Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Of Feeling Sick

sick_puppy-600x319 (by changyang1230)It's quite easy to overlook the experience of illness as one progresses in their medical career. As we fret over how best to present our long cases or how best to study the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine cover to cover, we often forget that we are not really there to study medicine; we are there to learn how to treat sick people, and how to make them feel better.

I had my share of illness today. It started this morning when I went to the Austin Hospital at about 8.30. Feeling unwell in the tummy, I immediately went to the toilet, and there I was flushing out some humongous amount of bowel content into the toilet. However, at that stage I was feeling alright, and the watery bowel motion didn't bother me at all.

At 9am, I went on to have a tute with one of the doctors without much problem. After the tute, I had to go to the toilet again. And again. And again. In the next three hours, I went to the toilet four times, feeling more and more unwell in the process. Come lunch time, I struggled to finish my tuna sandwich due to a lack of appetite.

I wanted to stay back to clerk some patients but my physical condition was deteriorating quickly. My tie started to strangulate me, and my anal sphincters were unforgiving. I could feel some chill overwhelming my body, and I immediately knew I was not gonna make it to the 5pm lecture.

With an ashen face, I braved the chill and physical weakness and walked to the train station opposite my hospital. What usually seemed like a short walk became an endurance race. Each step I took was harder than the step before, and I was in fear - I knew that there was a possibility I was going to collapse on the street. At that moment, weakness ceased to be a mere physical descriptor of the patients; it became a real entity, a thoroughly debilitating sensation. It became a fear.

The train ride back to the city was uneventful, but I was not feeling better. By the time I reached city, it was apparent how feverish I was. From the train station, I boarded a tram to head home. The tram was packed like a sardine. To worsen the matter, a girl in front of me kept on swearing bad words like 操你妈的 to her boy friends. She was making me nauseous.

Two minutes into the journey, I was on the verge of throwing up. They say that nausea is the worst feeling of all physical afflictions, and it can't be more true. I had a patient who developed some nausea due to morphine, and without hesitation she wanted to cut down on the morphine just to get rid of the sick feeling. I had to get out of the tram and get some fresh air.

I sat in the toilet of a shopping complex having the seventh bowel motion of the day, but I didn't vomit despite the continuous tug in my stomach. At that juncture, I started to wonder how I was going to get home at all. Am I going to take a tram home and risk myself vomitting in it? Or should I just wait in the shopping complex to get better? The loneliness and helplessness was killing me.

I decided to visit a pharmacy and shelled out some money to buy oral dehydration salt (at which Xuan Ni later ridiculed :P), paracetamol and water. Immediately I mixed the salt with the water to make up the rehydration solution. I guess the other shoppers must have thought I was mixing some illicit drugs.

Eventually I got home via a bus. I collapsed on my bed immediately and fell into a deep, warm slumber for the next three hours. Xuan Ni and Anthony (my current housemate) came home and visited me. I am very grateful for their care - Anthony cooked porridge for me (which I only ate a little due to nausea), and Xuan Ni was simply there for me. Social support is not just something that earns us extra points in long case presentation; it is something that truly helps.

Right now, the diarrhoea has stopped although there is still some lingering weakness and my temperature is still a tad up. The metoclopramide I brought to Melbourne four years ago worked wonderfully against the nausea. Today, as cliché as it sounds, I reminded myself of what it truly means to be sick, and hopefully, how to be a better doctor (or a better medical student, for that matter).


day-dreamer said...

To be honest I am rather impressed with your ability to come up with such a detailed post given the condition you are in now. Haha.

Anyway, here's wishing you a speedy recovery! :)

OWL said...

Btw, did you check the expiry date of the metoclopramide, you brought over..erm..4 years ago? :D
Anyway, hope you get well soon...

Ai Ling said...

i had almost that same problem last time. it's really scary taking the public transport when u dun know when's the next minute u actually desperately need the toilet.

anyway, like what the doctors say; rest more and get well soon.

Anonymous said...

Oh my- sounds like you had a bit of health drama! All better now i believe?


Phiaw said...

Gosh. Take care. Nice to find out that you are better in your next post.

Just wanna say I love the piece. Excellently written. Though strike me a bit ironic in that you 'escape' from a hospital when u r feeling sick. =P

nhang said...

Wow! Nice piece. I shouldn't be saying this when it was because of you falling sick that this piece was produced. :P

Anyway, glad that you are feeling better now. It just warms my heart knowing you have such caring and loving housemates. :)

ah ting said...

maxolon (metoclopramide) 4 years ago?? wei, expired liao la. Next time we tapao a new beg of medication for u before go back to melbourne.

changyang1230 said...

Thanks for your well wishes (it's a bit late for me to reply eh :P)

Anyway the metoclopramide, it's probably expired, yes. Haha. But I have read some journal articles claiming that those "expiry dates" on most medications don't really mean much (apart from some critical drugs for serious conditions which I neglected to remember). All it meant is that before the drug companies introduced the drug into the market, they analysed the drug after that much period and proved that the active compound was still there. But it doesn't mean that after the expiry date the drug would turn poisonous or ineffective. :D