Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Losing Touch!

During a clinical tutorial yesterday morning, the fact hit me - hard. Asked to take a brief history from an adult male with marked abdominal distension, I managed to elicit the diagnosis within the first few minutes ( liver cirrhosis secondary to alcohol and chronic Hep B infection ), but thereafter completely skipped the systemic review, aargh! Blame it on my current posting, where every patient has one of only 4 general problems:
1. fever
2. fits
3. rash
4. trauma
-- some of them have all of the above. Yeah, it happens. Sigh.

I'm on yet another night shift, but it's been pretty all right, just like the last one. I'm off at 6am, which is great, since parents who drag their sick kids to the ER at such an ungodly hour are always super-hyper / paranoid / talkative ( all very very bad ), and explaining the same thing over and and over again makes me extremely tired. But %^&*, I've got a case presentation to do later today, more studying, some SMA News tasks to clear, and to top it all off, I'm getting majorly distracted by...

Twisted - a collection of short stories by Jeffrey Deaver

This wasn't planned! I forgot to bring a magazine along when I went for a haircut the other day, and detoured to The Tanglin Club's excellent in-house library to pick something at random to tide me over -- I've never been able to sit and stare into space -- when lo and behold, I found this little gem. I've already read his other works, e.g. The Bone Collector ( film version stars Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie ), A Maiden's Grave, The Coffin Dancer and The Lesson Of Her Death. Deaver is one of the few suspense authors who manages to sustain my interest ( not being snooty here, just a matter of personal taste ). I've always enjoyed his novels, thanks to his fast-paced storylines, simple but engaging prose, and best of all, unexpected yet plausible plot twists.

This terrific collection basically offers Deaver in his element, but in small potent doses, in the form of 16 short stories, most of which have already been published elsewhere, and a few of which have also been nominated for or won prestigious awards. I'm halfway through it at the moment, and have picked out 2 favourites that, interestingly enough, all involve adulterous spouses. Hmm. :) Without Jonathan opens the compilation with a super-whammy of an ending, and Triangle matches that brilliantly. I can't wait to get through the next half.

The Simple Life

I'm overdosing on TV comedies right now, even though some of them aren't even meant to be funny in the first place. This latest addition to the reality TV genre pits Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie ( daughter of singer Lionel ) against barn animals and real-life hillbillies during their month-long stay in some God-forsaken part of North America. The pilot episode had me rolling on the couch when:
1. the girls arrived at the makeshift airfield in their private jet, and were instructed ( via a crude handwritten letter ) to drive themselves to said farm in a cranky pickup truck.
2. Paris -- the driver -- couldn't find the reverse gear and kept stalling the vehicle.
3. When the matriarch of the farming family said, "We have a well here.", Paris replied with, "What's a well for???"
4. When Wal-mart came up during a dinner conversation, Paris asked, "What's Wal-mart? Do they sell walls or something?" Reminds me of how Cher once asked Sonny if the moon was the reverse side of the sun. D-uh.

Surprisingly, the show has made me actually like the two ditzes. I used to dismiss them as spoilt rich kids, but The Simple Life renders them sympathetic figures in some weird way, and I realized that the only people to blame for their sorry states are none other than the guilty parents. Who's responsible for educating Paris Hilton? Her mom and dad, of course! What the heck have they been doing these past 20 years? Letting her brain rot? Sheesh.

I highly recommend you catch the rest of the series. Guaranteed to make you feel really good about yourself. :D

Something A Little Depressing

My apologies in advance. If you don't want to feel crappy, stop reading right now.

Over the weekend, I've been nursing an abandoned kitten roaming my estate carpark. Barely 2 weeks old and roughly the size of my already-tiny palm, I was told by the cleaning staff that its mother had vamooshed, leaving the poor creature to fend for itself.
Unable to bring it home for fear of it being attacked by my very territorial 7-year-old tomcat, and also to prevent this kitten from transmitting some disease to my fragile pet ( who beat the odds and fought off the deadly Feline Leukemia 3 years ago ), I could only bring plates of food and bowls of milk down to the lot, coaxing the kitten to eat and drink before returning home.

It seemed to improve a couple of days back, but soon deteriorated again. I often found it lying on the ground, oblivious to its surroundings, yet able to stand and eat when presented with morsels of cat chow. On Monday evening, however, I knew the end was near. I found it wobbling along a nearby pillar, then watched in horror as it collapsed onto its side, too weak to proceed any further. Its fur was caked in dirt, its eyes listless, its meow a bare whimper. I stroked its head despite my mother's protests ( don't worry, I took the necessary precautions once I got home ), and told her, "She isn't going to make it." ( Yeah, she was a female, I know at least that. )

So we left her there, prostrate on the cold, concrete floor of the carpark, positioning her ( for what it was worth ) strategically right next to yet another plate of food. I prayed not for her recovery, which I knew was impossible, but for a quick and painless death.

Tuesday morning, the smell hit me before I even saw her. A pungent whiff of soil mixed with faeces and urine. As I neared the pillar where I'd left her the night before - and where I'd parked my car in the hope that it would shield her in some way - I found the little creature, stiffened by rigor mortis, lying just in front of the rear left tyre. Her last moments were still evident, as a trail of urine streaked about 10 centimetres behind her limp tail. Her mouth was still slightly agape, her dull eyes mildly open.

I shed no tears for her, partly because I'd only known her a few days, partly because I'd fully expected her death. But it was indeed a pitiful sight -- this malnourished, neglected little animal, born into a world that its mother failed to protect it from, that perished not from lack of food, but from lack of parental affection. Yet even its negligent mum can't shoulder all the blame. She's been spotted with a litter of 3 other kittens, and I once saw her sitting forlornly on a ledge as she sheltered from the storm outside, soaked to the skin, scrawny and tired. In this vicious cycle of repetitive procreation and the inability to sustain her offspring, it's only a matter of time before the mother loses her life as well.

I'm a cat person. Can't remember ever being anything but. Watching such events unfold is extremely painful, so it helps a little to unload it here. I don't ask for words of comfort, but if they're offered, I thank you. And thank you also for... listening.

Time to go home. It's been a long night.

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