Vaccine Survey among healthcare workers

We are currently riding the god-knows-how-many-wave of the Covid-19 virus. It seemed only yesterday we gave ourselves a pat on the back for winning the fight. However, as soon as we let our guard down – the virus strikes again. There are rumours of implementing the MCO again but at the expense of the economy which is a pain because we have just kick started the wheel.

Vaccine has been THE NEWS in the country lately. Malaysia with its slightly smaller budget will be securing the purchase of vaccines from various suppliers. The top two being Pfizer and Astra Zeneca. Healthcare workers will be among those to be vaccinated first. Hence, a survey was done in my clinic to see how many would want to be vaccinated with no WHY’s if they choose not to. It was a short questionnaire – basically one that just asks for your personal details. An interesting thing I find about the survey is of how we need to enter our postcodes. According to a friend, the data would be useful to see how much coverage the vaccine will have in the community within a given time. An epidemiologist would explain this better I guess.

It is understandably a decision that requires a huge leap of faith. The vaccine is new. Anything new freaks people out despite the amount of scrutiny it undergoes. What more with testimonials and conspiracy theories cropping up in mass media. I too have my concerns as to whether it will interact with my TB meds. However, I have faith that the MOH council which did a good job in not bringing in the dengue vaccine into the country will have also analyzed enough evidence to support their decision to purchase the Covid-19 vaccines.

I am sure we will get more information soon as the vaccines will start rolling out to HCW and the public by March 2021. Until then, life must go on within SOP.

Lady M , from riches to rags

I had a lady, M and her one month baby coming in for the routine immunization jab. Long story short, her marriage is on the rocks and is heading for a divorce. Unfortunately it is not going anywhere because she doesn’t have the financial resources to proceed. Worser still, her support system is not that sturdy either. I can imagine that it has a lot to do with her choice of husband in the first place because it was after all, an intercountry, interracial and inter-religion union. It was not a smooth sailing journey to begin with and once it hits the rocks, she is pretty much on her own.

Having lived her previous life with a silver spoon in her mouth- I was able to witness how when adversity strikes, the high end members of the society also have a difficult time to adapt. It is evident when we see the ever gorgeous Ezuryn trying to teach her children the life of a humbled person, it is not easy, as it is not their world. Similar to Lady M. She is slowly being stripped off her Versace without her realizing it. I felt sorry for her because she has yet to grasp the concept of humility and come to terms that life will not be the same anymore. She has separated from her husband, not yet divorced but taking care of the kids with no allowance from her husband. She also doesn’t have a stable job and is living on the ‘savings’ that she have from her previous business venture. I had thought she should try reconnecting with her family despite what happened but only she’d know the extent of her family’s circumstances.

Lady M was a proud woman. I could sense that she actually needs help but refuse to ask for it. She is an independent woman and wants to make it on her own. I respect that although I think she can do better with a little lift. So, I did two things;

  • I asked if she would be interested to be in touch with our visiting social worker from JKM, the welfare department. They come once a month to the clinic to review cases that may require intervention on social issues that becomes a hindrance in tackling their health issues. She was initially hesitant but I convinced her that this could be a starting point to help her tackle her mess. After all, she had no inflowing income with two children to feed. It was the best I can do. She agreed to that.
  • Secondly, I sent some diapers and milk for her baby via a runner from Bungkusit. The brands for both items were on the pricey side but she claims it was the only thing that her baby could tolerate. I personally feel that there is room to explore on this part but due to time constraint during our consultation, I left it for other future sessions. I think she has already gone through enough during pregnancy and a month after postpartum is a crucial moment where we identify moms with postnatal depression. It’s a bit unwise to judge the choice of her diaper and milk brand during this stressful moments.

It is heartbreaking that some mothers have to endure these hard times after delivering a baby. It is not easy either to shift a lifestyle of vast riches to rags. I really hope that she will find in her heart the reason to reconnect with her loved ones so that her children will not suffer and live in resentment towards those living around them.

Mr Kora

It was a calm day in clinic today. Too calm for a Monday. Calm is good.

Calm clinic means I get to spend more time with certain patients especially those who needs a tad more advice and guidance in managing their chronic disease. It’s also a good time to just listen to those grandmother stories that are usually cut off (with style and grace) during other busy clinic sessions. As of today, I get to listen to Mr Kora’s story.

Mr Kora was a 63 years old Indian gentlemen with underlying diabetes. He is working as a security guard including night shifts on a monthly wage of RM1600. He came to clinic today with back pain. Understandably, the night hours for such an elderly man can be detrimental to one’s health especially when he has been in this line of job for the past 5 years. I mean, how could you not doze off once in a while, in an awkward position during your shift. Even doctors need to rest for a bit before continuing with their work. And yet, he said working the night shift is his choice as he needs his daytime to be free so that he could attend to matters pertaining to his wife and children like sending to clinic or school, grocery run and all.

I ordered him an an Xray, discharged him with pain killers and gave him a medical certificate to rest for 2 days. Whilst writing his prescription, I asked about his family, I enquired if he has applied for BPN and all. He was not sure if he had applied for BPN, so we checked his MyKad number and his wife’s MyKad number. His family after all is eligible for the B40 category. Alhamdulilah, the wife’s name is in the system and they should be receiving the financial benefits soon.

Throughout the session, he never stopped mentioning how glad he is for getting the job and his supportive immediate boss, how happy he is for his children and how, even at the receiving end of benefits, he still gives a bit of ‘charity’ to other people in his area.

What struck to me most afterwards was when he told me a story about KFC.

One day, he and his son received an SMS promo on their phones saying there is a KFC voucher you can claim to get a BUY ONE FREE ONE meal. Naturally, they were very excited with the deal and started to fill in sensitive data as required. Unbeknownst to Mr Kora at the time, it was of course, a scam.

Thankfully, due to his keen eye, he realized that the little money he deposited into his bank account were missing periodically. Sometimes it is RM40, others it is RM20. So he visit the bank and thus discovered that his bank account had been hacked. The bankers were really helpful though and reassured him that they will try to get his money back. At the same time, they created a new bank account for him. In total, about RM100 were taken from his account illegally. For a man who earns less than RM2K per month and having mouths to feed on top of bills and a car to pay, it is a significant amount.

What happened next was a moment of WOW.

  1. He was upset that the criminals took his money for he felt that the RM100 could be used to help the people he usually helps.
  2. He was concerned of those who have more money in their accounts being scammed the same way like he did. His words, I translate, being “what if that person had thousands of money, they could have taken more. Poor guy! (kesian)

There I was thinking – such an awful thing has happened to this uncle and yet he could still think of other people. In this very modern, self-absorbed and sometimes, self-centered world – it is very difficult to come across someone like Mr Kora, who being the one in despair is still concerned about the wellbeing of others. Nowadays, if the rich gets in trouble, rarely people get empathetic. Orang pandai bisnes kan, takkan takde geng yang boleh tolong. When the parent of a doctor is admitted to ICU in a foreign country during a holiday trip, you can be sure that the donation drive would be less energetic. Doktor kan kaya, takkan takde duit langsung.

Mr Kora may not have met Syed Azmi, I wouldn’t know. But it seems that they live their lives based on the wisdom of “helping those in NEED”. A person may have mansion but if what they NEED right now is RM10 for a hot meal because they have no cash at all (accounts got beku or something) then we will give it to them. A person may not be illiterate but if what the person NEEDS right now is a pencil and a book, we will give it to them.

A person IN NEED doesn’t have to look shabby, smelly or poor. It can be anybody, a person with their own pressing, special needs. Mr Kora understood that virtue in life which is why even when he have so little, he still thinks about those who have more.

Fasakh. For her.

Once in a while I would come across patients who need more than a formal medical consult. They may need a meal, a lift back home or genuine advice as to how to navigate their lives. I try my best to do what I can within my capacity. Sometimes it helps, rarely it doesn’t.

Recently, I crossed path with a mom of 4. She initially brought one of her kids to the clinic for an upper respiratory tract infection. I treated the child accordingly and like any medical clerking – I asked about her social history. Meaning how big the family was, was she working, how was the kids school etc. That was when I learnt that she was ‘divorced’ while being pregnant and that now she is a single mother.

I enquired if she had help to manage her kids from a financial aspect and if she had a good social support – it seems that she is stuck at the part of defining her marital status. Her talak was never brought to court for confirmation and her husband had left her without a single cent (this is only from her side of the story, of course). She now has difficulties to proceed with fasakh because she was unsure of what to do . Her family was in the same clueless boat.

I asked if she wanted me to have a look at what her problem was. She seemed glad. Since I was also not truly familiar with how the syariah system works, I did some digging myself – asking on watsapp groups and from friends who at least knows a lawyer to explain the procedure to me.

It was actually very simple. And I believe the officer at court gave her proper instructions on what to do – she just seemed a bit lost on the computer part. So I did what I can and helped her type out her application for fasakh in a readily available template from the website.

This was done on a separate ‘special consult’ session that I arranged with her on one of my lunch call days in the clinic. She brought the necessary documents and boy, she was in awe when I started filling in the details. It was not tech savvy level – just something you can do on WPS Office. She told me that she had wanted to do them at a cyber cafe but they were charging her quite a lot for an hour – (.. again, only her side of the story).

While I was typing, I reminded her to later secure a job that could keep her family afloat and not to rely 100% on zakat and welfare money. I made her promise to keep her kids in school and have them get the highest education that they can get. I babbled on how she should think of a skill that she is good at and monetize from that. She seems to be listening and said yes to everything. I am good in giving advices and encouraging other people – but I am not doing that for myself. HA HA HA.

Once I have completed typing out the forms, I printed out a copy and told her to make more copies for her self. I created an email account for her so she could use them in the future. I also told her about a thrift shop I came across near her residence if she ever needed cheap, new pair of clothes for herself and her kids. And just before she left, I slipped some birthday money in her hand for her youngest kid hoping that it will be put to good use.

I felt good after this experience and I wonder if there are other women who are in the same dilemma of not being able to fight for themselves because they cannot type out a form. In this case, fasakh is important for her because I want this lady to establish herself as a single mother and benefit from the various programmes we have in Malaysia.

I wish I could help out more. I wish I understand the system better when it comes to social rights and welfare. Perhaps there is a class, a course or a diploma I can take to learn more about it. So I could do it just as well as Syed Azmi because in this line of duty – networking and reliable resources helps.

A line from the movie Widow

I was watching this movie called Widow. There was a scene in church. The priest was giving out this speech, voicing out his frustration of how people are so complacent, not willing to thrive & strive for success. And a sentence resonated with the current social climate of my country,

“.. Ignorance is now Excellence..”

and I could not agree more

Recently, I received a complaint for a minor problem blown out of proportion. After hearing out what the problem was, I could not help thinking,

… if you as a child grazed your knee and elbow while learning how to ride a bike, could just get up and apply an antiseptic ointment on the wound – why would it be any different once you become an adult. This is on the condition that the wound is relatively the same size and acquired via the same mechanism – only difference being the vehicle is a motorbike. Dah kenapa plak badan dah besar nak mintak org bukak dressing set and cuci a wound that you could have easily do at home. It is not that I did not provide you with a medical certificate for you to rest at home and recuperate.

And these people act like I chop up their leg. Sheesh.