28 December 2013

Lesson-packed Christmastime (24.12.13-26.12.13)

(I- Thankfulness) I'd like to begin this piece with thanks, from the bottom of my heart (and hubby's too). To Dr Heric Cory of Queen Elizabeth Hospital 2 Kota Kinabalu, Dr G. Mohan of Tuaran Hospital, Dr Ahmad ... of Queen Elizabeth Hospital 2 (whose full name I regretfully didn't catch during those moments of panic), the ambulance staff of Tuaran Hospital whose efficiency was just amazing, Dr Christina Rundi of JKNS, Dr William G. of Queen Elizabeth 2 KK, Mr. Nelbon, Mr. Nurali, Mr. Rudi, and each and everyone of hubby's colleagues and staff at JKNS. During our moments of fear and uncertainty, these kindhearted people have helped us selflessly- organizing the smooth running of medical attention to hubby, wishing him well and supporting him in prayers. To our family members, who assisted, prayed and strenghtened us in many ways, we really appreciate that.
(II- Christmas Eve 2013: the pain) Trials often come in the most unexpected moments. For myself and hubby's, it came in the form of intense stomach pain experienced by hubby minutes before we were leaving for Christmas Eve mass at our church. It was 6pm. The day started out quite normal, full of Christmas Eve anticipations, even though it was raining cats and dogs and there was flood on our main road already. Roasted chicken and vegetables nicely done in the oven, we happily got ready to leave earlier for church so that we could catch the carols before the mass. All of a sudden, hubby started rubbing his stomach, a grimace on his face. I asked him if he was ok, and he said his tummy felt uncomfortable. I casually told him that he should go to the bathroom and see if he feels better after that. He went up, and the kids and I waited downstairs. Minutes passed- "Dad calls you, Mom", the eldest daughter alerted me. Feeling that something was wrong, I quickly ran up the stairs and barged in the bedroom. My heart stopped when I found him in a kneeling position, leaning on the bed and groaning in pain. Gripped by fear, I rubbed his stomach, and felt more fear when I felt it hardening like it shouldn't be. Worse, he couldn't even move from that position. Saying random prayers, I grabbed his phone and punched 999. Once, no one picked up. Twice, still no one picked it up. I felt like howling out loud in frustration. Then he mumbled "Dr. Heric". Scrolling down the contact list as fast as I could, I pressed Dr. Heric's number, which thankfully he answered at once. (Looking back now, I know that I must have rudely interrupted whatever activity he was doing at the moment and I am so sorry for that. But I am truly grateful that he did pick up the phone). I couldn't remember what I told him, but what I remember was that he said he was in West Malaysia, asked if I have called 999, and asked if I could drive hubby myself to the emergency unit since the call to 999 wasn't picked up. I am ashamed of myself when I recall the situation now, but because of the flood, and my panic state, I knew I could never drive him in my Livina without having some sort of breakdown. Dr Heric asked me to wait as he was calling somebody from Queen to help me out. As soon as we ended the conversation, I asked hubby if there's anyone else I could call. He mumbled "Dr Mohan". I quickly called Dr Mohan, and unashamedly begged for his help. (I must have shocked him beyond words, for having answered his cheerful "Merry Christmas" with a plead, after introducing myself. Dr Mohan, my humble apologies for bad manners). He said an ambulance would be on the way shortly, which relieved me so much. One thing I remember vividly, when I asked him "what can I do to make my husband feel better"? He answered, "keep cool". It really helped me overcome my panic. I had barely ended the call with Dr Mohan when Dr Ahmad called, having been requested to do so by Dr Heric. (Dr Ahmad, I could barely register what we talked about. I couldn't even remember your full name when you introduced yourself, but one day I'd like to meet you in person to thank you and to apologise :(). All I knew was I was telling him an ambulance was being sent by Dr Mohan to our house.
(III- The ambulance ride and Emergency Unit ) Never in my wildest dream did I imagine a ride in an ambulance- neither as a patient, nor as an accompanying passenger. Not even 15 minutes after all the calls, somebody from the ambulance called me to say that they were already at our housing area and asked for specific directions to our house. By then, hubby was feeling better, and thankfully could walk down the stairs. Not knowing what to expect, I got into the ambulance passenger seat like a hypnotised person, once they arrived. (Thank goodness the kids remembered to give us big hugs before we left, with very puzzled expressions on their faces, or else I would have forgotten that too! The littlest one, who is ten, asked sadly if there was going to be presents-unwrapping at all that day. I told him that each of them was allowed to open one present if we didn't come back home by 9pm). The ambulance staff told us they were taking hubby to Queen Hospital 2, as per Dr's instruction. I wasn't very positive that we would reach there fast as it was some 25km away and I thought the flood still hadn't subsided. As soon as we got to the main road, the driver turned on the familiar blaring ambulance sound, that always works to make other drivers politely give way. In my fuzzy state of mind, I remembered thinking "oh yeah, I give way all the time when I hear this sound". I also have this habit of saying a little prayer to wish whoever it was on the ambulance a fast recovery. At that moment, I was hoping that somebody out there had the same habit and would say a little prayer for hubby. (Yes that was what desperado felt like, I finally knew). As soon as we got into the emergency unit, hubby was given an efficient treatment. I noticed that the staff were all very calm and capable. It felt a bit surreal to be in an ER, having all this while, only watched such things on TV. Being the coward me, I swear I was shaking from top to toe, just by being inside the room. I prayed hard that no serious cases like accident casualties would be brought in at that time, for I was almost sure that if I saw blood oozing out of a person, I would make a spectacle of myself by fainting. It was quite enough to see needles poking my hubby's arm, a few times. Tests after tests were conducted. It was a relief that he was no longer in pain, but I could never have my peace of mind before knowing what was wrong. About 8pm, all but one test results were out. There seemed to be nothing seriously wrong. By then I had my hope up, thinking that we would be able to go home to our kids that night. Alas, it was not meant to be. The specialists were of the opinion that he should stay in the ward for observation. Of course they have all reasons to be concerned, as they know best. While waiting for a room to be prepared, I had no choice but observed the surrounding. Most scary thing that night- the scream of somebody whose appendicitis burst! Gosh, that was the sound of pain, of suffering that (please God)I do not care to hear again. (I bet that's why God doesn't intend for me to be a doctor, and my respect for all the ER staff goes several notches up. Salute!) All the while while in ER, whatsapp messages from hubby's colleagues/friends and family members kept pouring in. I do not make it a habit to peek into hubby's private messages, let alone whatsapp groups, (although we don't keep secrets from each other) but on his request, I answered most of the messages that night. If any of hubby's colleagues felt weirded out that the wifey did that, my sincere apologies.
(IV- Christmas: - at the ward) I was hoping that hubby would be discharged on 25.12.2013. Hubby couldn't wait to be home too, but our hope deflated after the MO's morning round. We were told that he needed to have an ultrasound scan done but because it was a public holiday, he had to wait till the next day. At first we thought we would insist that he be allowed to go home. But having taken into account the experts' advice, that as long as the cause of pain was still unknown, we shouldn't take things for granted, we decided not to force it. I reluctantly left hubby in the ward on Christmas day, to go home to my kids, to, later, take them to visit him. Upon reaching home, there was nothing more heartwarming then the wafting smell of cake baking in the oven, baked with love by Daddy's girl, our second girl, the baker of the family. She said she's taking the cake to cheer Daddy up at the hospital later. At visiting time, I took the kids to the hospital. In that short time, we tried to pretend that we were having a Christmas celebration, doing 'selfies' and whatever nots. Some Christmas it was :(.
(V- The lessons) Hubby was finally discharged on 26.12.2013, late in the day. Oh happy day! When we reached home, just seeing the smiles on the three kids' faces was heaven. There definitely isn't anything more valuable than my family, but on that day, the feeling was intensified. When I said the marriage vow of "...in good and bad times, in health and sickness, till death do us part", I could only imagine its meaning. But on the day I saw hubby doubled over with intense pain, I felt the meaning of those words. I thought I physically felt his pain and it was paralyzing. May God keep him in his tender care always. I also learnt that help and supports from family, friends and community, in any forms, are very empowering indeed. Kind words, prayers...they are indeed balm to the soul. Only God can repay everyone for their kindness. On a final note, I also realize that I need to overcome my fear of driving the Hilux. Should the flood have persisted that day, and there was no available ambulance, I wouldn't have been able to take hubby to the ER with the Livina. After the ordeal was over, I came out slightly tougher and resoluted that in 2014, I'll be able to drive the Hilux like any normal person can. All in all, I still believe that everything happens for a reason. I might not always understand it, but who am I to question nature's way, to doubt God's way...

07 August 2013

Because every wedding is beautiful...

(I've not been writing for a while, though there are so much to write about...but this year the extended family of my mom's side receives a few new additions through marriages that it reminds me of the time I got married, and I have to urge myself to write. In my extended family, every cousin is as good as a brother or a sister...thus, the cousins-in-law become brothers or sisters-in- law.)
My brother got married in Feb 2013. And I earned a beautiful sister-in-law (The pic above was taken during their Dusun traditional wedding ceremony aka the panau 'travel, walk'). It was very exciting as I only have a sister and it was not that fun to do the girly things with just the two of us! Now there are more ladies in the family and life can't possibly get any better. In a few days, my cousin Tata Jane is marrying Kay. Since Tata is one of my favourite people ever, Kay automatically goes into my favourite people list too! So this entry is mainly for Tata, although also for my other sisters-in-law/sisters-in-law-to-be. According to the old Dusun ways, a marriage sees that the bride becomes the husband's family's 'property'. After I got engaged in 1995, my aunty Dumie who's my father's older sister had a long talk with me, about how to become the 'perfect' Dusun wife. Aunty Dumie is very traditional, so she gives culture-based advice. The gist of which: 1. When you are married, you would then join your husband's family. You have to blend with them/learn their ways. Never ever say the names of your tiwanon (parents/grandparents/aunties/uncles-in-law, as something bad will happen to you. 2. You will be expected to act like one of the daughters and do the housework. Sitting around doing nothing is not only embarrasing to you, but also your parents because it would show that they didn't teach you well. (the koikum-ikum concept) 3. You don't complaint about your in law's family...once you are married into the family, they are your family too. 4. If your mother in law goes mindahu , you have to join her too. If possible, do more than her. (the aparu concept) Of course, I never did go mindahu with my mother-in-law. I interpret no 4 as 'in my life as a modern career woman, it is understood that I won't have time to help out in the farm', plus my mother-in-law only ever does a little farming since I join the family till now. Thus, I am exempted :) (Okay okay...this is a lazy person lame excuse but it's the truth anyway). And my uncle Peter Sanie of my mom's side, is very good at giving advice on how to be fair to both sides of parents once you are married. This uncle, who we fondly call 'Beliau' always reminds newly-weds in the family of this analogy "if you have a fish to give and you are visiting both sides of parents, you split the fish lengthwise instead of crosswise. That way both sets of parents have equal parts of the fish". Beliau is the only maternal uncle I have left, having buried the other beloved uncle just over two weeks ago :( (May his soul rest). And Beliau's advice is more significant than ever as I learn to appreciate things in life. In my 17 years of marriage, I see the merits of the advice. Being fair to both sides of the family is a must. Yes it is impossible to be equal all the time, but at least we try. It's the thought and sincerity that count. We can't risk having any parents sulk, it would spoil your happiness. Having said that, it is also important to have time together, just the two of you. Or else the marriage faces 'burnout' and other problems that left unattended, might get bigger and kill the marriage. That's why even the Dusun people of the olden days understood the need to have a separate house once a new family was formed. As for joining your new family, it could get awkward at first. I bet with our extended family, it's even more awkward for others to join. But slowly, it gets easier. Having parents-in-law is a blessing, really. I only have a mother-in-law but it's good enough for me. Even though we live quite a short distance from each other, I don't really get to see her that often. But when I do see her, the gossip session is always lengthy and entertaining. Being the expressive person that she is, she would tell me all about the people in her kampung that I feel I know everyone. Our session can extend well over midnight, making me feel that I have learned a little bit more about life each time we gossip. Everyone will get a mother-in-law with different personalities. Be open-minded. It doesn't do to have a set of rigid expectations on them. Take them as they are and they'll take you as you are too. Do we still uphold the koikum-ikum and aparu concepts? Common sense will dictate that we do to a certain extent. It is expected in the community that we do not just sit around doing nothing in our own house, let alone in our in-law's place. Not because we want to show off, but that really should be the way. Doing the housework together also does more than just merely getting the chores done. It helps in bonding. The best extended family time for me is always in the kitchen...when some family members cook, some clean, some eat, and some simply talk. It works in both side of my own family and my husband's family. I feel that I get to know the family members better from this activity. Not saying the names of your tiwanon can present difficulties sometimes. When people ask who's your father-in-law, how are you supposed to tell them if you are not allowed to say their names, right? To me, I'd just say it...after all it is for a real thing. I know of some people who will spell the names of their in-laws out loud when asked, though. Salute for that respectfulness. Well, our late grandfather Leo K used to say, 'sumilou o totud' (knee would turn yellow) if you say the names of your elderly relatives...and tiwanon. Take your pick...you want to be as Dusun as can be, our a modern Dusun who respects the traditions and modifies some! Anyway, unfortunately I have never been in a session in which a male relative is being given a pre-marriage talk. But experience tells that a man is expected to provide for his family. Any humble job will do- farming, doing odd jobs, any, as long as he puts food on the table. I supposed, to Kay and all my other brothers/cousins, I can only say try to give the best to your wives and (future) children. Adding a modern interpretation to this, I'd say, see not only to their physical needs, but also the emotional needs ;). Females are complicated creatures...never expect them to think, act an speak like you men do! Lastly, I have learned through the years that the golden key to a solid marriage is honest communication between the wife and the husband. We no longer live in those days where the Dusun wives were expected to be silent and to accept the husbands' mistakes without any say. Thank God for that and let's make use of that right. Say what you want to say to each other, with tolerance because no one is perfect. You might feel that at that moment you dislike your partner very much because you are not happy with him/her, but just remember even then that you love each other to have married one another. After that, make peace with each other and live in the love you have found in one another. Because every wedding is beautiful...I believe yours has a great love story to tell. May the love you have found in each other lasts for eternity.