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Maria-Syamsi

From My Heart

The Scare – Part II

Do check out The Scare – Part I right before this post. But I guess you can read this first, if you happened to come across this.

Lessons that I learnt from the health scare:

(1) Appreciate your health. With a good health, we could think more clearly, have much less worry (because being unwell gives you sooooo much anxiety, you can’t imagine until you become unwell yourself), serve others around us and plan for the future. Try to avoid all those lifestyle-related problems like diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive lung disease, obesity, alcoholism, drug abuse. Please leave the healthcare system for those who could not help being sick – like those who had cancer, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, errors of metabolism, epilepsy and so many other serious conditions. We all need to learn about caring for ourselves better.

(2) I know most doctors (and other healthcare workers) know this, but I need to stress this to myself and others: your smiles mean THE WHOLE WORLD to your patients. Even when they are so worried or in pain that they could not smile back at you. A smiling face makes a world of difference. Encouraging and positive words, even more so. We all need to smile more, say more motivating words. Life will be better for all of us.

I really need to say this: all the staff in neurology ward and clinic have been very kind to me, from the consultants to the staff bringing in food to my room, and the cleaners were all so polite!! They lifted my spirits in ways that I did not expect. The nurses updated me on the MRI waiting status, put in my IV line (even distracted me by chatting with me so that it would not be too painful), prepared my room. The attendant who pushed my trolley towards the MRI was also friendly and encouraging. It was great service for me, and I do hope they do this to all patients.

(3) If you know you’re going to be admitted to the hospital, or going to wait in a specialist clinic (government or private centers), do bring a book to read and some food to munch on. I occupied myself with a book during my MRI wait, and although the day was still long, I could tolerate it. In the neurology clinic, I had to wait for almost four hours, which would have been excrutiating if I did not have anythig to read in my hands. I also found that watching TV actually makes one more angry. So a book is the way to go.

(4) Positivity should become our best friend that we bring around everywhere. For the past few years, I have been struggling with a few life issues that made me sometimes too lethargic to go on. I managed to keep my nose above the water by giving myself positive thoughts everytime I find myself almost drowning. Personally I would usually listen to speakers like Nouman Ali Khan and Sheikh Yasir Qadhi. They give lectures about the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) life that changed my perspective of life to a more fulfilling one. It doesn’t mean I don’t get anxious or have depressed mood, but by reminding myself, I could get out of it fairly quickly. 

It is worth every effort of whispering ourselves good words. There are times that we might not feel convinced, but after a while, it gets easier. Once we have positive thoughts, things get easier for us.

(5) It is a very very VERY good habit to say our thanks and gratefulness the first thing in the morning, when we wake up. Just think about the things that we are thankful for, and along the day, the list will keep on growing.

(6) Indeed, with difficulty comes multiple ease. Good news, it only happens if you truly believe in it. 

(7) How to survive MRI if you’re claustrophobic? I guess it depends on how claustrophobic you are, and my techniques may not apply to everyone. It was scary at first, I had palpitations. The informative radiographers actually helped the whole process; they knew I was supposed to be given sedation, but since I wanted to try without, they explained to me what it is going to be like in there. 

My good friend told me, when she did her MRI, the tunnel was very close to her face, and there were vomit stains in there! Yikes!

It was certainly NOT like that when I had mine done. The tunnel was clean, and although it is narrow, I could still look towards my feet and hence outside the tunnel. So that is the first technique – look at the light at the end of the tunnel!

It also helped that the lighting in the MRI room was soft yellow, it gave quite a calming effect. 

As soon as the ‘bed’ moved in, I started reading those Quranic verses that I could remember, and the focus I neeed to recite those verses managed to distract me away from the noise and the narrow tunnel. They said they would put on music but I was thankful they did not, it would have interfered with my recitations.

The thing that was not so easy to overcome was…the on and off itchiness on the knee or on the head; we’re not supposed to move!! So deep breathing exercises was the answer. 

(8) If you truly believe in Allah, believe in the power of du’as, then you’ll know know that whatever He puts you through at that time is the best for you. Like I have been thinking of whether or not I should let anyone know about the scan date, but I didn’t want to trouble anyone, on top of not wanting to feel frustrated if nobody came to accompany me. I have to say, I felt rather lonely, but looking back, I’m glad I made that decision.

I did wonder though, why am I alone? Of course, I told myself that I am not truly alone (as evidenced by the MRI success without needing sedatives), and that there is a goo reason behind the whole situation. Turned out, I did not need anyone. Everything was fine, in the end.

There are a few other lessons but I guess I’ll stop for now. Will probably add them on some other time.

The Scare – Part I

Truly health is one of the greatest blessings in life.
Recently I had sort of an ‘opportunity’ to remind myself about its importance. It’s not that I don’t care about my health before, but this time I get to see it from a different perspective.

A few months back, I started to have tingling sensations over my toes. At first it only lasted for a day, and it disappeared after a good rest (thank you, Dr Ong!). However after a few weeks, the tingling came again, and this time it persisted, day and night. Even the tips of my fingers felt numb occasionally.

After a week of persistent tingling, I asked my senior colleagues (thank you, Dr Aza and Dr Zila!) to assess and write me a letter to see a neurologist. I went to see the head of department but since she was busy, I saw another neurologist whom I love as much. 
It turned out my toes were truly numb, and so were my fingers (I examined myself before, but it was difficult to gauge because my brain already knew there was going to be a stimuli). On top of that, my right big toe was a bit weak. So she arranged for an MRI of the whole spine, but in addition to a possible diagnosis of prolapsed disc, she was worried it might be something more sinister like multiple sclerosis, because of the on-and-off nature of my symptoms.

It did come and go. That particular episode lasted for two weeks, and then it resolved. A month after that, it occurred again for a week, and then resolved. After that it came a few times, for a few days. 

Without realizing it, I became more anxious. A day prior to a public holiday, I was having tea with my family, I suddenly had this tingling sensation over mynleft shoulder. I panicked but I only told my best friends. The next day it rained and rained and rained; it was such a peaceful day, all I wanted to do was spend time in the masjid. I went to my favourite masjid that morning, bringing along my worries and sadness with me.

The sun that came after the rain only served to remind me that any kinds of sadness will be followed by days of joy, which will surely be multiplied. I thank God for sending us the rain and the sun.

I did not ask for early MRI appointment as I had another big task to go through. Meanwhile, I did go back to the neurology clinic (to settle some stuff for my patients). The nurses and other staff there were so kind and supportive, giving me advice on how to survive the MRI (I’ll get back to that later), smiling cheerfuly when they see me there.

As the date became closer, I became more anxious. I tried to tell myself that it’s all going to be fine, that it’s not a big deal really, that even if the results are bad, I would still live my life the way I do now and believe in the same principles as I do. Most of the time, the positive vibes I tried to instill into myself stuck in me, although there are other times that I just felt like breaking down. I even thought that this scare is good, because I finally learn how to not procrasinate (my friend found it weird and said it is not nice to think of it like that, but I told her I need to survive this one way or another).

I have to mention that a good friend of mine was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago. She’s still alive and kicking, I must say. Perhaps if I was diagnosed with the same disease, we could promote MS awareness together.

I felt worse after my mom became unwell, and I failed my exams again. I became extremely edgy, especially when I’m on call; something I have managed to avoid being for a few years.

The MRI was another drama (actually it was not very dramatic). I am rather claustrophobic, so the neurologist suggested for me to be admitted so that they could give me some sedation before the scan. I agreed for it. 
“Don’t you have any friends who could hold your hand while you’re in there?” she asked. I could not answer that question. I can’t think of anyone who’s not occupied with his/her life. Obviously I won’t tell my parents because they would be even more worried, especially my mom. It is going to be a long wait so I don’t want her to wait that long with me either.

I drove myself to the hospital, checked myself in, thank God I had a single room to myself (it smelt like old hotel room), changed my clothes and settled down with Cecelia Ahern’s Lyrebird. I was given prednisolone cover late that night (I have allergies, although the MRI is an uncontrasted one I still had to take it), thank God I felt sleepy, and slept through until the first vital sign was taken at 5am.

The next day was even longer; I fasted from 6am, allowed lunch at 11am because the waiting list was still very long, fasted again at 1pm, and was FINALLY called for MRI at 7pm. I knew it was going to be like that, I only hoped they would not cancel it after all the trouble.

As adviced by the clinic nurses, I tried going through the MRI without sedation. The radiographer warned me that it was going to be noisy, the tunnel is narrow, I would go in head first, it will last one hour, but I said I wanted to try without sedation. I spent that half hour in the noisy tunnel reciting some Quran verses that I could remember; it had the expected effect of calming me down and made me focus on my memory rather than my sensations. In the end I did not need any sedation; I managed to discharge myself by 9.30pm and drove myself home.

The next day I was still on leave, I had nerve conduction studies done by one of the specialists. It was not a pleasant experience, I must say (I tried not to recall the bad experience reading Cecelia Ahern’s Flawed), although it was a good learning process and the specialist was being very nice to me (thank you, Dr ASM!). The test result came back as normal.

After that, I had another four days until the clinic appointment to find out my MRI findings. I survived the weekend, and on Monday I found out that the MRI report was actually ready within 12 hours after the scan. Talk about being efficient! 

Despite being glad that my hospital is that good, I felt my worst that day. For the first time in my life, I did not know what I’ll do in the near and later future. I had no appetite, I felt nauseous, and can’t even think of images nice enough for me to pray about. I could only ask God for more positivity and strength.
I met a good friend, who is a specialist, he asked me how I was, and I almost cried. I told him the whole thing about the exams and the MRI and that I was extremely worried…but in the end I told him I really don’t know what to do with my life, I just had to wait until the next day and then maybe I will have my direction.

It doesn’t help that I felt very lonely at that time. If the report comes back as something sinister, I really didn’t know where to go. Obviously I would not know how to tell my parents, I didn’t know if I could tell my brothers without making things worse for myself because they might not be available, one of my best friends had just given birth to her first baby, the other one is away in Germany, my mentor is probably away too….I just told myself that if God thinks that I need a person with me, He would have sent one, so most likely I don’t need anyone right now.

The day came. I waited for almost four hours in the busy neurology clinic to see the neurologist. When I walked into her room, she was standing and smiled at me. 
“Maria, there’s nothing serious in the MRI!” she said. 

To be honest, I don’t know who looked more relieved, was it myself, or was it her. 

It was not even a slipped disc.
We sat there discussing about the possible reasons for the tingling sensation. It could be an effect from a viral illness (I did have URTI prior to those symptoms), or maybe low haemoglobin. I won’t need another scan for now, unless something very serious comes up, which we both hope will not happen.

For the first time in weeks, I could truly smile. It felt like a huge burden has been lifted off my back. I felt so light in the head, I drove home thinking, again, about my dreams and prayers, and about coffee and cake. The next morning, I went to work with contact lens on, and plastered the biggest smile that I’ve had on my face since a few weeks back.

Truly health is the biggest blessing a person could have.
Sometimes it takes a scare to give it a new perspective.

Lifestyles and Influence – The Concept of Muwalliiha

This is one of the many lessons I learnt during Ustaz Nouman Ali Khan’s lecture in Masjid Wilayah on 2nd November 2016.

. . .

This is one of those lessons from the Quran that I wish is taught in primary schools, on top of teaching us about rules and regulations. This involves human psychology, motivation, and even simple manners. It would increase the love of young ones towards the Quran, and hence towards Allah, as they would understand that they could always turn to Allah’s words during times of adversity, when it is difficult to keep on doing good things.

It comes from ayat 148 in surah Al Baqarah. The ayats around this one were revealed to change the direction of our prayers – from facing the Baitul Maqdis (in Palestine) to Masjidil Haram in Makkah. This particular ayat does not only speak about how every religion has its own directions. It speaks about how every human being would choose his own lifestyle, and that choice would inspire others to follow suit.

“Therefore, compete to do good.”

Because when we all compete to do good, more people will be inspired to do good.
. . .
“Therefore, compete in doing ALL KINDS of good things.”
The good news is, good things are always worth doing, even if we do not see the results ourselves.
For example, one person started a charity drive, and another person follows, and then another, and then another….until perhaps the fifth or sixth person, very influential, gets inspired by this one person, and then promotes the same kind of charity drive. After that hundreds or even thousands of people involve themselves with all sorts of charity or voluntary work. 
Wouldn’t that be amazing?
Just imagine, that first person did one good thing and he thought he only inspired one person, but in reality, he has inspired hundreds or thousands to do the same thing. It multiplies!!
. . .
In my working life, I could see this concept of “muwalliiha” being shown in a lot of places. For example, the way a few nurses in a certain ward would influence the rest of the nurses in charge of that ward. If there are a few kind, hardworking and responsible nurses in that ward, there is higher likelihood that the rest of the nurses will be as kind and responsible. If the rougher, lazier ones dominate, even the conscientious ones might not be motivated enough to do proper work.
. . .
“ALL KINDS of good things” can be just about anything. It could be giving a big smile to everyone, being kind and gentle, being helpful, being thoughtful, doing charity or volunteer work, taking work responsibilities seriously, being humble, or even by living a simple life.
Let’s start living our lives in a better way. Positive vibes will always attract more positive vibes! 


A Thousand Praises and Gratitude

My baby is back with me after five weeks in ICU, having had a heart and lung transplant..

Ok. Not really. 

Basically five weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, my car broke down. I was on my way back from work at that time, was dreaming about the bed waiting for me at home. The engine made a whole lot of noise that I really had to stop on the roadside.

I need to get to the point of this article, so I will summarise the whole five weeks first. Basically the damage was so bad that the car needed a change of engine, and now it is working as it should be. I cried with gratefulness when I drove my car back from the workshop a few days ago.

I was, and am, thankful that despite the major breakdown, so many things went the right way for me.

I am thankful I had my uncle to help me out when I could not reach my father.

I am thankful I stopped the car at the correct moment because I don’t think it could go any further. If I did not, the car might have stalled at a steep hill, and nobody from the other side could have seen the car. I shudder to think about what might have happened.

I am thankful that it happened near my house, so I could have lunch and a bit of a rest while waiting for the tow truck.

I am thankful that the tow truck did not have ANY problem at all locating my car. It was located at a small kampung road, and the area is rather sparsely popuated, with palm oil plantation on one side. The tow truck even reached the car before I did.

I am thankful that the tow truck driver knew exactly where was the service center that I wanted to send the car to. And I am thankful that it is open on a Sunday!

I am grateful that I could borrow my mom’s car for four weeks, and dad’s car for one week while waiting for my car to recover.

I am grateful that the servie center staff have been kind and friendly all along.

I am thankful that the company approved for the warranty to cover 90% of the engine change cost. Very very thankful indeed.

I am thankful that my colleague and senior colleagues understood my need to leave work when I needed to settle the issues with the car.

I am thankful that despite all the stress of not having my car with me, God has inspired me to still be thankful to Him.

Indeed, it is true, that with calamity, there is multiple ease.

Only if we choose to see it in a positive light.

Ingatkan Aku

Setiap Helai Daun

Now and Infinity

When you think about infinity.Your time in this world is too short, just too short.

It is easier to forgive everyone everyday.
There I was in the morning, witnessing the dilemma of a lady, perhaps only a few years older than myself, facing a daunting task of taking care of her mother who had a stroke. The daunting task that she may need to face alone, because father is old too, and the rest of the siblings just watching. Her eyes teared up when she spoke about taking unpaid leave for the time being, to care for her mother.
She’s not the only one feeling that way.

I know many who have been in her position before. 
On my way back I thought of her. That feeling of being alone, facing the responsibilities alone, while the rest stood watching without understanding the need to help. Such a familiar feeling, I felt like just going back to the ward to tell her, “congratulations”.
Yes, there are times when we feel hurt and say it out. But by saying it out, we take the blame for hurting others while actually we were the ones hurt at the first place. 
But it is ok.

Take care of your parents anyway, even if no one in this world offered to help.

Forgive others anyway. Because this precious life is too short for grudges, for anger, for complexities.

…………

Do you know that once you step foot in jannah, you will forget that you have ever sufferred anything at all in this world?

Should that not be a source of motivation for all of us to go on just a little bit more?

………

When you spend your days telling people that their parent have passed away, listening to their cries and wails, it is only natural for you to expect others to learn the same lessons. 

But often they don’t, because they don’t know how those wails and cries sound like. 

……..

Talk about praying for ease.

It was still early in the evening, a patient just passed away, and another patient became short of breath suddenly.

I saw that she’s a young girl, was very restless and breathless. She needs intubation.

I was worried, and while the nurses pushed her to the acute cubicle, I wondered how I was going to tube a young, strong and agitated girl. 

Right away, the anaesthetic doctor came into the ward, looking for her.

So the other doctor immediately helped me intubate the young girl, and soon after, patient was sent to the ICU.

That night I slept a solid 4 hours, despite having a rough start.
When I asked from Allah that morning, for ease of performing my job, I pictured that help would come when I really needed it.
So I really had my affairs settled easily. Even better for the patients.
Yes. Prayers are answered. Some immediately, but for some, you need to wait patiently. Like I said, what is a day in this life if we compare to infinity.

…………

Have you ever trained yourself to become a person with positive attitude, good character, kinder person, and failed miserably everytime you face a bigger test? Would you give up?
Or would you keep on telling yourself the truth, and hope that one day you would embody the messages and you will become the kinder, nicer person who is very patient?
Every single whisper of “do your best”, every single reminder for yourself to not destroy your efforts, everytime you tell yourself to keep on trying, is worth doing. If you feel like you have failed, that your efforts are not going anywhere, remind yourself that you need to keep on trying. Because one day, the reminders will come before you make a mistake, they will come when you feel so down, they will come when you need them the most, and will make the most sense.

Doa dan Jawaban-Nya

Ten Years In Service

Ten years ago today, I started working as a doctor. 
Ten years of service, the biggest lesson I learnt is, the greatest regret a person could feel in his life is because he was not good enough to his parents. Did not spend enough time, did not act kindly enough.

I learnt that, no matter how stressed I become while at work, it is often reduced when I listen and talk to the patients.

I learnt that we understand more about life when we understand death. We live life better when we embrace that death is surely a part of life.

I learnt that positive thinking attracts positive surrounding. 

Ten years in service, I realize that no matter how advanced technology is, sometimes we need to rely on our instincts, an our patients’ instincts too.
I learnt that, if we really wanted to help, we could always find the way to help, even if it is not what we planned to do at the first place.

I understand that everyone has 24 hours, but you need to be wise to use it fully.

It is from the early years of service that I learnt, if we wanted to do something, there is no such excuse as ‘being post call’ or ‘too busy with work’. If doctors use that excuse all the time, the only things we see are patients in their beds, and our own beds. I learnt that we should go wherever we needed to go, whenever we needed to.

I learned that every specialty has its importance, and we should never look down on others. If we think we know more, then we should educate. If we think people look down on us, perhaps there really are things that we should learn about more.

I learnt that doctors are fighters because we see too much suffering with our own eyes. Even when others don’t appreciate it, even when people call us names, we still fight for them. 

I learnt that anger consumes energy. Too much energy.

I learnt that humility and gentleness goes a long way, even when many fellow Asians don’t agree with being gentle, thinking “people won’t listen to gentle people”. Trust me, being humble, kind and gentle is the right thing to do. No matter what the outcome is, people will never be able to blame us for being just that. 

And I’m still struggling.

I learnt that honesty is the best policy. An honest doctor, an honest nurse, and yes, an honest patient. If a patient lies to a doctor/nurse, he would bring detriment to his own health and people around him.

I learnt that there is no point doing something if you expect something in return from that person. Help someone because it is the right thing to do. But he will never be able to pay you back, because of his imperfections. 

And..

Ten years in service, in a field where science is supposed to top others, I believe in God even more than when I started off.
Yes, science could cure some infections, detect cancer early, open up blood vessels, make a blind person see again.
But like all else in this universe, science is limited. Science helps but is not the answer to all.
Science can’t help a daughter to feel at peace while she’s caring for her mother who has dementia.
Science can’t tell you why this four-year-old has to die because of cancer. 
Science can’t tell an octogenarian to get up and walk after antibiotics have cured her pneumonia, because she refused to walk as none of her children visited her.
Science can’t tell why a mother of five did not survive the breast cancer but that single lady lives on intact.
Science could not tell which ‘20%’ is not going to be cured from cancer, and why.
Science won’t tell you why this life is imperfect. 

Only Allah does. Allah tells us how to care for our parents, why some people don’t survive until age 20, that life is imperfect that everyone will go through some kind of suffering in this life. Allah tells us that different people could overcome different kinds of challenges, we need His help to do that. Allah told us about death so we could live this life as better, gentler, kinder, more generous, and contented people.

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