I've been unwell these few months. Imagine just surviving among the darkest moments in my life, being caged for three years. I had been locking my eyes on becoming an oral maxillofacial surgeon, but when I was engaged, I put that dream aside because I was idiotic enough to listen to a man telling me that I should spend more time at home as a wife. Finally, when I broke free from him, a path suddenly opened up.
I remember performing root canal treatment on a patient when I received a call from my superior telling that a post was just opened at oral maxillofacial surgery department of Hospital Tuanku Jaafar Seremban (HTJS). A fortnight later, there I was - finally free of admin works and mundane general dental practice. I finally got more used to manipulating that surgical scalpel, trimming bones, entering operation theaters, working at odd hours.
I was thriving. Despite at times feeling overworked, I was thriving. I am that type of person who enjoys being under pressure. Umi said, "I have never seen you happier than you are now walaupun kau penat".
Suddenly, a couple of months later, I started to experience breathlessness, chest pain, and giddiness. I have never failed to donate my blood every three months. Most of the time, my health status would be in excellent condition. In August, for the first time ever, I didn't make it through triage for blood donors. My blood pressure was 90/60mmHg. My haemoglobin level was excellent. "Maybe I'm not in my best form now", I reassured myself.
A few weeks later, while I was walking from my bed to the toilet, I didn't know what exactly happened, but I only remember waking up, lying beside my toilet cubicle. Two days later, while organising Basic Life Support course, the giddiness returned, worse. I could barely walk. I excused myself to seek medical attention. While I was driving there, I basically passed out thrice. Since the giddiness would occur preceding my syncopal attack, I was prepared for it. Hazard lights turned on, I'd stop on emergency lane.
As I arrived at the clinic, while waiting for my cue to be seen, again, I passed out for an hour, I missed my turn. When I entered that consultation room, I was examined by a medical officer. My blood pressure was 90/65mmHg (normal blood pressure 120/80), pulse rate was 44 beats per minute (bpm) (normal 60-100bpm). He ordered for ECG to be done and presented my case to the visiting family medicine specialist. Next thing I knew, they told me that they're transferring me to HTJS on an ambulance. A branula was fixed into my vein.
"Hmm... maybe they needed to just perform a few additional investigations on me", I didn't know that my condition was serious, because as long as I can still walk on my own, I would reassure myself that I am still quite fine... until I arrived there, double beeps, and I was pushed to red zone (emergency department is divided into three zones. Green - for non-critical. Yellow - Not so critical. Red - Life-threatening conditions).
"What. The. Fuck? Red zone?". And I had a defibrillator placed at my bedside and numerous wires attached onto my chest. Cardiac monitors. Continuous vital sign monitors. That's when I saw my heart rate further dropping to 37bpm and my blood pressure going to 85/44mmHg. My branula got thrombosed. I have prominent veins due to nature of my work, so it's usually very easy to set an IV line on me, but unfortunately this time, my veins started to go shitty on me, and they tried to access it through about 5 routes. Not funny getting pricked twice or thrice at each spot.
I was warded for about 4 days. The dreaded possibility of having to let go of my dream specialisation was daunting when the specialist said, "We suspect you to be having this condition congenitally, but it was never caught on ECG because it had been occuring transiently all these while, but not anymore now. I'm afraid that you might need a pacemaker implanted, so I am referring you to IJN. They'll decide". I would wake up at 4 to 5 o'clock in the morning for them to record my vital signs, crying. I was dispirited. They ruled out all possible causes they could think of. So many blood samples were taken, I eventually felt sorry for the houseman in-charge who had to do them. I was supposed to be admitted for one more week, but I begged that specialist to discharge me so that I could get back to work.
"I would, but promise me that you'd record your vital signs from time to time and if your blood pressure crashes, come to our emergency department STAT and go easy on working. Push too hard and your heart can possibly shut down. And I want you to rest for the next five days", he said. Doctors make worst patients. I didn't listen to him and I had to face its consequences. I was discharged on Friday. By Saturday, I was already attending a two-day course held by USIM. I felt my extremities going cold and clammy, breathless, and a bit giddy. Still. I pushed myself until a few days later...
My blood pressure crashed again to 75/50mmHg. My pulse rate went haywire for awhile. Most of the time around 40bpm and once when I had palpitations, I looked at my cardiac monitor and saw my heart rate soaring to nearly 200bpm before settling too far down again.
"I'm very sorry, Dr. I guess you're gonna spend your birthday in the ward". Morning of 23rd August 2016, I woke up, tearful again, but how ungrateful was I? I am blessed to know many genuinely sincere and kind people. I had so many visitors coming with cakes, gifts, and well wishes. I thought my boss wouldn't understand my condition. After all, he used to yell at me all the time, questioning my competency, but Allah is the All-Merciful.
"Girl, so how are you?", asked Dr Latif and I poured out all my troubles to him. Mostly about me feeling unsure whether I can still further my studies in oral maxillofacial surgery with a pacemaker in me and this heart condition. "You know Prof ****? His sinoatrial node is problemmatic just like yours too. He had a pacemaker implanted and he handles all instruments fine. And today he's one of the best surgeons around. Even with this you braved through performing and assisting all surgeries and never complained to us about it, I'm sure you'll be okay. Just get your health issues sorted out first".
Health is indeed a priceless wealth. However much I want to become a surgeon, it will all mean nothing if I lose my life pushing myself too hard. In the meantime, I'm feeling quite alright. In two days time, I shall go to IJN for my appointment. Let's just hope for the best.