Sunday, August 30, 2009

Food food food!

A certain friend remarked that I should put more photos in my blog to make it more appealing. Besides, she argued, a picture equals to a thousand words. Good point. I guess I should write less and put more photos into my blog.

Around 10 days ago a certain owl flew into Kuching to attend his sister’s graduation. Off we go to sample some Kuching delicacies in TopSpot. Despite it being a weekday and the H1N1 threat, the place was teeming with people.

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We had bidin fried with belacan as well as bamboo clams with curry paste, which are both local delicacies. 

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Then there were this sour-spicy barbecued in leaves sting-ray as well as a humongous oyster pancake. 

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I had been increasingly turning to producing food as a therapeutic way to de-stress after a hard day at work. Even so satisfying to eat something you had DIY and also see other people savouring it.

This was my venture in replicating the thin crust pizza of Melbourne which I missed so much.

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And also some delicious vegetable pau..

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The balls of pau dough..

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The delicious and healthy vegetable fillings.

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Putting the fillings on rolled-up dough and wrapping it up.

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Pau before steaming.

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The finished product. It is as tasty as it looks. =)

TPN Pharmacy

They were the cutest thing on earth – their small fingers grasping at thin air, their little legs kicking energetically against pampers that looked bigger than their bodies. They lived in transparent egg-shaped incubators and had so many lines wired to them that they looked like some futuristic androids. They were the premmies – or babies being born premature. The smallest of them weigh 750 grams, smaller than a pack of sugar.


For the last two weeks, I had been starting my day by visiting the nursery. It was part of the routine in the TPN pharmacy rotation.

TPN stands for Total Parenteral Nutrition. As the name suggests, it is basically nutrition - a liquid form of glucose, amino acid and fats being delivered directly into the body via a vein. It needs to be sent this way as some babies cannot eat or digest the normal food we eat for some reason or other, for example, a blocked intestine.

And yes, it is a pharmacist’s job to make up these nutrition in a bag for the babies. Believe it or not. And it’s hard work.


After visiting the babies, we usually went back to the office and did some maths homework. This is the time where all those mmols and mLs and all the pharmacy calculations we tediously pore through in Uni came into practice. We need to calculate that the amount of food the doctors prescribed for the babies are correct.  It had to be a balanced diet. Something wrong and you might just send the frail baby to heaven.


After the calculations its often time for an early lunch and then  change into spacesuits.


This is because as the nutrition will go  directly into the body, we cannot afford to have any bacteria at all or else the baby will likely to suffer an infection. Everything had to be sterile. We gowned up and scrubbed in like surgeons wanting to perform delicate operations. Even washing hands took around 5 minutes. The end result looks like this:


It was then off to the clean room when there are no excuses to escape before the work is done – be it a bursting bladder,  dry lips or growling stomach. This is because the space suits are damn expensive and its a big hassle to scrub in again anyway. The longest stretch I had in there was 8 hours. Yesterday I clocked out at the unholy time of 9pm.


In the clean room we inserted all the individual components of the nutrition into a bag. That’s the easy part. The difficult part was to get all the bubbles  out of the bags. It was akin to herding hundreds of naughty lambs back into the barn at sunset. Doing a bag usually takes around 30 minutes. By the time I did the last bag of the day, my arms were so tired that I don’t even have the energy to break off an ampoule.

The next day, its back to the ward again, looking at the TPN bag with your handwriting on it being put up on a stand next to a baby and seeing the yellowish solution dripping slowly into their tiny body, giving them strength to fight for another day.

And sometimes, if you are lucky, they opened their eyes and smiled at you. I swear one did that other day.


And this little gesture is enough to make all the hard work worthwhile. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

As we grow older..

“Remember students, please read about page 34 and 35 before coming to class tomorrow, okay?” the teacher sweetly coaxed her students in the saccharine voice of hers.

30 cute doting students nodded their head eagerly before exiting the class. They all pore through the pages at home except one who forgot. He came to school crying because he felt left out.

“I expect you to have a clear understanding of what we are going to do before venturing into the lab tomorrow. Chapter 6 has a good account of the topic. Please read.”

“Yes sir!” Twenty voices chorused in unison. Snorting grumble were heard in the other ten. They eventually managed the next day by paraphrasing the work of their friends and vowed not to do it again.

“It is impossible to pass this unit by just coming to these lectures. These two books - ” the professor paused for effect, his hands gesticulating towards the direction of two thick leather-bound tome  - “will be essential to guide you through the whole semester. Study hard guys.”

Only ten pore into the books diligently in the first week. The other twenty laze under the sun in the afternoons. “Relax, there’s still time,” they drawled, before cramping it all in in the last minute, with the help of caffeine and ginseng.  They survived, barely.

“The group of you, you will be sent to the marketing department next week for a two weeks attachment. Hope you can learn as much as you can over there,” the manager said to the bunch of immaculately dressed new recruits.

Twenty nine of them went to party the night before the attachment. And they bitched and bitched and bitched about the single alien who opted to stay home to study and prepare for the stint.

“Abnormal crazy lonely no-life guy that one,” one said. All other nodded in agreement, glad that they are normal and know how to have fun. “He is such a boot licker,” said one. "I’m sure he did that just to make us look bad. Damn him,” quipped another. Everyone avoided being seen with him. Nobody wants to be seen to be friends with an outcast. From that day onwards, the alien did his best to fit in.

“Okay guys, we must win this award. Do whatever it takes – overtime, take work home – to bring glory to our company. Your sacrifice will be worth it!” the boss tried to fire his staff up. All the thirty employees in the meeting nodded and clapped.

“Five o’clock!” someone said just as they settled back in the office. They all looked up to the clock, hastily packed their briefcases and in two minutes, the office was empty. No one stayed or brought work home.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A little of this and that

I did my first ever Continuous Professional Development (CPD) presentation in hospital with my group mates last Wednesday, presenting on the topic Hormone Replacement Therapy. We chose the topic because it was an area that we are a bit hazy about ourselves!


My group mates and me before presentation.

Presentation wise, it went without a hitch (except the fact that the projector colour was faulty). I don’t feel nervous at all, just a bit irritated how I always realised my grammatical mistakes only  after the words had already leapt out of my mouth. Something to improve on.

So anyway a little about the topic. Hormone Replacement Therapy are medications used in menopausal woman to alleviate symptoms associated with a decrease in estrogen level, such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness. The take home note is that these medications should only be used for a short period of time (3-5 years) and not more than that as it will increase the risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular complications.

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I took this pic in the of the drugs for HRT

I spent an insane amount of time preparing the slides and going through the net to find interesting tit-bits that can be used to enhance my presentation. I think I am crazy nowadays because I loved presentation. Getting more and more of a attention whore.


This was one of my slides…

2 weeks spent in Drug Info was indeed very carefree and fun. It was nice and lucky being cloistered and comfy in the office while most of the pharmacists were constantly exposed to potential H1N1 carriers. Starting from tomorrow I will be going into the clean room to commence my two weeks stint doing Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN). Heard it is a stint that will make you hate bubbles. Oh well, I will report about it later.

And now I would like to use this space to wish a very happy birthday to a dear friend of mine who is currently far away in Melbourne. We met in a badminton game and played a game of chess without knowing each other while in 2nd year of Uni. After that we became good friends and played basketball, badminton, eat out and even went to Adelaide and far-away excursions together. He is a good guy, thoughtful and considerate (too bad already not available) and I wish him all the best in his endeavours. He will be a top-notch pharmacist in the future. Happy Birthday WP. Hope you had a great day there! =)


Sunday, August 09, 2009


The sun glances down and embraces us in a glow of brilliant red nowadays, shrouded occasionally by thick fogs of pungent oppressive smog. The heat is overbearing, the rain scarce. The haze is back.

Masked personnel hustled around the wards, speaking in muffled tones and with bleary eyes. Deaths are aplenty, Tamiflu prescribed in bulk. H1N1 clamoured for attention, spiralling out of control.

Kuching doesn’t seem to be a good place to live for the time being. But life goes on.

Busy is the tone of the month, with the pursuit of obscure information the mainstay of my job. Drug Info Services at your service, for every clueless caller I proffer my genuine help. Internet, books, leaflets I pore over, in search of  solutions to their woes.

12 August on stage I will stand, a discourse on HRT I will present. Preparations had been long and winded, good luck now I hope. Research on diabetes now lead-footed in progress, more oil needs to be added to it.

It will yet be another hectic week ahead. And I will be on lunch duty =(.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

End of Month report

Just realised I only published a single post this month. This can’t be happening! I didn’t realise that I was that busy.

Anyway, I had just finished my first two-weeks rotation in the In-patient Pharmacy Department (IPD) today. It is the main pharmacy in the hospital dealing with the bulk of patients staying in the hospital.

It was a busy station, and the job criteria includes filling up the ward stocks, checking prescriptions and filling drugs for inpatients, counsel discharged patients, answering queries from doctors as well as querying them about their mistakes.

I was also on lunch duty this week, which means that I can’t have lunch during lunch time. Instead I was at the pharmacy dealing with the discharge patients and handling queries from hard-working doctors working during that time.

The most interesting thing that happened the last fortnight was that I bought a new laptop.

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And its pink.

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Now I’m officially a trend-setter. Pink is really the new black. Just wait for it to happen and see the “I tell you so” smirk on my face in the not too distance future.

In the meantime, I will just live with all the deriding laughter.

Oh I also successfully made some cream puff pastry.

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And not to mention that I watched a movie in Malaysia for the first time in 3 years. Can’t even remember what movie was the last I watched at Star Cineplex prior to Harry Potter last weekend. But the cinema still looks the same.

My first CPD presentation is in 12 days time. Can’t wait for that day. Very excited. It’s about Hormone Replacement Therapy.

By the way, I typed this using my new laptop.