Monday, August 26, 2013

The night when there was almost no tomorrow....Part 2

After what seemed like hours (which in actual fact, I think it was only an hour), seemed that the heaviness had passed and when I opened my eyes, the world looked colourful once again. Phew!

However, when the nurse came to ask for my identity card, i realised that my fingers were all so swollen probably due to edema, that I had trouble unzipping my handbag. I passed the whole bag to her, and just told her that I trusted her to just take whatever she needs for registration(which she did) before passing back my bag. Aside the itchiness caused by a body full of red furious looking weals, and the swollen fingers, I felt better than earlier, and I thought to myself, this probably would be just a night's stay in the ward, for the swelling to subside. In the midst of this all, while lying on the stretcher bed in the ER, I called the first couple of numbers on my phone, on the redial screen (those I called earlier that day) was to a colleague to inform the company, another to my brother. Couldnt really text anyone or call anyone else as my big swollen fingers cannot be sensed by my touchscreen phone... the irony of having the latest touchscreen...but yet it was not sensitive enough to recognize the attempts from swollen unfeeling fingers!

Nonetheless when the physician came, she arranged for me to be sent to the ICU ward. Naively, I started to protest. I mean, do I really need to be there? thats for very serious cases! But she insisted and I ended up being wheeled up to this secluded area, which was cordoned off with high security (i.e. you need to ring a bell for someone inside to open the steel doors for you). I was put in a bed, and then they hooked me up on some machines - to monitor my heart rate, my blood oxygen (oh yeah, I was put on the oxygen tube as well), etc, and a saline drip as well. Too tired by then to argue with the doctor, and I couldnt understand still why the ICU? Anyhow, I only realised how serious my condition was, when -
1) during the doctor's examination, I couldnt take any deep breathe without choking away and coughing incessantly
2) I was given one small white pill to swallow (i.e. montelukast), but it was oh so painful to swallow that tiny little pill...
Then only it dawned to me that internally, my airways are probably badly swollen as well! and that started to get me worried...

That night, I was put on the nebuliser - and pumped with all the inhaled corticosteroids available - from ventolin to pulmicort and a couple more. Every couple of hours, the nurse would come and check my blood pressure. And the various machines in the ICU, plus the nurses's station just in front meant that there were always people around me all the time, really didnt help me to get any rest. In the middle of the night, I also needed to go pee, and called the nurse. A group came in! But they would not allow me to get down from the bed to get to the they wheeled in a portable toilet. Then they all waited for me to does one pee when the `whole world" (in this case, 3 nurses) is watching you?? I started to complain, and so they left me for a while...thank god!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The night when there was almost no tomorrow....Part 1

I have often being asked of what really happened when I mentioned I have had a bad allergic attack previously. Thought I'd better start writing that before memories start to fade, since it had been such a significant event in my life. And no, till now, though it happened last year, my memories on this had surprisingly been very intact and I remember every detail 13 months ago....

One night in mid July 2012.. I went for dinner with bella after having an extremely tough and emotional day at work. I ordered a very commonly available seafood noodle soup, which wasnt spectacular and didint taste nice but I finished it off nevertheless. In the midst of dinner, I started to get discomfort in the stomach, with a growing bloated feeling, and hence, ended dinner early to go home. Thats when things started going weird. I felt flushed when I reached home, and then started to feel itchy here and there. Thought to myself, its probably my usual reaction to food, nothing to worry myself about. then the "avalanche" started...
* Felt itch starting from the base of my feet and moving up quickly like a swarm of ants climbing up my legs..
* weals started appearing on my legs, and trunk...
* my face looked very red and flushed
* my eyes looked bloodshot..which was scary
Thats when I decided to drive to the nearby clinic, and then another scary symptom - I started to get blurred and distorted vision. I thanked my lucky stars that night that I was able to get my friend staying upstairs my apartment to fetch me to the hospital on time!

I could barely walked straight when I got to the ER dept, and the scariest part was that my vision had by then lost all elements of colours, and suddenly what I could see was just black and white (like those days of black and white TV). Everything felt so surreal..I remember being directed to the treatment room, and thats what i could feel the slow motion of me falling to the ground as my brain and my limb motions seemed to have become disconnected...and it was at this moment, that a question suddenly hit me...."Is (i.e. the end)?? as I felt darkness was about to engulf me, and I was about to lose consciousness..

No! I hear an inner voice telling me firmly..."don't give in..this shouldn't be `it'...this isnt my time yet"... I willed myself not to give in and to continue to fight...the main thing at that time was that I didnt want to lose consciousness, and hence fought to stay conscious and awake... as a part of me was really afraid that should I become unconscious, what if i don't wake up anymore??... I then remembered being helped up from the floor and then put on the hospital bed...all this time I had my eyes closed as it was really difficult to see properly and it was really exhausting... a flurried of activities as the medics started giving me injections and setting up IV lines...the beeping of the machines in ER, always a sound in the background..

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What keeps me awake at night

Its 2.25am.. nursing a nagging toothache, and having panic attacks that are keeping me from a good night of slumber...

Both are inter-related... as I have not yet started to use the healthcare system here in Brussels, I still have to figure out how to get an appointment at the dentist. Googling for an English speaking one is the first step, and of which I have already done so, but having yet to receive my health insurance card, am not sure whether I am eligible to see the dentist yet, hence the many questions in my mind.

Of course the fact that i need to see a dentist also would mean that I might have to have some treatments to alleviate the pain/situation, and where I will need to consume painkillers. And thats where the 2nd bit is related.

Am allergic to a number of common painkillers available, making me highly susceptible for an allergic reaction, or having to endure without the painkillers. what worries me most would be more of going into an unexpected allergic reaction, as severe as my last experience. And this now in this strange new land of Belgium, where I am away from my family and die-hard friends.

I know now I have a few names of new friends here that I have already alerted them to this, and whom I can (I hope) call during emergencies to bring me to the hospital, if not an ambulance, but the issue now is that in case I collapsed, would I still be able to list them as emergency contacts for the hospital? That would involve more responsibilities from them, and would they be ok?  Would they know who to call e.g. my family back home etc? would they be there as well in the first place - this unfortunately I do not have the confidence, given that they are only starting to know me, and whatever friendship/relationship we have are not that deep..would they even care enough to want to be bothered or inconvenienced?  how much would people be willing to do for you, when they know you less than 5 months? is time the real measure of friendship, or does the depth of the friendship matters in this instance ?

So as not to paint them unfavourably, let me qualify by saying that they are good and kind people. I just am not sure of the level of inconvenience they would put themselves through on my behalf, whether they care enough about me. Given the different cultural background, I really do not know what to expect. And that scares me.

Suddenly after 5 months, I feel very alone. I miss my family and my diehard friends. I miss the assurance and confidence I would have had if I were back home...

Guess there is only one thing I can have more faith, in the new friends I've made... to believe in the goodness of people and faith that they would help when the time comes.

Faith -  according to the dictionary means "to have full confidence and belief without evidence in supporting"... sounds very unscientific, which explains why its difficult for someone like me, who is facts and science-driven. But at the close of tonight, and to apply to my new life here, faith would be something I need to pull upon when the inevitable happens... and just pray for the best...


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The 4th Month in a nutshell

* finally went on a business trip to Milan
* extended the trip for a short break to Lake Como (woohoo!)
* had to surrender my driving license in exchange for a Belgian license = no driving allowed this month :(
* learnt to take public transportation to work : metro-train-shuttle bus = ~1.5 hours
* weather has turned real nice with sunny days :)
* found the Parc du Woluwe, and started to go for a run after work these days. loads of greeneries, really lovely!
* stumbled upon nude cyclists one fine Saturday afternoon in Brussels - created a lot of furore and remarks from friends when I posted on FB. Man, are we such country bumpkins that a bit of nudity is such a big talking matter! :D
* stress increases at work - resolve to go to run in the parc more! will waitlist gym membership for autumn onwards when the weather get cold

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Last one standing?

(This was an old unpublished post - written 2 years ago- sometime in late May 2011)

I should be working. Its `that time of the year' again (for those uninitiated, its `brand plans' period).

However, this evening, saw a post on facebook and found out that one of my ex has just gotten married a few days ago and somehow that kinda impacted my evening.

Not that I still harbour any feelings for him. It was like really eons and eons of years ago! He is not in my immediate circle of friends anymore and in between the years, we have but met up only a few times, probably still countable with the fingers of one hand.

However, I still can't explain this strange and weird feeling that I am having. No, I don't know the bride and no, am also not jealous. I am just trying to decipher and analyse this weird potpouri of feelings that I am having.

Its a sense of loss somewhere, but wait, hold on, what `loss' am I actually referring to? when I don't `have' whatever it is to `lose'? Perhaps its the feeling of being the last one who is still `standing' in the land of singlehood, while everyone else seems to be entering matrimony by now... how fate and destiny and bad choices of men I've made in this life had collided and now this is my path...

Certainly not Vidal Sassoon

Today I finally mustered up the courage and walked into a neighbourhood hair saloon for a hair cut. Been postponing this for quite a while, making it not high up on my priority list. However as i would be going for a big meeting next week, having messy hair wouldnt really do much to help my professional image, so its now a matter of `when push comes to shove', which finally saw me out of the door to look for the next Vidal Sassoon.

Till now i don't really know the name of the saloon! anyway, I guess purple being my favourite colour, I was attracted by their exterior enough to want to walk in. And was very pleasantly surprised when the hairstylist, a young lady can actually speak English to me.

So, it began one of my bizarre hair cutting experience! I was asked to stand when she was trimming my hair! and this went on for a good 10-15 minutes... before I was finally allowed to sit. When she was done with layering my hair, she asked me if I wanted mousse, which I said `yes' and the next thing is, she pumped out a whole big glob onto a towel and proceeded to spoon off these to a comb and actually combed through my whole head! i think I have never used so much mousse before..

At the end of it, the price of the total hair do - 53 Euros! which I think is pretty expensive since I know a colleague of mine does her usual haircut at only 25 Euros...and I asked the lady..her answer, `yeah, but you agreed to use the good shampoo..and you wanted a conditioner..and then also the mousse"...waah..that means that every little bit of material used on my hair is at a cost to me, welcome to Belgium!

And how was the look? honestly, I think nothing much as changed..she just trimmed 1-2 cm off the hair still looks very much pretty similar as before, only probably tidier.

This clearly ain't Vidal Sassoon...

Monday, May 20, 2013

To Brussels, to Brussels, I am finally there!

I moved over to cold and clammy Brussels one day in mid February 2013. Had meant to write all about my horrendous experience getting all the paperwork sorted and done but ..never got around to do that. Had also meant to write about all the new experiences of my new life here in the first few weeks, but..also never got around to doing that! so, how do I then quickly sum up in a nutshell then? here's my attempt:-

My move : KL to Brussels was on 17th Feb 2013

First Month -
* had the shock of my life when I was handed keys to a car to drive back from the office, on the 1st day of work! it was snowing, and the driver's seat is on the other side...
* got sick on the 1st day of work as well - probably too stressful the days before leaving warm sunny Malaysia
* learnt to drive in the snow ! it was still snowing in Feb. First day driving on my own, banged my other side mirror on a stationery truck. Lost the outer casing of the was never replaced..
* asked for snow tires and never got it - cos was told that come March, the winter snow would be over (but it didnt!)
* learnt to start and be more vocal at work - not always the easiest when others speak faster and louder! and they are native English speakers to start with.
* stayed at flat rented by the company - was on a duplex, with the living/dining/kitchen on the basement, and only the bedroom on the ground floor. So, literally i was living in the basement. This went on for 2 months. Damn and cold, not sure if its the apartment or the weather!
* still converting Euros to Ringgit, and feeling really poor *hic* (salary not yet paid yet till end month)
* surviving on the maggi mee I brought over, and also started to buy other brands of instant noodles from the little shop in `Chinatown"
* starting to realise that my cooking skills had deteriorated tremendously, and feel that my cooking sucks..oh well, need to quickly warm up again and refind my cooking skills, else how to survive?
* started my registration at Etterbeek commune (my temp flat) as my visa is only valid for 8 days upon arrival ! need to stay legal!
* attended the Singaporean assoc's Chinese new year do, and made some new friends
* didnt attend the Malaysian assoc's Chinese new year do, as down with a bad cold

2nd Month 
* it continued to snow into whole of March (lesson: weatherman is not always right!)
* after being taken around by the relocation agent to view >20 units, finally found my home! hurray!
* started to plan for my move, and visiting Ikea, which is some distance away...
* getting more confident with my driving, but still avoiding driving if I can
* discovered that the croissants at the cafeteria is ooh so so fresh and delicious. Am having this for breakfast everyday onwards!
* started to drink more coffee - since the culture is so `hey, lets chat over coffee" ...when in Rome, need to do as the Romans do!
* starting to `couldnt care less' of how others view my dressing - which is not the trendy stylish european way. so what?
* learning that there is a `Continental' Europe..and Europe - and the people from different European countries are very different in terms of behaviour, speech and outlook
* pulling my hair out on where to find reasonably cheap curtains, and also wardrobe for my bedroom
* Ikea became my common haunt during weekends! having meatballs dinner there on Fridays, and breakfasted on scrambled eggs there on Saturday morning
* had to restart my residents registration at another commune, Woluwe Saint Lambert (where my new home is), as there had been no progress from the 1st commune
* my furniture arrives at Antwerp! hurray - now, need to clear customs before being moved to Brussels

3rd Month
* completed my move to my new home - hurray! 
* starting to see progress at work (albeit slower than anticipated), things are not so alien anymore. People are beginning to get more familiar with me, and vice versa
* realised that there are some really nice people around at work, and then again, there are also those who are not so accommodating or just plain selfish - just like any other offices
* had an impromptu `house warming' at my new place, and realised that Europeans are not used to potluck concept and everyone just brings wine and dessert, no `real' food! and drink beer like water.
* Italians are fast becoming my favourite Europeans (no offence to the others please), as I have a couple of good friends whom I can connect with, and they are Italians. Found that we share some pretty common values, e.g. tight family ties, community closeness etc. They are also the ones who understand potluck! haha.. had one friend who came and made fresh gnocchi at my home, really lovely!
* my confidence in driving in Belgium sees another achievement - I no longer feel strange driving on the right side of the road and driving is becoming natural again
* had my first 2 visitors from Malaysia - hurray! and we did a mono Belgium tour
* had the most beers of my life in 1 week, while bringing my visitors around - clearly am starting to drink beer like water too
* weather is getting lovelier by the day! spring is upon us...
* had my first bout of hayfever when spring hits..and continue to sneeze my head off..geezzz...
* starting to plan my summer holidays!

There! the key summaries of my first 3 months in Brussels...And now...I move into my 4th month!