Saturday, January 28, 2012

Destructive Fun. Drink Responsibly.

Whoever said that fun had to be a destructive past-time?

What's worse than watching on as the people you love destroy their bodies slowly but surely being unable to stop them from what they deem to be fun? Well, I'm sure there are some things that are worse. I guarantee you though, when you try to warn them but they refuse to listen, all you can feel is heartbroken.

The result of a long night of 'fun': feeling groggy and tired with headaches, nausea and vomiting. That's the definition of 'feel-good' isn't it? Wrong. That's the definition of your body's rejection to your night time activity. And if you're not listening to me, you sure aren't going to be listening to your body either.

Now, I never once suggested stopping altogether. A little self-control would make me happy.

Alcohol abuse is a major problem within our society and yet it isn't viewed in such a way because it's considered the social 'norm'. People aren't often fazed by the effects of chronic alcohol consumption or even binge drinking because they have no idea just how badly it affects their body. Sure, it may appear as if some people escape the repercussions but you don't really know the inner workings of another's body, do you?

The excuse of "I hardly drink so there's no harm in getting drunk" is no excuse at all. Because when people think alcohol abuse, they only ever seem to think 'cirrhosis' but did you know that cirrhosis is irreversible and is the last thing that happens before your liver eventually gives out? Did you know that you may not even get to the point of cirrhosis if you manage to die of alcohol poisoning first?

Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency. If you miss the symptoms, the result could be death. And binge drinking is the main cause of it.
A good pamphlet on Alcohol Poisoning. Click photo to enlarge.

I'm not hiding my concern about this newfound lifestyle some of my dearest friends have developed. I may come off as the party-pooper, the boring one, the one who's trying to stop all their fun. I know many others share a similar concern with a friend or loved it alcohol, drugs, tobacco or any other substance.

Never hesitate to voice your concerns.

And if you find yourself to be guilty of a lack of control with your liquor, be considerate of your friends. They're concerned for your life.

Don't let your youth be an excuse for you to die young. Drink Responsibly.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Doctors Make Mistakes

Here's an amazing speech made by Brian Goldman, a doctor, on the fact that doctors make mistakes and how it should not be a shameful thing to admit.

We're all human. We're not robots, we'll all make mistakes at some point. Heck, even technology itself can make errors.

Doctors are always placed on this high pedestal, being regarded as the ones who know all there is to know about healing people. They don't. They'll never know all there is to know because there's just. too. much. There's a reason why there are specialties and subspecialties in medicine. No single person could know everything. Yet society throws expectations at doctors: you've gotta be perfect at what you do.

Knowing it all still won't make an imperfect being, perfect. Why toss out an unmeetable expectation towards people? By doing so, these individuals are then unable to deal with their mistakes in a healthy manner, accept them and move forward. It becomes near impossible to admit mistakes.

Unfortunately, the world has become such that a doctor's mistake, be it large or small, is rewarded with a lawsuit. Oh boy.

I understand the considerable value of human life. Doctors do all they can to help. They do what they can with the power they have. But doctors are not gods. Or demi-gods. 

Doctors are humans. Just like you, and your brother/sister, and your best friend, and the waitress at your favourite food place, and the homeless man in the city. Doctors are imperfect beings striving for perfection. In the same way you work your hardest to do what you do as perfectly as possible, doctors are no different. So then, why treat them as if they're something they're not?

If I could just wiggle my nose and heal someone, I would. Alas! I am but a mere human working with just my hands, my mind and man-made inventions.
Forgive me if I am unable to be the perfect being you expect.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Enter The Dragon

新年快乐! (Simplified Chinese) 
新年快樂! (Traditional Chinese)

Last January, the year of the Tiger shuffled out with a bang before giving the year of the Rabbit, the more peaceful of the zodiac signs, a fairly rough start. Today, the Rabbit peacefully allows the entrance of the respected Dragon. And now, we start a new year. What does the year of the Dragon have in store for us, I wonder? I'm looking forward to it!

On a side note, I get fairly nervous every time we Skype my family in Hong Kong for the usual lunar new year greetings. My Cantonese is beyond terrible!

Meanwhile, here's a super fun video I saw the other day...veering a little away from tradition but entertaining nonetheless. Party Rock Anthem has shaken up the cosmos.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Eating Habits

I mentioned before that I started up a new eating habit a few months ago...last August, actually. So I've been at it for awhile now and it's doing me a lot of good in terms of surviving the midday without any breaks, should such a thing happen as it often does at the hospital. Once upon a time I used to be at the point of starvation sometimes because I wouldn't get the time to eat some food until later on in the afternoon.

My diet used to consist of a protein shake in the morning and taking my daily supplements @ 7 AM...sometimes 6:15 AM. That would keep me full until about 10-11:30 AM and then I'd start to get hungry. That's a bit of a problem when you're on ward rounds or in clinic until, say 12:30-1:30 PM because the concentration starts to waver until it's gone entirely.

Some yummy food an Aunt of mine cooked up a few months ago =)
Starting August, while I was on one of my lighter rotations, Family Medicine, I decided to try something a little different. There's a girl in my class who would eat food for breakfast (a full meal), followed by a large apple for lunch and then some cereal or something a bit breakfasty for dinner. Yeah, she had a very backwards way of eating but it worked for her. I got tired of getting so hungry in the middle of the day and recalled that whenever I went to New York, I would be stuffed full of dim sum and other such wonderful foods for breakfast and would make it through the day without getting hungry until dinner sometimes! Breakfast would be at about 10 AM though, so that contributed to the delayed need for food.

Using this as my basis, I decided I'd start eating what was supposed to be my lunch for breakfast (along with my daily supplements as well). And it works like a charm! The starvation, virtually gone...hunger pangs occasionally strike me after 12 depending on how heavy the meal was but it's certainly an improvement on the 10 AM hunger pangs. Around midday, or a little after, or whenever I do get the chance, I have myself a nice healthy it fruit or a cereal bar. Of course, throughout the day, I drink water, replenishing my hydration and keeping the hunger away as well (it works!). This is usually followed up by dinner...another full meal, usually sometime within the range of 5:30-6:30 PM. And that's it!

The whole new diet routine seems to be working out quite well for me over the past months and I have few complaints about it. Hopefully it'll carry me through my final year of medical school and my 12-month internship. The routine is often slightly altered on days off though. And recently, I've been thinking about how many calories I'm consuming during my days because I've noticed that I feel a little more tired for no particular reason. For that reason, I downloaded this wonderful app for my iPad 2 called MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal is actually quite gave me an idea of how many calories is ideal for my consumption per day according to my age, sex, working lifestyle (super active, sedentary and everything in between), etc...mine is about 1700. I only just downloaded it the other night but I've been under the number so far. Hmm. Gotta fix that up. It's actually a pretty neat app. I like how it gives you food searches, with a fairly large database, so you can have an estimated calorie intake according to your meals. And if you can't find the food or snack in the database, you can add it manually or just simply input the calories if you know the number already. It pretty much acts as a food journal as well. You never really notice just how much or how little you're eating until you make a note of it somewhere.

Here's my calorie count for the past two days (since downloading the app). When you complete your log for the day, it gives you an estimate of how much you would weight if you were to use x-amount of calories every day. Pretty cool.

The app is available for iOS, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry devices. Or, you can check out their website if you've got none of them.

So I'll make use of it a little more and see where I can adjust so that I'm getting my daily requirements and not tiring myself out and slowing down my body functions...that would be a bit on the counterproductive side of things!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Medical School Was Not Meant To Be Easy

Here I am...rapidly coming towards the end of my penultimate year of medical school and, you know what? I couldn't feel any less prepared for my final year. I'm sure I've said this before but being in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit this rotation has made me realise this even more. Don't get me wrong. I'm loving my time in SICU and I'm learning so much but I'm also learning just how much I can't remember! And what I do remember, I have much difficulty bringing across verbally. That information would flow ever so smoothly on any writing surface. Gosh.

But graduating from medical school was never meant to be a simple feat to accomplish. Here are some reasons (in no particular order) why:
  • Overcoming your own drawbacks.
I've had two major personality clashes with this career path: shyness and quietness. Over the past three years, I've been able to conquer the dominating shyness but, as I've never been much of a talker, putting my thoughts across verbally has always been a bit difficult and still poses a problem...a rather large one at that. I've got only one more year to get past that hurdle.
  • The sheer volume of information.
There are so many aspects of medicine that need to be covered before graduation and these are found within each system of the body. Of course, there's a reason why there are so many clinical specialties in the field. Not a single person can know ALL there is to know in medicine, however, as students, we're expected to know about...90% of ALL there is to know. Actually, I've been told that in this career, you're peak knowledge is in the months before the final FINAL know, the one that either ends with you becoming Dr. _____ or not.

  • Learning a new language.
Medicine is a language all by itself. Just the other day one of my closest friends who's studying law said to me, "Do you guys speak and write in code like they do on E.R.?" It sounds like the silliest question since, to me, it's normal everyday language but it's easy (at this point) to forget that it was a language I was trained into. My vocabulary has drastically been expanded, including all sorts of new and exotic words like ipsilateral, phaeochromocytoma and craniopharyngioma down to all sorts of abbreviations. There are words that make you stumble over your own tongue and then there are words like "bleb". Yes, that's actually a medical term. A bleb is exactly what it sounds like. A bleb. Learning medicine is a lot like learning Latin...after all, many terms are based off of Latin words.
  • Developing an entirely new lifestyle.
Straight up: lots more studying than ever before (cramming is hardly helpful in the long run...and medicine is about having the knowledge for the long run), eating less, sleeping less. Once upon a time, I was a crammer. In a way, I still am. I've been trying to get rid of that terrible habit...but lifelong habits are difficult to just wean off of. But I don't really have a choice. The typical life of a medical student includes very little sleep...admittedly, I refuse to accept this unless I'm on call and so far sleeping 7 hours a night has done me absolutely no harm over the past 4 years. Eating habits don't really change a whole lot until clinical years when your eating times become wonky because ward rounds or clinic go from 9 AM to 2 PM without a lunch break, followed by many other activities which may leave you hungry until you get "lunch" at 5 PM. I've developed a new eating habit to prevent afternoon starvation and it's doing my stomach great justice.
  • Taking responsibility for lives.
As a student in clinical years, you begin to take responsibility for patients becoming integrated as part of the medical team (albeit the lowest life-form existing on the team, but you're on the team nevertheless). The team's patients are our patients and we're expected to bear responsibility for everything we do and say to our patients.
  • The vicious circle of learning A.K.A. embarrassment.
"Come to the hospital every day expecting to be embarrassment and embrace it." ~ Kind words from a consultant in Anaesthesiology. Embrace the embarrassment. The learning curve as a medical student is much like a loop, moreso than a curve. You learn something, spew it out confidently and get shot down like it's hunting season. Every now and then, you get a little positive encouragement. Confidence is something that's vital in medical school but not something you can feel on a continuous spectrum. Wouldn't want you getting over-confident and cocky before you even get the big degree, would we?
  • Losing friends.
If you're friends are true friends, you won't lose'll just spend a lot less time with them and they'll understand and accept that. And if they can't, they just...drift away over time. Even if you can't hang out often, keeping in contact is usually enough to keep a good friendship intact. I feel blessed to still have my secondary school friends with me in my life (I've known some of them for 10 years!) and I've become even closer to one or two of them despite the distance/lack of time. Be sure to keep your true non-med friends! They help you retain your sanity through the stress and hectic lifestyle of the medical career. And of course, you're gonna make new friends throughout your medical career (which starts the moment you enter medical school).
  • Having less "me" time.
A lot of things are sacrificed in the name of good grades and graduation. Many things you once liked to do eventually get pushed aside. Hobbies and interests are reduced to the bare minimum, if not discarded altogether. Gym time? It's there if you make the time but you won't want to be hanging out in there quite as often. Those TV shows you love watching? Don't expect to catch them on television. Admittedly, I've given myself quite a lot of 'me' time over the past 4 years but with this final year coming, those necessary sacrifices will have to be made. So far, I've already reduced my anime/manga intake drastically. In the very near future, I'm going to have to cut it out almost entirely. Once the ongoing manga series I'm reading are complete, that'll be the end of my manga-reading years. Anime...might still have a chance. Primetime TV? Gonna have to cut down on the number of shows and watch what I miss online when I get a chance (during a lunch break or something maybe?). Oh, and say bye bye to Facebook!

I'll admit that I'm a bit of a hypocrite...I crammed my way through most of medical school but after a certain point, cramming fails you and in the long-term, you look like an idiot because you don't remember anything. I managed to keep up a proper study routine for one semester and it turned out to be the best semester I've had in terms of grades: all A's. Unfortunately, that trend never continued.

I'm planning to make those sacrifices I mentioned by the time my 5th year rolls around, not suddenly of course, because that wouldn't end successfully. As for my new eating regimen...well, I can go through that another time.

If you're not in medicine, you may be thinking that the points I've made apply to you as well. Naturally, they aren't unique to medicine but the experiences themselves are what make medicine as difficult as it is...and they're also what make medicine as wonderful as it is.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Music Factory 2011 Video

Remember when I made a quick post about The Music Factory last year?

It truly was one of the best nights of the year. Now the guys at Introspect Recordings have added to the fond memories, making a video out of it and I thought I'd share it with you all.

Am I in there? See if you can spot me! ;)

Save that date! Because it's when we'll be out having a blast at the next Music Factory event! "Spring Edition 2012"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Intensive Care

Remember last year when I applied to Hong Kong for my elective in Anaesthesia & Intensive Care? It wasn't long before I received an email from them asking me to change or extend my dates since they clash with the wonderful Lunar New Year holidays which I successfully managed to do. But then it wasn't until 2 months and 2 consecutive emails later did I finally get a response about my application processing. They decided that they were full and would not take me. I went through all kinds of trouble and got my Dean's permission and everything for...THAT?!

Needless to say, I was not amused.

Well, the time period for my elective has finally arrived. And, I'm certainly not in Hong Kong. In fact, I'm at home in Barbados doing the elective in the same said specialty. My first week in is nearly through but I must say I've had a fine time so far. Quite happy that I chose to do it again. I've actually spent a lot more time in intensive care (the past three days) with only one day in the operating theatre and I like it there.

Looks nothing like this in Barbados :)
I'm learning so much because I see more diverse cases that I can really read into and come back to apply my knowledge the next day. In anaesthesia, not so much...unless we're talking about the medications used in anaesthesia. Spending time in the surgical intensive care unit exposes me to much much more that I can actually apply later on. I've got good working times as well, ending my days at a timely 4 pm, mostly. It's true that more action happens at night, as everything typically worsens when night comes along, but I don't plan to do any calls this rotation so I'll make do with what I learn during the day. Yup.

It feels so strange to be the only student in a specialty rounding with the team but everyone's quite nice and approachable so I'm surviving. My colleagues in medical school all think I'm a complete weirdo to have chosen to do this as my specialty but some can appreciate the value of what can be learnt in the ICU. I'm enjoying it so far though! So, all in all, I haven't a complaint. :)

I would have loved to spend the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong since I've never done so before but hopefully later on...sometime.

I hope you're all doing well in 2012 so far.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Welcome To 2012!

Bye-bye 2011, I had an amazing year with you. Hello 2012, I hope to have more amazing experiences with you.

Twenty-twelve has arrived and people are getting hyped up! The big end-of-the-world doom is supposedly pending to occur on December 21 of this year. But who knows really? I don't know about Armageddon but I do know that, like all the preceding years, many impactful things are going to happen in the world.

I have some hopes for the year ahead but since I'll be entering my fifth and final year of medical school, I know things are really going to bear down on me and life's going to get a little tough. That said, I'm hoping for some positive reinforcements to jam their way into my life throughout the year so that it'll be just a little more bearable, a couple of which include:
  1. Music Factory - May 27 - After last year's event, how could I not look forward to more? The date is wonderful too because I should be on one of my lighter rotations, allowing me to attend...all my clerkships following will be like working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Phew.
  2. Final year elective at Yale University - This is yet to be confirmed...I'm currently playing the waiting game with Yale University. Hopefully I'll be getting me a grand acceptance letter sometime this month! =) Since my 4th year elective at the Chinese University of Hong Kong didn't work out, this one has to! I'm looking forward to looking forward to 4 weeks in New Haven, Connecticut.
2011: A year in review - my personal experiences
Like I said, I had some amazing experiences in 2011 that made it one of the most eventful years of my 21 years of life. Since I'm an introvert who likes home and preferred to stay away from people, it doesn't take a whole lot of events to make a year eventful. Haha.
  1. The start of my clinical year - January 2011 - Thrown into the abyss of clinical duties, I had a little rough, but meaningful start to my year. I've learnt many things and I've developed an even stronger resolve for my desire to study Naturopathic Medicine and enter an Integrative practice. In the span of a year, I've been exposed to so many experiences and, whether good or bad, I can certainly say that I treasure them all. One experience and one patient I believe I will forever remember was my last baby delivery of my Obstetrics & Gynaecology clerkship last month. Clinical experiences certainly encompass the majority of my year.
  2. I turned 21 - April 2011 - I'm an adult! I had a huge celebration for my 21st birthday. It was like a party that lasted an entire weekend. My friends and I rented a beach house for a weekend and we all had an amazingly amazing time. The beach, a pool, good food, video games and a little alcohol made for an excellent weekend. A great way to unwind the weekend before I started my penultimate year of medical school. A weekend full of memories that I never want to forget. Interestingly, I never once mentioned this on my blog all year. =o
  3. AnimeKon - July 2011 - After the first ever pop culture convention was held in Barbados in June 2010 with disappointment on my part, I have to say the second one held a lot of excitement for me. It could've gone either way but I had good faith in the organisers, Melissa & Omar who were both so kind to listen to the complaints and worked hard improve and impress...which, I must say, they did flawlessly. With, not only one, but two days of convention greatness they pulled off an epic unforgettable event! And, for the first time I cosplayed...Osaki Nana! A practical, but well put-together outfit that earned me some praise (humble much?) and introductions to tons of people those two days.
  4. I travelled to New York on my own for the first time - September 2011 - It wasn't much of a trip. Just a quick little thing to grab some stuff I ordered like my awesome new Canon Powershot S95 (which I'm absolutely in love with).
  5. My blog celebrated its 3rd birthday - October 2011 - Not a huge event but, you know, I feel great pride in being able to maintain something for such a long time since I typically don't have the discipline to keep up with things for long periods of time. Take my health blog, for example. Don't get me wrong, I haven't dropped it like a bomb yet but I just haven't been able to keep up with it the way I would have liked. My last post was in July but there was a 4 month lull between that and the preceding posts which were weekly. With 5th year coming up, I'm even less likely to get back into it, as much as I'd like's already a little difficult trying to keep up-to-date on this one. Ha. I haven't forgotten my YouTube channel either but, gee, video editing is time consuming...time has become such a precious resource for me...I think I'd like to just sit and talk to my webcam...but I never know what to talk about. Ideas anyone? =)
  6. Music Factory - November 2011 - I never thought I'd be so into an event like this. To be honest, I almost chose not to go and the only reason I chose to go was because I was extremely stressed out (leading to an almost breakdown) from my Pathology clerkship and wanted to just get out and get some relief, plus all my friends were going. I definitely made the right decision to go. And now I'm looking forward to May 27!
It's been a long year, quick in passing but one that has introduced me into 2012 as a more matured person. I'm still young so there's still some maturation to be developed but it'll come as the experiences come. I look forward to facing them head on and standing strong in the face of defiance, after all, character is built when we survive our hardest experiences.

And, while much of my year was enjoyable, I know there are tens of thousands of people in the world who have suffered many losses. Whether the disaster that struck was within your personal life or environmental (like the earthquake in Haiti as well as other major earthquakes around the world and the tsunami of Japan), I hope you were able to overcome those obstacles successfully. Hold fast in your faith and know that things will get better.

Here's hoping we survive 2012!
I give you my warmest wishes for a year of blessings, especially within tragedies.