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Saturday, 8 January 2011

9040: saving lives?

It's time to put up some kind of update. I'm blogging less and less these days, yet the thoughts in my mind kept cycling past like slides on a movie reel. How I wish I could go back and capture those deep thinking, those rants at that particular time of my life to put on here.

But that's life. Once it has passed, it's gone, nothing but a fading memory.


Guess a note to my future self of where I am at this point in time is warranted. Just survived my first set of night shifts, 12 hours everyday the past week in the medical receiving unit. It also meant I 'celebrated' the turn of the new year in the hospital, running around poking needles into patients and filling forms after forms after forms. It was a total madhouse with so many of the staff on break and services suspended for the holidays.

Incidentally, I worked over Christmas and Boxing Day in medical receiving too, as a favour to my fellow ex-Ward 22 job monkey :P

I didn't mind working over the holidays really. Unlike most other people here, I don't celebrate Christmas nor do Boxing Day shopping (it's just commercialisation anyway). And unlike last year, there wasn't any new year 'family' trip this time unfortunately as most of us aren't free.

It IS an experience working with a skeletal staff though, how we cope with the workload (try to anyway). Admittedly my first few days/nights were an absolute nightmare. I looked lost half the time and blank the other half haha. Thank god for the loveliest and most helpful colleagues around, wouldn't dare to think how I'd survive without them.

Towards the end of my shift in acute medical receiving, it began to grow on me. Something stirred in me in between interrogating patients and poking them with needles. It's such a different world compared to my parent ward, Medicine for the Elderly (or Geriatric, but we're not supposed to mention the G-word! haha). The head-scratching uncertainty, the heart-racing urgency, the mind-numbing endless torrent of workload.

Amid the chaos, I realised, this has finally cemented my plans on my future career path.

Apply for the Acute Care Common Stem and continue on with training in Anaesthetics. Sometime during my training, I would try to apply to join the Territorial Army again, and hopefully gets some on-field experience somewhere.

Fingers crossed that's where I'll be in 5 years time. Saving lives?

But as agreed by anyone who ever worked in acute medical receiving before, once the patients are transferred to their respective ward that's where your care for them ends. Most of the time, we never do find out what ultimately happen to our patients. Was our diagnosis right? Did our initial plans work? Did they survive?

I suppose it is outwith our professional conduct to grow attached to our patients. There's only so much we are responsible for, and eventually we'd just have to pass the baton along with our trust to the other doctors and nurses.

Ah just the other day I bumped into Scott again, my previous registrar in Renal Ward.

"Hello Chye. Remember this?" *waves a central line kit*

I laughed. Oh how I remember those central lines (haven't get the chance to put one in yet though), the dialysis machines, the patients downstairs.

Yes, the patients. He gave me a little update on some of the patients I knew during my rotation there. Of course, there are still the 'permanent' residents. And yes, undeniably, there are also some of them who slipped away from us to a better place. One particular gentleman, we have all grew to be fond of. In 2 months, I literally watch him grew thinner and thinner till he's just a bag of bones. He who would smile and give me a wave when he sees me, he who showed me the rashes which appeared on his legs, he who complained to me of his unrelenting diarrhea and nausea which eventually stopped him from eating anything.

And that reminded me of the other guy, in his wheelchair racing around the ward. He was a funny guy, lovely sense of humour. Beneath that though, he must have hidden his suffering, the chronic pain, the frustation with his dependence on dialysis. He was re-admitted one day with opiate toxicity from all the painkillers, and when we brought him back he just wasn't the same person anymore. He gave up. Stopped the dialysis.

I almost cried when I came back to the ward after that weekend to see an uncompleted death certificate on top of his medical notes.

Rest in peace.


In some way, I wish we could do more for some of the patients. But no of course we can't, medicine with all its drugs and equipment is just no match for life's unpredictability.

That's life, once it has passed, it's gone, nothing but a fading memory.