Wednesday, January 21, 2004

It's Chinese New Year Eve, and my question is: Doesn't ANYBODY have reunion dinners anymore?! I arrived at the ER at 9pm, and lo and behold, there was... a crowd! And from what I could see from the queue list, it's mostly flus, minor lacerations, and a few other assorted complaints. I don't know about you, but if I had a cold on NYE, I'd STAY HOME and perhaps see a doctor THE NEXT DAY, instead of RUNNING TO THE HOSPITAL LATE IN THE NIGHT. ( Sorry about the capital letters. The irritation has already set in, aargh! )

Just saw an old man with, yes, an upper respiratory tract infection, accompanied by a son who had the annoying habit of answering every single question I asked, before the patient could even open his mouth. After the third time this happened, I tapped the guy ( the old one, that is ) on his hand and said, "No no, YOU tell me what's wrong." after which his son got the picture. Then, I'm told that this same gentleman is flying to CHINA in 3 days' time. "China?" I echoed. "Not a good idea."
"That's what I told my dad!" the son replied. "But he just won't listen. Can you try to talk some sense into him?"
"Okay," I said. I turned to my patient and launched into a Mandarin lecture on the hazards of travelling to China right now, in view of the random outbreak of SARS cases recently, and the major risks he'd be taking because of the expected New Year crowds and migratory patterns.
"But I've already paid for the tickets," he answered, as if that was reason enough.
"But it's dangerous!" I responded. "What if you are exposed to the virus and bring it back to Singapore? What if your family gets infected?"
"That won't happen lah." He started laughing, then I gave up.

Well, I tried.

And now, at 2am in the morning, I've seen about 25 patients already, with maybe 5 to 6 toilet and sutures. Lots of allergic reactions as well -- seafood, unknown ingredients in exotic dishes. Yeesh. The one that takes the cake has got to be the young boy with a ( I quote ) "clogged nose". New definition for "emergency", guys.

If you've found my blog interesting thus far ( and thank you for reading :)), you'll definitely enjoy these links on Chris Rangel's blog. Dr. Rangel is an internal medicine specialist in the US, and a self-described "hospitalist". I emailed him once to ask for an opinion on the Iranian twins incident, and on the whole, he writes on both medical issues as well as recreational ones -- like me. :D

His list of links to medical blogs is comprehensive, and those under "Docs In Training" are quite a hoot. I'll leave you to browse on your own, as I will be reviewing these in more detail in an upcoming article for the SMA News.

By the way, Dr. Rangel has linked to this other blog, which talks about The Lord Of The Rings. The author obviously doesn't like Aragorn and Legolas, but he's a really funny guy, so it's all good. :)

Forgot to mention "A Perfect Murder", which was shown on TV last Sunday, and which I watched a couple of days ago. Had totally forgotten what a great movie this is. Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen -- a dream cast if I ever saw one. Gwyneth looks more beautiful than usual here, bearing more than just a passing resemblance to classic swan-necked ice-blonde Grace Kelly. Viggo is worlds away from his Aragorn persona, playing a playboy con-man with a dark side as well as a conscience. The former is well-shown in a short scene where, believing Gwyneth's character stood him up on purpose, he proceeds to flick black paint over a portrait of her in his apartment. His glee is obvious, yet pulsating with an underlying malice. Or maybe I'm the only one who sensed this, haha. :)
Douglas, as always, is the one to watch. My favourite film where he is concerned will always be "Romancing The Stone" ( go rent it! ), but "A Perfect Murder" is one of the few occasions where he plays the bad guy ( the other good one being "Wall Street", for which he won a Best Actor Oscar ). The chilling scene has got to be the attack on Gwyneth, while Douglas calmly listens in over his mobile phone, face expressionless, before hanging up when he believes she's dead. "I'm in!" he says to his fellow poker-mates, breaking into a satisfied smile. Classic movie moment! :)

Met a friend earlier this evening. He reads my rantings ( thanks! :)), and was a little concerned about my cynicism. Methinks I've been laying it on too thick lately, very sorry about that. :P But it's cathartic for me, in a way. Perhaps I'll copy what someone else has done -- maintain one blog for public consumption, then another for really personal musings. Hmm, sounds good to me. But I probably won't share it with anyone though, so you'll have to hunt for it somehow. Must make sure I don't type "SARS" anywhere, or I'll get quoted or linked to again. :D

I shall now leave you on a happy note. This is taken from the latest issue of USA Today, and talks about Clay Aiken's passion for a very special cause. Inspiring. :)

Clay Aiken idolizes kids with developmental disabilities

[ By John Morgan, Spotlight Health, with medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D. ]

Clay Aiken became a national sensation on the hit show American Idol. But while music may be his bread and butter for now, Aiken's real passion is giving a voice to children with developmental disabilities.

After his American Idol success, Aiken, a special-ed major, says he is "in a position now to be a voice for people with developmental disabilities."

"I fell in love with working with the kids," says Aiken, whose national tour in support of his No.1 album begins Feb. 24 in Charlotte, N.C. "Kids with autism and developmental disabilities think differently ? their view of the world is much more pure and innocent."

Aiken began working with kids at the YMCA and then a local elementary school where he was asked to teach a class as a substitute. Only after he accepted the position did Aiken learn his students were autistic.

"I also worked with an agency called Autism Services, which placed me with the Bubel family in the Charlotte area," Aiken says. "They are such an inspiration to me. I bonded very closely with their son, Mike, who has autism and the whole family. I liked that they didn't make excuses for Mike. They didn't expect him to get special treatment but simply to be included like a normal citizen.

"As I became more involved teaching, I saw children with developmental disabilities being turned away from inclusion in programs and so my dream became to fix this in some small way," Aiken adds. "There are so many kids and families that need our support."

According to Best Buddies International, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, nearly 8 million Americans have intellectual disabilities, formerly termed mental retardation. The number of individuals with developmental disabilities, however, has been estimated as high as 10 million.

"Developmental disability is an umbrella term that usually implies that a person has some adaptive challenges ? cognitive and/or physical disabilities ? and has difficulty managing his or her tasks of daily living," explains Wendy Wood, associate professor of special education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Wood points out that people with developmental disabilities are not simply or automatically mentally retarded.

"Individuals with intellectual disabilities are typically identified by IQ measures," says Wood, who acted as Aiken's independent study supervisor. "But a person with cerebral palsy might have a normal or even above-average IQ yet still may have issues related to performing tasks of daily living. This person would still be considered developmentally disabled."

Developmental disabilities include:

? Autism

? Down syndrome

? Intellectual disabilities

? Cerebral palsy

? Birth defects

? Other neurological or cognitive impairments

Real American idol

Diane Bubel, Mike's mother, recognizes that Aiken's work with children with autism isn't easy and says it demands "patience and true respect for these children as people first."

"Mike's autism is severe so one of his biggest challenges is communication," Bubel says. "He cannot speak, and he can't always process what is said to him. You can't just tell things like 'put your shoes on,' so it can be very difficult. But once you have a child with a disability you have a choice: You can suffer with it or you can choose the happy road. We chose the latter."

They also chose Aiken to work with Mike. Bubel knew very quickly Aiken had the right stuff ? both as a teacher and a singer.

"Clayton walked in the door with unconditional love and no expectations," Bubel says. "It's rare to find people that open and understanding. And pretty soon we realized what an incredible voice he had and just kept telling him to audition for American Idol."

Aiken recalls the support they provided. "Eventually I had to audition or she wasn't going to leave me alone," Aiken jokes. "And the rest, well it worked out pretty well."

Far better than Aiken ever dreamed.

Not only did he become a star almost overnight, but he believes his American Idol success allows him to fulfill his true vocation.

"I was already studying special education at UNC, but then American Idol took me away from my student teaching, and I wasn't going to be able to graduate," Aiken explains. "I had to find another way to get enough credits to graduate. So we figured out an independent study about non-profits and special education. My assignment was to create a mock foundation that would work with kids with special needs."

Aiken completed the needed course credits and graduated. After the show his career really took off and he saw an opportunity to make his dream a reality

"Teach the children well'

"After the show it began to look more and more like I really could create a foundation that helps kids with developmental disabilities," says Aiken, who will appear on NBC's Ed this Friday, "not just in the Raleigh area but to help kids nationally and internationally."

When Aiken told Bubel he was naming the organization the Bubel Aiken Foundation, she couldn't believe it and was moved to tears.

"We want the message of the foundation to be inclusion ? we want to 'open doors and open minds,'" Bubel states. "We want people to get to know our children and understand that by knowing them they will be better people. It's true in our family. My daughter Emma is more patient, wise, understanding and less self indulgent than most kids her age because of Mike."

Inclusion is multilayered in its impact, positively affecting the child's education, socialization and emotional well-being.

"If a child with a disability is included with children who are not, it's not just a social benefit," Aiken states. "It has a self esteem and emotional benefit to be treated like other students. 'Handicapped' is a label society puts on people. It's not something kids are born with. A child may have a disability but the handicap comes from society when they tell that child they can't do something."

Aiken says the goal is to instead figure out how they can do that activity ? to include them in programs.

"Inclusion also helps kids academically and they start to pick up on socially correct behaviors," Aiken explains. "And the benefit is two-way. Kids without disabilities learn so much ? possibly more. Instead of just seeing a kid with disabilities down the hall in a classroom, they get to learn about them. Ignorance leads to prejudice. Inclusion provides them an opportunity to learn compassion, acceptance and tolerance ? all skills which make our society better."

Aiken hopes he will be at his best when his tour begins but says he has a "higher purpose."

"I am in a position now to be a voice for people with developmental disabilities," Aiken says. "I think all of us have a higher purpose for what we are doing. The visible higher purpose for celebrity is to create awareness for issues that need a voice. I'm just doing what I always planned on doing ? teaching and helping children with developmental disabilities."

Have a good Chinese New Year then! Will probably make my next entry on Friday. And don't forget, "American Idol 3" starts on Channel 5 tomorrow night! :P

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