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31 January 2017 @ 09:55 am
Now that B has done her 40 questions, I feel like doing mine too. I started some time before New Year's Eve but gave up when I couldn't think of some answers.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?
Yoga. Had a fling. More medical stuff. Salsa dancing. My taxes.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I kept some of them, to some degree. This year I didn't make resolutions as such, but came up with some projects for the year that I want to complete. Maybe if I call them projects instead of resolutions, it'll be easier for me to stick to them.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, Tina! And I got to be at her baby shower.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, my close friend's father.

5. What countries did you visit?
For once, I didn't visit any new countries this year. I just went to Germany.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
I previously wrote here, "a life plan". Now I've kind of made one. I don't feel like I lacked anything in 2016...

7. What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
None. Nothing eventful happened to me this year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Um... like I said, nothing eventful happened this year. But I had planned to get out of my comfort zone and try new things, and I did that, so maybe that's an achievement.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not doing any charity work as I had intended to. (Except for the occasional help for Children of Fire, but I was hoping to do more than that.)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing major, I am glad to say.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
It's probably between my surfboard and my rollerblades.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Yumna's. She publicly stood up against bullying, racism and sexism at her workplace, even though she suffered great losses in the process as a direct result of it.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Worried?
The individuals Yumna stood up against, and those at other institutions (including my own hospital) who are trying to discredit her cause.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Apart from the boring stuff (rent, petrol, savings), my money mostly went towards fun stuff: travelling, getting a surfboard, getting an open water diving license.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Planning a trip to Norway that is yet to happen (March 2017).
Regrettably, the person I had a fling with.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
Ah, so many. Shura - Touch (Canvas Remix), and a lot of songs by Oh Wonder.  K Bong - Livin' Easy.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
ii. thinner or fatter? same
iii. richer or poorer? richer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Studying. Things that make other people's lives better.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Procrastinateed on social media.

20. How will you be spending did you spend Christmas?
At Children of Fire in Johannesburg. It was unusual, but I didn't get lonely, and that was kind of the point.

21. Who did you spend most time on the phone with?
Probably my registrars.

22. Did you fall in love in 2016?

23. How many one-night stands?
None. Still not my thing.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
Didn't watch much TV. Brooklyn 99 is still funny.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No, I don't hate.

26. What was the best book you read?
I didn't read many books this year. But I enjoyed "Kleiner Mann, was nun?" by Hans Fallada.

27. What was your greatest musical (re)discovery?
I don't think I made any great musical discoveries this year.

28. What did you want and get?
A social life. And pretty much all the material things I wanted, I got. Perks of having a decent income.

29. What did you want and not get?
That spark that gets me to do the things I (think I) want to do.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Zootropolis / Zootopia / Zoomania. What an excellent movie for this time.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 30. On my actual birthday, I surfed in the morning, and had a lovely bonfire at the beach in the afternoon/evening with some friends. We braaied on the fire and ate nicely, and it was altogether a lovely evening, even though it drizzled a bit from time to time.
My birthday gift to myself was the open water diving course, which I did over 4 days leading up to my birthday.
And the weekend AFTER my birthday I went to the Drakensberg with some friends, and we hiked and ate delicious food and had a great time.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A sense of accomplishment.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
So what if I don't usually wear these kinds of clothes? Colourful, comfortable and fun all the way.

34. What kept you sane?
Probably my balanced lifestyle - work, rest, outdoor activities, game nights.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy admire the most?
Angela Merkel. Why aren't there more leaders like her?

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Same old - refugee crisis, increasing right wing activity in Germany, Islamophobia. And then of course Trump.

37. Whom did you miss?
My family.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
It's between Marie, the German PJ-student, who is responsible for the legendary M&M brownies, and Tash, one of my co-interns, who is also my surf buddy and yoga teacher.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016:
Confirmation bias is not just a phenomenon of scientific research, but of society's everyday discourse. One needs to remember to look around with a child's eyes now and then, free from bias and prejudice, to get a better chance of experiencing truth.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Even if my year could be summed up, I am terrible at finding fitting quotes or lyrics.
15 February 2016 @ 09:28 pm

I am on leave for eight days next month, and I haven't got a clue what I'm going to do with it. This is an utter disaster.

I've been toying with the idea of visiting South Africa's observatory in Sutherland, some 350km inland from Cape Town. I've always wanted to go, ever since I learned of its existence. Problem is, it's in the middle of no-where, I don't know anyone in Cape Town, and I have eight days to kill.

Then I had the sudden fancy of going on a horse trek, another thing I've been wanting to do for a long time. Oh, how lovely would it be to ride through Botswana's Okavango Delta, watching herds of elephant or buffalo from the safety of a horse's back.
But it seems those kinds of holidays are reserved for the wealthy; even though I am "rich" compared to myself a year ago, the prices charged by the private horse trekkers are way out of my league. Thanks, JZ, for taking the Rand to a new low.

At this point I am open to suggestions. Whatever happens, I cannot sit around for a week doing nothing. Leave is so precious, it needs to be used to its fullest capacity.

Maybe I should go to Iceland or something...

31 December 2015 @ 08:44 pm
1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
Apart from a lot of medical stuff? Made a wreath for advent. Went to a cabaret show.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I kept them for some time... to some extent... better luck next year with the daily struggle against my inner Schweinehund.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Aluta's brother and his wife had a baby in January.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Friends and relatives, fortunately not. Patients, yes. Some of them hit me quite hard - I kept asking myself whether I had made a mistake or whether there was something I should have done differently.

5. What countries did you visit?
Australia! My childhood dream. It was lovely, not entirely what I expected though. I wish I'd had time to explore the outback but I was mostly around Sydney.
Also Switzerland, skiing with my father. That was really, really nice.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
A clear idea of where my life is heading. A better social life.

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
1 April, the first day of my internship.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Moving to Durban all on my own. If that can be counted as an achievement.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Slacking on academic reading.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had skin cancer, had it cut out and now I have a cool scar on my back. Luckily it was the "best" kind of the malignant skin cancers, as it grows very slowly and hardly ever metastasises. But apparently I am very young to have that type of skin cancer, so from now I have to be particularly alert to any new suspicious lesions.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My piano.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Dr Ramji for saving my spot at King Edward Hospital while I was waiting for my visa.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Worried?
When you work in healthcare, a lot of people's behaviours appal you. Doctors, nurses, patients. It can get quite disheartening, really.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Apart from rent? Furniture. I had to furnish an entire flat from scratch.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Starting my medical internship. Going to Australia.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Run Away by Said The Sky. But that's just one of many.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
sadder, I think?
ii. thinner or fatter? about the same
iii. richer or poorer? definitely richer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Swimming in the ocean. Reading up on medical stuff.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

20. How will you be spending did you spend Christmas?
In my flat, with Aluta and a scrawny little Christmas tree, eating home made kofta balls with pasta and tomato sauce.

21. Who did you spend most time on the phone with?

22. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Nope, same as last year.

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
Brooklyn 99.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No, but I've been strongly irritated by people who let me (and others) down at work.

26. What was the best book you read?
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

27. What was your greatest musical (re)discovery?
I (re-)discovered how much I enjoy playing the piano. I've gotten a new kind of enjoyment out of playing some of the old pieces.

28. What did you want and get?
A flat with a sea view. A piano.

29. What did you want and not get?
Can't think of anything.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Whiplash was the best movie I watched this year, but I wouldn't call it a favourite. No other movies stuck though, so I guess that's the one.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I went on a "Scootour" with Aluta - going down a mountain on a cross-country unmotorised scooter in the Drakensberg. It was good fun!

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A Christmas holiday.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Kind of restricted by having to look hospital-appropriate. Also, comfortable clothes are underrated.

34. What kept you sane?
Knowing that I am in control of my sanity.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No-one really caught my interest this year...

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The refugee crisis, of course. Seeing how much hate there is in my home country. I thought Germany was peaceful and progressive, but it seems a lot of people still live in the past.

37. Whom did you miss?
My family.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Yumna and Luke I think. A lovely couple that hosts awesome dinner parties.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:
Not so much a lesson, more of a philosophy. We should base our actions more on values, and on whether they are "good", rather than on what the consequences will be. (E.g. a poor person inviting someone in to eat with them, even though they have little. Obviously I am thinking of our refugee situation in Germany.)
I think that would make the world a better place.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
I'm terrible at that kind of stuff. 
15 December 2015 @ 08:52 pm
The other day I read an article about a Turkish guy living in Berlin who apparently came pretty close to joining ISIS, but didn't because of his intervening aunt. It was written in German.

As the author described his "transformation" from a regular guy to a Muslim extremist (Salafist, as they call it), he mentioned these changes: he started growing a beard (at the suggestion of one of his "new friends" at the Mosque). He went to prayer more often. He spent more time with his "new friends" at the Mosque, playing soccer and barbecueing.

These are no traits of an extremist, but of a person trying to be a good Muslim.

Now, I am not saying that the person in the article was a good Muslim, nor were his "new friends" I suspect.

But it is upsetting that the article equates growing a beard and going to prayers regularly with being a budding terrorist. What kind of message does that send to the readers?
Similarly disturbing was a comment made by my friend some time ago: she described a young man living on her street, and described his clothing which was obviously a traditional Muslim gown of sorts. To her he was "dressed like some Salafist".

Does that mean that Muslims, to be considered harmless in Germany, have to have German haircuts, German clothes, a German accent and live out their religion secretly, away from the public eye so as not to frighten anyone?
How are we ever to live peacefully side by side, when we cannot accept another's culture.

How I wish that Germany could take on some of South Africa's open-mindedness: where men and women of any social standing can wear their cultural outfit to work, to school, to do sports (there is a little girl at my Dojo who does Karate in a headscarf), to the mall, to church, to mosque, or wherever their lives may take them.
02 December 2015 @ 07:28 pm
For the first time in 10 years, I will be spending Christmas without my family this year. To take even more fun out of it, I have to work through Christmas and New Year's. But I am determined to get into the Christmas spirit nonetheless, and so I have decided to uphold some of our home Christmas traditions.

One of these is having a wreath for the four weeks before Christmas.
It has to have four candles in it, one for each Sunday leading up to Christmas. A new candle is lit each successive Sunday for the days of Advent.

Now, in Germany, all I'd have to do is walk into a florist's shop and buy one.
In South Africa, wreaths and Advent are not part of common Christmas culture. Wreaths are for funerals, and made of flowers and not fir trees. Those that you do find around the Christmas period are overpriced, overdecorated wreaths made of fake fir tree twigs with fake snow and pinecones coated in golden glitter.

So my plan was to make my own wreath - after all, how hard could it be? Gather a few twigs of a fir tree and wire them together.
Easier said than done: conifers, like celebrating Advent, are not wide-spread in South Africa (at least in Durban, my current point of reference.)
After days of searching the sides of the road wherever I drove, I was baffled at how truly scarce conifers of any kind are in this city. I had never noticed before. And the few species that do grow here are not at all similar to the fir trees we have at home. Such as this tree across the road from my flat. Its "needles" are thick and long, and the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether it is any kind of conifer at all.

I discovered a near-perfect specimen a few metres away from my home parking spot:
Unfortunately, between it and me is a wall with an electric fence on top - the tree is in the neighbour's garden. I have toyed with the idea of going there and asking to cut myself a few twigs. But this being South Africa, they will probably think that I want to con them or rob them.

Here's another near-winner that I found by the roadside on my way home from work:
It looked really promising, until I had a closer look and the "needles" turned out to be very narrow leaves. I took a sample anyway, but it did not come to use.

I finally came across some conifer-like trees growing opposite Moses Mabhida Stadium, not far from my flat. One day after work I made nails with heads and chopped off a generous amount of twigs and branches. Here's what it looks like:
Is it even remotely related to our fir tree? For the botanically-inclined among you (you know who you are), I would love to know what species this is.

Having acquired my basic ingredient, I went shopping for some floral wire and candles. Didn't find red ones (as is our tradition),
but found the solution of white candles and red candle holders acceptable:

After giving the twigs a bath (they were very dusty) and leaving them to dry for a day, I proceeded to attach them to a circle of thick wire.
Attaching the candle holders was a bit tricky: first I glue a nail to the bottom of each candle holder, to stick into the wreath. But a single nail was too wobbly. So I glued the candle holders onto some cardboard, threaded some floral wire through the cardboard and wired that to the wreath.
I added some red ribbons to keep the long needles in check, some gold glitter pearls for a bit of sparkle, and voilà - the final product:

(Pinecone courtesy of Johannesburg Botanical Gardens.)
Next step: Christmas tree decorations.

The step after: Christmas tree.
04 August 2015 @ 07:52 pm
Yes, I'm here to whine. About my work schedule. I was working last weekend and the weekend before, on both days, 8am to 8pm, and I want a day off. I am once again realising how much I love sleeping in. I am actually counting down the days until Saturday when I will finally be able to sleep in.
I just need a break now.

In other news, I am now working in the TB ward for two weeks. It's quite a different experience - I haven't had any ward-time this rotation, so I have to get used to the new routine. Other than that, it is quite nice. We had only nine patients; six from this afternoon after I made some discharges.
TB can normally be treated on an outpatient basis. The patients that are in the ward usually have other complications. E.g. drug-induced liver injury (damage to the liver can be caused by anti-TB drugs; its onset is unpredictable and only occurs in a few people). These patients have to stop their TB treatment, wait for the liver damage to resolve, and be started on a "liver-friendly" TB regimen while monitoring for renewed liver damage.
Other patients just happen to have TB, and had to be admitted for other reasons. For infection control purposes all the TB patients are kept in the same ward, regardless of their reason for admission.
So that is what I am up to these days.

I have also found a new Karate dojo. It is quite small, and classes take place in a primary school classroom. But I can see that they are ambitious and do good Karate; that's all I need. It's nice to get some exercise once again.
24 June 2015 @ 09:53 pm
Have I mentioned that I get to see the most beautiful sunrises from my living room window?
And I'm semi-addicted to taking photos of them...

10 June 2015 @ 08:00 pm
I am probably just writing to myself by now, after having neglected this blog for the past 6 months...

So, what's new?

I'm two and a half months into internship now. I've made a couple of discoveries and conclusions.

  • It is not as scary as I expected. I have had only very few moments where I was out of my depth, and it always turned out fine.

  • Hard work and long hours don't drain me (much); not knowing how to help someone drains me a lot. Sometimes it's a disease that I don't know how to treat - after all, we mostly learn "principles of management" in medical school rather than doses, durations and trade names of the available drugs. In that case, I can always ask my seniors for help, so that is not the worst. Sometimes however, patients come with complaints that I cannot even rationalise, e.g. "yesterday this vein in my left arm was getting burning hot" (but now it looks and feels completely normal). And lastly there are those that have problems that medicine can't fix. Like the depressed woman whose three alcoholic daughters abuse her verbally and financially while living in her own house. Or the diabetic man whose blood sugar is through the roof because he just doesn't follow the diabetic diet advice. I always feel like I failed at my job when someone leaves my rooms with the same problem as when they came in.

  • It gets very easy to become a mediocre doctor when you are not constantly being tested or motivated to improve. The sessional doctors at the district hospital are a good example - they have nothing to prove, and their priorities seem to be "get through the queue quickly" (i.e. don't listen to long stories) and "don't get sued" (i.e. do a chest x-ray and "basic bloods" for every second patient with a cough). "Basic bloods" or "routine bloods" are another district hospital atrocity that I grinds my gears every time I am there. You need to have a specific reason for every blood test you order - once you start ordering routine blood tests you are wasting resources and taking short-cuts where you should be using clinical reasoning. *end of judgemental huff* Let me just not become that kind of doctor.

Other than that, Durban has surprised me with something that could be called winter. I had to wear a jersey the whole day today. I was not expecting that. I thought it would be hot all year round. But I'm secretly happy - cold weather reminds me of home.

My flat is slowly starting to resemble a human's natural habitat. When I moved in, the only furniture I had was a futon without a base. I was eating my food sitting on the floor. Then I got a table, and sat on my cooler box until I got chairs. Now I have a couch too.

But the best thing is really the sunrises I get to see over the Indian Ocean every morning. They never get boring!
02 October 2014 @ 05:54 pm

I'm moving to Durban. Yesterday it became official, when all the Wits students received their allocations for internship for the next two years.

My feelings about it?

Mixed. On the one hand, I love Durban, and I'm super-excited about the prospect of living there. I've already looked at flats on Gumtree - and from what I found, I'll be able to afford a flat with sea view! :-)

On the other hand, the hospital that I'll be working at (Durban Hospital Complex, consisting of King Edward VIII Hospital and Mahatma Gandhi Hospital) received very mixed reviews. Some former interns have said they had the time of their lives there, and that they came out as very competent doctors compared to others who did their internships elsewhere.
But just today a doctor from Durban (who had done his internship at a different hospital in Durban), completely trashed Durban Hospital Complex, saying that the facilities are crap, that they don't have dialysis programmes, that the doctors spend more time at their private practices than at the hospital, and that patients die unnecessarily.

Facebook is currently being flooded with open message from students who want to swap to different hospitals. (This is legally possible if both swappers agree, and they are in the same rotations). I previously had my heart set on Pietermaritzburg for internship, but couldn't even apply there because it was already full when applications for international students opened. Now I'm wondering if I should make an attempt to swap with someone. But really I've settled for the idea of Durban now, so I probably won't try to change that.
I'll just make the best of it.

Hooo, change is upon me!

24 September 2014 @ 09:35 pm
Tonight, a sixteen-year-old girl got a new lease on life, while a newborn boy is facing a life with disability.

The girl had been on kidney dialysis for years - four hours a day of sitting in a chair at hospital while her blood was being pumped through a machine to clean it - for 4-5 days a week. This impacts immensely on quality of life.
Last night, a young woman died in a car accident. She was an organ donor, and the girl was a match. Kidney transplants happen about twice a year at CMJAH, so the renal specialists were just as excited as the girl. Now she lies in the ward, having 2-hourly blood pressure checks, measurement of urine output, and other careful observations to make sure the new kidney keeps working. And if it keeps working, the girl will be able to lead an (almost) normal life again.

Around the same time that the girl left theatre, a baby boy was born by Caesarean section. He was born at term, and there were not risk factors in this pregnancy. But the boy was born with no pulse, no breathing, floppy and blue. The team resuscitated him successfully, but an hour after birth his blood results showed that he had experienced a severe lack of oxygen. The prognosis was so poor that he was not considered a candidate for ICU. He may get lucky and develop normally later in life, but the majority of patients like this end up with cerebral palsy.
It made me want to turn back time. 2 hours ago he was still in the mother's womb, safe and sound, a perfect little baby boy ready to conquer the world. But somewhere along the line, something went wrong, and he and his mother are probably facing a lifetime of hardship. It seemed like such a short time for this dramatic change to happen, that it would somehow be possible to reverse it. But of course we can never go back in time, and all we can do is take the best care possible of this little baby.

That's my Heritage Day story. It was bad enough that I had to be on a 12-hour call today, so at least there was some excitement.
Current Mood: pensivepensive