid or letting the body absorb it over time. I decided to just let my body do some repair work on my knee.

For the first few days after I was discharged, I only sponged myself. Showering required a bit of acrobatics and flexibility so as not to wet the dressing too much even though it was supposed to be waterproof. Sorry, no photos to show how I managed to shower and wash my hair. It gave me some ideas on how to improve the design of bathrooms to make them more user-friendly for people with physical limitations. Having grab bars or hand rails may not be sufficient.

Unable to venture out for the first three weeks except to see the doctor, the balcony became my favorite place to hang out. I was there at all hours of the day. From the 12th floor, I watched the birds flying by above the tree-tops. I counted the number of cars speeding by below, and watched with envy people jogging by in the evenings, and wondered when I could start brisk walking again. The sunsets were beautiful, so was the sight of the new moon on the first night of Ramadan. The balcony was also where I did my daily push-ups, heel raise exercises and stretches.  

I had brought along a resistance band from KL. Unfortunately it was a tad too short to do much with it. Resistance bands are color-coded according to the degree of tension. They are great for strengthening the bigger muscles in the legs, chest and back. I highly recommend these bands if you don't have weights at home. They are so affordable and easy to bring along when you travel. My mom had hip surgery after a fall in 2011. The physiotherapist at University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) had demonstrated some resistance band exercises to me so I could help my mom do them at home. Mom recovered enough muscle strength in her legs to be able to walk with a walking frame after several weeks. She was 85 years old at the time.

My last visit to see Dr Chan was on 18 May. By then the stitches had healed well enough for him to declare 'no further follow-up needed'. Music to my ears! I celebrated immediately with a belated Mother's Day shopping spree at Robinson's, courtesy of Moon. 

If not for the surgery on my leg, I would have been in Yantai, Shandong today, speaking at the 2nd World Senior Tourism Congress 23-25 May 2019, in my capacity as VP of the University of  the Third Age (U3A), KL & Selangor. Moon had advised me to decline the invitation as she said I probably wouldn't have recovered sufficiently by then to travel so far alone. She was right, of course.

There are many things I have learned from this episode of my life, but that will be for another blog article! :-)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


It has been exactly one month since I had a lump removed from my leg. Thank God, it's out. The incision wound is healing nicely, and I am doing fine. Also thank you, friends and SeniorsAloud members, for the concern and wishes for a speedy recovery.

How did all this begin? About three years ago I noticed a pea size lump just below the skin on my inner right thigh. I saw the GP about it and was told it was nothing to worry about. I felt no pain or discomfort, and continued with my usual busy schedule. Sometime during my year-long studies in Singapore, I could feel that the lump had increased in size. Not wanting to disrupt my studies with possible bad news, I decided to let it be till after I graduated in early August 2018.

However, my calendar was so packed with festive celebrations, family events and social engagements that I finally had an MRI done almost eight months later on 21 March 2019 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore. The result was not clear-cut. So the advice was to have the lump removed and sent for a biopsy. By then it had grown to 3cm in size. As I still had a couple of events to see to including a hike at Setia Alam Community Trail on 20 April, I opted to have the surgery on 25 April. The date was later brought forward by the doctor to 22 April.

Below is a pictorial account of my hospital stay. It is more for my personal record, but am sharing it here so that my family and friends have an idea what the entire experience was like. Many of them did not know about my surgery till much later.

On Monday 22 April, Moon helped me to check in at 3.30pm. I had to fast from 10am. Surgery was scheduled for 5.30pm same day. (Above) Here I am relaxing with a book and waiting for the nurses to prepare me for the surgery. The room is spacious and comfortable. I like the sofa which offers more seating for visitors and also doubles up as a bed for overnight company.

As I had showered earlier at home, I used only the toilet. The nurses sponged me in bed the next day after the surgery. The published rates for a single room is $688. It is probably the most expensive room I have ever stayed in, including hotel rooms. And I barely used the room facilities due to limited mobility after the surgery.

(Above) Thumbs up and ready to be wheeled to the operating theater. This would be my third operation so I knew what to expect. I had my gall bladder removed in 1989 at Sentosa Hospital, KL, and part of my liver taken out in 2006 at Gleneagles, Singapore. Orthopedic surgeon Dr Henry Chan had popped in earlier to brief me and to assure me all would be fine, and there was nothing to worry about.

It was winter temperature in the operating theater. Freezing cold. I was told I would be given general anesthesia, so I would not feel a thing at all. The last thing I saw before I blanked out was Dr Chan and his colleague Dr Leon Foo chatting away nearby. It was a calming sight. No urgency. No panic. This was going to be a standard procedure without any complications - hopefully.

When I was wheeled back to my room some hours later, I felt no pain, just some discomfort but was alarmed to see a plastic bottle of what looked like blood hanging by my bedside with a tube that ran right up to my right thigh. It was to drain the after-op discharge/fluid. This was certainly not the usual catheter bag of urine. Belle said it looked more like a bottle of strawberry juice or watermelon juice. Cold comfort!

I was able to enjoy a late dinner after which I had to take the first of my many medications. The night passed uneventfully till the next morning when Dr Chan dropped by to see how I was doing. Great, I said. No pain at all, and I had an appetite. I was told that a physiotherapist would come by later.

(Left) My first meal after the surgery - late dinner. (Right): Lunch the next day. A fairly good selection of meals. Just too much use of cling-wrap to cover each plate, bowl and cup. They forgot my onion soup for dinner and I had to remind them as I love onion soup especially if it's not from a can.

(Above) The four meals I had during my two-day-one-night stay. Breakfast was served quite late at 8.30am compared to the hospitals in KL/PJ where the nurses will wake you up as early as 6am to get you washed and ready for breakfast and for the doctors when they make their rounds.

The physiotherapist came in at 9.40am to show me how to take my first steps with the walking frame. She was super patient and encouraging. Unless you are in a similar situation, you would probably wonder why something as simple and basic as walking requires instructions. I learned how to get up from bed without too much pain, with the help of the walker and how to transfer my weight more to my good left leg when I walked.

A hospital aide later came in to do a survey, mainly asking me questions about my stay and the services. As you can see, it was done like flash cards. I gave above average scores for most of the items in the survey.

(Left) A close-up of the tubing and the bandaged wound. (Right) At a follow-up visit two weeks later when the dressing was removed. Hope readers won't find this too disturbing.

My biggest ordeal at the hospital was having to put on these medical compression tights. Aptly named, as it took Glen (the vendor) and one nurse, each working on one leg almost 45 minutes to complete the task without hurting the wound. Glen called it a sweaty workout. Belle said my legs looked really shapely. Certainly not the case two days later. The above photo (left) was taken immediately after wearing the tights. Two days later, my feet and right knee began to swell (right) and remained so in the weeks after.

(Part 2 to follow).