Category Archives: Abby's Journal

My recent (lifetime) journey in Malaysian health care

I kind of grew up in Malaysian hospitals, my entire life. Okay, that might be overstating it.

When I was born, in General Hospital, Kuching Sarawak, my mom had to be admitted in the hospital for a good 3 weeks before labour because I was a heavy pregnancy, that was what I’ve been told. So I started getting familiarised with the hospital before I was even born.

And when we first arrived back from 1 and a half years (1987 to 1988) residing in Melbourne, the first month in Malaysia, I got my first ever athsma attack.

I remember the attack, not when it happened, but when I was rushed to the hospital (early 1989), the nurses took me to a room and suddenly I have about 10 doctors or maybe more surrounding me. It seems that they just bought the nebuliser and they were demonstrating how to use it, on me, to all the doctors there. I was 6 (going 7) years old then. It was too momentous to not let it skip my memory. Plus, I went to the hospital too often because I remember playing with the big saga from the saga tree in front of the hospital block (we were in Johor Bahru at that time).

When we move to Ipoh in 1991, the late night visits to the rumah sakit angkatan tentera (my dad was an army officer), I became such a pro with the nebuliser. At that time the doctor had to give me 2 inhalers, the blue and the brown one. My athsma came from dust allergy. And that was my identity. It was so easy to skip school, but breathing was like playing violin, wheezing all the way in, and out.

My worst attack had to be when I was 16. I was in MRSM Terendak, and I collapsed when walking from the bathroom heading to my room. And when they put me on my bed, I was struggling to breathe, I remember my friend had to stop holding me because I was gripping her hand way too hard. They asked the warden to take me to the Kem Terendak hospital. I was warded for 2 or 3 days, I think. My parents were overseas at that time, my dad had to bring his students on a field trip and my mom followed (I think to Istanbul).

After school, I no longer have my athsma attack, but instead, it was so easy for me to get tonsillitis. Almost every 2 months, I’m down with it. I was in my Diploma programme and the health officer in UiTM Alor Gajah probably see me more than his own mother in the kampung. But my tonsillitis was never severe enough although it’s constant, so doctors never advised it to be removed.

When I entered the working world, I didn’t fall sick as much. Although my dad know how hard I push myself to work, to one extend, he said, “Abah tahu badan kamu adik. Your body is not strong. I raised you, I know.” Of course he knows, he raised a sick child.

Last February after a family vacation to Lumut, the moment we arrived back in KL I fell down with a severe cramp on my upper left thigh. I never felt that much pain and my siblings had to hold me walking to the clinic. Doctor diagnosed Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) to be the cause after finding some infection in my urine. After the stretch of antibiotics, I was well again. Middle of April, I fell down with my cramps again and after going to the doctor and explaining that it was similar pain to my first UTI, he diagnosed me with UTI without taking a urine test and just by slightly touching my abdomen. I wasn’t fully convinced and after 2 days, the pain didn’t go away so I went to another clinic and the doctor took a urine test and diagnosed me with UTI but with a different set of medication. After the series of antibiotics, I was fine again.

Last Thursday (23rd May), I started having a mild cramp at the same place. The pain starting throbbing worse after I broke my fast later that day and my partner rushed me to the clinic to check. The doctor diagnosed me with UTI again and asked me to come back after 2 days if the pain doesn’t subside.

That night, I couldn’t sleep as my entire abdomen was so in pain and I kept waking up every hour to pee. It was too painful that the next day (Friday), I insisted to go back to the clinic to get a referral to the hospital. I felt like admitting myself into the ward because I just couldn’t bear the severe abdominal pain that is causing my tummy to bloat.

At about 8:30pm, my younger sister brought me to the clinic where the doctor who treated my second UTI (the second doctor I went to in April) said it could be bladder stones and referred me to Hospital Selayang because that is the nearest hospital to my parents’ house. So about 9:20pm, we arrived in Hospital Selayang.

And there we started a journey of waiting….

Waiting to get registered, because at 9:20pm, the outpatient clinic of Hospital Selayang is like a pasar tani (farmer’s market). Thank god the pain wasn’t too throbbing at that point and we braved through waiting to be consulted by one of the General Physicians (GP) there.

You see all kinds of people at a government hospital. All kinds of faces, attitudes, races, sizes, and conditions. It’s sad to know that illnesses do pick the poorer people more because health is such a luxury these days, especially if you’re living in a metropolitan city like Kuala Lumpur. Because a normal consultation at a private clinic is RM 20 – RM 40 per consultation (that probably takes less than 15 minutes), not adding medication yet. And although Malaysia still have one of the better health care services in Malaysia, with the inflation and urban affordability especially for the B40 urban poor groups, not many can afford private clinics because government hospitals only cost RM 1 for consultation.

Anyway, we got to see the GP at around 10:45pm, and I showed him the referral letter. He asked me to do an X-Ray and take a urine test. He couldn’t see any stones in the X-Ray but he also said that C-Rays are only 60% accurate. He also said he did find an infection in my urine but since this is my third UTI, he will refer me to the urology department. But urology department works on office hours so I could only go on Monday morning.

So this morning (27th May), I went to Hospital Selayang’s urology department and showed my referral letter. After 20 minutes, the nurse told me that she can only schedule my appointment to meet the urologist on 21st June 2019.

That’s like for another month! And that, is with a referral.

I went back home and thought for awhile.

In my mind, I was scared of bladder stones, because then it will cause recurring pain if I don’t have it removed. My eldest sister called me and told me to go and get a CT scan to be perfectly sure. I gave it a thought for a few hours before deciding to really go ahead to a private hospital. I called KPJ Damansara to check on the cost (nurse told me around RM 1,500) and had to borrow money from my parents and told them if anything persists from the scan, I can always claim from my insurance. So I went to KPJ Damansara in the afternoon.

When I arrived in KPJ Damansara, I went straight to the Imaging Services department and inquired on the CT scan. When the nurse saw my referral letter, she asked if I have seen a urologist and I said Hospital Selayang would only let me see one in June. Then I asked if she can refer me to the urologist in KPJ Damansara. She referred me to one Dato’ Dr. Kamil Nordin.

Probably one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Dr. Kamil sat me down and took me through what constitute urinary tract infection and explained that GPs would not do a special test called Urine Culture which could determine what is the bacteria causing this recurring infection. And then he told me that there’s a lot of possibilities and bladder stones could be one of them. He suggested an ultrasound instead because CT scan has radiation and he advised to avoid it if possible.

So he did an ultrasound on me. My kidneys were fine until he went to my abdomen and found something that caused my tummy to bloat. He suspected fibroid but he recommended me to see a gynecologist to confirm. Apparently the suspected fibroid is 7cm in diameter as he can see in the ultrasound and he said it was quite big. My mom requested for a referral to Hospital Selayang since it’s nearer to our house, or maybe Hospital Tuanku Mizan because it’s a government military hospital that she’s more familiar with.

Upon leaving KPJ Damansara around 3:30pm, we rushed to Hospital Selayang to make it on time to see if we can meet the gynecologist there.

When I got to the counter at 4:30pm, the nurse told me that the doctor can only see me in July. Yes, what??!! Nurse said, there’s too many patients and that’s how it goes. She said that if I feel too much pain, I can just go to Emergency ward later. And when I asked, which gynecologist will I be seeing, she then said any doctor will come in and attend me then.

I returned to the car and told my mom that tomorrow, I’ll go back to KPJ Damansara to check with a gynecologist there.

Here’s the deal.

1 out of 3 women have or will have fibroid. It is a common thing for women, as how UTI -is common for women.

I’m not going to die, of course I know that.

I just want it removed as soon as possible. And to wait until July, the probability of the fibroid growing bigger is also high. 7cm is quite big already. And I don’t want it to grow bigger until it crushes my bladder and cause more pain when I need to be on my feet, working and berkhidmat for the masyarakat that I’m serving. And what if it’s not fibroid? It has a probability of being something else as well. I won’t wait until July to know.

But imagine, what about people who can’t afford private hospital fees?

What about people without medical insurance?

What about people who doesn’t work with companies that provide panel hospitals?

They have to wait for a month to meet a doctor in a government hospital, and maybe another month to get a slot for the procedure.

I wish there are better ways we can improve this system.

Imagine the money that Jho Low stole from Malaysia and spent on wining and dining Hollywood superstars, imagine the money Najib Razak and his crony stole from Malaysia and spent on his families’ luxuries, imagine all that going to employing more doctors in government hospitals, then maybe we would have a leading and exemplary health care services in the world.

I’ll see a gynecologist tomorrow and keep you all updated with my procedure.

I wish to share my story so people can understand the process and journey should they experience the same in the future.

To never be disregarded

I let myself
into the walls
you build from me

Gotta Find You by Disco Hue

 

There’s a woman on the outside
Looking inside, Does she see me?
No she does not really see me
Cause she sees her own reflection

Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega

 

Your ears are full, but you’re empty
Holding out your heart
To people who never really
Care how you are

Coffee & TV by Blur

 

You want me
Well come on and break the door down
You want me
Fucking come on and break the door down

Talk Show Host by Radiohead

 

If this is love, I don’t want it
If this is love, you can keep it
You call this love, you don’t respect it
If this is love, why am I hurting?

Lanes by Yuna

 

Make me a pretty person
Make me feel like I belong
Make me hard and make me happy
Make me beautiful
The emptiness
The craziness
Satisfy this loneliness
Darling how would it feel?

Sleep Together by Garbage

 

Pretty baby you are the soul that snaps my control
It’s a funny thing but everytime I’m near you
I never can behave
You give me a smile and I’m wrapped up in your magic

Moody’s Mood For Love (I’m In The Mood For Love) by Quincy Jones

 

We won’t even have to shout
‘Cause not even words can find a way out

Keep On Calling by Nilüfer Yanya

 

And on the topic of trust, it’s just a matter of fact
That people bite back and fracture what’s intact

You Got Me by The Roots feat. Jill Scott

 

I’m so sorry
My spirit’s rarely in my body
It wanders through the dry country
Looking for a good place to rest
Your head upon my chest
And I can feel the pillow of your breast
You are worth hundreds of sparrows

Hundreds Of Sparrows by Sparklehorse

To write or not to write

So I have been having this thought that I should relive/revamp/re-everything for my blog. I have always been blogging but of course, we have always been keeping ourselves up with the trendiest things so we can use the term ‘passe’. Although we don’t really understand that. Does being ‘passe’ means that we can or cannot do it anymore? And when we do, do it, will it be called ‘retro’/’vintage’? I don’t know.

 

Having said that, let’s throw out all the relive/revamp-ing of the blog and call it what it is, ‘retro’-ing the blog.

 

Social media has really made us think lesser and lesser in characters. I started to keep a journal to keep track of meetings and doings rather than posting it on Twitter and I realised that I have been writing each paragraph to not exceed 140 characters. And it’s weird because when you are in your character, or when I am in character, I have too many things to say, so many words to use and never Twitter, Instagram nor Facebook have enough space to showcase my thoughts and opinions. The blogs have always been that for me. I don’t even talk that much in the presence of other people’s company (1. My friends are all rolling their eyes now. 2. NO, I ALSO DON’T TALK A LOT IN THE PRESENCE OF MYSELF COMPANY. 3. My English is really bad now and I call myself a writer???)

 

I do miss writing. Working too much made me overthink about emotions (should I show my emotions and what would it make me look to other people) and words (am I sharing my own personal thoughts and let people ReTweet it or should I just share information that is valuable and worthy of being disseminated?)

 

I had coffee earlier this morning with a lady who actually told me I haven’t been updating my blog and it felt weird because I met her because I was supposed to know enough of social media and the digital world. It scared me, the thought that I have been researched and that my last post was last June about words that I wanted to get out of my head but only managed to be written in 23 lines of an average of 5 words per line.

 

I spent the past 2 weeks re-watching Sex And The City, all six seasons of it. It felt weird watching it at the age of 32. Suddenly, somehow everything seems real and relate-able although I do not live in New York, nor have I ever had a Mr. Big and an obsession with shoes or had a column in any newspaper. But the thought of finding love, the thought of being single in your 30s and losing faith that you would ever find love, and the thought that I did not spend enough love for my girlfriends – that felt too close at heart.

 

When I was 12, my family had to move to Kuching, Sarawak from Ipoh, Perak. When I moved to Ipoh, Perak at the age of 10, I was a very quiet girl at school. My only friend, possibly, was my brother Muid back then. We would hangout with his friends, or we would just hangout with each other. Throughout the end of my stay in Ipoh, I started making friends and having to leave them made me turn into a writer when I moved to Kuching. I would have lots of short stories about fantasies having friends and living on my own when I grow up to be an adult. I would read love/romance novels and start to interpret the stories to be my own short novels. I never keep any of those stories. We were constantly moving every 2-3 years. But I remembered writing them and remembered wanting to grow up faster so I can relive those stories.

 

Today, none of those stories did ever happen but I have collected so much other stories that I am still telling while I am alive.

 

And it is great! Because you know what, this is what this year is for. To be living the life I love and being able to tell my stories.

 

Let the good times roll!

“You would be great for this!”

Someone knocked my inbox with an opportunity that left me grinning for the past hour. An opportunity I’ve always thought not qualified for.

I just deleted a whole load of things I just wrote for this post. Sometime later, someone will read it wrongly and tell me how emotional I am.

If I am told to be less emotional, it is as if I am told to be less of myself.

And all I can think of is this, the poem I read on Saturday.

Aku. Tiga. Dan Lima.

ini kata puisi

dari karyawan yang lara.

barangkali bikin hujan timpa

lebih bergelora.

kisah cinta dihisab

satu malam panjangnya.

mengenai si tiga

dengan yang ke lima.

kalau aku kira sepuluh

kembali ke nombor satu

mungkin tiga dan lima akan ku curi

bawa pergi. jauh dari sini.

mungkin kita lenjun ketika ribut melanda

biar demam dalam kehangatan cinta.

bersama tiga. dan lima.

kalau empat tambah satu

dan empat tolak satu

tiga dan lima masih milikku.

hei tiga dan lima

lantang kau laung kata cintamu

yang dengar bukan satu, bukan seribu.

dan juga bukan aku.

tapi lagak karya sasar amir hamzah

atau nobatan cinta ilahi si rumi

ini puisi insan bernama abby

nombor ganjil tidak bererti

jadi biarlah aku, tiga dan lima

di dalam hutan gelap puaka

bermadu cinta manja dan lara

kerana kami semua

bukan uda, bukan dara.

hanya aku. tiga. dan lima.

Waking up to Composure

I am not the coolest person I know. In fact, I am the most uncool person I know. Seriously, a lot of my friends are so cool, I almost am considered LUKE WARM. And that, by standard itself means BORING.

We’re not Italians but my family could be the most dramatic expressive family I’ve ever seen outside of the idiot box. We could even topple down Korean drama box-office records if we have had better mainstream commercial looks.

I guess it’s the age. And celibating. At 31 years old, single and not practicing any kind of sexual activities, one can develop menopausal symptoms. Yes, I have enough braincells to (in)credibly develop this psycho-analysis of mine. I’ll be 32 this year. I might start shopping for a chastity belt soon. Got sell online or not?

But that is not the point of discussion for today. My last post was a good night post. A good night post written almost half a year ago. It was written on the eve of my birthday, because I was born in the wee hours of the morning. Thus why I love the dawn. And in that hour I am most pure and free and no one could disturb me. Outside of those hours, I’m (almost) doomed.

I have lost my balance a couple of time and I’m losing my focus. My heart cries at night hoping I find my soul in everything I do. I start questioning what’s right and what’s indifference. I start questioning indifference and nothingness. Why do I want to do things that does not include my name in the big picture? Why don’t I want to help make a name for myself? Selfishness arise from these questioning. I am falling not in my abyss but in worry and guilt. For being selfish. For wanting things for myself.

I realised, at the end of the day, I will only be remembered as “yang pakai baju putih kat hujung tu” (the one in the white shirt standing at the corner). 

So Please,

Dear God,

help me wake up in composure,

relieved of all these selfishness,

and take me out of this indifference.

Adab dan Tamadun

It’s gonna be a LONG drive back from Sintok to KL now. Abah is lecturing on Civilisation through Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama.

It started when I told him I wanted to pursue my post-graduate in Master of Southeast Asian Studies (yeah, this one will make me tons of money, I tell ya).

Then he told me that I should first know what civilisation means.

He said, I should read Samuel P. Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations and Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and The Last Man.

Abah cannot blame me for wanting to pursue these studies. I grew up on the road, as nomadic as my childhood is, but most importantly our family spend a lot of time together on roadtrips in the country. Abah will grab any opportunity to drive along the countryside and stop at all the places where there were history landmarks. He loves telling us stories about these places, as he grew up as a young soldier, walking through the jungles of Malaysia.

I remember my fascination with ASEAN grew with wanting to learn more about culture. I was blessed with my upbringing where I learn to adapt to different environment easily since a very young age.

When I did my solo trip to Jogjakarta last year, I was really really amazed at how happy I was walking in and out all of the temples. It’s as if I’m walking through dimensions of time.

And I trust that is what the studies will take me. Through dimensions of time and space.

I always wanted to learn about geo-science, but I never excelled maths and science to even qualify for the studies.

Maybe this year I build up enough courage to admit myself into the course.

God willing. Insya Allah.

 

Akuan Penonton

Movies is all socio-economics and culture.

Why Bollywood is a thriving economy?

People simpan duit sebulan to watch a movie and it’s their escapism. My dad once told me, how the peladang and pesawah di India simpan duit semata-mata untuk tengok kehidupan ilusi for 3 hours. Movies for them is escapism. Satu kehidupan yang mereka impikan. And going to the cinema is a whole day outing. They get to watch one and a half hour of the first half, then during intermission they get to keluar panggung to makan and discuss on what has happened and what will happen, then masuk balik panggung to know the ending.

Kalau ending orang jahat tak mati, ini memang boleh sampai bakar panggung punya type of audience.

For us, the Malaysian culture masih music, not so much on movies. Look at what is flooded and hyped for. Konsert Jom Heboh. Konsert Gempak Astro. Imam Muda pun buat ala konsert sekarang.

Masa kecik kita grew up dengan Bintang RTM. Hiburan Minggu ini. Konsert boybands la apa la. Urban ke, mainstream ke, music it is.

Masa zaman 80s, mak saya akan bawa kami naik bas dari Selayang ke pekan Kuala Lumpur, just to watch movies. Kami akan makan kat Chow Kit road. Minum air Sudi – a can drink produced by Sudirman.

For us it was outing yang ditunggu-tunggu. Sekarang it’s sad sebab saya tiada masa untuk bawa Mama to go to the movies.

Last 2 years, Mother’s Day saya ambil cuti. Bawak mama tengok filem Chow Kit. Panggung kosong. Saya beritahu Mama, saya booked panggung for her. Felt quite cool although in real nature, it was sad to see a Malaysian film with only 2 person filling up the hall.

Going to the movies also became a ritual antara saya dan adik-adik. Zaman Harry Potter dan Twilight. Itu quality time saya dengan adik-adik. Usually it is a much anticipated outing with them. Especially sebab selalunya saya sibuk belajar di kampus dan pulang hanya ketika cuti. Now, both of them have their own driving license. Mereka lebih suka pergi tengok wayang bersama rakan-rakan.  And saya pula, sekarang saya sibuk tolong orang lain buat movies. Saya tiada masa untuk do my former rituals with loved ones. Sedih sangat.

Bagi saya, going to the movies is my culture. Kalau orang tanya siapa Abby Latif, apa yang dia tahu pasal buat filem? Saya audience kamu. Since 1982. Itu je.

For me it’s easy. The culture you want to create, you got to live it first.

Sekian mukadimmah hari ini. HAHAHAHA.

Par-lia-ment

Entering Parliament building for the first time.

The parking sucks, maybe because everyone who goes there are driven by their drivers.

There are two buildings and I went to the wrong one, almost walked into where the Prime Minister was. Haha.

Being there reminds me of when I wanted to be a journalist. Okaylah. Not.

Good Night, three decades of life.

On the 10,958th day of my life, someone asked me, “Are you a Gen X or a Gen Y?”

I quickly replied, “I’m actually in between Gen X and Gen Y but I consider myself a Gen X, only because my younger siblings are Gen Ys and because of my 11 years age gap with my younger sister, I got the chance of raising her.”

Today I start a new journey after having completed 30 years of living. For me, birthdays are milestones. That time of the year where you reflect on what you have done and how much have you achieved in life.

Thirty years of living, in today’s context is almost a lot. That includes 8 leap years, thousands of mistakes, tens of thousands of experimentation and probably hundreds of vices.

Some people like to call themselves, an old soul. Of course, I like to do that as well. Only because I don’t know what the mainstream music is playing as I get fixated to my iTunes or just MixFM, LiteFM and Klasik Nasional. Trust me, I probably only know 3 songs from Bruno Mars and I don’t even remember their titles. And no, I still don’t know what One Direction is. Are they a band? Are they like Backstreet Boys? Do they even know Backstreet Boys? Are they even legal? Have they hit puberty? See how aunty I am.

Today I went to Monash University for a screening. Not only how the kids dressed to school surprises me, but also how they react to issues, where they would prefer to contest than understanding concepts that they are not familiar with. When I was growing up, because no one explain why things are the way it is, I tried hard to learn how to understand the context of things myself. Weirdly this is not just from today’s trip. Apparently having seen all universities we were invited to screen in and having younger siblings who are still in college, this is my generic take on Gen Y. I guess they just come from a different era. In which I need to understand more of.

Three decades. The first two decades in my life, I spent a lot as a nomad, having to move houses every three years. The last decade was spent working. Initially, I only give myself four decades to live. I know, it’s God’s decision but let’s just be realistic. With this ‘realistic’ plan, I get to appreciate the power of ambition. I get to tell myself, I must do a lot of things because I can never tell when I’m going to die.

I still have ten years to tell people that I am worthy of their respect.

I still have ten years to create magic.

I still have ten years to create lifetime of memories for people to wish their prayers on me.

For tonight, this is a homage to that three decades I’ve lived through. Trust me, I have nothing but gratification for everyone who have hugged me, told me that they love(d) me, who took me into their lives, who I have fallen for and although rejected me along the way (AHAHAHAHAHA) – still managed to be that positive factor for me to be a better person, who have given me opportunities and faith is the person that I am, and always always always my wonderful great parents who loves me, ever so kindly and be that pillar of strength I can always cling on to in times I have nothing else to live for.

Three decades will not have been easy without God. Trust me, those nights spent crying on the praying mat have been the best nights in my life.

Thank you, for these three decades. I regret nothing.

15 minutes of fame… starting from now

I don’t deal with fame very well. As friendly as a person that I am, I am very well aware of the space that requires privacy. One that is very very fragile to intrusion and would react severely when it is trespassed.

Having said that, I am very open to sharing. But not so much. Just to those I would choose to share themselves with me.

In that sense, I’m picky. I am very very selective of my circle and audience.

Then again, I am known for my very short attention span. If you don’t interest or intrigue me, I won’t be able to remember you.

Fame, is a tricky business. You need a lot to deal with the attention that is thrown your way, and you must be able to attend to it because that’s all that you’ve ever wanted.

Fame, however is also a song. Sang by Irene Cara. For the movie/TV series titled “Fame” as well. In which she sang,

“I see it coming together,

People will see me and cry.” 

That’s just crazy. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is FAME.