My God is Never too Late

So I broke my right leg in late October 2012. I was recovering very well until round about April 2013, when my lower left hip was giving me a lot of pain. Without painkillers, I could barely stand straight. A visit to the physiotherapist and both of us came to the conclusion that I was over compensating on the good leg and that my muscles were uneven in strength – hence the pain. It sounded logical and I did not think too much about it, and faithfully exercised as the physiotherapist had suggested.

Round about that time, I also had my scheduled visit to the oncologist. He suggested I did another CT scan, since the last was done about six months back. I am not very good with dates because I have had so many medical appointments that after a while, they’re just a blur. The day of the CT scan came. I was in quite a lot of pain. I could tell from the way the technicians spoke to me thereafter that this CT Scan probably did not yield good results – they were avoiding my eyes and telling me to be careful. This was quite unlike previous visits where they would bid me goodbye cheerily.

My ill feeling bore out the next morning when I received a call from my oncologist – it’s never good news to receive a call from your doctor so soon after any tests. He started by asking how I was and if I were in pain – definitely not good news. Then he said he was on leave that day – even worse news. I could feel fear gripping my heart. Then the real intention of his call:-

“I want you to go to the hospital this morning. I am on leave so I won’t be there. I have arranged for you to see the doctor in the walk-in clinic.”

“Why?” I asked.

“The CT scan showed something in your spinal column. We need to check you out – in fact we may need to ward you, except that tomorrow is a public holiday, and the weekend is just round the corner. There is a risk of paralysis.”  Or words to that effect. He hinted that I had a fractured vertebra.

“Eh? How come I do not feel any pain on my spine?” I asked.

He said that it was possible. He also kindly added it was not life – threatening.  I love my doctor – he really tries to be positive.

My daughters were in and hurriedly we made our way to the National Cancer Centre. The Medical Officer checked me out – good news, my limbs were in good working order – no sign of paralysis. After consulting with my Oncologist they prescribed me with some steroids to bring down inflammation of the nerves, and arranged for an MRI on April 30th. My oncologist also immediately contacted his colleague – an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in spinal surgery. You must remember that I am a subsidised patient with no right to select doctors. My dear oncologist did me a tremendous favour by selecting him for me.

Wow the steroids did wonders. All pains subsided and I was walking pain free – what a relief. I was sure it was a false alarm.

The minute the MRI was done, I could see everyone panicking. I was hastened back to walk-in Clinic – it was already 5pm. The medical officer was panicking. “Your spinal column is compressed to 50%.” It was clear she was scared. From thence, I was not allowed to walk and was sent by ambulance from NCC to SGH A&E to await a hospital bed so I could be warded.

I must count all blessings, big and small. The first night, I was given an air-conditioned room!! I am a subsidised patient and B2 is all I get- but this one was a former B1 ward recently converted to B2. It was not even orthopaedic ward –it was a haemolytics ward – whatever the spelling. But hey – at least I had air conditioning!

Next day was May 1, Labour Day. My surgeon came to see me in the morning – Public Holiday and all. He said that one of my vertebrae had collapsed and he needed surgery to strengthen my back, and to put in a cage to protect my spinal column. The usual tests confirmed I was not paralysed. He asked if I would be agreeable to surgery.

Did I really have a choice? Of course I agreed. I asked when. He said he could do it that day. So after numerous blood tests and goodness knows what else – he scheduled me for emergency surgery that very evening. I told him I had every confidence – because if not for my scheduled CT Scan, I would not even realise I had a spine problem. God had prepared the diagnosis in the nick of time, and He would not alert me just to let me down. He smiled. He also told me there must be two operations – one from the back and the other from the front. Of course the coward in me asked if he could do both in one sitting. He said he would try, but it would depend on the anaesthetist if I could go under for so long. He estimated at least 6-8 hours for both.

At about 5pm, I was finally wheeled in. My husband was in Mandalay and highly anxious. My girls were harassed by his frequent SMS. One went to a movie to wait the surgery out – no we do not believe in pacing outside the OT to await news like in the Chinese dramas. Imagine a top surgeon operating on a subsidised patient between 6-10 pm on a public holiday. If that is not blessing and favour of the Lord I do not know what is.

At about 11 pm I was awake and well. My girls came into the high dependency ward where I would be kept for the night. They found me smiling and immediately took a picture of me to send to my husband. The only problem was both my legs were in pain – sharp pain. They explained that during surgery some nerves could be inflamed and it would settle. They did though I do still feel pins and needles almost the whole day even now. They said it might take three months to totally settle. Such is the miraculous creations of God – our body is so interlinked that a pain in the foot has its origins in the spine. How accurate when Paul said that we are the body of Christ – if one part hurts, the whole suffers – paraphrased by Sophia. Hehe.

Alas, the second surgery was not done. I had to wait five more days – it was scheduled for May 6. Somehow, the nurses in the ward were quite drawn to me. They could not understand my cheer. One, a student nurse came up to me and said, “You’ve gone through so much but you are always smiling.” My reply, “I am grateful God saved me from paralysis.”

Another – a senior nurse came up to me and said, “You are so positive. I hope to be like you.” My reply, “Well, if I frazzle, everyone in my family will panic. No point. I only know that God protected me, and He would not allow me to know my condition in time, just to abandon me. Besides, this joy or positivity is a gift from God. It would be impossible without the grace of God.”

I put up prayer requests on my facebook status. All over the world good wishes and promises to pray came in. Before my second surgery, I told that to the surgeon.

“It’s ok doc. I am praying for you and me. In fact we are surrounded by prayers from all over the world.”

This very quiet doctor smiled and said, “Yes pray for me.”

Of course the second surgery went smoothly. In the meantime, I had the opportunity to chat with some patients – including the patient on my next bed.

She had some issues with her intestines. The doctors wanted to do a colonoscopy. Then they decided to do an MRI first. They also wanted her to sign her consent form for the colonoscopy, and told her all the inherent dangers. That frightened her so much she was in a panic.

I turned to her and said that I would pray that her MRI results would be so good, she need not do colonoscopy. I also told her to forgive her in-laws who had hurt her tremendously. I told her to harbour that hurt was like taking a poison, and she could damage her health. She agreed.

On the morning of her MRI, as she left the ward, I told her cheerfully I would pray for her. The trouble was breakfast was served and then I was told I would be wheeled out to see the radiation oncologist to check if I needed further treatment, and a host of things happened. I could not remember if I prayed for her. When her MRI results came out, she was in the clear – no need for colonoscopy. She was delighted – and attributed it to my prayers. How to accept the praise when I could not even remember if I prayed? So I said, “Praise the Lord.” In my heart, I hoped it was because God heard my intention even if I did not pray.

It was a long stay in the hospital – 19 days. I am very grateful to the nurses of Ward 76 SGH. So many I wanted to commend, but there is not enough space in the feedback page. The doctors and other allied medical staff were amazing. I am particularly grateful to the Cardiac Thoracic Surgeon .. blast I cannot remember his name ..Dr Soon? He came at 9pm after surgery just to remove a drain from my chest. He said it would take only five minutes, and if he did not do it that night, I would have to stay in hospital one more day. That despite his wife’s many smses to chase him home. I am grateful to you, Mrs Surgeon to share your husband in after work hours with his many patients

How did I spend my time during that long stay? I did cross stitch to the amusement of staff and patients who came around to see the pattern. I also chatted with staff and patients. To their questions on my peace of mind – I told them it was because God was with me. Truly He was.

Today, I can walk unaided – though I can only take small, limping steps. It will take time to get back to normal. I have to wear a brace to stop me from bending. The bone graft needs time to grow. I am in some pain – but barely there. In less than a year, I had undergone 3 surgeries. I think enough is enough.

So on my birthday, on the 24th of May, I asked the Lord for my birthday present.

“No more challenges Lord. I need a sabbatical from the School of Trials and Testing. I must have passed the exams by now – I just need a very uneventful year of peace for myself and my loved ones. No health issues, no career issues for my loved ones, no financial worries – just a time of rest.”

I am sure He has heard my prayers

Oh – and I must add this. I just went to see my oncologist yesterday. I thanked him for what he did and the recommendation to see Dr John Chen. My oncologist – Dr Ooi Wei Seong said he was afraid I would scold him or blame him for my condition. Me, blame the angel who was instrumental in saving me?? I assured him I was grateful. In fact so was my sister-in-law who gave him a bottle of home-made marmalade to show her thanks. He took one look and said, “Wah looks good!” A doctor who loves food and after my own heart! As he stood up to examine me, I saw him pulling up his pants.

“Hey. You’ve lost weight.” You should see the delight in his face. He beamed!

“You noticed! I did so many things to lose weight you know. I jogged, cycled. Then I overdid it – I joined the marathon. Now I might need a brace too. Let me check out yours.”

I love this doctor. Haha … and I had no heart to tell him that he was still a little tubby – and he should remain a little tubby – for that suited him more than being lean and mean.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt through these years of seeing doctors  – oncologists in particular – the patient, when she is well, should learn to ask after them, and not expect just to be examined. It makes the doctors feel like a person, and not a prescription delivery auto bot- or worse a harbinger of bad news. The relationship becomes more balanced – and it is two human beings touching base, with the patient in need of medical advice which should be given with sensitivity and care, and the doctor in need of a casual relationship from a patient who knows what it means to be grateful and to show concern for a doctor who is probably overworked and stress.

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Appreciating Nurses

November 20, 2012 2 comments

In my previous post, http://speakspokewritewrote.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/broken-bone-wholesome-spirit/ I wrote about breaking my leg and my subsequent hospitalisation. It was during my stay at Tan Tock Seng Hospital that my awareness of the nursing profession was heightened. It also increased my appreciation of their work

There was this sweet lil’ old lady whose bed was diagonally across mine. When in a good mood, she had this smile that had the power to soften your heart and made you want to go “awwwwww”. Then Mya, a wonderfully cheerful nurse from Myanmar made her approach. “Ah Ma, jiak yeouk” (Granny, time for medicine). Before long, Mya made a hasty retreat.

“What happened, Mya?” I asked.

“She phui at me – see my uniform is so dirty. She also clawed me – see got blood.”

From Ah Ma’s bed, we saw her glare at Mya, and in her forceful yet feeble voice, we heard a string of Hokkien swear words. “CCB, Cb lang….”

Ah Ma is, I believe, suffering from dementia, and we can forgive her aggression. Mya and I just laughed. But many able minded patients are also demanding and lack appreciation. And their demands ain’t funny.

In my ward at Tan Tock Seng hospital, I saw nurses who did not walk. They ran from patient to patient. The call bell never stopped ringing. There was so much to do. I, for instance, had to have my vital signs checked every hour. I was immobile, so they had to come with bed pans every so often, and had to clean me up. I could not move, so even when I needed a drink of water, they had to help get me the glass. Then there was the checking of the drip, sponging me, taking blood for tests…ad infinitum. Multiply that by 6 patients in the ward and further multiply by 3 since two nurses look after a minimum of 3 wards per shift and you can imagine the amount of work they had to do.

I have huge respect for their professionalism. Most served me with a smile. I made it a point to thank them, to know them by name, to apologise for calling them. I tried to wait until they were in my ward before I signalled them for whatever I needed rather than reach for the call bell at the drop of a hat. I felt humbled that they cleaned me up with so much grace. I admired their skill at finding my elusive vein every time they had to prick me with the needle. Their skills range from the menial – cleaning the patient after their pee and poo, to the mundane like taking blood pressure, to what is highly skilled like inserting the drip needle . No matter the work, they have to serve without complaining.

Sometimes they are at the receiving end of complaints. Family members can be very curt. In the case of the old lady, a family member complained that the bed sheet was not changed. The old lady was so antagonistic at one point, the nurse put off the changing of sheets til later and probably forgot in the busyness of the day. There was no protest from her – she just got clean sheets and proceeded to change the sheets as was demanded of her. Talk about longsuffering.

I came into contact with many nurses during my 11 day stay. It was a mini United Nations in the ward. The nurses came from Malaysia, India, China, Philippines, Myanmar…There were very few Singaporeans.

One evening, when my husband visited, I remarked, “We do not recognise the professionalism of the nurses enough. In defining meritocracy in academic terms, in some ways we have forgotten our hands-on workers, workers like nurses.” He agreed.

Given the choice, a student with stellar results would prefer to be an engineer than a nurse. The system and concerned parents would have convinced them that nursing is “dirty” work. “Must clean backsides one you know. You still want to be a nurse?” For many years, the salary was also not attractive. In our short-sightedness, we forget that nursing is an integral part of healthcare. We had so few institutions that trained nurses. Perhaps that is the reason for the disproportionate no. of foreign to local nurses in my ward.

This goes beyond nursing. Those who are athletic and are also academically inclined must be able to choose between the two without feeling that athletics is way down the meritocratic ladder. Likewise for plumbers, electricians or chefs. We need to redefine what falls within the meritocratic umbrella or else what we deem to be blue collared workers will never have the salary that commensurate with their skills, and parents will be willing to go to the poorhouse just to ensure their children make it to better recognised professions – never mind what their interests are. It also means that we will have to perpetually rely on foreign workers for less prestigious jobs while many of our Singaporeans become unemployed because there are not enough white collared positions available.

Apart from passion, what incentivises us to stay in our careers? Is it not recognition from society that our jobs are meaningful, coupled with a salary that gives us a decent livelihood? How do we get these? We need to redefine meritocracy and let it be more inclusive.

As for me, the nurses have done a wonderful job and they deserve praise for their work. Thank you nurses of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Ward 12C. I’d like to quote a conversation I had with Mya.

Mya came in looking a little frustrated but still smiling.

“I miss this ward.” She was assigned to a different ward – a male ward with several very demanding patients.

Me: Mya why are you always smiling?

Mya: If I don’t smile, how can I help my patients to smile?

Mya is not the only nurse like that. It’s difficult to smile, still they do it for the sake of their patients. Thank God for nurses like them.

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Jon Stewart lambasting CEOs using Obamacare to make employees pay

I have to post this. It’s funny but does it not also hit a nerve?

Jon Stewart lambasting CEOs on Obamacare

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Broken Bone, Wholesome Spirit

November 12, 2012 4 comments

So I had a whisky infused cake in one hand and a cup of coffee on the other. The right leg had been giving me trouble lately – 3 days to be exact. I was going to call the doctor the next day. The day of the unfortunate event was Hari Raya Haji and a public holiday, so I could not make an appointment.

Alan had taken the dog for his pee-poo and I was alone in the house. The minute I took the small step from kitchen to living room, I knew I was in trouble. To this day, I had no full recollection of what happened. I sort of floated in the air, my right thigh looked kinda spongy, and then I was on the floor staring at the ceiling.

I suppose I must have shrieked – I don’t remember. But apart from being totally angry at myself for the foolishness of taking a step unsupported, given the weak and aching right leg, I really do not recall my reaction. All I knew was I stared at the ceiling, taking note that there were coffee stains there. I knew Alan would be home in just a few minutes, so I sort of composed myself to the wait. I do not even know whether I was in pain or not – I suppose everything had gone numb.

Alan got home, taking his time through the door. One look at me and he said, “Oh no! You’ve broken your leg.” Thank God for his calm. “I have to call an ambulance.”

Now the dog was a major disappointment. I had been reading about ultra sensitive dogs – dogs who would comfort the owners?? Not so with Indie. He headed straight for the cake and gobbled it up before ambling over to check me out. What a dog!

While waiting for the ambulance, the thought in my head which I vocalised was, “Can I walk again?” Alan on the other hand was not worried about that. Instead he kept asking me if I wanted to wear a bra on the outside of my home dress – err yes. I believe in freedom of the breast at home. I thought his concern rather funny – as if I cared about modesty at that stage!

Anita – the neighbour who baked the whisky laden cake, popped her head in.

“What happened?” she asked in alarm.

“It’s your cake,” I answered feebly. Whereupon we both laughed – she convinced I was intoxicated hence the fall. I was told her daughter later scolded her for laughing.

“It’s no laughing matter, mum. Auntie Sophia must have been in great pain,” she admonished her mum.

“But Auntie Sophia started it first,” Anita protested – which was true.

That was the start of a ten-day hospital stay.  My bone broke – a pathological break – meaning cancer had weakened that bone and it finally gave way.

I will not bore you with the details, safe to say that prior to the surgery on Tuesday morning, I was in great pain. There were times when I teared from the sheer agony – especially when they shifted me for the MRI. There were times of fear – wondering if my compromised bones would be suitable for surgery at all. Definitely there were periods of abject self-pity. However, instead of constantly worrying and focussing on the pain, I found ways to cope.

First and foremost, I have God and His grace to thank as I lay there coping. He really strengthened my spirits and because He was and still is constantly by my side, I was able to keep calm and cheerful.

Secondly, I always try to remember that Prov 17:22: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

I thought of things to be grateful for. For a start, I was in New York recently. I was sooooo grateful this did not happen while I was in the States. I was grateful I was not alone when it happened. I was grateful for the super-efficient paramedic team and the wonderful doctors and nurses who attended to me.

I was not trying to trivialise matters when I joked with Anita. It was an attempt to laugh to encourage the production of endorphins – the body’s natural pain killer.

While in the hospital, I made it a point to smile at the nurses, to thank them constantly, to greet the doctors brightly.  I like to be embraced by their smiles and good spirits. These medical professionals see patient after patient – mostly in some form of depression or other. I do not want this sombre mood to surround me – I want the sunshine rays of good cheer. And cheerfulness, I noticed, is highly infectious – they always smile back and even when giving me my medical reports, they do so in good cheer and with encouragement.

Well, I am now back home and recuperating. No weight on my right leg for another 4 weeks. Then there will be physiotherapy to learn to walk again. Stability on right leg will only be possible after ten weeks.

I feel well. I feel blessed. My neighbours cook for me occasionally. They pop by to check on me ever so often. My daughters uncomplainingly assist me, even waking up several times in the night to take me to toilet. My husband tirelessly made ramps for the kitchen and the toilet, assembled a bed and did so many things to make sure I am safe at home. There are many people praying for my recovery.

By the way, people’s care and concern is a privilege, not an entitlement. So even for my daughters, I thank them for their assistance. I want a gracious environment around me, and I recognise it starts with me.

I cannot end without mentioning this bit. When I was admitted, I was examined for other injuries – after all I did fall. They checked my head, my back, my collarbones. There was nothing. I did not even remember any part of my body that was hurt. On reflection, it was as if an angel cushioned my fall, and probably administered some form of divine anaesthetic to ease the pain. How I wish that anaesthetic effect lasted the days before the surgery!

Still I praise the Lord and thank Him for His goodness toward me.

Update

November 6, 2012 4 comments

I am very sorry for not blogging much lately. i was away in the states for a bit visiting my son. About a month after my return – ie 10 days ago, i broke my leg. I am in recuperation mode and just back from hospital. Learnt a lot about several things while there. will blog later, when the house is more settled for a wheel chair occupant and as i get used to a new routine. It will be a min of 6 weeks before i can do physio ex for the injured leg…

But i am in very good spirits. My God has always been with me and you won’t believe that I am the one laughing in the ward, except for the first two days when i was in incredible pain.

That’s all for my update… hope to be back soon to give a fuller story of the fall and what insigts i drew from that

 

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The Curious Case of Amy Cheong

When I logged into Facebook yesterday (8 October, 2012) I read with horror Amy Cheong’s posting. Her comments were vile. Obviously angered by the noise of a Malay wedding, she made her contemptuous posting on FB. Not only did she complain about the noise, she mocked the Malay community for being too cheap to hold their weddings at hotels. She bandied about a $50 dollar wedding figure and insinuated that Malay divorce rates were high because of their low-cost weddings.

I could not believe what I read. Especially when she retorted in later comments that whoever did not like what they read could just buzz off her FB wall and read something else.  At first I was riled. Then I felt sorry for her. She was recklessly stupid. How could someone her age not understand that Facebook is public domain, no matter your security settings? How could she have so little self-control and let her fury blind her to the consequences of her words?

 Note to self- remind my children not to make stupid, unnecessary comments on Facebook.

What troubled me even more was the swift baying for blood.  Yahoo article The Amy Cheong Saga  outlined the unfolding of events. I tried to understand why it was so troubling – after all, I was offended by her comments too.

My son got married exactly a year ago. I cannot imagine such a joyous occasion to be celebrated silently. In fact, I had a little party for my neighbours at my end of the corridor – and they were so happy, decorating the lift landing, offering their tables and chairs and having so much fun. The rest of the neighbours smiled, even though they were not invited, and waved their congratulations.  No Amy Cheongs in my neighbourhood.

So no, I cannot understand nor excuse her tirade. Still, the attacks against her trouble me. Why???

Perhaps this song (“Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist Sometimes from Avenue Q”) helps explain part of the reason why. Thanks Donaldson from New Asia Republic for posting it. It answers part of my discomfiture. We ARE all a little bit racist. I mean, especially living overseas, I have been called unsavoury names. I have also made racist jokes. So who am I to judge?

I also felt that the demands for her to be fired, and for that demand to be so swiftly met, extremely perturbing. She made a terrible statement online, doubtless, but to get the sack so swiftly? There was no denying she wrote horrible comments – but was she a regular racist? Did she discriminate her staff based on race?  Or was this a one-time whopper of a blooper?

Surely to condemn someone so publicly, the investigation has to be more thorough than that? I mean, I agree that there should be some form of disciplinary action, but public sacking? Hey, warts and all, she is a human being. Must we step on her face and then push it further into the dirt?

I also found it highly unusual for ministers to jump on the bandwagon so quickly.  There was even a police report. Goodness. One would have thought she was inciting racial war! The truth was her statements drew flak from the Chinese community as well. We all thought it rotten of her to speak so poorly of our Malay compatriots. Especially since her statements were unsubstantiated. So there was no danger of any racial disharmony through her words. Our Malay friends were clear too – they condemned her, not the rest of the Chinese Community. So what racial disharmony? It was the case of one stupid girl getting flamed for her own comments.

Contrast this to previous elitist comments from the likes of Wee Shu Min. The reaction from the MIW was so swift and uncompromising here. Have they learnt to be on their toes? Is that why? Really?

Then there were her apologies. And boy did she make many. Again contrast this to previous elitist statements. Hardly any apologies were forthcoming then. I did not read them in detail – I just did not have the stomach to. Some said her apologies missed the point – perhaps so. But the number of apologies that she made in one morning told me something. Sorry or not, she was a terrified girl. Despite that, the onslaught came fast and furious. Made me wonder, have we all gone so cold? Hadn’t the punishment gone as far as it should? Was it not time to stop?

Granted we need to practise racial tolerance and acceptance. We need to accept religious differences. We even need to take in our strides noisy renovations without lashing out at our new neighbours. Still, don’t we have the occasional frustrated outbursts that are far from tolerant, that make us seem racist or practising religious bigotry?

There is something else about this whole matter that troubles me. Is vindication so swift because it is easier to attack one rather hapless individual? That there is pent up anger elsewhere that cannot be released, so we let loose here? That we have found a common “enemy” , so ministers feel safe to condemn?

My next question – will the actions taken eradicate racism? Or are we just building an environment of fear? If the latter, there will be latent resentment. And what does this mean for the future of social media and the penning of our unreserved thoughts? Will policing be the natural consequence given this very unfortunate event?

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My home, My nationality

My maternal grandfather, whom I never knew, was a first generation Malaysian. He fathered 13 children in Penang. He also ran a successful business and made good there. This was on top of being a top-notch craftsman. Many carvings that you see in Hai Kee Peranakan mansion, the setting of TV8 production “The Little Nonya” were his artwork.

Image

As a typical Chinese businessman, he invested in property. According to my mother, all the girls received education, mostly in Chinese schools. Grandfather had bought them properties and the intention was to let them return to China eventually. The boys were sent to English schools. Grandpa had the foresight to understand the importance of being educated in English.

Well, he died young. There was no successor to his business. The only properties he owned in Penang were his shophouse, which also doubled as the family home, and a piece of land. I still remember my first uncle grumbling about that piece of land. We continued to pay taxes on it, and although it was in a prime location, it could not be sold profitably. There was no infrastructure, no roads. Eventually we had to sell it for a song to the government. As for the properties in China, they were either confiscated or lost, thanks to the communist regime.

Why am I telling this story? Grandpa might have lived in Penang for a long time, he might have had a successful business in Malaysia and he even contributed to the Art History of the country. Ultimately, though, his heart was really for China.

Then there was my father, another first generation Malaysian. He came when he was in his late teens or early twenties. My grandfather was a school principal in China, so dad was pretty well educated. His life in Malaysia was one big struggle after another, and success eluded him. Still, even after he married my mother, and I came into the picture, every cent he earned, he sent home to China. He often reminisced and indicated how much he wanted to return. When I got married, and went home in a cheongsam – the first time I had ever worn a traditional Chinese dress, he was in tears for he was sooo happy. I had seemed to embrace Chinese Culture.

It was easy to tell what his heartfelt nationality was, no matter what his ic said.

Then there was me. I came to Singapore when I was in my early teens. I came because Singapore had given me a scholarship to study in the then University of Singapore. Singapore’s offer came a week earlier than Malaysia’s. Eventually, I got married to a Singaporean and started my own family here. In time, I felt way more Singaporean than Malaysian. My roots were here, my life was here. I felt nostalgia when I thought about Malaysia, but that was about it. My family was here, my friends were here. When I was good and ready, I changed citizenship. It was not impulsive, it was inevitable. Still, it was not easy to denounce my Malaysian citizenship. I felt somewhat like a traitor. I felt bad. To keep my Malaysian citizenship however was to keep a citizenship in name. I had spent way more time in Singapore than in Malaysia. Singapore is my home – Malaysia my birthplace.

This brings me to the question of the true “nationalities” of our paddlers.  My answer is unless you know them well, and what they think of the two countries, you cannot have an accurate answer. My grandfather and father spent years and years in Malaysia, but were essentially Chinese at heart.

Besides, does it really matter?

Think of how they were brought in. The talent scouts went, dangled the Olympic carrot – the ultimate dream of any athlete. In exchange, they had to change citizenship. In the case of the young Feng Tianwei, she had approximately one year before she had to denounce the country of her birth. In the meantime, her life was spent in training, mingling mainly with PRC or former PRC teammates and coaches. Did she even have time to integrate?

Why do we unleash our anger at these girls? They were given an opportunity that hardly any young athlete could ever refuse. It was a business transaction that ensured them financial freedom and an opportunity that their home country could not give them. If anything, I feel that it is Singapore who has made light of nationality issues.

I like to compare this with the World Cup Soccer. Footballers, in order to make an income, played for clubs in many countries. But when it is time for the competition, all returned to their countries of origin and played with their compatriots, for their respective countries. They had a common goal – achieve excellence for their nation. What is the spirit of the Olympic Games? Is it not similar to the World Cup, a game that celebrates athleticism and healthy competition amongst the nations?

But I am not here to discuss the games, sporting excellence or policies. I really want to talk about the tell-tale signs of what your heartfelt nationality is. For this I am going to use some lyrics,

Malaysian National Anthem has this:

Negara ku.

Tanah tumpah-nya darah ku.

My country. The land from which my blood flows.

Singapore National Anthem

Mari kita rakyat Singapura, sama sama menuju

Bahagia, cita cita kita yang mulia

Come citizens of Singapore, let us move in one accord towards happiness and our noble dreams.

Bahagia is actually much more than happiness. What these lyrics tell us is that there must be an agreement, a unity and an effort to walk together and achieve noble dreams.

Then there is the all-time favourite National Day Song –Home by Kit Chan. This song, for me at least, sums up why I regard Singapore my country.

The Chinese saying is – you guo cai you jia (only if there is a nation can you have a home). I believe this is equally real – you jia cai you guo ( a nation can only exist if it is home)

Happy National Day

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