Father Sez

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You want to stop smoking?……. Just have a heart attack!

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

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Graphic images are now being printed on cigarette boxes. But it’s something less than what the Government can do. The Gomen can give a period of 15 years or so notice now and just ban smoking and its manufacture etc. Source: Google

This was the heading of an article I read in Readers Digest years and years ago. It was a true life story of a smoker who had suffered a heart attack. From what I can still remember about the article, he wrote about the physical effects of the nicotine being washed off from his cells whilst he was in the CCU. He then talked about his physiological battle against the dreaded addiction. 

Yes, even that many years ago, I was “keen” to stop smoking. Like so many other silly, adolescent and stupid boys, I started smoking because I wanted to feel like an adult. And like all the other stupid and silly starters before me, I had to struggle and fight the violent natural body reactions like coughing and gagging that tried to keep me from smoking.  

What can I say?  I persevered and it became a habit that has stayed with me for almost 35 years now. 

Of course, even then, I knew smoking was not good for me. I remember telling myself that I would not be like those fools who were trapped into smoking 20 – 25 sticks a day. I’ll maintain myself at 3 sticks a day…..what a joke this turned out to be. There were attempts to stop smoking. Each year whilst making goals and resolutions, this would be about the top of the list.  I have tried methods such as: 

-         keeping track of exactly how many sticks and at what time I smoked (I am now not sure why I did this),  

-         asking myself each time if I really did need that particular smoke,  

-         repeating affirmations such as that cigarettes spread nothing but poison to me and to all around me, 

-         stopping cold turkey, 

-         stopping during the fasting month…. all to no avail.   

During a trip to Mauritius, I found a copy of Allan Carr’s book, Easy Way to Stop Smoking and read it from cover to cover. I think this is a definitive text on how to stop smoking. I got a clearer understanding of the devious manner in which the nicotine and the tar works on screwing our body. 

Allen Carr’s Easy Way has been credited with weaning a number of celebrities including Sir Richard Branson and Sir Anthony Hopkins, off cigarettes.  Still I just kept on smoking and burning the money away.

The family started imposing a rule that I could only smoke outside the house. Even then I did not stop. Not even when my youngest girl started looking at me with what I now think was a look of pity. 

All that smoking has come to a stop since the last 9th of May following my heart attack. I thank God that not everything came to a dead stop that fateful night.  

Still I see an increasing number of youngsters starting to smoke. If those days it was to appear adult, these days it seems to be the cool thing to do. I feel so sorry for them. I know that these people are going to end up regretting the day they picked up the habit and I know that they’ll find it very tough to quit. Maybe stories like mine might keep someone away from this dangerous habit.

I know that I have not licked this habit yet and if I ever let my guard down, I’ll be back to exactly where I started.  Like the AA creed says, I’ll live just one day at a time, smoke free, Insya’Allah.

Surviving a heart attack!

Monday, May 18th, 2009

It’s been 9 days since the great event, my first and God Willing, the only ever heart attack.  

It started the night of Saturday, the 9th May at about 1.20 am. A warm sensation around my chest kept getting stronger. I tried drinking some water, thinking that it was heartburn and would soon go off. Well, it didn’t, rather the pain got worse. At about 4 am, it became unbearable and my wife and second daughter took me to a private hospital in Seremban, where the doctor told me to “trust him” as he knew what he was doing.

Nothing he did made any difference to the pain and all the while they kept telling me that my regular doctor was being kept informed and would be arriving in the next half and hour or so. That family doctor arrived only at 10.00 am, and told me that the indications were that I had suffered a heart attack! But it was my clear feeling that after about 4 – 5 hours in this hospital that they had done nothing to alleviate my pain or to help out in my healing.  

At 10.00 am, I gave up and asked my wife to call my brother in Subang Jaya. I had not wanted to bother him. After all, I was in a so called premier health institute in Seremban, or so I thought. My brother and sister in law arrived not long after with my second nephew and his wife, who are both doctors. That was when things got interesting. My niece in law looked at my files and asked a string of questions on why this and that were not done, to which she got unsatisfactory answers. She called her superiors in HUKM, told them about my case and they agreed to admit me.  

I was put into an ambulance and arrived in HUKM about 1 pm. My brother and sister in law had arrived a little earlier and gotten me registered, so by the time I arrived, I was whisked straight to the CCU. The rest of Sunday was a blur as the doctors frantically covered for the wasted time by the Seremban Hospital.

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The HUKM. I must have been somewhere in this building. I have to go back for physiotheraphy soon. I should have time to explore and get to know this Hospital better.

The angiogram was done on the Monday, the 11th. I was retained at the CCU for another 3 days and spent the last day, Friday at the Recovery Ward, before being discharged. My diagnosis from HUKM said it was a “missed anteroseptal MI complicated with VT, Post PCI LAD”.  I am not sure what all these fancy terms mean, but it sure seems to match my feeing that the Seremban Hospital screwed around with my health.   

I have nothing but praise and gratitude for the HUKM doctors and nurses. And even their cleaning team. I am very grateful for the sterling health services provided to me with a clear sense of service beyond expectations.  

Maybe the fact that my niece in law was a Doctor at this huge hospital might have helped.  But I agree completely with what my new friend at the recovery ward, En. Othman, has to say. He had been admitted for the same procedure about a few days earlier. He was 69 years old, and called me a kid! He told me that he still remembered the days of Japanese Occupation and the conditions of the country in the years of the past. If there was one example he would show that our country had developed to first world status, it would be HUKM! 

I am back at home now, resting, and slowly working to getting back to the normal grind of my life. I have a whole new and fresh canvas to be drawn regarding my life and future. The Life Contingency Manual has taken on an increasing sense of urgency. Many other seemingly unimportant things have taken a new hue of importance and vice versa.  

My family responded to this crisis in a manner I can only wonder at. My wife, two elder girls and the younger kids all pulled their weights and supported one another as I became a burden instead of the normal role of provider / supporter. Maybe this is final confirmation that my two elder girls are now adults and that I can let go. 

And to my unearned and purely God given gifts of brothers, sisters in law, nephews and nieces in law, I can only say thanks for your being pillars of support to me and my family in our time of need.    

In this, there are lessons for those who think…..

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Life is full of surprises, it is often said. But is this always true? Or are we given subtle warnings and guidance on what we should expect as we go on with our lives? 

Recently this phrase has been often playing in my mind.

It started when I was having tea with a friend, a retired senior official of one of our Banks. My friend’s children have all about finished school or are in University, except for the youngest, a girl who has just finished her UPSR. He is basically living a live of contented retirement and has increased his religious activities in place of the hours he put into his office work.  

I was talking to him about another friend of mine. An old friend, who is now fighting a valiant battle against one of the scrouges of our lives. A battle, God Willing, he will win. I mentioned that I had last met him about a couple of months ago and he was full of vitality, plans and hopes for his future. And since recently he has been in and out of hospitals.  

And my retired bank officer friend listened intently and said, “In this are lessons for those of us who think”. 

It was one of those statements, which though made in passing, has an extremely profound effect on us. I asked him what he meant, and his reply was that: 

“We should always have our affairs in order so as not to burden our loved ones in the event of anything untoward happening to us. As you can see, the future can be really surprising.”  

How many of us actually think about this possibility?  

The possibility of life as we know it no longer being there. About the so many things that we do and manage and keep the information to ourselves. About the so many things our loved ones would have to tackle and try to decipher and put the pieces together if anything untoward were to happen to us. 

I am not talking about just taking on adequate insurance and hoping that the loved ones we leave behind will sort themselves out somehow. I am talking about something a little deeper than that.

A life continuity contingency plan, so to speak.  

Yes, in this is a lesson for those of us who think. I have written earlier about writing my final letter and stuff like that. Now I feel that the letter would be woefully inadequate if I were to expect my family to continue living seamlessly if anything untoward were to happen.  

This may be a little morbid a subject to talk about, but it is about the same as that of going for regular medical checkups. 

A life continuity check should be in order, don’t you think? After all this is a standard practice in many companies.  

Ayurvedic Medicine – creating a balance for a healthy body and mind

Friday, May 1st, 2009

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The Ayur Centre in Seremban 

Ayurveda is a type of traditional medicine practised since 1,300 BC or between 2,500 to 7,000 BC depending on which authority we are looking up. One thing is clear though, the science of Ayurveda is mighty ancient! Some claim that Ayurveda is the world’s oldest health care system. 

About.com has this to say about Ayurveda.

Ayurveda can be defined as a system, which uses the inherent principles of nature, to help maintain health in a person by keeping the individual’s body, mind and spirit in perfect equilibrium with nature.

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit term, made up of the words “ayus” and “veda.” “Ayus” means life and “Veda” means knowledge or science. The term “ayurveda” thus means ‘the knowledge of life’ or ‘the science of life’. According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, “ayu” comprises the mind, body, senses and the soul.

Many people use Ayurveda to complement or supplement their conventional Western treatments. For example, some believe that Ayurvedic therapies minimize the side effects of chemotherapy. Others just want to “recharge” themselves during the course of a chronic illness. Still others employ Ayurveda, especially non-medical practices, to simply build and maintain greater overall physical and mental well being.

In Malaysia, the Ayur Center , was established in 2000 and today has 5 branches in Petaling Jaya, Seremban, Ipoh,Johor Bharu and Butterworth.  

My friend and I visited the Seremban Centre last Wednesday. The centre is located in a tasteful bungalow located in the Lake Gardens area, near the Sungei Ujong Club. There are plenty of trees providing shade and I felt a sense of tranquillity and peace.   

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The lush garden in the Ayur Center. The Lobby overlooks this and gives a caming feeling. 

I sat in with my friend in his discussions with the resident Doctor. I came out feeling that the doctor answered the concerns my friend had in a logical manner. He did not make any seemingly unrealistic promises or claims of miracles and such. His logic was that proper diet and exercise would promote the good cells whilst suppressing the bad cells. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it.  

The Doctor assured my friend that the herbal medicines prescribed are all from various herbs, roots, fruits and even barks. They get absorbed into the system quickly and should not interfere with any Western medicine being taken. He also mentioned that a 2 hour time gap should be good.  The Centre offers inpatient and outpatient facilities.

Whilst we were there, we did see some luxury cars. I don’t know if they brought patients or visitors of patients. 

My friend is undergoing chemotherapy and he has taken on a regime of daily visits for oil treatments at the Ayur Centre for a period of two weeks. He has told me that he feels good and relaxed after the first couple of treatments he took. However, I think he has decided not to take the herbal medication as he wants to have a clear mind that the efficacy of the Western medication that he is taking is not affected.  

I do have a host of ailments myself. All acquired through the normal modern process of ignoring sensible dietary and exercise habits in the name of “work and career”. It seems that diabetes (I am a Type 2 case) is one malady that many seek Ayurvedic treatment for.  

I intend to make an appointment and find out more about the Ayurvedic treatment for diabetes. The Internet does have tons of resources, like this one, but I feel comfortable with this doctor. 

Are you prepared for a flu pandemic like that of 1968?

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

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I found this picture of a 1918 flu pandemic scene from Google. Medical science has progressed a lot since then, but so have the viruses. God Willing, we should prevail!

Can we ever be prepared for something like this? The pandemic of 1968 killed 34,000 people in the US and is suspected of having caused more than a million deaths worldwide. When I saw the Yahoo News headline that blared ;

Is swine flu ‘the big one’ or a flu that fizzles?

I just had to find out more. 

GlobalSecurity.org, claims to be the leading source of background information and developing news stories in the fields of defense, space, intelligence, WMD, and homeland security in the US. They have put up what seems to be a comprehensive report on the present outbreak of swine influenza which is spreading a huge alarm all over the world. 

The webpage also lists the history of pandemics which have happened in the past. The last one which was closest to us was that termed the 1968 Hong Kong Flu, which as mentioned above, resulted in nearly 34,000 deaths in the United States and thought to have caused around 1 million deaths worldwide. The 1968 pandemic vaccine became available one month after the outbreaks peaked in the US. 

Our own Department of Public Health seems to have not put up any advisories on their website as at the time of writing this post. Neither the Disease Control Division or the News section seems to have any warnings or suggestions on what the public should do in the light of this outbreak in Mexico.    

The Online version of the Star reported that the Ministry of Health has now issued travel advisories against travel to the US, Canada and Mexico. Medical officers at all hospitals and clinics, private and public, have been asked to report the incidence of any influenza like illnesses. (Hopefully their websites will be updated.)  

I also found an article from WHO distributed by our Kementerian Kesihatan on the ten things we need to know about Pandemic Influenza. I must say that it is not reassuring, as it says that medical supplies will be inadequate, the whole world will be affected, there would be widespread illnesses, social and economic disruptions will be great and that large number of deaths will occur.  

Now is the time of the global village, where someone can go to London for a meeting and return immediately. The ease of travel, and the sheer number of travellers all over the world is sure to accelerate the spread of the virus.

The new virus, though called a swine flu, contains genetic segments from humans and birds viruses as well as from pigs from North America, Europe and Asia. Health officials had seen combinations of bird, pig and human virus before — but never such an intercontinental mix, including more than one pig virus. More disturbing, this virus seems to spread among people more easily than past swine flus.

Back to the title of this post, I suppose we can never ever be prepared for something like this. I am not sure if a vaccine has already been developed. And even if so, is the availability sufficient to vaccinate the huge number of people involved.

My family members are all aware of this spreading phenomenon. After all our family is quite a Net savvy family. Still there is a real danger of taking this lightly as the initial symptoms are not much different from that of the common flu!

I can only pray that the lessons our country and our people have learned from the SARS outbreak in 2002/3 will stand us in good stead.

As expected, this topic is one of the hotter topics around.  Google has a list of blog posts on this topic here.  And the good news is that Reuters has reported on Sunday that most of the Mexican suspected flu victims have been given a clean bill of health and sent home.

Health Insurance – a fundamental piece of the retirement jigsaw. At least, I have got that correct!

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

CNN Money wrote about the need to have our health insurance needs well taken care off to ensure a less stressful retirement.

This makes a lot of sense, as healthcare costs can wipe off large chunks of our retirement savings.  

Two years ago a friend of mine went in for heart surgery in a private hospital and the costs were exorbitant, to say the least. He is still paying off the debt. A month ago, my brother went in, also for heart surgery at a Government Hospital and it did not cost him a cent! It helped that his son and daughter in law are both Government doctors. 

Getting our own health insurance was more by chance rather than adroit retirement planning. I have changed jobs a number of times and each time lost the health insurance benefits as I moved. Though the “next employer” provided equivalent health benefits, the window when I was working in Ghana exposed my family and me to the risks of not having health insurance. I can only thank God that I was not forced to find out the hard way. 

We have a family plan with one of the local insurers. Apparently the fine print dictated that children over 18 were disqualified. I did not realise this until it was pointed out by a personal finance planner friend I met through blogging, KC Lau. (Thanks again, KC!) 

Of course, the silly insurance company with all its banks of computers did not have the sense to write to me and remind me of this fine print and suggest if I would be interested in separate packages for my two elder girls (Which I would most certainly have taken).

The two girls now have their own health policies.  I acknowledge that with the rising costs of healthcare, and despite my insurance I might still face a major drain, should anything untoward happen.  These healthcare costs and the strain upon the other family members is why I believe that it’s one of God’s greatest gifts when someone “goes” in a clean manner. Say, leading a reasonably healthy life and just not getting up after going to sleep or something like that. 

And I pray that when the time comes, God will give me this gift, Insya’Allah.

“African Leaf” – Is this the elixir for everlasting youthfulness?

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Last week I spent 4 days in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the State of Sabah, more commonly known as “the land below the wind”. 

The principal purpose was business, but there are still too many loose ends to be settled. So I can’t write about this yet. 

I visited my wife’s younger brother, Zaini, and his family. They have settled down in a town called Papar, about 30 kms from Kota Kinabalu (KK). He married a Sabahan lady when he was posted to Sabah whilst serving the Royal Malaysian Air Force. They have 4 young lovely kids, all of whom are attending Chinese schools. 

I had last seen Zaini about 9 months earlier. And I must admit that when I saw him at the airport last week, he looked radiant. A poster good picture of good health. I wondered about this but kept my thoughts to myself.  

Later when I asked him about it, he showed me a plant he referred to as the “African Leaf plant.”  Apparently the plant was just growing in his rented house compound, when he moved in. One day, one of his neighbours, a Chinese gentleman who was an avid practitioner of Feng Shui came to his house and saw the plant. He pointed out that the leaves of this plant could be soaked in hot water (either green or dried) and the resultant tea could be drunk as an excellent health beverage. 

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The leaf is slightly smaller than an adult’s palm.

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The tree can grow to twice our height. It is recommeded that we prune them once they are taller than us. The cuttings can be planted or given to friends for planting.

And this was what Zaini had been taking, about 3 – 4 glasses a day for the past 6 – 7 months. And, believe me, the results are nothing short of spectacular!

The tree can be grown from cuttings and I brought some back for planting in my house. I also brought some of the dried leaves back and have started drinking the tea. 

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We have planted 5 cuttings in our garden. Let’s hope the tree blossoms as well as it is doing in Zaini’s garden.

I have not done any research on the scientific name of this plant. A google of the name only talks about the African Leaf fish. 

Apparently the tree grows quite easily, so if all goes well, I should have my own stock in the next couple of weeks or so.

Is it Malaria again, or Dengue or just a viral fever?

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

On Monday the 11 August, I spent a night at the Thai border town of Betong. The three Malaysian towns closest to Betong are Pengkalen Hulu, Baling and Gerik. I did not feel anything unusual after the visit and life went just fine.

Then on Tuesday the 19th, I started feeling slightly feverish and slept it off. On Thursday morning the fever persisted and I went to see our local GP. I told her I did not think it was malaria as I did not get the alternating chills that makes us shiver and the fever that makes us sweat. She gave me some pills and antibiotics and I went home. 

Then the chills truck on Thursday night and I went to the nearby medical centre, where I was last treated for malaria. They took a blood test, said that it did not seem to be malaria and sent me home. Asking me to come back on Monday the 25th. My first encounters with malaria was when I was working in Ghana. My colleagues would, (quite nonchalantly) tell me they needed a couple of days off due to malaria which was always given. (If I am not mistaken, the Ghanaian Labour Office suggests that all investors in Ghana should provide for about a week off every year for each staff due to malaria. This made me treat this disease quite lightly when I had a full scale attack when I landed in Djibouti from Mali in February 07. That attack left quite a deep scare in my mind.

My doctors have told me before that there was no trace of malaria (in the blood tests) during my afflictions in 2007. So I am not taking the current results lightly, as Gerik is known as a hotspot for malaria.  

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Credit: http://www.fallingrain.com/world/TH/70/Betong.html 

Naturally some of my plans now have to be cancelled. 

a)    I made a sort of vow that (since my “retirement) I’ll try my best to do my Friday prayers with my son. Today I could not join him. 

b)    My second girl’s convocation is tomorrow morning. Looks like her Mama has to attend the ceremony with one of the kids.  Luckily she collected the gown last Sunday  and the serious family photography has already been done.

c)     This afternoon I was supposed to make a visit to another goat farm not far from where our farm is. This has been cancelled and a date will be fixed later. 

d)    On Sunday, I was supposed to go to Jakarta for a week to attend some meetings relating to the telecommunication towers. 

These are the appointments I cancelled. The next few days, I am just going to laze at home and drink lots and lots of water. 

Man, I assure you that this fever is a miserable one. It looks like once you are afflicted, the treatment just makes the viruses take a rest and continue to multiply. My last clear attack was in May or June 07, I think. Almost the 2 most miserable months of my life.  

 

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