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Space Invention — Illustration for Kindergarten Educational Book

Space Invention — Illustration for Kindergarten Educational Book

Trying out new brushes that Kim sent.

Trying out new brushes that Kim sent.

Warmth 26.08.2013

I was very afraid of the clinical feel of everything. They all seemed cold and aloof. The ceilings rolled away into the distance as the cheerful nurse introduced her name (which I couldn’t remember and had no mood to remember).

I was chanting all along in my heart that I must be brave and that I have been through it before just a different type and a different part of me. It dawned on me that many things or rather almost all things in life has to be gone through alone. You have people supporting you, encouraging you and rooting for you. But, after all, you have to go through it alone. That is why it is so important to be strong. We cannot depend our happiness on others and external factors. We cannot even depend our happiness on having a good health. These are ephemeral. Buddhism talks about trying to attain absolute happiness that nothing can destroy. This is often the challenge of our practice. People recover quickly from illness because of their strong fighting spirit, the ‘treasure of the heart’. It is this heart that is the most important. That is why some lose the will to fight right from the start when they lose their health. I used to have this mentality as well.

The bed stopped. I was parked outside one of the many operating theaters. The nurse pressed a button and whisked me inside a small room as a husky voice greets me with a ‘hello”. It is the main anaesthetist. To my surprise, she is a lady. Don’t trust what you hear sometimes! Confident, speaks in short and fast manner, she discussed my case with the (i think) junior anesthetist. “Oh, she’s done GA before during a major op!” She seemed surprised and a little amused. I am not sure why I was not angry with her being a little amused. Perhaps, I feel that she thinks this surgery is a smaller deal compared to what I’ve been though.

She unfolded a schedule list and mention to the junior that other doctors are suppose to help cover her as they lack people that morning. Doctors are really busy… My fear is still hovering in my throat. But, I didn’t cry. No tears. Just a heavy feeling. One of the nurse gave me some warm air beneath my blanket as I was freezing. Then, the junior anesthetist said, “Ok, now I hope this is going to be the most horrible part of the day. I am going to have to prepare you for the IV drip.” He gently held my hands and ran his fingers across my arms. “You have very fine veins!” He asked me to squeeze his fingers to make sure my blood was pumping and my veins would pop more. I am not sure why but I felt comforted by this doctor. He was careful with his words and more careful with how he handled my pre-surgery procedure. First, he applied alcohol and injected something to numb my skin. Then, he tried and insert the IV needle. After poking it about, he held onto the needle and pressed onto my skin before removing it. Failed. Then, he got the nurse to bring him ultrasound to check for my veins for a proper insert.

In the end, he tried three times but to no avail. I got three new spots of redness on my hands and some pain from the poking. He was very very apologetic. “Is it very painful? I am really really sorry. It’s just too fine.” I was partly relieved as they are going to stop this for a while. Twice during the ordeal, the senior anesthetist slided the door open to check if he has succeeded. But, nope. Eventually, she said: “ok, we are just going to put you to sleep first and then attach the needle just like a kid. Hopefully with the anesthesia, your veins would really pop out and we can fit that…”

These words struck me because, that moment I was wheeled away on my bed, I suddenly felt like a kid. I was scared! Dr Seah came in to take a look at me and mark out where the lump is supposed to be.

When they pushed me into the larger room, I saw the Dr Seah discussing stuff with the Anesthetist. When they put the mask over me, I was told the breathe deeply. First, it was oxygen, then it was the real thing. It has a stench. As it gets stronger, I wanted to push the mask away as I am getting very giddy and light-headed. But, I can’t. My eyes stared straight onto the lights above me. “You see, normally it will take some time. You just need to check her eyes…” I  heard her talking to the junior anesthetist. 

I was awaken by a nurse. “Miss Lee, surgery is over.” My eyes fluttered and opened. I see nothing much, blurry vision. I felt my whole body trembling. I could not control it. I must be frozen during the surgery. “Are you very cold? Are you in pain?” I nodded. I was really unsure if I felt the pain. I simply nodded. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I went back to slumber. Was it tears of relief or tears of fear? I felt the nurses wiped away my tears and pulled extra layer of warmth blanket over me…

When my mum came over, my trembling had stopped. She touched my head and smiled. My mum skipped her lunch to chant for me. Later, the nurse gave me a cup of milo and cheese sandwich. I took the longest time to eat my ‘brunch’ while my mum had her bread for lunch. Surprisingly, it was delicious.

Somehow, to be very irrelevant, I really wish I could have my breakfast before my op! Oh well… I have to fast 12am the night before, but not after a nice, warm dinner. :)

Let life be as beautiful as summer flowers
And death as beautiful as autumn leaves.

~Rabindranath Tagore

Goodbye, Lemon. Will miss your chubby cheeks and clumsy walks.

Wearing down seven number-two pencils is a good day’s work.
— ERNEST HEMINGWAY, The Paris Review, spring 1958
A: Hey, so why do you want to be a teacher?
B: …
A: Is it because you want to teach them a lesson?
— My friend is so humourous…

Champagne (19 nov ‘11 - 10 Dec ‘12)

I saw her fade away. My mum was with me.

I am sorry, Champagne. I wanted to let you run around freely without your lump obstructing your way. I wanted to help. Sometimes, we are not sure if the help we are rendering is indeed one. I trusted Dr T. I thought it would be alright. She told me about the dangers but sounded quite positive. However, Champagne just looked so weak after the surgery. I could not breathe properly along the way back home. She was curled up in ball all the way from the vet to home. I am very worried seeing her in that condition. I kept chanting in my heart. 

Dr T called me up on Tuesday to ask about her. I told her she pass away that night. 10 Dec 2012, Monday. She apologized. I know she sincerely wanted to help. I did not expect her to go at all. I thought she will recover and readily run her wheels like before. Although I told myself not to regret my decision, I regretted still. Honestly. I wish but there are many things which cannot be undone. 

I am sorry to see you gasping for air the last few moments. It is helpless to see that without knowing how to help. I came out of the bathroom and went to check on her. Seeing that, I called mum in to help me take a look. Mum held her in her hands for a while… After that, she stopped breathing. My heart almost stopped. 

I am truly sorry that you have to leave in this manner. Please believe and forgive me. I only wanted you to live better…