On 18 May this year one of my NUS classmate passed on. We were not close during medical school days and I did not see her again after graduation. Our class had only 150 students so everyone knew who everyone else was. Last year I heard she was ill from intractable cancer. On 19 May I saw her obituary in the newspapers.
People are usually confronted of their mortality when a friend or loved one is found to be terminally ill or dies. I am already in my late 40s and my work as a family physician brings me to manage patients of my age with chronic illness, and some with a past record of myocardial infarction, stroke and cancer. I am constantly reminded in my line of work that my time is running out but paradoxically I am often caught up with the contemporary and have problems prioritizing eternal matters.
How rightly so that Moses in Psalms 90 prayed that he needed both to be reminded of the brevity of his life and gain wisdom from it. So I too pray for wisdom to follow through with God’s reminders
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
My classmate is a Christian so she spirit is now resting with the Lord. We will meet again one day.
*NUS = National University of Singaore
Educated young parents tend to very be concerned about autism and attention deficit disorder when their children behave differently or sub optimally compared to other children. There is a lot of anxiety created by our competitive urban environment, emphasis on excellence, early schooling and increasing prevalence of learning disabilities and developmental disorders. I have seen quite a number of parents bringing their children for screening of these disorders. Just a few months ago a christian mother who is also a family friend texted me about her son's condition. With her permission, I have edited and reproduced our chat in the Q&A section
Ever since my wife & I were dating, I have been telling her that I will likely be the first to die. I am 4 years old than her and in Singapore, women outlive men by an average of 4 years. So statistics dictate she will be a widow for 8 years. I can dismiss that as a population figure but numbers are a fact and individuals experience it. I came across a Harvard medical article on whey men live shorter lives than women so I felt it was good read to put that up as a reflection.
Dear wife, I will go first
I read this comic strip from last Sunday Times. Our human mind likes to simplify things so that we can understand them. But a close study of all life forms shows the wonder of even a unicellular organism. Its DNA structure is more complex than a computer code, the chemical processes numerous and multistep, the organelles like nano-robots in a giant factory.
I am currently being hospitalized for combined dermatitis and secondary skin infection on my face. I had a incision and drainage of a sebaceous cyst on the chin last friday and the same afternoon I started to break out with itchy rashes. I thought I developed an allergy reaction and self treated with antihistamines and steroids. But I developed fever the next day and the rashes got worse. On Tuesday I did a couple of screening test. I was surprised to see my total white cells at 22k, ESR 64, CRP 41 indicating an infection element. On Wednesday I saw a dermatologist, given a provisional diagnosis of bad erysipelas and got warded so I could be started on IV antibiotics. That was to prevent the infection from spreading to the cavernous sinus.
I am much better today but I spent the last week with headache, face tightness and rashes. And I had to endure the IV line setting and blood cultures. That brought feelings of déjà vu. I left hospital practice in 2001 to primary health care. Before then I was the one doing the blood letting and IV drips. Now I am on the other side of the bed. One interesting but painful experience was receiving IV potassium. I could feel the stinging sensation coursing through the forearm veins . It was so painful that I told the nurse to slow the drip over 3 hours instead of 1 hour.
So what’s God’s purpose of my short time of suffering? Nothing great was accomplished. No souls were saved. I prayed and there was no specific answer. God is an interesting teacher. I am the patient and the doctor. He gave me a health problem I could not solve so He solved it Himself for me.
The answer to suffering can sometimes be so plain and clear though difficult to appreciate.
1 Peter 4:12-13
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered
I looked at how Jesus conducted his healing ministry. Beyond the miraculous, I studied how Jesus approach the sick, interacted with them and what he thought about healing. There is little material on the later but I did find 2 good articles which I incorporated. These are under topic 3 and 5. Studying Jesus healings had helped me better understand my role as a doctor.
Topics I will be covering are
1 Case studies of the healing miracles of Jesus
2 Jesus instructions to his disciples conerning healing
3 The healing ministry of Jesus – an article by Sam Storms
4 My comments on the laying of hands by Sam Storms
5 Commentary of Jesus healing ministry in the book of Luke - Verse by Verse ministry
6 Comparisons between Jesus healing and medicine
My article can be found at Jesus healing ministry
Here is an interesting internet story. I am reposting it here because of it contains many life lessons about people and their relationship with God
In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”
The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”
The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”
The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”
Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”
To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.
On 17 Sept 2015, a GP and I were invited to share our experiences on SARS at a Christian meeting comprising of mainly medical and nursing students and some other university students. A video documentary of Ms Esther Mok the 1st SARS carrier who brought SARS to Singapore was also screened. I shared my own experiences, experiences of some of my friends and explained what the bible has to say on disasters like these.
I attended the Singapore Health and Biomedical Congress on 2 & 3rd October 2015. There was an interesting session on Evidenced based Aesthetic Medicine at Primary Care Forum. The session on presented by Dr Wong Soon Tee, a dermatologist. There is very strong evidence that many of the treatments and surgeries work. But there are also side effects and failed outcomes that are usually over looked. I have repackaged Dr Wong 's slides below, and have removed picture of patients. The slides themselves are quite self explanatory and would be a great accompanying reference to the body image article I posted last month. My opinion is that aesthetic medicine is a business about vanity.
On 15 Aug 15 I gave a talk on body image / physical beauty to my church youths. Body image is a very important to teenagers and young adults. I discussed the perception of physical beauty, how it changed over time and aesthetic medicine; mixed in with a few passages from the bible.
Benjamin lives in Singapore. He is joyfully working as a family physician in a public healthcare institution. Benjamin is happily married with 2 lovely children. He worships in a Bible Presbyterian church.
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