Archive for the cloudy days Category

“Trying to be fine”

Posted in Bo, cloudy days, Ebola, penny for my thoughts, Sierra Leone with tags , , on December 1, 2014 by twotwoeight

ebola quarantine africa

“What are we going to do? People are not coming to help us. We are doomed”. These are words spoken by a bright young Sierra Leonean man to me during my last shift at a hospital in Sierra Leone. A man blessed (or cursed) with the foresight to see what lies in the future for his country and him. A man, whose hopes and dreams have been destroyed and life will be forever changed by one thing.


ebola tee

A virus which has evoked insurmountable fear in everyone and generated mass paranoia outside West Africa has parachuted Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia into the eye of the world. Many who have not even heard about these countries, let alone realize that the African continent is much more than just these, are now aware because they are stricken with unfounded fear of people returning from West Africa. We follow the progress of this unprecedented outbreak on the news, we gasp and worry about the statistics showing increasing numbers of positive cases and deaths, we criticize and make judgements on how this outbreak is being handled by the powers that be, we read harrowing accounts about the challenges of being in an Ebola management centre by people on the frontline, we hear touching stories about individuals who have survived Ebola and entire families that have lost their lives to Ebola and we feel sorry for them.

ebola hysteria MAD

And then we close the newspaper or turn off the television and go back to our normal lives. Our Ebola-free lives. Where bodily contact will not possibly infect you and you are free to hug and kiss your loved ones, where community living is still not endangering your life and you can share your food and a joke and laugh together instead of having to choose to abstain from the normal living practices that you have been used to for generations in order to prevent yourself from getting infected by the deadly Ebola; where your future is not hanging by a thread because you no longer have a job, a job that puts food on the table. Yes, we have none of that.

good day

But what about the West Africans? What if your life is not Ebola-free and you cannot resume living your normal life because Ebola has enveloped your world? What then? How do you go on?

Sierra Leone

Underneath the “sexiness” and labelled-heroism of battling Ebola, the few touching tales that has caught the journalist’s attention and the fear and paranoia that is being emanated to outsiders, we forget about the remaining population – the local people who have nowhere to go and “leaving West Africa because there is Ebola everywhere” is not an option for them. These are the people who have to try and live their lives as normally as possible, even with the threat of Ebola looming around the corner because life needs to go on. This outbreak is not going to be over in a matter of months, and people cannot put their lives on hold indefinitely. And the uncertainty of the future makes it impossible to have any plans as the country is not going to be the same even after the Ebola outbreak is over. The healthcare system has collapsed and rebuilding it will be difficult with the loss of so many healthcare professionals when there were already not enough to begin with, families have been ripped apart and Ebola has orphaned countless number of young children whose welfare remains in question, business and economical development will be severely stunted and education has come to a halt. These countries will be set back many many years and the West Africans will have no choice but to pick up the pieces and move on, because that is what needs to be done, move on.

Sierra Leone 2014
I have always thought that if there was an apocalypse or worse yet, a zombie attack, I want to be one of the first to perish, because I cannot imagine being one of the few survivors, trying to face the impending doom alone or left to live in a world that has been destroyed and completely foreign to me. This is only in my hypothetical thoughts. But for my friend, this bright young Sierra Leonean man who had big dreams and aspirations for a better future for him and his family, this is now his reality. And for the rest of the West Africans whose stories we will never ever hear, because not everyone’s story is spectacular or touching enough to be newsworthy, but whose ordinary lives are filled with happiness and pain as real as yours and mine, they are just “trying to be fine”.

everyday living


No Death, or so it seems…

Posted in Bo, caffeine, cloudy days, doctoring tales, Ebola, Gondama Referral Centre, MSF, penny for my thoughts, Sierra Leone on August 15, 2014 by twotwoeight

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The last hour — sitting at the porch outside the doctor’s office in Gondama Referral Centre (GRC), sipping hot “Starbucks Americano” and listening to Jacky Cheung on my iPod shuffle while writing down hand-over notes from the night. The last hour of my first night shift in GRC. No deaths. Dare I count my chickens before they hatch? After all, there is another 55 minutes to go before 8am. And anything can happen. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Most of the doctors and nurses who work here have attended more resuscitations, or rather, witnessed more deaths in the few months of working here compared to in their entire working lives. Judging from previous years, the numbers are expected to rise in the rainy season as this brings a surge of severe malaria and pneumonia cases, but on the contrary, the wards are quieter than ever this year. Under normal circumstances, this would be something good. A quiet hospital with low bed occupancy rate…who wouldn’t want that?

Unfortunately, this unnatural apparent peace does not reflect a healthier population or availability of better health facilities at this point in time. Admissions are significantly less because the people are not seeking treatment – not at hospitals, at least. Why? Because they are terrified of the deadly Ebola. There are many myths and rumours related to this disease; some don’t believe the virus exists, some say it is an act of with craft or supernatural in origin, some say it is a conspiracy designed by the authorities for population control, some say it is purely a scam of healthcare workers and scientists for research – the list is endless. The worst of them all, is that many of them believe that if you go to a hospital, you will get injected with the Ebola virus there.

Whichever the story, the devastating outcome is that these beliefs keep them from bringing their children to the hospital, even when their child is critically ill. They’d rather let their children die at home or go to traditional healers than risk coming to the hospital. As a result of this, they die from potentially treatable diseases like malaria, pneumonia or gastroenteritis which are so prevalent in this community. It is tragic to know that there are so many preventable deaths out there – that every empty bed we see in the ward could mean that there is a child out there who is denied proper treatment because of false beliefs.

Ebola is a deadly virus indeed. Once infected, the mortality rate is high. But the destructive path it leaves behind without even needing to infect the individual is more terrifying, and this deadliness grows silently, unseen and unheard. When will this destruction end? Only time will tell. Until then, we continue to pray for the number of admissions in our wards to increase, so that less lives will be lost unnecessarily. Ironic, I know.


You jump, I jump, everybody jumps.

Posted in cloudy days, penny for my thoughts on October 17, 2012 by twotwoeight

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Amazed at the power of herd mentality – it’s ability to penetrate all layers of society irregardless of upbringing, cultural background or mental status.
It’s propagation by social networks and the mass media even more frightening; multiplying the growth exponentially and intensifying the effects many folds when one ignorant fool is egged on by another like a chain of dominoes…the number infinite, as is the number of foolish minds. Alarmed that the power of one wrong ideation coupled with misguided intentions can bring detriment to more people than one can ever imagine and the outcome, catastrophic.

when the alarm beeps…

Posted in cloudy days, doctoring tales on December 30, 2011 by twotwoeight

I thought I had seen and heard it all — but today I was unpleasantly awakened.  Unfortunately, yet again.

When an alarm beeps, what does your instinct tell you to do?  I thought there would be no other answer other than to investigate why it is beeping and then to act on it.   Sounds logical?  Natural instinct?  Common sense? (which by the way is not common).  After all, if you set your alarm clock you will either press the snooze button or stop it to wake up, isn’t it?

Today I discovered that it isn’t so.  I was so disturbed that a houseman actually ignored an alarming monitor AND this is the reason given — WE NEVER TAUGHT THAT WHEN AN ALARM BEEPS, YOU HAVE TO ATTEND TO IT.

Let me make it clear if it is not clear enough.  When a baby who is on ventilatory support’s oxygen saturation monitor is beeping loudly and persistently because the baby has desaturated to unacceptable levels, the baby is “screaming” for help.  The monitor is trying to tell you that there is something wrong and you need to attend to the baby and rectify whatever problems that have come up.  Machines are built with alarms for a reason — to alert and attract attention when whatever it is monitoring is not within it’s set normal range.  Hence if you plan to ignore the alarm, don’t even bother putting the patient on monitoring in the first place.  If you need to be told to react to an alarm, then I am speechless.

Again and again I emphasize that the babies are innocent.  They are helpless and voiceless.  They can’t complain when you prick them again and again even when they have arterial lines in-situ just because you didn’t bother to look at the baby as a whole.  They cannot scold you when you intentionally insert and leave non-functioning cannulas in them just so you can have a good nights’ sleep but they end up with a swollen arm 3 times the size of their original arm.  They can’t curse you when you ignore them while they are choking and drowning because you refuse to see that the mask covering their noses are filled with water making them literally drown on land.  How ironic is that? Drowning on land???  So when an alarm beeps, it is a plea for help.  And if you can consciously ignore an innocent tiny baby’s cry for help, then medicine is not for you.  You need to have a heart.  And conscience.  And guilt.  If you practice medicine and have none of that, AND can still sleep soundly every night, then the only consolation I have is I believe in karma.

If I can wish for anything for the coming year, I wish for conscience and guilt.  For those who need it.

Ignorance I have become used to, but this is a whole new low, and alarmingly disturbing…but I’m not the kind that ignore alarms.  Unfortunately, sometimes, for reasons beyond our control, we are made to turn a deaf ear and look the other way.

Sorry.  Not me.  Never.


For when some effort is needed to.

Posted in cloudy days, kindred spirits, radio in my head, the box of chocolates known as life on November 14, 2011 by twotwoeight


Loop this on your player continuously and sing along (especially the really loud parts).  Or better yet, have a crazy friend translate this to Cantonese and you’ll find yourself doing just that — smile.

Trust me, tried and tested. 🙂

If only dinosaurs were still around…

Posted in cloudy days, doctoring tales on November 7, 2011 by twotwoeight

my problems would get solved in a jiffy.

Wishful thinking, eh? Perhaps I can start compiling my list…just in case.  Maybe if I wished hard enough…you’ll never know!


N.B. Sometimes, God sends you signs that what you’ve been suspecting is true — that it’s just not worth it.  No matter how much you do, how well you do it, or how much you sacrifice, beyond the greater good, it’s Just. Not. Worth. It.  I don’t even ask to be appreciated, or to be acknowledged — I don’t need it because my satisfaction and pleasure comes from knowing I worked with heart.  But not when above all the crap I’m already taking and eating jailslop and holding my tongue I am told I’m not doing enough??? Well, sorry for being only human then.


Posted in cloudy days, doctoring tales, the box of chocolates known as life on October 16, 2011 by twotwoeight

Physically. Mentally. Whatever else way one can be exhausted in.

Sigh…everyday is like fighting a losing battle.  I wish I can just hibernate until I see the light.