Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Joy of Simpler Things in Life

I thought I was in the pink of my health. 

Even at the half-decade mark.

And why not? I have just completed my ECG test at the behest of my insurance agent - she had wanted me to have a different set of insurance than the one I have. So one Saturday morning, last Ramadhan, I took on the treadmill at a specialist clinic in PJ and completed the five sets of strenuous exercises.

Did I mention that the ECG was done in the month Ramadhan?

And I came out unscathed,  and if I can exaggerate a bit, with flying colours. The heart that is more than half-a-century old is fine and dandy, despite all the food binge I had through out my life.

So I was  happy. Happy as a bee.

No, no, relief is perhaps a better adjective to describe my feeling. I have always had an issue when it comes to checking my health. I didn't want to know. I was afraid, if I am honest with myself. I had always told my bosses in previous lives that I didn't want to know and that I would prefer it that when my time comes, I would just drop dead.

Not that I would want that anytime soon, especially then, and not now.

So when I was feeling not well (had a bout of diarrhea for nearly a week, the week before), I dismissed it as something that would soon pass. It has been a week and it does not seem to go away. But I did not have fever or anything, so it was business as usual.

However, that Saturday 8th Nov it had taken a turn for the worst. I was supposed to attend Dr Zaharuddin's seminar with Arif - instead, I had to ask Akmal to attend on my behalf. As for me, I then slept on my sofa all day that Saturday, and of course on Sunday too. Twice on consecutive days that weekend, I went to the doc. The second time on Sunday, I was given antibiotic.

That's how I survived the weekend.

Monday 10th was the start of training for my biggest client. I had no choice but to drag myself out of bed, and drove to UNITEN, where the training was being held. "You looked and sound bad, Rahman," Steve Saunders (my instructor) acknowledging my remark that I felt bad that morning.

At 9 am, I officiated the opening of the training session with about 18 attendees, and by 0930 hours, I was beginning to shiver. I decided to leave the training room, but I paused to take a breather of the sunlight at the car park, and then I drove to Columbia Asia hospital near my home. Had my blood test and immediately went home for a rest.
Columbia. Shared room.
An hour later came the test results .

"Can you come to the Hospital so that we can discuss the test results?"

"No, can you let me know over the phone?"

"We don't normally discuss results over the phone," came the reply.

"The results will determine how fast I would be there. If it is positive, I'll come immediately. If not, I'll take my time and come later in the afternoon. I am sick, you know," I tried arguing.

"It is positive."

I paused to ponder on the implication. The dreaded result is now known. I was going to be hospitalized; there was no two way about it. I then asked Arif to drive me to the hospital .

At the doc's office, I was pleading with the doc not to ward me. "Can I not be warded? I promise you that I'll take lots of fluid," I smiled wryly when I made the request.

"Why?" the doctor asked me.

"I hate the needle!"

"Don't worry, I'll do it for you," he reassures me.

I have seen Mak in pain over the blood samples. Most of Ampang Puteri nurses are novice over taking blood sample. Her arm had blue and black marks over it due to sampling issue. And how about the needle for the drip?
I can never imagine myself with this, but this is my right hand, taken my bro

They are big to me, and it looks painful.

And now I had to undergo it myself. Barely 2 years on. [sigh]

Actually the doctor was not that bad with the drip needle. I didn't feel a thing, to be honest. I was relief, and now I have a drip over me. For the first time. The dreaded needle is in me. For 52 years, I have not been admitted to a hospital; it is a proud record for me to showcase that I have been healthy.

And with His grace, I have not had anything to warrant me to be hospitalized. For over 50 years, no (big) health issue, no mishap. I am thankful to Him.

And no thanks to a single mosquito bite, I am now hospitalized. If He is going to take it away from you, at an instant, He can, if He wants it.

Have betek leave juice, Man. Fortunately someone has commercialized it. Pix given by Abu
At this stage  of admission, my blood platelet was still high at 190. I was not worried at all. I have fever for sure, and according to the doctor, other indicators (e.g. white blood cells) showed that I have dengue, so it is better to be warded. My kidney has been compromised too. I have no objection to being warded; only the needle that I am objecting to.

For two days (Monday and Tuesday), I continued to have fever. I was between awake and sleep. I was dozing off, I guess, most of the time. At least on two separate occasions, I had guests coming in when I was sleeping - my neighbour and bro-in law. I didn't see them. They must have came and left (after seeing me fully asleep). I could not help it. I was tired, I guess. But I noted later to my former classmates in Whatsapp message at 1900 hours on Monday that I felt better after sleeping all day.

On Tuesday, my platelet took turn for the worst. It dropped to 60 at 4 pm. I thought it was an abrupt drop. Where was the 150 mark or 100, since the last platelet count was 190 on Monday. Aren't they supposed to pass through these first? Surely it is not a good sign, I thought.  I still have high fever, and the platelets dropping like crazy. I continued to doze off in between visitations by relative and staff.

Wednesday's morning (12th Nov) sample brought worse results. 30, and counting down, I guess. It was too big a drop for my liking. I was puzzled even more. But by then I had no more fever, so physically I was ok. I didn't feel bad at all; it was as if I was normal. I thought based on that alone, I should be discharged. But the other indicators were not so good.

They took another sample at 3 pm, and platelets have dropped to 20.  Get prepared, the doctor warned me. We may have to do plasma transfusion tonight, but we'll wait for 8 pm test results. 

"If your platelet counts drops to below 10, we would have to do the transfusion. It is a directive from Health Ministry. We have the blood ready for you already," Dr Amir explains.

They decided to have another sample at 8 pm. That's a first time - 3 samples a day; normally it was two. and it dropped further to 14.

I  sighed. What else can I do? It is beyond me at this moment. Why the sudden drop, and why not a more gradual decrease? And it continued to stay at 14. I was getting exasperated. I am  not sure if I can continue to stay strong. It was a mental battle.

But the good news was, by this time, I didn't have fever at all - it has subsided. Physically I was feeling good. The platelet stayed at 14 for that day, but since it is above 10, no plasma transfusion was required much to my relief. Physically I felt strong; I was in no danger of falling off the cliff. (Later on during follow up check-up, the Dr Amir told me of a patient who just dropped dead the next day!)

Or at least that's I thought. Only that I was worried about my platelet count.

Platelets continue to hover above 10 on Thursday Nov 13, but the white blood cell counts have moved into the normal range of 4. Previously it was precariously at 1. "We know based on this trend, I would expect that your platelets would increase soon. Normally white blood cells will increase first," Dr Amir continues to re-assure me.

In my mind, OK, OK, sure, but why would my platelet still very low. I have no clue, I was worried, but Thursday I was physically and mentally refreshed, never mind my platelet was still low.

By this time, I was already simply tired of having water. I could not, even if my life depended on it, drink. I was getting sick of water; whatever the drip can do for me, that's it. I simply refused to drink anymore. May be a glass during meal, but nothing more.

Birin & I in the morning. I was cheerful with his visit. He was here when the Dr Amir told me of the good news of my white blood cell improving
Actually at around 8 am, a former classmate Sabirin suddenly appeared in my room. It was a nice surprise to get a visit from a friend. That cheered me quite a bit; we shared 5 years of our growing up lives in a boarding school in KB, and now is a big-time contractor. With him around, you tend to get at least one laugh a minute. He is a cheerful-kind of guy.

Thank Yin for dropping by. It is really appreciated. It made my morning, especially with the good news brought by the doc. People said I looked cheerful; yes, I was.

And it was the start of my friends visiting me. Each visit brought more cheers for me.
Suri came visiting mid afternoon
I swear Suri and I are from the same batch in school, though 35 years on, he looked much younger than yours truly. Then my classmate Jamil dropped by.

Jamil came visiting in the afternoon. He had dengue before and he was worst than mine - denggi berdarah, and he survived. So I was going to survive too, I thought.
I never thought I was important enough to have my former classmates visiting, especially many were busy with their work and lives, I guess. Dengue is a common bane of modern lives, nothing spectacular that would require visitation. Yes, I have friend who died from dengue in 1998, and many more have died from dengue. I was that close to having transfusion, so I guess I was not that far.

To cap the visitations, An and Liza dropped by at around 8 pm, when I was just too tired sitting in my room, hence I was at the lobby with my drip when they arrived. An was a batchmate from school while Liza was, of course my Pasteur classmate then.
My first attempt at selfie. Lousy job I guess.
Shema and Aya  - both classmates - dropped by just before I was discharged on Satuday 15 Nov. Of course with Shema just coming back from her pilgrimage, I got a bottle of air zam-zam and dates, which I believe is khurma Nabi. Unfortunately, I didn't take picture that day, so there is no pictorial record with them. The both of them were my classmate in school. And Aya is now officially a datin. From my estimate, her husband got the datukship that Saturday itself.

Thank you, guys. You guys made my day.

The platelet was still below, but I was recovering.

On Saturday, my platelet count was still 30, but the doctor thought I could be discharged since my other indicators have stabilized for sometimes already. I was not going to argue with him; I was getting tired of staying in bed for much of the day. By then I probably had lost 3-5 kg and I am sure I looked haggard. My sister says so; and I have no doubt about it. I have not shaved for a week now. So I was quietly pleased that he would do that.

And by 3 pm, I was back at home, driven by Akmal.

But to be honest, the battle was far from over. I may have been discharged on Saturday 15 Nov, but the worst days of my life was for the next three days.

I made my living room my bedroom. The sofa and the carpet were my bed; occasionally I would go up to clean up myself. But honestly, I was not on the way for quick recovery. My house was filled up to the brim with my wife's side visiting on Saturday, but I was in no position to receive any visitation. It stressed me out completely. I just need my rest, and I can't take bulk visitation.
Crab soup and fresh betek leave juice. I could not take it after the 1st bottle
I just sat on the sofa, did not talk much, not that I talk much in normal circumstances. I was between awake and sleep and I was forcing myself to be awake.

I have learned my lesson. When visiting, depending on illness, make it a short and sweet visitation. Don't overdo it with lengthy visitation, unless the patient can handle it. Dengue is one illness patient needs much rest and sleep.

Don't get me wrong. I know each visitor brought with him or her, rezeki and more importantly their prayers. I know that, and I am thankful. I am thankful for all those who visited me, and those who had prayed for me.

My sister and auntie MCKam visited me on Monday. Same thing. I did not talk much; I simply could not. I was lethargic; I was tired. I could not even open up my mouth to answer their questions. But their visitation was good in the sense that it was short and sweet. Later on she told me this, "You scared me twice - at the hospital and at your home. You looked so haggard and your eyes looked sunken. I told you that it made no sense to go out because of dengue."

May be I was that close to going out, if you know what I mean. Who knows? By blood platelet count, I was down to 14 on numerous occasions. I was giving up on my fluid intake - I could not just drink anything, and I was purely relying on my fluid drip. And one needs lots of fluid intake when one has dengue.

Technically, I was giving up. I also slept all day those three days post hospitalization, and at night obviously too. I ate very little, manly lived on bread and soups that my wife would buy.

But the worst part was the nightmare at night. I was practically having nightmare every time I go to sleep. I would be awake at 12 am, or at 3 am in the morning, wondering if I am still alive or would continue to be alive, and why I was feeling so depressed. When I close my eyes trying to go to sleep, I would feel as if my world was spinning. When I awoke, I would be staring at the ceiling and I would cry, "Why? What's going on? Why am I feeling so sad? I am going to recover, am I not?"

I was getting depressed. I really was.
Imagine this, but with thousands of these spiraling in your mind, and not in this nice pattern,
every time I close my eyes. They were more random. Taken from internet
I was in zombie state - I was hallucinating; I was trying to figure out what's going on, and that I only have only dengue, and that I was not going to die. It sure felt that way then. I did not feel like I was getting any better. The nightmare and the hallucination were really bad. And only when I managed to convince myself that it was just a dream, then only I would feel better.

But normally the feeling of relief would be short.

Most of the time getting back to sleep would be a chore. I had to convince myself that I am going to be ok, and that I am not dying. But it was futile. My mind was spinning - not physically - every time I close my eyes. I would wake up at least a couple of time in the course of the night. And it would be the same thing, over and over again.

My world was crumbling down. It felt like the whole world is resting on my shoulder. I was feeling really bad. I had thought about death. At times, I was convinced then I was not going to get through this. At times, I was convinced that death was imminent. That was the worst part of my dengue fever. I did not get this while at hospital. It was the home recovery that it was the worst part of them all.

If night was bad, day time is no better. I may be awake. But I was tired; I was lethargic. My zombie state mean that while I know where I was, I was not in the position to do anything. I was helpless. I can only sit or lie down on the sofa. I could not care less about anything, to be honest. It was like I was stoned, to be honest.

My bio-chemial compositions must be totally imbalance. They were causing havoc in mind.

It took me three days to get through this phase. Really long three days.

Only on Tuesday I believe I did not have the nightmare and I have a bit more zeal for life. Mostly because I know I was going back to the hospital for check up, and chances were I should be ok. I was worried of course more about the needle, but it was the least of my worry.

160 came the result. The doc gave me a clean bill of health.

I had driven to the hospital - on my own, for the first time in more than a week. It felt really good driving the car. The radio was set at top volume. I opened the window, I was letting all the polluted air of Kuala Lumpur filling up my car and lung. I thought the driving really rejuvenated me. I was - at last - free.

I then went on to Jusco and shopped for fruits and of course my beloved Marmalade.

To be honest, it took me more than just the second week to recover. I did not bother going to work. I did not bother checking my mails. I did not bother checking how my staff were doing. I was hoping that they were all on auto-pilot. The dengue has really drained the energy out of me. While I have no fever, I was lethargic. I was tired. I was weary, fatigue, if you must; it was as if I was burnt-out. All of those combined.

All in all, I reckon it took 3 full weeks to come to my senses and be myself again. Four weeks if I am honest.

But then again, up to this posting date, I am not myself yet. When I read the quran during solat, it would not be with the same passion and I was not stressing on the wordings and sentences, like I am used to. It was as if I had lost my zeal. It was as if I was just passing through when I read those passages. Something in me is still missing.

Dengue. It can kill you. In my case, it had drained me out of my energy. Completely.

I still hope I can fully recover God-knows when!


To be honest, I have rediscovered some simple things in previous life that I have forgotten in my present life. You can't beat being hospitalized to make you ponder on what you had left behind, and how good they were then. I mean, life is so good nowadays that our breakfast would be roti canai as a minimum, possibly nasik lemak, or mihun goreng and perhaps some would have half-boiled eggs.

If I were to have bread, it would be taken with freshly fried eggs, or half-boiled eggs. Or I would turn it into sandwiches, and it would be done over sandwich maker that Mak gave us many years ago.

And the bread would have to toasted - freshly toasted. I can't have cold bread unless they are fresh from the oven.

My kids would take the bread over say peanut butter, or peanut butter jelly or some fanciful names.

Yes, I can order my food over a menu at the hospital, but over breakfast, I was reintroduced to food of yesterday. I had never thought that while one was ill, this wonderful spread that I have forgotten would taste so wonderful than it became my daily staple. 

I am of course talking about marmalade.
I finished 'em all. Me alone, thank you very much!
The bread was soft and fresh, and the butter complement the marmalade. When I spread it on the bread (and butter) and tasted it, I was like, overwhelmed. What is thing? I thought. Marmalade, it says on the cover. Marmalade? Marmite, I remember. Marmalade? This taste like a orange jam. It tasted so good than I finished my whole ration.

And I had to ask for the same breakfast the next day.

And of course, when I returned to the hospital for their follow up check on Tuesday (18 Nov), I decided to drop by at Jusco next door, and bought one big bottle of marmalade jam. It was the smallest I can get, as I was sure I would get over it soon, and then no one else would want to eat them.

But until this post is published, the bottle is 3/4 empty now and I am still stuffing myself with marmalade jam on my bread. It is so good (even today) that I would not be bothered to have the bread toasted.

Funny how an illness could allow to relish simple stuff as marmalade. Something I have forgotten from an an earlier life.

I am looking back after all these. Life can take a sudden turn. One day you are healthy. The next day, you could be dead. Life is that simple and can be tragic. 


I would have to thank to those visiting or at least sending get well wishes. My former classmates of Pasteur 80 of MRSM Kota Bharu top the list as I have mentioned above. Their WhatsApp messages had really cheered me up and kept me occupied through out my stay. And all their prayers.

Of course, on the very first day my bro Rasi visited me with Kiwi fruits and isotonic drink. Thank you for coming, bro. My sister Sham who visited me twice, and my Auntie MC Kam who visited me at home. Her visit left an indelible mark on me. I was thinking that who else do I have left in this world. I don't have that many anymore. I am talking about my elders - aunties and uncles. Not many are left, and may be my turn would come soon. Fortunately I have one who would visit me during my hours of trial.

My bro in law Dr Kamal who visited me twice, and the relatives from my wife's side also visited me, notably my mother-in-law and Roslan and Ina. My former partner Ir Mohd Nor also visited me at the hospital.

And those who sent their regards and prayers from afar.

Thank you. 


It had been a trying month the last month (Nov). A one-week training that has been planned for months was cancelled just the week before (initially scheduled for 27 Oct week).

The instructor who had been away from the US had a less-than-six-month-before-expiry passport just when he was about to fly to Kuala Lumpur (from India) and hence was denied entry to board plane to KL. He could not extend the passport at the Embassy in India. It was Deepavali's week!

So he had to fly back to Houston!

I was frantically trying restore my dignity with my client and get training which was supposed to be on the 27 Oct to 1 Nov be replaced with a firm date (got 10-14 Nov).

And with that done and the instructor back in KL within 3 weeks, my health starts to deteriorate. I could feel it; but since it has been a hectic month, life went on, I supposed.
Steve with some of the attendees at the end of training session on Friday 14th. I was still in the hospital

And of course, to cap it off, I had dengue the week the instructor was doing the training for my esteemed clients! 

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