A Moment Of Silence For Humanity

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/pregnant-woman-turns-hiv-positive-after-blood-transfusion/articleshow/67244584.cms
Recently saw this in the news. It’s from the state in India where I spent my elective. Basically, a pregnant woman was transfused blood for anaemia. She then tested positive for HIV. She was tested because the man who had donated his blood underwent an HIV test at a government hospital as part of a job application.

He had donated his blood twice in the last 2 years. He was HIV positive both times.

3 people at the blood bank in the government hospital are under suspicion for negligence. Because both times he had donated blood, no one had alerted him to the fact that he was positive for HIV. He would never have found out he had this disease without being tested himself. And the woman who was transfused his blood would never have found out she had received HIV positive blood unless the donor had approached the hospital to have himself tested for a completely different reason.

The pregnant woman was all over the news. Because she was pregnant and she was transfused HIV positive blood. She is currently undergoing counselling and antiretroviral therapy for her unborn child.

The donor, was not mentioned at all on the news anywhere.

Except for today.

When it was mentioned that he had committed suicide.

Things like this makes me lose faith in humanity.

The discussion about this that followed in my house was one about stigma. I was extremely shocked that the man had killed himself. My sister said that he would’ve had no other choice. He wouldn’t get that job he did the test for, he would be shunned and ridiculed the rest of his life because nobody knows how he acquired the disease.

This sickened me.

Stigma about health problems always make me really angry. It’s as though people think humans request the universe for a particular medical condition and enjoy having it and/or spreading it.

The pregnant woman in this case had someone to blame. She could blame the donor for giving her the disease. But how did the donor acquire HIV? Everyone would assume promiscuity. If this were the case, I’d think he would have found out he had the condition sooner. But the point is, he could have acquired it accidentally just like this. From a transfusion or some other blood  contact.

If anyone is to blame, it would be the blood bank that didn’t inform him he had the condition. He was being a good person, donating blood for those who need it, and he had never known he was donating contaminated blood. He had found out that on his own.

Did he deserve to die?

What bothered me was that my sister was right. People do attach a whole lot of stigma to certain medical conditions. And it is so unnecessary. Nobody wished to live with a medical condition. And nobody feels good about it. To shun things and people who have conditions like HIV or a mental illness or anything they don’t have control over, is in my opinion, a crime.

The man could have also received the same antiretroviral therapy the pregnant woman was receiving. But he didn’t have the chance to. He was a young man. Everyone probably blamed him for donating blood. His own family may have shunned him for having HIV. He had no choice but to end his life.

I think that’s a sad day for all of humanity. For all the progress we have in the world today, people still shun others for things they don’t have any control over. And this is far too high a price to pay.

Stigma like this makes people hide illnesses they have, makes them isolate themselves in society, it even makes them refrain from receiving the treatment they require. Fear of being labelled as a “patient” of a certain condition stops people from receiving life-saving interventions. Even improvement in quality of life is vital. And they miss out. Because everyone in society would look at them differently.

Pushing someone to the edge where they feel so lost and lonely for something they didn’t even do, is a crime committed by everyone involved.

The little things people judge others for makes me lose a lot of faith in the world. I hope one day all of this ends. And no more lives are lost to small minds.

A moment of silence for the man, and all of humanity.

 

Just Christmas Things

Ahh Christmas arrived! And since I’m on leave, I got to celebrate Christmas at home with my family.

It’s summer in New Zealand! So, since Auckland is always so faithful, It poured all day. Effectively ruining any plans of going out. My dad, sister, and I still drove down to our favourite beach in West Auckland, only to find the road to it was closed due to flooding. And surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones going that far and turning back.

So we returned home and lounged around with our presents as I prepped for dinner. Every year, it is tradition that I try a new recipe for dinner and dessert. This year, my sister requested to take over dinner and I would do dessert. She and my dad requested I make Tiramisu as a tribute to our trip this time last year. So I took on the challenge.

I wanted to make it as authentic as possible. Many recipes suggested buying pre-made Savoiardi biscuits for the base of the Tiramisu but I decided to make my own. They actually turned out pretty good!

Et Voila!

They look kinda flat, but trust me they had risen the right amount.

I hadn’t worked with mascarpone cheese before so it was all a bit challenging to get the consistencies and ratios right.

 

Here is the finished product.

My sister and dad liked it a lot. The cream was brilliant! I was worried I had too much coffee in it. But oh well. If we stay up late all caffeinated, it could be worse. Overall I think it was a success.

Here is my tree and assorted decoration macro photos. As I had promised myself last year and on HD’s advice, I had bought a whole new tree with new decorations. The gold and blue were quite Christmas-y and lit up, the tree actually looked pretty great. I had splurged for a big tree this year. Retail therapy is a real thing, kids.

And I also got a great Christmas present this year from secret Santa at work. My secret Santa was one of my friends from med school. He had given me this.

A lucky bamboo plant. It is an indoor plant that needs very little light or water to grow. It is supposed to bring you peace and luck. He of all people knew I could use some luck and good vibes. He also mentioned that this plant was the perfect metaphor for our friendship. “Low maintenance, and strong” he had said. I loved that. It made me feel special. He really does know me. ^^

Hope everyone else has had a great Christmas! šŸ˜€

ImbalanceĀ 

When you try to convey to someone that you’re hurt by what they did and they say “I could tell you were upset but I decided not to dwell on it. Get over it. It’s no big deal”

But when you do something wrong, it’s equivalent to the original sin and you’re damned for all eternity. 

When they want to see you, even when you’re at work, you have to drop everything now and go see them. When they want to talk, they’ll call you at any time and you have to answer.

But when you want to talk, and you call, you get hit with “Stop calling. You cannot just randomly call at any given time”

When others hurt them and show no remorse, they tell you the others “are good people who just did the wrong thing without realising” and they have “hope they’re a decent person now” 

But when you do something wrong without realising and apologise and show remorse and beg them to understand, they say “your intentions don’t matter in the slightest.” 

I have to have some self respect. 

I really do. 

Looking Back At 2018

Whew. The last few posts of mine have been quite depressing. This blog was never about being down or blue. It was about keeping alive something that was very important to me.

So I was looking back at some of the posts I had put up this year. 2018 isn’t exactly ending the way it had started. But I have so much to be grateful for this year.

Kind of like the spirit of Ariana Grande’s new song Thank U, Next. I want to look back at some of the things that really made this a great year.

When 2018 started, I was on a plane heading back to NZ from my family trip to Italy. That was without a doubt, the best experience ever. I hope to return to Italy one day for it’s buzzing excitement and amazing history and culture. And the gelato too!

As soon as the year began, I started my final year at medical school. Kicking off with general medicine. I had actually felt extremely competent and loved every moment of my time on general medicine. I had met Dr. AJ who I adore and am so grateful to have met! I learnt so much during my time on general medicine. It was awesome.

My next rotation was rural general practice. I still think about my time in Warkworth now and then. Maybe when I’m older, I’d like to become a GP and live somewhere similar where people are so relaxed and the lighter side of life can be experienced, eating gelato by the beach and discovering nature walks and driving on roads without traffic lights. The simpler side of life. I miss it.

This year, I hadn’t mentioned on this blog, but I had attended Ed Sheeran’s Divide world tour concert! That was an absolutely amazing night on all accounts. It had stopped raining, the one night he was in Auckland and my sister, friend, and I had a blast in the presence of a real guitar God. Gotta love Ed Sheeran

 

My trip to India. Probably the last one for a while for me. My elective and getting to experience what medicine is like in a developing country and how that affects me and what I want to do with my practice. Not to mention the great food and people I had met and enjoyed my birthday with!

 

Now this picture. Is significant for many things I am grateful for in 2018. When someone you care a lot about, gets what they want, what they deserve, gets the opportunity to be happy, and you get to be a part of that, and you feel like you’ve done something right, and you get to continue to support them, that feeling is priceless. It’s a happiness I can’t explain. I can never be grateful enough to know HD.

Getting distinction in my final year of medicine. After 5 years, much like the tortoise in the Hare and the Tortoise story, I felt like my steady improvement had all led up to this achievement. Where I got a letter from the university congratulating me on being one of 44 people who achieved overall distinction in our final year of medicine. It really made me feel good after years of thinking I was average if not below average.

My mini trip to Wellington which was such a nice getaway at just the right time. Spending time with friends I had scarcely seen all year, was a real gift. Good fun to experience the capital city of New Zealand and its own buzz.

The second concert opportunity I had this year was none other than Taylor Swift herself. I didn’t mention this on my blog either, but man. What an event that was! All this year I had known about the concert. The Reputation world tour was frequently talked about and all its merits were extremely attractive to hear. Reputation is without a doubt the most relatable Taylor Swift album for me. Pretty much every song captured some aspect of my life, and described it perfectly. So I had been hearing all about it. But since I had already attended Ed Sheeran’s concert, and the fact that I didn’t really have anyone to go with, I didn’t jump for tickets straight away. I kept telling myself, if I am meant to go see Taylor Swift, it would work out somehow. As the concert loomed closer, a friend of mine, who is a bigger fan than I am, was also considering going. They also didn’t really have anyone to go with. I pushed them to go. I absolutely wanted them to experience the concert they found just as relatable as I did, if not more. They found tickets and invited me. I couldn’t actually believe it was working out! I had a week’s notice and found some way that I could go. It nearly even fell apart the night before the concert. But going with my friend and going to see Taylor Swift, was meant to be, and it happened. It was all so weirdly fated, much like in her poem “You could never have arrived- so wondrously and brutally, by design or some violent, exquisite happenstance…..here” at the concert. And what a concert it was! She is a brilliant performer and you could really learn a lot about putting effort into something you love from seeing how all out she went for the presentation of her Reputation world tour.

 

Here is a picture of the 50-foot (or thereabouts) snake she brought with her for Look What You Made Me Do. Super grateful for this experience this year.

My graduation. Finally reached a milestone I had been working 6 years for. Everything before this day, on this day, and after this day, was significant for me. And for the people involved. Very grateful.

Starting work. It hasn’t been fabulous so far. But I’m grateful that I’m still surviving. I’m still feeling capable of doing some things right. Looking forward to moving on.

And of course, I cannot be grateful enough for this blog. Over last year and this year, this blog has always made me feel so much better once I’ve come on and posted something up. Often it has been things I am very insecure about or feel that no one really understands in my life. But when people read even those posts and a few of them like it, I feel like maybe I’m not crazy and my thoughts are valid and I can put them forward at least in writing in a way that some people around the world understand.
I never say half these things to real people. But saying it on here, makes me feel freer and more empowered. And for that, I am extremely grateful.
I’m grateful to everyone who reads this blog even when things get a bit weird sometimes.
But I am considering changing the domain name of this blog. I feel like something should probably change. I’ll think about it.

And that is my year in review. There’s so much more to be grateful for this year, I’m sure. But these are the most significant things that come to mind. It’s nice to stop and be grateful. Before the next year comes along and brings more changes to my life. Let’s hope I can keep chugging on and getting through it.

I hope everyone else has had things to be grateful for this year.

I shall end here with the immortal words of Ariana Grande

Thank U 2018, Next.

 

Busy Not Bored

Thus ends my 3rd week of being a house officer. On psychiatry.

I’ve got to say, (and it’s probably quite clear) that I’m not having a good time with things at the moment.

This is something I have feared for a while. And I’m not sure if I can clearly articulate it, but I’m going to try to on here. As for now, this blog is the only friend/support/confidant I have.

When I was given the chance to choose my 4 rotations for this year, I had chosen a preference of general medicine, general surgery, cardiology, and medical ED. We were asked to give 10 preferences. The other 8 were different combinations of general medicine, general surgery, orthopedics, and geriatrics. My last preference on that list was the one I got. Psychiatry, general medicine, cardiology, and general surgery.

I had given this a lot of thought. I really wanted 4 rotations where I would be extremely busy. By busy, I mean arriving early, leaving late, and running around all day. That’s what I wanted. I even chose the busiest hospital there was. Everyone else I know is saying that’s crazy. If I were that busy, I’d hate it. And I’d wish to be on a more relaxed rotation.

That’s actually not true. I do better when I don’t have time to stop and think about a lot of things.

A quote comes to mind:

“Left alone, my mind is actually quite dangerous”

On psychiatry, I have no work. On most days, I am done with all my jobs by 11:30am. Yet I have to sit at a desk and while away time until 4:30pm. And that, to me, is torture.

I heard this on the first day when I arrived in psychiatry. They told me I have no work. from 8:30am. I read about some of the patients, but that was done by 9:30am. There was nothing to do.

Except ruminate.

So many times I’ve said that there are these frustrations I have in the back of my mind all the time that are actually growing quite painful recently. New developments in my family and other things and I can see it affecting my mind quite a bit. But it’s not anything I can change or influence myself. But that means all I can do is think about it and stress.

Which I hate.

All I know is that the only way to counter it, is to be busy. I know this works because when I actually do have something to do, like seeing a patient or deciding on a treatment, I don’t have the time to think about other things. I become very focused on the work at hand. If I’m ever idle though, it all comes back.

Which is why psychiatry is the worst rotation for me to be on at the moment. I would happily trade lives with my colleagues on general surgery currently. Anything to find relief from the constant thoughts in my head with problems I cannot fix.

I know it’s only 3 months. And then I’ll actually be off to general medicine and will be much more busy. But it’s only been 3 weeks. And I’m already emotionally tired and sick.

This is quite difficult for me to explain and it probably sounds vague and fluffy. But very very few people in my life know what an anxious person I can be. I imagine things way too vividly. I think about things too much, I have a single thought play over and over in my head until it becomes almost hallucinatory. I don’t tell people these things. When I say few people know, it’s if they’ve ever picked it up on their own. I never talk about my own anxieties. Why bother, really. No one is going to be able to fix it. I don’t come across as an anxious person, apparently. But a single thing can keep me awake for days on end. And currently, many things are. The ongoing stress, is draining. And nobody sees or understands that.

But these things are also making me upset at work. Because I have nothing to do except sit around and pay attention to my thoughts.

I need to find things to keep me busy.

Or hope this rotation goes by really quickly.

Or hope these problems will magically disappear.

Why She Disappeared

When she fell, she fell apart.
Cracked her bones on the pavement she once decorated
as a child with sidewalk chalk
When she crashed, her clothes disintegrated and blew away
with the winds that took all of her fair-weather friends

When she looked around, her skin was spattered with ink
forming the words of a thousand voices
Echoes she heard even in her sleep:
“Whatever you say, it is not right.”
“Whatever you do, it is not enough.”
“Your kindness is fake.”
“Your pain is manipulative.”

When she lay there on the ground,
She dreamed of time machines and revenge
and a love that was really something,
Not just the idea of something.

When she finally rose, she rose slowly
Avoiding old haunts and sidestepping shiny pennies
Wary of phone calls and promises,
Charmers, dandies and get-love-quick-schemes

When she stood, she stood with a desolate knowingness
Waded out into the dark, wild ocean up to her neck
Bathed in her brokenness
Said a prayer of gratitude for each chink in the armor
she never knew she needed
Standing broad-shouldered next to her
was a love that was really something,
not just the idea of something.

When she turned to go home,
She heard the echoes of new words
“May your heart remain breakable
But never by the same hand twice”
And even louder:
“without your past,
you could never have arrived-
so wondrously and brutally,
By design or some violent, exquisite happenstance
…here.”

And in the death of her reputation,
She felt truly alive.

-Taylor Swift 

Never has a poem made me feel the way Miss Swift does.

Ward 24

2 years ago, I had walked into ward 24. Terrified. Every day I had to walk to ward 24, I wished my footsteps would take me further away from that place rather than towards it.

I had felt trapped. I had felt scrutinised. I thought that even if I were to scream, no one would hear me in ward 24. Or even if they did hear me, they’d look elsewhere and pretend they didn’t hear me.

I had felt small and insignificant. Like I didn’t exist even though there was always someone there. They were there. They were important. I however, was not.

I felt I knew nothing. I stupidly asked what bisphosphonates were. I was judged and ridiculed. Not obviously of course. Subtlety kills faster though.

I felt like I was living in a shadow that extended far beyond anything I could ever fill.

I had found every corner where I could hide and cry. I had nearly passed out, I had the worst birthday in the history of my life….

In ward 24.

Today, I was called to ward 24. Everyone turned around and looked at me. They were expecting me. They needed my help and my advice. I was a doctor. I had the knowledge. They all smiled and talked to me. They listened when I spoke. I solved their problem. It wasn’t a big problem, but I was there, and I solved it.

I walked around ward 24. Where I stood and where I sat. I could remember everything clearly. But the memories didn’t haunt me. I was able to smile. I looked at every place I had cried, and I smiled.

I can smile.

If nothing else, if I’m not really even that knowledgeable or experienced,

I can at least be so incredibly grateful,

That I am no longer the person I was when I had first walked into ward 24

Sensory DeprivationĀ 

The alarm let out a shrill sound that jolted her brain cells. Her eyes flew open.  It was only a second before the thoughts came flooding into her mind like a dam that was barely holding, had broken free.

The thoughts intertwined with the ghosts of the dreams she had the night before. Each thought hammering her consciousness as they had done the day before and the day before, and the one before that.

She moved mechanically through her morning routine. Shutting the thoughts out. Treating them like a prickly ball of barbed wire that she pushed deep within her consciousness. But it didn’t last. It rose up at every turn like a beach ball being pushed underwater by a child.

The thoughts replayed over and over in her head. Guilt, anxiety, stress, fear, and disgust at her own treacherous mind that didn’t let her rest even for a second.

She plastered on a smile. She had work to do. She had to function. People she didn’t know were counting on her. The fear that she may slip up, kept her going. But it wasn’t enough. If she were ever idle, the ball would rise again in her mind. The prickles of the barbed wire scratching the inside of her skull. She rubbed her forehead in frustration and tried to keep going. Hoping that she could rub the thoughts away. But the voices didn’t stop. The memories reminding her of a reality that was too harsh to exist in. The fear of what might happen  or how long this would last, made her breath shallow as she walked amongst others. She looked at the ground as she walked. She didn’t want her emotions to be reflected in her eyes. 

She couldn’t eat. Her mind told her that she had enough to survive. She put the food away.

People walked past her. She envied them. They seemed unaffected. They could function without these thoughts in their minds. She knew this wasn’t true. Everyone had their demons. Everyone struggled. But her mind told her that she struggled because she was weak when others were not. She struggled because her problems meant nothing to anyone except her. 

Nobody cares about the shallow, pathetic thoughts she had.

She rehearsed conversations in her head that she could have with people that cared about her. That maybe she could convey what she felt and have atleast one person understand.

Her mind told her that was futile. They would look down on her with pity. They would scoff that her problems were no where nearly as painful as the real problems others faced. They would reply to her attempts to talk for a few minutes, but ultimately, they had lives that were more important than listening to her problems that there was no real solution to. 

So she kept it to herself. She cried alone and she picked herself up and kept going. Battling with her own mind as though it were her enemy.

She had faced this before. But she had let her guard down just a little bit. Trusting more than she should have. And so she was hurt. And so her mind turned on her. It told her she was selfish. That she only cared about her problems. She feared it was true. 

She dreamt of not feeling. She wished that she wouldn’t hurt anymore no matter what happened. To not be conscious, to not feel. To be deprived of all sensation. To not have hope or be crushed. To not care. To not be able to speak ever again.

To not be awake.

She took to her bed at night and lay there waiting for the closest thing she could get to not feeling. She wanted to sleep. Before she woke up and did it all again. 

Remorse

I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry

I’m so sorry.

……………….

“Yeah that’s not enough”

 

…..Well then what is?

………………

“Living through the devastation that is far too great to live through.”