A Travellerspoint blog

Kids and their bikes

actually my bikes

semi-overcast 29 °C

Well, I was only just writing about reaching the halfway mark and now it seems I am almost already two thirds through.

In a way it is a blessing, but I also feel like I haven't done enough. I need to write a bucket list of all the things I want to do before my time in JB kicks the bucket. First on the list is completing my paediatric rotation. I have to say the teaching here has been remarkable, and so have the patients. I have completed 10 weeks here in the ward and there have been a few stand out moments. One in particular was a 27 year old mother whose 1 year old child presented with all the trademark symptoms of leukemia. Her child was eventually diagnosed with a mild form of thalassaemia (a treatable genetic blood disorder) and she was smiling from ear to ear when she realised her little boy was going to be fine. This is not so remarkable on its own, but only a few weeks later another child presents with much the same symptoms albeit a whole lot worse. We examined the child with a crying mother who was begging for the diagnosis to be confirmed. The contrast between the two mothers was incredible and I don't think any amount of books or lectures can teach the lesson in that mother's eyes. Cure for cancer is going on my bucket list too.

At the other extreme there are parents that just don't seem to care, or maybe more to the point, have no idea how to care for their kids. There has been more than one child that has come into the hospital after failed treatment by their local traditional Chinese healer. Sure the healing has been in business for 100s of years, but when the young patient with liver cancer goes there with legs resembling an elephant's, he still directs the mother to a hospital. Only it is too late for the poor boy who will be lucky to see his 12th birthday, and the traditional healer is free from any reprimand or litigation. Meanwhile the mother still seems oblivious to the dire situation her son is in. This story wouldn't look out of place on an episode of 60 minutes back home.

Even though I feel like my learning has been hampered by a persistent language barrier that I have failed to deal with, the overall learning experience is overwhelming. Wards that have no air-conditioners in stifling 30+ degree heat, over 100 beds per ward and 12 beds per room and still often patients are lining the corridors. The solid steel beige-painted cot beds and cheap plastic outdoor furniture provided for the parent's comfort. There are probably 100 other startling things that are no longer startling and I don't notice anymore. But you couldn't buy this experience in Australia and if a patient ever fronts up with dengue fever or thalassaemia back home, I might just look smart for a change.

I am sorry if this blog seems a little morbid, but my week has been less than fantastic to say the least. That brings me to my bikes. After I went to visit cousin Anna one last time in Singapore (where I bought a flute from the guy with the amazing shirt-tie combo) I rode my motorbike home at a sensible 100 km/hr. Then *SNAP* chain broken and bits of steel mangled all over the place. Luckily nothing hit my leg, and nothing got caught in the back wheel. But my poor baby was bleeding black blood all over the road and there isn't much help around at 1am. Luckily I was close to home and some friendly local offered to push my heavy rolling piece of scrap metal with his mini scooter... I laughed at him, "you're a crazy man, you can't push this". He just stuck one leg out, wedged it behind my foot peg and took off up the road. I was doing 60km/hr up hill! I think he wanted to keep pushing me to the next suburb, I had to actually shoo him away to get in my driveway.

So cleverly, I decided that I could push my bike to the mechanic the next day. I think my bike weighs 200kg (actually I just looked it up - 195kg dry) and the bike shop is about 4km UP A VERY VERY BIG HILL. VERY BIG HILL. I figured if someone stopped at 1am they would also stop at 10am. But they didn't, and it was hot. Very hot. And it was a very big hill. Even worse is that it is a freeway and one of the entry ramps was full of traffic. I was stuck on a traffic island for quite a few minutes with cars crossing lanes in front of me and behind me before two really slow trucks completely blocked the ramp and I bolted to the side of the road (bolted as fast as a 200kg dead weight would allow). The only time i have ever been happy to see trucks overtaking each other up a hill.
This is a very small part of the very big hill as seen from my balcony. Ok, so the mechanics rush to the door with a cold glass of water (I was dripping profusely and my arms were no longer functional) and they refused to believe I was stupid enough to push the bike that far. Didn't stop them from laughing though. But the next day I had to go and find some parts for my 31 year old rocket, so I rode my pushbike to the mechanic up the very big hill. I'll make this bit quick. Got all the way there, popped my tyre on a sharp curb, hailed a cab, drove to a bicycle shop, bought a tube, jumped back in the cab, drove back to my bike, changed the tube, pumped it up at a servo with one of those stupid automatic pumps that don't work on bicycles, rode 500 metres and popped it again. Not just a bit of air coming out, more like *POW - PSSSHHHH - CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK* followed by lots of swearing. So I walked home. At least I was going down the very big hill this time and I was only pushing 20kg of scrap metal.

Just to cap off my lovely bike pushing week, I had a lovely run in with a tutor doctor today. I think he honestly believes he is the best doctor in the world, and well he is 70 odd and has a wealth of experience. However if he doesn't know something he makes it up. He never says I don't know. Personally I would rather a doctor that knew very little but was always right when he did teach. This doctor knows a lot but is often wrong so you can't have any faith in anything he says. That irks me, but not as much as the fact that he calls children with Down syndrome Mongols!!!!!! I kindly advised him that I didn't approve, and he kindly replied that he didn't care. That was a week ago and I made an appropriate complaint with the appropriate people. Today it started again and I put up with it for quite some time until he started insulting my medical ability (the fact that my medical ability deserves insulting is beside the point). I lost it. I let him have it. I had pushed too many bikes to put up with his crap. I may have enjoyed it a little bit, but the aftermath was not so nice. Funny thing is, I looked up Mongol - Wikipedia style. Turns out by definition he is actually a Mongol. So I will be calling him Dr Mongol from now on, which according to him is not an insult anyway. I will also fail his OSCE station at the end of the year, but so be it. If more people had shared their mind with him over the last 50 years, he wouldn't still be using the term. One thing is for sure, this country may not turn me in to a medical genius, but it will turn me into a more compassionate doctor.

In the end all is good. I apologised to Dr Mongol (out of necessity, not genuine sorrow) and got my motorbike back today with an RM530 bill. About one quarter of what I was expecting, and about one tenth of what I would have paid at home. So thank you for reading this epic long blog. There are more stories that just can't fit in and more photos I want to share. I will save a pile of feel good stories for next time.

I would finally like to send my regards to my mate Shaneo. He lost a good friend and band member last week who I had the pleasure of meeting while I was home. No one deserves an early exit. Take care all.

Posted by The Doctor 08:01 Archived in Malaysia Tagged living_abroad

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I think you have a bike disease that you infect all things with two wheels and you should get it checked out.
awesome stories Sam, wish I could say I had as many kids in the paeds ward. right now we have none!
you getting good at the flute? can you take it in to be the pied piper of the paeds ward? the kids would love you.
I'm off to hunt down anyone that resembles a child now. happy cancer curing, i reckon you could crack it by the end of the month

by Lucy

Shit u make me laugh. Can't wait to come over. I'm sure we will have some weird arse adventure.

Thinkn of ya shaneo..

by George sibley

I know the kid with liver cancer and the oblivious mother. sad, so very sad!

by Sareetaa

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