Saturday, March 19, 2011

Married (Again)!!

So now you are no longer registered as a swinging single in Japan.

the day we got married all over again at the city office.

Saving Lives

To prepare for the father-in-law's eventual discharge from hospital, the entire family was herded to a lifesaver's course yesterday.

while ken's dad is out of the woods, he remains susceptible to cardiac failure. although we have indicated to doctors our intention to care for ken's father at home, the hospital reminded us that we'd have to do so with the knowledge that an episode similar to what took place last month might happen again with little or no forewarning. so in the case of an emergency, the family would have to function as the first and most crucial source of medical aid.

under the watchful eyes of ken's father (who sat in for the course), we were briefed on the proper way to call for an ambulance and given a demonstration on administering CPR. we even had a go at the AED (automatic external defibrilator). if ken's dad had been a plastic CPR doll, he'd have come back to life no less than 8 times in an afternoon.

there's something very heartwarming about ken's 83 year-old grandfather as he listens intently to the nurse, carefully taking notes. the man is still very light on his feet despite his age, but performing CPR for a full 2 minutes at a go is no mean feat even for me, let alone for a tiny old man tasked with caring for a person 20 years his junior.

there are still many things we have yet to figure out. like fitting everyone's schedules so that ken's dad will not be left alone at home, or applying for the right kinds of public health insurance and inquiring about day care and home nursing.

but i'm sure we will get there. for now, i am really liking my new family.

our kit for the day:

the family being briefed on the importance of CPR:

ken's dad watches on intently:

ken's mom giving mouth-to-mouth:

ken and his grandfather's turn to try:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Time For A Prayer

It is complete and utter destruction.

the worst earthquake in the history of japan since the government officially began keeping records in the meiji era, the earthquake that took place off the eastern seacoast of miyagi prefecture in northern japan yesterday afternoon has wreaked extensive and debilitating damage on many parts of the country.

just looking at the news footage on tv is painful.
entire towns submerged
cars and huge fishing trawlers swept up against buildings
houses floating away on an ocean of mud and water
people stranded on the rooftop of hospitals and schools waiting for help
nuclear energy facilities in danger of implosion
burning petroleum tanks and refineries
a car with its headlights on and horns blaring, washed away into the sea
thousands encamped in central tokyo due to a transportation deadlock
hundreds and thousands of households left without electricity and water

there was footage of an old lady clasping her hands to her mouth as she watched her town being flushed away by the tsunami. another woman crying out for help from under the debris of a demolished house. one young woman crying out her son's name to a search-and-rescue team. a man walking distractedly through a street that had been laid to waste by the disaster.

it is damage of an extent not entirely and immediately comprehensible to people. it seems almost unfair that we have been spared the catastrophy and given the privilege of watching the terror unfold across from a television screen.

people who have experienced an earthquake will tell you that it is not something that you can ever learn to get used to. the earth starts to rattle and there are ungodly rumbling and creaking sounds that come from below you, almost like the voice of the earth groaning. your apartment building shakes from side to side, and things start to fall. you are paralysed with fear and you can't even move, let alone remember to evacuate.

it's a terrible cliche, but again i am thankful that the kinds of disasters that we have to endure in singapore are limited to man-made flash floods triggered by a questionable barrage. it makes you grateful that we never have to worry about our physical safety being threatened by natural calamities.

there really is so much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Life's Curveballs

Just when I was thinking of writing about death and mortality, it happened.

it's odd really, sometimes how things take place.
my mom used to tell me that when she was much younger, she was so busy with caring for the family that she never had the time to worry about her own health and well-being. now that we're all grown though, she finds herself having to come to terms with her own mortality and the fact that she is growing old.

i think it is when people find something that they want to live for that they start worrying about dying. that we are mere mortal flesh is fearful because that means the things that we yearn and live for can be taken away from us with a very sudden and unfortunate stroke of fate.

that thought struck home two mondays ago.

it was close to midnight and we had been spending the night quietly in front of the television when his mom called with the news.

ken's father had woken up to go to the bathroom when his heart suddenly failed. my mother-in-law frantically called for an ambulance and ken's brother, who works in a hospice, performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while they waited for help to arrive. the medics had to revive ken's father with an external defibrillator because his heart had stopped beating.

memories of ken's grandmother dying suddenly from a stroke kept coming to mind as i drove us to the hospital, because ken was in singapore when it happened and he couldnt make it back home in time to see her.

before we were allowed to see ken's father in ER the doctors kept telling us they werent sure if he could be saved. they told us his pulse was wildly irregular, that of the three arteries grafted in a bypass some 8 years ago two had failed. they reminded us of his father's medical history (he was born with a heart condition) and asked if we would allow them to attach him to a life support machine.

the main problem with going ahead with life support is that once a patient is placed on it, they cannot be taken off it because of Japanese laws prohibiting euthanasia. in the event that patients fail to recover or lose all brain activity, their lives would inevitably be prolonged for an indeterminate period of time through life support.

all of this information was presented to us by no less that three doctors while ken's father remained in ER. we asked for time to think about the possibilities and implications, but werent allowed the luxury of thinking the situation through given the circumstances.

ken and his family eventually decided that saving his father was ultimately more important that the fear of unwittingly prolonging his suffering in the future, and so the decision was made in favour of life support.

i have never seen the going-ons inside an emergency room, and being face-to-face with a loved one on the brink of death and fighting for life is something i can find no words to describe. there were tubes attached all over his frail body, and a hole had been cut at the side of his neck to drain liquid accumulating in his lungs.

over the next four days, we took turns to keep vigil as ken's father floated in and out of consciousness. we talked to him and held his hand, played his favourite music, had his old friends come visit.

ken's dad is now back in a normal ward and for now, things are looking good. although his heart had stopped when he collapsed at home, little damage was done to the brain, a fact doctors attribute to ken's quick-thinking family and timely medical attention.

over that week i realised a few important things about life and family. though unfortunate, what happened to ken's father brought the family closer together. i was deeply touched by how everyone kept their spirits up and their hopes high, and even in the most trying of times, we all remembered to laugh and make light of the situation. most of all, i realised that you can really make someone better just by being that one thing worth living for.