Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sleep Tight, Mom

I called Mom this afternoon to a wonderful news.

"I overslept today, Imran." Mom told me with a chuckle. "You know what time I woke up this morning?" Mom asked me, sounding cheerful and a little cheeky.

"What time?" I asked, indulging her.

"10:30!" Mom broke the good news to me. "I turned in around 11 or 12 o'clock... I'm not sure."

Mom sounded happy and refreshed.

I only knew Mom was having trouble sleeping since in her early 40's when she answered Dr. Vincent Yeo's many questions. She kept worrying for her 11 children of which 3 had passed away when they were still babies.

She has been having only 2 to 4 hours sleep a day. She had not slept soundly for a whole night for so long because she had gotten used to staying awake at night caring for her babies and toddlers... year after year.

She then worried about each of her children's education when they were in their schooling years... the money to feed, to clothe and to have a roof over their heads while Dad was working constantly, often late into the night, to bring in the bread.

It had been a tough life for both of our my parents. Times were not as good then as they are now. Being a low income family with many children, and Dad as a sole breadwinner, was such a fragile state to juggle.

God willing, with their perseverance and a lot of sacrifices, they were able to bring up all their 8 surviving children healthy and safe.

Yesterday was Mom's first consultation at Tan Tock Seng Hospital or TTSH with an Anesthetist, Dr. Vincent Yeo ST.

She was referred to by her Orthopaedic Consultant, Dr. Danny Louange after the results of her MRI scan on her spine showed that she would not be safe going under a prolonged surgery for her spondylolisthesis. Being too old and with a history of stroke she suffered 6 years ago, the odds of surviving the surgery were against her.

Mom is now under TTSH Pain Management care.

Her appointment at Clinic B1B was at 8:30am yesterday did not go so well from the very start.

Youngest Brother drove her to TTSH while I went straight from home to meet them at the clinic. They were caught in the morning rush hour along Seletar Expressway or SLE due to a traffic accident.

It was not a good bus ride for me either. Rush hour and a rainy morning do not make a good combination! What should take about 20 minutes journey on the Express 518 bus from Tampines to TTSH became doubled the time when the traffic slowed down to a crawl along Pan Island Expressway or PIE.

As my bus passed slowly by, it seemed to be, a cab driver had a medical emergency and stopped his cab at the left most lane. It caused a very long tailgating just after Paya Lebar entry. Fortunately, I still managed to get to my destination by 8:30am.

Younger Brother and Mom, together with our Niece who tagged along were not as lucky. They arrived 40 minutes late. Fortunately, the doctor was able to slot in Mom's consultation 10 minutes after we registered.

The consultation was not exactly smooth flowing either...

Dr. Vincent was not ready for Mom. We gathered that much when we entered the room. He uttered to his attending nurse that he did not have time to read Mom's file first. The nurse buzzed our queue number too early.

He instead jumped into numerous questions on Mom's medical history, asking for specific answers to get to his prognosis fast like when she started having the problems, her stroke condition then, names of medicines that she took for blood thinning, all the medications she is taking for her current illnesses, her current insulin level, etc.

So much of which I could not provide accurately from sheer memory. I had been taking care of Dad while Elder Sis was caring for Mom. I offered to call her for information but was turned down.

Being the first visit, I thought the doctor would certainly expected a longer consultation than a follow-up one. He instead rushed us and became obviously agitated, seeing his facial expressions and at times, insinuated that we were not caring enough for Mom to remember specific things.

I suggested that he look at his computer where all of Mom's medical history shared from Woodlands Polyclinic which has been handling Mom's case all these years, including Mom's current condition told and recorded by Dr. Danny, were available in their central file.

Dr. Vincent just brushed it off by saying that there were too much and he had no time to sift through them. We were left equally frustrated by the way he conducted the consultation.

Mom was visibly irritated by him, reading from his frustrated facial expressions, even though she did not understand a word of English.

By the end of the consultation, I felt so dissatisfied by the way it went. I felt that the doctor got a sketchy information on Mom's current condition and the reasons why she was there.

It was ironic. It was suppose to be Pain Management Clinic, but unmanageable pain was what we got instead! The doctor should go for anger management so that his attending patients will not be.

I went ahead to recap, telling the doctor our objectives for being there even after the doctor indirectly implied that we had eaten into his next patient's time.

"Why didn't you tell me before?" Dr. Vincent quipped.

"Because you jumped right into your questions without knowing what's wrong with her first." I answered.

The doctor then mellowed down and started being the many doctors, specialists and consultants I had spoken and became accustomed to... patient and polite, and not rushing his patient as if there was a quota to be met... being the first visit and all!

We finally got what we came for...

To relieve, if not prevent, Mom from getting painful cramping attacks especially when she lies down at night, and to strengthen her weakening legs, a direct result of the nerves damage from the attacks.

Dr. Vincent then prescribed Mom 3 types of medications.

The usual Paracetamol for her aches and minor pains. A new medicine, Gabapentin 300MG is to be taken for severe attacks. These are to be taken when necessary.

He also gave Mom Tramadol 25MG to relieve her from pains and enable her to sleep throughout the night. She will have to take one every night after dinner for the first 3 months.

This medication has side effects. We have to look out if Mom experiences any nausea or vomiting, or worse, confusion, like morphine effect after taking it. He will then have to change to another milder alternative.

I still do worry about the two medicines - Gabapentin and Tramadol. These may effect her already weak kidney functions... but I pray that the doctor really knows what he is doing thousand times better than his consultation.

He also referred Mom to Elderly Pain Management Clinic and recommended that she goes for long term physiotherapy near her home in Woodlands before we left his room.

"Why don't we complain about this doctor?" My Niece suggested, obviously what had transpired affected her too.

"He should have read Mom's file first," Youngest Brother said while we approached the payment counter, "regardless if we were on time or late." He was not happy either.

All that hassle and tension with the doctor yesterday, at least came to a fruition today!

A known light sleeper-Mom, slept like a baby last night and experienced no side effects. That is all that counts.

"I feel so refreshed, Imran." Mom said gladly. "I've never had deep sleep for such a long time!"

Those words sang in my ear and made my heart flutters in happiness. I was all smiles the whole afternoon... I hope Mom will continue having good sleep from now on.


  1. I've had similar experiences with doctors before. It certainly does leave a bad taste in one's mouth. I'm happy for your mom getting a good night's sleep.

  2. There's nothing quite as fulfilling as a good nights sleep.
    The doctor sounded like he was having a bad day and was unprepared..if it were to happen again, I would be inclined to take things further, but that's only my humble opinion.Some of them do need a refresher course in bedside manner.

    Your Mum sounds like a great lady. Just like she has cared for you all, now you are all caring for her...

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