Liar liar

This needs to be documented. Of patients who lie.

As healthcare workers that becomes the first point of contact for patients, it is of paramount importance that we should be informed of risky health points. Nowadays, Covid-19 is one of them. Every time a patient walks into our primary care facility, it has become a norm to ask if they have been in contact with those who are Covid-19 patients or suspected of Covid-19. It is a simple yes or no so that we could decide whether we need to attend the patient wearing the full astronaut PPE or the basic PPE. It’s a cost and personal health issue.

When a patient fails to declare this, it will put me, my family and other patients that I see, at a risk of getting Covid-19. You need only one HCW at a facility to get it before the whole centre shuts down. So honestly, I don’t want that to happen. While I may remain healthy and asymptomatic, others may not be that lucky.

Last week I was in charge of Fever Counter. This means we see all patients who present with fever, upper respiratory tract infections, those who come for other ailments but with the said symptoms, those who come from high risk areas with/without symptoms and whoever that fits the bill. I was dismayed by two separate encounters. But I will share only one story today. And of how thankful I am for gut instincts especially with this 1st family.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

She was a lady in her 50s who had underlying non communicable diseases. Unfortunately, she defaulted her appointments at our facility and bought the meds at her nearby pharmacy. She presented with undocumented temperature and URTI symptoms and mentioned a short trip to pick up her son from a high risk area because PKP was due soon. Her son, according to her, was well with no symptoms. I asked the lady to come back in 2 days time to repeat another set of bloods because her counts were a bit low and I was more suspicious of dengue.

The next time she came, she brought over this son. To be honest, we wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t ask her back ‘how old was her son and why did she had to fetch him?”. That’s when she pointed to the young lad beside her and said,” this is my son “. Suddenly bells just started buzzing in my head. There was a knot in my stomach that signaled me something is wrong somewhere.

I reconfirmed with the son, a young man in his 20s, of where he stayed in this ‘high risk area’ and his answer was totally different from what the mother told me a few days back. He had already declared earlier with the nurse that he had no contact with any Covid-19 cases but I asked him again ” Is there anything else you need to tell me, that I need to know?”. He said NO. That restless, suspicious feeling lingered. So, I directed him to the Covid-19 tent to wait for his turn and had his mother did the same too. I referred the case to my MALE COLLEAGUE who is in charge of any case who may need a swab test. I had to BOLD the male part because in this part of the city, patients still think that male docs are better than females, chinese docs are the smartest of all, docs serving the suburbs or rural areas graduated from the jungles and other prejudiced thoughts.

Guess what, the young man revealed that he went back to his hometown here because his housemates there all have Covid-19. When my colleague asked, why didn’t he said this earlier, he said “no one specifically asked me about it”

Well. That is just BULL *&%^*!! Did he expect a question like “what kind of house do you live in? do you share it with other people? is the housemate in Room 1 well? how about room2? room 3? ”

He and his mother ended up having a sample taken and well.. as you’d guess, they were both tested positive for Covid-19. I am concerned for the mother because she is at risk of deteriorating whilst the selfish son may survived this episode due to his young body.

I was disappointed with the young man’s attitude towards this pandemic. Undeniably, some patients do fare better than others but shouldn’t that trigger you to protect those at risk from harm?

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.

I found my Patience Guru , it came in the form of a teenage boy

It was already 2 minutes to 5PM. We close at 5PM. Despite how altruistic the doctors are, to see a non emergency patient after hours in a clinic which opens only from 8 to 5 – we cannot even run a simple blood tests because the lab is closed. Hence, any emergency cases that comes after 5PM will be attended, stabilized using the drugs and equipment we have in the emergency area and then transferred swiftly to the nearest tertiary centre.

So when the boy who came for his medical checkup looked lost outside my door because he has not apparently been seen since he arrived, I felt sorry for him. He had asked a staff earlier of what to do but his questions were probably not understood correctly hence he was told to wait for his number to come up. The young teenage boy failed to realize that he first needs to put his card with the number outside the respective doctor rooms before he was called. Thus, he was never called into the doctors room because they never got his card.

And he waited patiently throughout the afternoon session. Even nearing 5PM, not a single staff at the waiting area asked him which room he was waiting on. Us in the room.. we were already swamped with whatever cards that were coming through the door, frantically writing down our prescriptions so our fellow pharmacists need not have to work late every single day and writing treatment plans promptly so our colleagues could follow up on it during the next appointment –  and now is it also our job to ask everyone in the waiting room  –

“Hi, may I ask, have you seen the doctor, are you waiting for anything or anyone in particular?”

I was disappointed that this kid had to wait that long. So I told him to give me a few seconds while I finish up on my last patient and I will see him. Thankfully, another colleague swung by my room and helped out. What broke my heart was to realize that he was there even before the afternoon session started, had his relevant tests done and yet he waited. And waited. Asked a question to a wrong person and kept on waiting. What then crushed me to pieces was that once he has been clerked and examined, he was still able to smile and utter a very sincere and grateful THANK YOU to my colleague and I.  I rasa macam nak nangis pun ada bila jumpa manusia penyabar macam ni. Bless his  beautiful soul. Bless his elderly father too for the father was also very patient, who also smiled and said a thank you.

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I take this experience as a sign from Allah that I should be more patient in my daily undertakings. The boys affairs were easily done and gotten over with in less than 5 minutes but he remained patient for hours waiting outside our doors! And was still able to be on the sunny side of his character. I felt so embarrassed of my own short fused temperaments nowadays as a Muslim. That boy, he was not even muslim. 

I pray he gets the college admission he’s applying for. I pray that Allah will ease his sufferings (if any). I pray that my Patience Guru will have success in life. InsyaAllah.