Friday, September 17, 2010

Holding Our Breath

I was actually writing about the recent Hari Raya family visits we had with the whole family, just like we have been doing since more than a decade ago.

I had not finished writing and posting it when something unsettling we felt actually happened. We, meaning Wifey and I.

I did not think much about it at first, not until Wifey talked about it just before bedtime, recalling the day we had and how things were during the whole outing.

Wifey noticed, and I am sure many of my siblings noticed it too, that Mom appeared sad and distant throughout the day, only to smile when being spoken to. She was otherwise very quiet and appeared somber.

Knowingly, we knew how she felt.

It is the first year that we celebrate Hari Raya without Dad. Though Aidilfitri is a major cause for celebrations, the thought of Dad not with us, him beside Mom during all those visits from one sibling's place to another, is heartbreaking.

It was the face she put forward that was more than just being sad. There was more to it than just having no appetite to eat all that delicious food spread everyone dished out at their homes.

"Mom appeared more sickly than sad." Wifey said while we were lying in bed, all dark in our room except for the lights cast up on the ceiling from the street lights below.

Her intuition was accurate enough when I received a call from Sis. Mom was feeling breathless and had spent time sleeping sitting down on the sofa for the past 3 days. She has been staying with Sis since Ramadhan began.

No one knew she was having breathlessness for several days until Brother-in-law saw her at the living room when he got up to drink a glass of water in the middle of the night. Sis did suspect something was not right when she eat so little even for her usual small portion.

I took an urgent half day leave from work to accompany Mom to Woodlands Polyclinic, the place where she gets all her medical treatments and the doctors who monitor her medical condition and general health.

She got her ECG done there after the doctor examined her. She was referred to the hospital to perform a thorough investigation for her complaints of breathlessness and the fact that she felt pain after swallowing food and even a sip of water. The doctor suspected that she has some water in her right lung but only X-rays would show.

Mom stopped eating her regular portions of meals after Saturday, the day after we had our coach-load of family members on for Raya visits. It took some convincing on Sis' part and finally mine, to get her to see the doctor.

"I don't want to be in the hospital on Hari Raya and spoil the celebrations for everyone." Was her reply when I asked.

We stopped at AlSalam Restaurant that was adjacent to the polyclinic because Mom was hungry. She skipped lunch because "it was too painful to swallow" anything but the hunger was too strong that she wanted to eat something before we left for the hospital.

The Indian Rojak was virtually untouched as Mom almost cried quietly pain after her first mouthful. The cleaning man at the restaurant was surprised her food and hot barley drink was not touched when we left. He asked if we wanted it packed to go.

Mom was immediately processed at Tan Tock Seng Hospital or TTSH A&E. It took less than 5 minutes for Mom to see the Triage doctor at A&E and immediately got her wheeled to the ECG after her BP and blood sample were taken. Her last stop was at X-ray to her chest.

Soon Mom was lying in a hospital bed and waiting in Observation Room 25 before she was processed to be warded for her condition. I was with her all the time. With the blue wrist band on me, I was the only person that was allowed to accompany her in A&E.

Sis was soon joined by her husband from work, her daughter and my youngest Brother, waited outside and anxiously waiting for any updates.

"Salam. Mom in TTSH Ward 8B Bed 67 for breathlessness." Was my broadcast text message to all my siblings. Soon calls and text messages poured in, asking for more updates about Mom's condition.

We stayed on till past midnight. We were joined by 3rd Sis and her hubby, and 3rd Sis with hers sitting outside once Mom fell asleep after taking her medications.

I knew I could never be alert at work and that I was better off by Mom's side at the hospital the following day than being any productive at work, worrying about her.

Dear Sis stayed through the night in the ward by Mom's bedside as only "Caregiver" allowed. She was given a special Caregiver card to access in and out of the ward freely regardless of the visiting hours.

Not much improvement was seen with Mom on Wednesday as far as the chest pain when swallowing. The test results were not back yet and the medications given helped to stable her diabetes and reduced her swelling on both her legs.

I was back at work on Thursday but soon had to raise another urgent half day in the afternoon to meet the doctor and Senior consultants to discuss her treatment path and options.

I am so very thankful the my boss was again very understanding of my plight as she was when I had to attend to Dad throughout the whole of last year, taking urgent leaves and time-offs until his passing in early January.

By Thursday, good news came pouring one after the other. Dr. Ana who was attending to Mom told us that her heart, though weak, had been stable and ruled out as anything to be concern about.

So too was her lungs. The medications given thus far and worked well to flush out water from her lung, evidently with her able to lye down to sleep.

The consultants informed that Mom was not in any critical state and wished to monitor her with the medications that had worked well so far undergoing endoscopy and possible colonoscopy next week.

Since Mom is responding well to the medications, she is able to swallow with little pain now, she was discharged yesterday. A relief from everybody that Mom is on the road to recovery faster than we anticipated since she is an emotional person and the fact that she is still somewhat mourning for Dad.

The first hint of loud laughter and her spirits lighting up was when after her discharge, a whole group of my Sis and their daughters all went for a hearty meal at Novena Square and especially when we went shopping for 2nd Sis' birthday gift she is celebrating this 24th.

Mom bought her a handbag and she got another one too from all of us.

"I'm so happy to be out and about... shopping with you all." Mom said wholeheartedly. Everyone smiled with a sigh of relief and enjoying the impromptu shopping spree.

"This is such a beautiful place." Mom smiled. It is indeed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Salam Aidilfitri Everyone!

To All My Friends
All Muslims Everywhere

Selamat Hari Raya
May Your Prayers In Ramadhan Be Blessed
To Celebrate Aidilfitri In Triumph

Morning Aidilfitri Prayer
At Darul Ghufran Mosque in Tampines

Thursday, September 09, 2010

One Last Shopping!

Yesterday was a spur-of-the-moment kind of decision.

As if it was ESP, Wifey and I both read each others' minds to decide making one last shopping trip to Geylang Serai Raya Bazaar for our last minute Hari Raya preparations.

Once we had broken our fast for the second last day before Aidilfitri, we just had to go down to the Raya bazaar to get the final touches stuff for our home deco.

Wifey wanted the throw cushions to "pop" and blend with the curtains, as the ones she already changed faded into the sofa.

"The flowers need changing..." was her comment and I agreed. There will not be anything different than last year if we stuck to the same flower arrangements from last year.

Contrary to the many home deco shows on cable TV, Malays here, including us, still prefer fake flowers than fresh ones as these are definitely durable and economical. The flowers can be washed clean from dust and be used again for a long time.

So we had an extra list of only throw cushion covers for the sofa and large ones on the floor, table runners for the coffee and dining table, and flowers to complete the Raya look for our home.

Most probably the real motivation for this extra list is the fact that both of us, especially me, love to soak in the chaotic ambiance while shopping at the Raya bazaar. It is a once a year kind of atmosphere where everyone is happy shopping for Hari Raya.

By this last days before the big celebration, the prices of many goods have fallen drastically like clearance sale. So cushion covers were 3 pieces for $10.00 and so were flowers. 3 stalks for $10.00 too.

It was a simple affair. We finished our shopping as quickly as we got there. Surprisingly, the place was not as jam-packed as we had expected. Most probably, the shoppers are waiting for the last day to get all the things they had already eyed on to buy as the prices can go as low as 70 to 80 percent.

Anything from carpets to Raya cookies, all will be sold off like a closing down sale. As pretty well known and tempting as it is, I had never done the very-last-minute shopping bit before. The very last crazy-knockdown-sale would probably be around midnight to 4:00AM in the morning, when the Raya bazaar is finally closed for the year.

It is a bittersweet thing for me. On one hand it is so exciting to get to the month of Syawal to celebrate Aidilfitri, on the other the excitement of preparing for the big day was coming to an end.

I keep saying it every year and every year I still feel the same... time flies so fast. I just cannot believe that the month of Ramadhan is leaving us very soon.

Here's to all Muslims around the world...

May your Ramadhan be blessed as a reward for your prayers
May you celebrate Aidilfitri, happy and triumphant.