Dear optometrist (at a chain store which shall not be named),

I do not need to be told that "here in Australia, we need to do this" after telling you my last eye exam was 3 years ago in Taiwan. Repeatedly. Throughout 2 of my 3 visits.

You don't need to explain to me, completely unsolicited, that "we optometrists are like doctors you know" and that "we go to university for 5 years". That's nice to know. Good for you. Would you like a gold star?

You might want to learn how to listen. Instead of chiding me for starting the session late (while I was waiting for you to finish talking to your staff for 5 minutes, watching through your open door as I arrived 5 minutes late myself), and then rushing through your spiel, maybe slow down. Maybe try listening to your "patient". I do not enjoy being talked at, let alone having to endure a mini-tutorial on the structure of the eye and the definition of the cornea. Especially when you're talking a mile a minute without pausing for breath and lamenting that you have no time. So please try to listen when I pipe up sheepishly that I'm actually a doctor, so it's ok to use medical terminology. Don't tell me that "frankly, if you were a lawyer, I'd be telling you the exact same thing. Because here in Australia, we have to tell all our patients ..."  Try not to assume a person is fresh off the boat from sub-standard country.

Please don't assume that all doctors are automatically general practitioners. Or that "to be honest, hospital doctors and optometrists would know more about the eye than you."

I also don't need you to exclaim in unabashed joy that you'd like to shake my hand, then proceed to grab my hands on my lap, as I tell you I'd rather wear my glasses and forgo the contact lens exam. (Mostly because I didn't want to come back for a 4th visit.)

Nor do I need you to continuously praise me about the remarkably good health of my eyes. I didn't ask for your opinion. And I have enough self-esteem, thank you. Unlike you, perhaps?

Oh. And maybe brush up on your optometry skills? Prescribing me lenses that are way too strong is probably a problem. Plus, I saw a different optometrist shortly afterwards, and he said you most likely mixed up my glasses and contact lens prescriptions. 30 minutes of supermarket shopping left me with a 3 hours  bilateral headache at my temples. Yet, you told me to persist because people always get that with a new prescription. Funny how you commended your sales staff on giving the right advice - for me to stop wearing the said lenses - when I showed up to the last appointment in glasses instead. What was that you told me before? I only kept going back to get a copy of my retinal scan. The one I didn't really want but found myself doing because I was ushered in, and then asked to pay for. Talk about informed consent.

And really, try reading some journals. Or maybe paying more attention during your 5-year university course. Like you mentioned, I may not know much about opthalmology, but I certainly know that in a pregnant person, the cornea can swell and change someone's visual acuity. You commended me on choosing to wear glasses during this time, explaining repeatedly (again, unsolicited) that the cornea becomes more sensitive during pregnancy and you wouldn't have proceeded with the contact lens examination had you known I was pregnant.  Um, lady? According to a whole host of journals and Medscape, the cornea actually gets LESS sensitive during pregnancy.

Oh, and speaking of pregnancy. You saw me 3 times. I was there for 15 - 30 mins each time. Yet, you had no clue until I mentioned maternity leave at the end of the last session. You then had the nerve to imply that I didn't tell you that I was pregnant when asked if I had any health problems, and then chuckle that you guess most people wouldn't consider pregnancy a health problem. I could only just stare back in disbelief at that one.

I sincerely hope you won't scar (definitely not literally, I hope!) more "patients" of yours with your condescending, unprofessional attitude. Luckily, your branch sent me an automated feedback email. Hope you learn some better "bedside" matters and professionalism.

- Amy


Listening and Hearing are two very different things

I've often stressed that Listening and Hearing are completely different things.

You can hear something, but not be listening. You know, like white noise or that background chatter in a restaurant that you tune out. On the other hand, you can also listen to something or someone, but not hear the message because you've got a preconceived notion or assumption sitting there inside your head already. To truly process something and respond meaningfully, you really got to both hear and listen.

I wish I had the time, energy and strength to tell that to someone at work who was coordinating things today. I was so, so pissed off at the whole thing and quickly gave up trying to be logical with her. She simply wasn't listening. Or hearing for that matter. It was like she was in her own little bubble.

Despite the short time I had to be in the same room as her, let alone the even scantier times I interacted, I think that she's got some sort of commitment issues. Seriously! When one is sitting there with the patient asleep on the operating table and the bones showing, and the surgeon is asking for the drill attachment so he can drill holes into the bones for the screws and plate, the last thing you want to hear is "I can't find it." That in itself would have been fine and we would have gone to Plan B or C.. but the woman couldn't commit and kept coming up with excuses.

"They moved everything, I can't find it."

"What do you mean, you can't find it? Did they throw out all the orthopedic stuff??"

"No, they just moved the store room. I can't find it" she says as she disappears through the door to look for it again.

She comes back and the conversation repeats itself.
By then, I was getting the shits. This was exactly like MY conversation with her...

"What time does the case start?"

"You can come now"

"Ok, but what time does it start?"


Back to the surgeon.. HE was getting the shits too with this vagueness.

"Ok, you can't find it. Can you get me the part somehow though?"

"Well, they moved everything so I can't find it but I can if I have more time"

"Ok, so you can get me the part?"

"I can't find it, they moved everything"

"Look, CAN you or CAN'T you get me the part?"

"They moved everything. I can't find it. I can find it but it will take a long time"


She couldn't get us the damn part in the end and by the time she came back to tell us that, we were done. The surgeon manually drilled the holes with a drill bit. I have NEVER seen anyone do that in the modern world in my 6 years of orthopedics. The surgeon was muttering about not remembering when the last time he had to do this was. He still couldn't get over it, made obvious by him leaning over and whispering in an incredulous manner about not having access to a drill for such a routine case.


That woman really shouldn't be allowed to coordinate things like this if she can't commit to concrete answers and stick to facts. She also makes assumptions, which is dangerous in any circumstance, but especially when dealing with lives and medicine. The gall! She berated me for not knowing that all emergency cases only happen in one operating theater and asked if it was my first shift. She later muttered it again when I said it was basic information to tell me when to show up and where to show up to, but then added that either one of two theaters were always used after hours. Riiigghttt. Next time I ask, will she be adding another "routine" theater to the list and expecting me to know?

I just needed to get this off my chest. I have half a mind to lodge a complaint about her, but it's not worth my energy to pursue this unless it happens again with the same person. So for now, it's something that I'm just going to have to get over and cool down.

Happy holidays indeed.


A Rant of a Rant

Sorry guys, I just need to rant. You can read the original post that showed up on my news feed by clicking the screenshots I took. I don't personally know the guy who wrote it, but assume he must be a friend of a friend for it to show up on my Facebook feed.

Reposting what I wrote on Jiahao's timeline here:
The sentiment's there, but the guy has some inherent prejudices and paints people with broad strokes. I especially resent the part about people from southern Taiwan being called dumb hicks. Just because he's lived in several countries for a couple years each doesn't make him an expert in their culture. 

There is also the flip side of the coin, where "foreigners" are still regarded with a bit of awe and fawning by some parts of the Singaporean community. Just because they are foreigners. People falling into this group may also fall into the xenophobic group. Too many intricacies and factors including culture, government, and social norms to consider when it comes to people's reactions and their so-called xenophobic views. You really can't simplify it the way the guy did, and then throw in a bunch of swear words to make a point.

I think the guy who wrote it was quite upset and in the moment, and came across as a condescending little shit. I'm sure he's a nice guy, or else he wouldn't have 890 people on Facebook that call him a friend.

A lot of the examples cited in his rant are merely just glimpses of a bigger picture. I hope that for those who have never been, lived or heard about Taiwan, Denmark, America and Singapore will take the views of the author into consideration but not form an opinion of these countries based purely on the examples given.

Each country will have moments of glory alongside shameful secrets and mistakes. Learning to appreciate the good in one's surroundings whilst trying to minimize the bad is probably a bit more helpful for everyone instead of dissing things one doesn't like. How can you label a country as one that "doesn't work".. what is your criteria? How come America isn't also labelled as a country that "doesn't work" with all the violence we see in the news, the ruckus over Obamacare and the partial government shut-down?

Now, onwards with Denmark. I think that everyone is a little bit racist (thank you, Avenue Q) in one way or another. Just because a city, a town or a country is less diverse than another does not immediately make it the fault of that particular place. There are probably geographical factors, amongst others, that have caused places to feel more "insular" than others. That doesn't make it a good or bad thing. It just is. Some people prefer that, others don't. Drawing the conclusion that a country lacks immigrant culture because the most popular dish is egg with curry powder is frankly bewildering. Isn't that just local preference? Like how a lot of Americans prefer fried rice (or plain) with soy sauce, but a lot of Chinese would be horrified if offered the same dish? Does that mean I can conclude that America is insular because rice with soy sauce is more popular than rice with a more traditional Chinese condiment.. like let's say, salted duck egg?

And then, there's America. Yet another sweeping generalization based on a tertiary-educational experience. I guess I could say the same about Singapore's secondary and junior college experience. Being surrounded by robots who plough through ten-year series and memorize model answers and then generalize that the whole education system in Singapore unfortunately, does not "fucking [work] man. Really."

I think that every country goes through phases where they can be called xenophobic to a certain extent. I think a lot of complicated factors come into play for these sentiments to surface. America went through several of these phases with regards to the Japanese (or any Asian immigrant really) immigrants "stealing" jobs. Americans are still up in arms over immigrants "stealing" jobs, even in 2013.

I find it odd that this wasn't mentioned in the rant. That despite implying that people who go to Ivy League schools are "fucktards" and that the author's like the Sheldon Cooper of Harvard, there is a whiff of reverence or adulation of America and its culture. America apparently is "synonymous with life".. I'm sorry. Not mine. Probably not yours either. Else you would have moved there ages ago. Because everywhere else is worth less. Yes, Singapore too as implied. Yet, ironic that the author declares a fierce pride in being a Singaporean. Very confusing. I must be one of those "fucktards" he was talking about to not understand all this.

Like I said, I hope that people heartily agreeing with the guy have, or will get the chance to experience the countries and cultures mentioned in the Facebook rant for themselves. It would be a shame to form opinions based on the piece, build up national pride as a Singaporean, look down upon other cultures that aren't American and then attempt to accept foreigners with open arms into Singaporean culture.


I Wish I Had My Megaphone

I wish I had my megaphone
Obviously one I'd share
I'd like to use it now and then
When I start to tear out my hair.

This megaphone, it'd be grand
For the whole world would hear
Whatever sounds are uttered through
To everyone with an ear.

A friend of mine, today he shared
A very infuriating story
It made me yearn for my megaphone
Or unleash some H. pylori.

I know that I'm a little miss
One that knows not much
But sometimes you don't need a lot
Just sense and courtesy and such.

I wish I had my megaphone
So I could teach them so.
Teach them all some common sense
So we can all learn and grow!


Carrying on like a curmudgeon

I don't really know what's happened between being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and ... well, now. I think I've lived far too little to have turned cynical, yet here I already am. A thirty-something year old curmudgeon.

Facebook really isn't doing my anger issues a lot of good.

Most people contribute to general knowledge or some sort of intellectually-stimulating conversation in earnest, or with sharp wit and sarcasm. Then, there are those who are such sheep, "sharing" inane and irrelevant links that you know they've shared just because they thought it was "cool".

Seriously, the amount of people on Facebook that do things because they think it looks "cool" is ridiculously large. It's like high school again.. a global one.

The things I see on Facebook sometimes..

I do not want to see picture after picture of your ugly kid. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but your kid looks like a bald pug and I don't fancy being scared by it when I load up my Facebook feed every time. Halloween only comes once a year.

Or those colleagues of mine with pictures of them sauntering to work in their theater scrubs. The whole point of changing into scrubs in the changing room at work every time you leave the operating theater is to keep contamination to a minimum and maintain as sterile an environment as possible. For the protection of both the health care professional and the patient. It certainly isn't professional behavior (and frankly, I call it selfish and lazy) to come to work in theater scrubs just to save time in the changing room. Those that dash in and out of theaters without a cover-up aren't any better. Seriously, do you really think that one flimsy piece of cloth that gapes open at the back is going to keep off all those little germs as you flit through in-patient wards full of sickness?!

That's why it's especially irritating to see these so-called professionals be so proud of the fact that they can flaunt their scrubs in public as a subtle, yet obvious hint that they are doctors. Most times, it gets them the girls.. or guys. Basically, it gets the attention of the layman. I think that's just pathetic.

One could argue that I don't have to be on Facebook and one could be right.

But I stay on, not to post or even be active. I stay on because I'm lucky enough to have a group of friends that happen to share similar viewpoints and tastes (or offer refreshingly different ones) and I want to stay in touch with them. Most of them are across oceans and continents, and this is an easier way to stay in touch. And I stay on and try to ignore the outliers whose inane posts and scary pictures show up on my feed, thanks to crazy Facebook algorithms that I'll never understand.

I don't know why I get irritated so easily. It's really none of my business what people wear to work, but then I can't suppress this overwhelming feeling of indignation on behalf of the patients - the same ones who are entrusting their lives to these "don't give a damn" people who call themselves doctors.
And I get mad at "them" in general.

I can't decide whether this sense of righteousness stems from a scarily horrible inherent belief that I'm better than some people, or whether it stems from a bit of jealousy.. that those people can flaunt the rules and still enjoy the fawning. Or whether it's something completely different. Or that I'm just another curmudgeon.. More things to muse..


Death with Dignity

Reading about the death, and the self-written obituary of Jane Lotter has stirred up some old thoughts.

It's been more than 2 years since my Grandpa died.

And just the other day, I find out yet another piece of information about the last months of his life that I had no idea about. Yet another bit of information that makes my blood boil.

My Grandpa did not deserve such a horrible, painful death. Nobody does. No living thing does.

Yet, why do some doctors and .. well, people in general.. why do they allow it? I really wish that these particular medical professionals, including those that were involved in the care of my Grandpa.. I wish they could all be barred from clinical patient care until they completely understand what medicine, healing and empathy is about. They are an embarrassment to the entire medical profession.

My Grandpa had an unfortunate accident at home, causing him to slip and bump his head. Because he was on warfarin to thin his blood, he bled a lot more than other people. This was another area of contention in my books... placing him on warfarin. Why would you give an 80+ year old with Parkinson's rat poison? His risk of falling and ending up in hospital exactly the way he did was much higher than someone who wasn't restricted in movement and had a lesser falls risk. Again, I told my mom I don't ever want to find out which idiot placed him on it, or which family member recommended the said idiot. It would be an ugly scene and an unnecessary confrontation, now that the harm's been done.

So I get a call from my parents one day, casually mentioning that my Grandpa was in hospital. Eventually, after a lot of angst at not being told sooner, I finally learnt that he bled into his brain (I'm not sure if it was a subdural or intra-cranial hemorrhage with what I was told) and needed emergency decompression and evacuation of the blood.

Apparently, that went well and he returned to the ward. And then he got a respiratory tract infection. And ended up in ICU. For a month. And then they killed him.

Oh. Don't get me wrong. They tried their best to save him. They kept him from the brink of death three times, but lost the fourth round. They thought they were doing him a favor. They thought they were doing family a favor. They thought they were trying to save him.


WHY on earth would you even CONSIDER any invasive procedure for anyone in my Grandpa's condition? They stuck a scope of some sort.. A sigmoidoscope, or a colonoscope.. I'm not sure. My parents couldn't tell me enough details for me to figure it out. They stuck a scope in him because they found blood in his stools. THE GUY HAS BEEN NON-RESPONSIVE, AND ON A VENTILATOR IN ICU FOR WEEKS. Which moron decided they had to scope him, and which moron of a family member signed the consent form?!

My mom said they started noticing dark blood trickling out from his orifices shortly after he returned from his scope. He was in multi-organ failure by then, and his kidneys weren't holding up. Again, some moron (or the same one, I'll never know) decided my Grandpa needed dialysis at this stage.


My Grandpa did not deserve this. I suppose that's what brought him all this unneeded pain and suffering in the first place.. He was so well-respected in his community and social circles, with his numerous accolades and accomplishments that included founding a university, having an orchid he developed be designated as a national coin design and a multitude of philanthropic activities, everyone wanted the best for him. Unfortunately, what he got was "the best" for everyone else but him.

It was "the best" for everyone else around to feel like they were doing all they could to "save" him. It was "the best" for him to receive as many treatments as possible as last ditch efforts. It was "the best" for some family members to feel like they were pulling their weight around by getting multiple doctors involved, resulting in a fuckload of miscommunication and management conflicts.

I wish I could have known about all this sooner. I wish I could have been there to stop this madness. My Grandpa died in his own house shortly after being told not to worry, he is home and if things are too unbearable, he shouldn't feel obliged to battle on for his family's sake. Coincidence?

It's been more than 2 years since my Grandpa died. I wish I could stop feeling guilty that I wasn't there to stop his torture. I wish I could stop feeling so angry at those involved with the decisions made with his care during those last awful months of his otherwise humble, dignified life.

As a doctor, what he went through sickens me. I'm already losing faith in the system, and this is another blow. Doctors are supposed to alleviate suffering and pain. That's all. We're not supposed to be miracle workers. Think of us as the mechanics that fix your body. If the body's too damaged, there's only so much that can be done and that usually comes at a price in the form of pain, or death. As a granddaughter, I feel the worst sort of pain, that dull ache over your heart, constricting your chest and making it hard to breathe. Grief and regret. All mixed together.

For anyone that stumbles upon this post of mine, I wish you the courage and empathy to face death in all forms and make decisions that are truly going to be the best for the one death is coming for. I wish you the wisdom to identify your own selfish desires and lock them away, to realize that whilst you might be subconsciously worried or scared of what the future will be like with a loved one missing from it, that in the end, it is not about you right now. It is about them. The ones with the illness or the pain. You need to remember that, and never ever put them through any more torture than what they are already experiencing. For their sake, and yours.


Catching up

Have you ever been embarrassed at a restaurant dinner before because you were treated too well? Maybe it's the introvert in me talking, but I certainly don't do well under the spotlight. I get the rabbit-caught-in-headlights syndrome and end up smiling awkwardly while making unintelligible squeaks and other general noises. Charming, eh?

My old boss took us out for dinner at a grand old Chinese restaurant the other day. We sat down at the biggest round table I've ever seen.. all 13 of us. Of course, the food was yummy (so says everyone else) and of course, I got the usual tofu and plate of something green ordered just for me. (Frankly, it's because of this that I'm reluctant to tell people I'm vegetarian. I'd rather just order off the menu and pick out the meat.) 

So all the embarrassing stuff happened right at the end. To my left, were three very very hungry boy-men who had just spent all day operating on people. To my right was my very hungry Hubbs and more hungry surgical colleagues. Imagine the chagrin of all of them when the waiter marched up behind me, plonked a takeaway container and started placing all the little dessert cakes and jello into it! The boys were grabbing last handfuls before everything disappeared into the box. I was so busy laughing at them, I didn't realize the box was for me until the waiter snapped the lid shut and pushed it in front of me. Then came the bowl of peanuts from the beginning of the meal that one of the boys had joked about taking home. A takeway box with a smattering of peanuts was also set in front of me. 

I was really quite embarrassed by now because I didn't want the food, but I didn't want to appear rude or ungrateful either. 
So the icing on the cake were the oranges that were dumped into the bag full of packed leftovers in jest, and then the special order of mango pudding that my boss had bought just for me. By this point, I really didn't know whether they were all laughing with me, or at me, for being vegetarian :(

That aside, it was nice to see everyone again. Guess I'll just stick to that memory.


Everytime someone from Taiwan does something awesome, I get goosebumps purely out of a completely misplaced sense of pride.

THIS just plain gave me the chills.

I can't even express how much awesomeness I'm feeling after finding out about these UK blokes who went to Taiwan and called it a second home. Their Chinese is better than mine..

Enjoy :)


For those that cannot fathom why I've pulled up my roots, this is why. I did it out of fear. 

I didn't want to be in my mid-forties and want all these things money couldn't buy. Like a healthy relationship, a kid or two, my sanity, good health.

I don't know how others do it, but every colleague, senior and consultant I've met or asked has sacrificed something to get where they are. I'm not prepared to do that, so I backed out and chose my fledging family over my career. Is that so wrong?