Friday, January 1, 2016

Goodbye, 2015

Hello, friends! This is only my ninth blog post of the year, but it's also my final one; it's been a wildly busy year. I've probably said this every year since starting med school, but this year has felt both incredibly long (anything that happened in January feels like a lifetime ago) and incredibly short (how is it already the end of December?!). Condensing the year into a single blog post seemed like an insurmountable task, and I cannot tell you how much I've procrastinated instead of working on it. It's currently the night of the 30th and I'm only just now properly starting on it, so here's hoping I manage to get this out by the 31st.

Anyway! Let's hop right into it. Here are the highlights and lowlights of my 2015.

Third year

It's incredible to think that we're done with this already. I still remember being an awkward first year in Hobart; come next year, I'll be an awkward fourth year in Launnie instead! Third year has been quite the journey. There were four rotations -- Primary Care, Medicine, Clinical Specialties, and Surgery -- of which my favourite by far was Clin Specs. A quick little summary of memorable things from each rotation:

1. Primary Care
   a) Rural placement (more below)
   b) Drug and alcohol placement - the people we met were extremely open and willing to share, and opened my eyes to the discrimination addicts can face while seeking medical treatment
   c) Flipped classrooms - kind of a nightmare

2. Medicine
   a) Patient death (more below)
   b) Being on the wards for the first time
   c) Oncology selective

3. Clinical Specialties
   a) Anything with Christine Chuter or Robyn Withers was A+, they're amazing
   b) CTA - mad props to the volunteers for letting us poke and prod at them in the name of education
   c) (On psychosomatic pain or histronics or something) "This doesn't happen in countries where they don't have television, like Malaysia."

4. Surgery
   a) Held retractors + stuck a finger into someone's abdomen to stem the flow of blood + put in staples
   b) Scrubs!
   c) Frank Kimble was boss, I looked forward to all his tutes

First-time-in-scrubs selfie -- couldn't help myself

Of course, besides rotations, we had lectures and things for CAM304 (sem 1) and CAM305 (sem 2) as well. CAM304 was, quite honestly, a nightmare. It was here that I encountered my first ever real mental block: Neuroanatomy. No matter how hard I studied or how many times I went through something, I could never seem to wrap my mind around it. I couldn't brain it. None of it would enter my head. And it was extremely frustrating. I managed to just pass, by the grace of God and also Sandeep's patience in helping me memorise the tracts the night before the paper.

CAM305 was exponentially better despite all the stuff on pain because we had lectures on cancer, genetics, and cancer genetics which I thoroughly enjoyed. (Ironically, according to the marks breakdown, I did better in the pain section than I did for the cancer genetics section of the year end exams...) Speaking of exams, CAM305 was the first time ever that I got a distinction in any med school exam! My pathetic CAM304 marks pull down my overall grade so I won't be passing the year with a distinction, but I passed the sem with a distinction and am pretty darn happy with that. Also, I managed to pass twelve out of twelve OSCE stations, which I am extremely thankful for.

Another thing I'd like to mention is the classes that international students got with Professor Michael Beresford. He was this theatre/drama professor meant to help us with our confidence and speech. Once I'd gotten over my initial indignance that UTAS assumed all international students couldn't speak English properly, I actually thoroughly enjoyed the classes, if only because I was so taken by Prof Beresford himself. Everyone who knows me well enough knows that I adore weird people, and here was this loud, expressive, melodramatic, almost flamboyant theatre guy in a room full of Asian medical students. He was great! The classes themselves were fun, and made me aware of my tendency to mumble and speak too quickly. Getting rid of those things is a work in progress...most of the time.

In summary, third year was a roller coaster of a year, and I'm glad to be done with it. I'm nervous and excited to see what fourth year will bring!

CNY in Tassie

Lou sang!
Photo credit: Dong

This was my first of what looks to be a few years of celebrating Chinese New Year away from home. It being Australia, it wasn't a public holiday, so we found a day where everyone was free (it turned out to be the first day of CNY) and had a potluck dinner. I'd brought two packs of yee sang to Tassie with me specifically for this purpose, so it felt like a legit reunion dinner, despite it being a day after CNY eve. An abundance of food, countless singalongs, and great company made for an excellent night. Missing home isn't so bad when you're surrounded by friends in the same boat!


I started going to the hospital gym this year, after saying that I would since the end of 2013. I guess the reason for this was twofold:

1. I got scared after seeing all the diabetic patients in the Primary Care rotation. I have a strong family history of diabetes on one side, and also a pretty wicked sweet tooth. My blood test results from early this year showed that my glucose was in the normal range, but I am only twenty-two and you can't be too careful, I guess. Exercise is good for you, anyway.

2. I started working as a patient sitter at the Royal Hobart Hospital. This was really just to make some extra pocket money, but ended up being a reason to get off my butt and go to the gym. Seeing all these people who were so sick that they couldn't move made me, a healthy person who could move, feel bad that I wouldn't. I started going to the gym every other day, and made it a point to go after every 3-10pm shift I did.

It was a good decision, because I ended up losing a couple kilos and feeling a lot healthier. I also realised that I fell sick a lot less often! Exercise may suck when you're doing it, but you feel good about yourself after. Really. I'm glad I started doing it.

Launnie placement

Ellie the Whippet

Ash, Dev, and I got posted to Launceston for our rural GP placement as part of the Primary Care rotation. We got allocated different practices, and from the sounds of it, had pretty different experiences. I was at Northern Suburbs Medical Service and had the opportunity to sit in with four different GPs, as well as follow one of them to his part time job at an aged care facility (I spent most of my time there playing with Dr Madill's Whippet as he took care of paperwork). This placement was the first time I stitched up a Real Live Patient, which was nerve wracking seeing as how the last time I'd touched sutures was over a year ago at a RUSTICA Skills Night; it went well, though!

Staying at the nurses' accommodation was kind of a nightmare -- it was dark and gloomy and looked like something out of a horror movie, everything creaked, and there was no wifi. To make matters worse, I fell pretty sick a few days into the placement, so I didn't join Ash and Dev in their escape to Hobart over the weekend. It was lucky that I was pretty near Shi Hui's, so I was there a fair bit when I was feeling up to the walk. She and Brian brought me to the church they attended on Sunday, and I think that's the church I'll be attending next year. All in all, it was a good placement, and I'm grateful for it.

Patient death

There really isn't much more to say about this other than what I've written here and then here. I still remember his full name, what he looked like, what he died of and how he died. Hope his family's doing okay.

Singapore Night

Definitely one of the high points of the year for me. It was our last event together before everyone split up to different clinical schools, and I'm glad it was such a great night. Everyone looked fantastic and there was a photobooth and the ferry ride was kind of a novelty and there was a three-hour window for free flow drinks, and it was just a really good night all around. I'm going to miss everyone next year!

Road trips: Mt Field and aurora/sunrise chasing

I never got around to blogging about this, but we had two mini road trips this year. I didn't leave Tassie at all for the entire two semesters, so I was glad to be able to get out of Hobart, at least.

On the way to snow at Mt Field
Photo credit: Dong

During our midsem break in sem 2, Jac, Jeremy, Dong, Khai, Sandeep, Ted and I hopped into Jeremy's dad's van and headed to Mt Field and Russell Falls. The trek to Russell Falls was easy enough, but the falls themselves were rather uninspiring, I thought. The highlight of the trip was definitely the snow! We went towards the end of August, and some parts of Mt Field were covered in snow! Snowball fights and snow ambushes and other sneaky snow-related shenanigans ensued, which made for a rather wet ride home, but it was all so much fun. We got kebabs and warmed up at the lup cheongs' (what the four IMU guys living together called themselves...because Asian sausages) with green tea after. Such a good day!

This just kind of looked like a slightly less dark night sky to the naked eye
Photo credit: Dong (click to enlarge!)

Towards the end of sem 2, during the ten-day gap between our last written paper and OSCEs, a bunch of us piggybacked onto Dong's plan to go aurora chasing. This was in early November, and there were reports of solar flares (or something) that made it look like a promising night for photography enthusiasts like him. I'd been super iffy about going, since the plan was to stay in the cold overnight and wait for things to happen. However, everyone else was super gung-ho and keen, so I succumbed to peer pressure. Dong, Vince, Khai, Carl Sern, Jac, and I hopped into cars borrowed from Rachel and Sarah (who were both unable to make it, unfortunately) and headed to Goat's Bluff Lookout. That night, I discovered that aurorae look a lot better on camera than with the naked eye; what appeared to be a patch of sky slightly lighter than the rest of the sky showed up as a green glow in Dong's pictures. Since we were far enough from the city, the light pollution was significantly less and the stars were amazing. So was the reflection of the moon in the lake we were at (hi, Vince).

After Dong was done doing his thing, we stopped for a Maccas run and drove up Mt Wellington to catch the sunrise. Let me tell you this: It was cold. The wind was insane, but it was still somehow incredibly foggy where we parked the cars, like a scene out of Silent Hill. Thankfully, it was clear at the viewing platform where we stood, shivering, watching the first rays of sunlight illuminate the city below us. It was pretty magnificent, though the mood was ruined somewhat by our being delirious from lack of sleep and sing-screaming Circle of Life from Lion King. It was lucky we were the only ones there...but then again who in the world would've driven up Mt Wellington at like four in the morning to catch the sunrise during the exam period?

Us, that's who. Us.

(Edit: I've just remembered we went to see bioluminescent phytoplankton as well, but that was mostly just cold and probably not worth blogging about.) 

Packing and moving and finding a house


Oh man, this was a nightmare. After months of studying and OSCE practice, we had our exams and OSCEs, then we had to pack and move our stuff, and then I had to continue my future housemate's futile search for houses; that's months of non-stop stress. I hate packing with a passion, so I dragged my feet for the longest time. Sandeep, Khai, and I were moving our and Hui Ning's stuff up to Launnie together in a moving truck, and we'd confirmed the date about five days beforehand. Still, I ended up sleeping only an hour the night before because I was up packing and rearranging and being sad about leaving Hobart. We drove three hours to Launnie, stopped at Yining's to pick up some stuff My sold me, drove to their new place, dumped everything in the truck out onto the road, and Khai had to drive three hours back to Hobart right away so he could return the truck on time and make his evening bus back to Launnie. We had to wake up poor Suman who'd been sleeping before his night shift, and he let us in and helped us bring four people's worth of stuff off the road and into the house. We must've been quite a sight.

The stress didn't stop there, though! I didn't have a place in Launnie yet, so I had to stay with the three guys for a while while I looked for/at houses. They were super gracious about it, and it turned out that Suman actually had a spare bed in the living room that I was able to use. I feel that we all bonded over watching 3 Idiots (which is, by the way, pretty amazing) and figuring out how to use the induction stove together. Funnily enough, we're going to be neighbours next year! A friend of a friend of a friend was looking for someone to take over their lease this coming January, and it turned out to be the house next door. It's perfect because it's right across the road from the hospital, and next to a house with three pretty great guys. Funny how life works out sometimes!


OCF Hobart represent!
Photo credit: Megan Ong 

This year was my last year at OCF, since I'll be leaving for Launnie next year, where there isn't an OCF branch. With this in mind, and knowing that I'd have to stay back in Tassie for a while anyway to move my stuff to Launnie, I figured why not go for convy? I'd sat through two years of our local convy rep (hi, Olive) pestering us to go and since I was working this year, I'd be able to pay on my own however much the UTAS grant didn't cover. Protests from my screaming introversion aside (it would be five whole days of being constantly surrounded by people), it sounded good!

To be honest, by the time convy rolled around, I was incredibly homesick and really just wanted to go home. Instead, I left Launnie for Sydney, where I spent my nine-hour layover exploring The Rocks and the Sydney Opera House. Then I flew from Sydney to Perth. Joya was kind enough to pick me up and put me up for the night, before convy the next day. The convy organisers had, well, organised for everyone to be picked up and taken care of the night before, and arranged transport to the campsite from a collection point, as well as transport to the collection point! This must have been fairly nightmarish to conduct, so I was super impressed.

OCF convy 2k15
Photo credit: Traci Chan

I ended up being glad that I went for convy. This year has been pretty spiritually trying for me, so those five days were a much-needed time of refreshment and reconnection. This year's theme was 'More of Him, less of me', with Ps. Chris Chia and Ps. Binh Nguyen as the main speakers. Ps Binh's sermons resonated with me, particularly the one about humility. (If Jesus, who is God, could humble Himself to do the Father's will, how could I, a mere human, not? I thought about that a lot, particularly over Christmas). We also got to pick two workshops to attend: I opted for A Christian's Perspective On Homosexuality for the first day and What to Look For In a Church? on the second...despite pokes and prods from certain individuals (hi, Hui Ning) to sign up for Singlehood is Not a Waiting Room instead. I enjoyed the activities the convy committee planned out for us, and appreciate the massive amounts of effort that must've gone into them.

Of course, at convy, there was fellowship as well. I don't know what it is about camps like these, but times of sharing are always so raw and open and encouraging. There were confessions, prayer requests, discussions, and exchanges of advice amongst people I was comfortable with, and I really, really treasure those times. It's so much easier sharing your burdens with brothers and sisters in Christ, because they have the same set of guiding values and know to be true the same Biblical truths that you do; even if they don't know what to say at times, at the very least, you know that they really do understand. Shoutout to the UNSW guys with whom we had our centre sharing every night -- thanks for the good talks, guys.

As much as I enjoyed convy, I was also really, really glad to be heading home after the five days. And that is where I am now.

One of many flights in December

It really has been one heck of a year. While I appreciate the things that I've learnt and the people I've met over the past twelve months, I'm glad that 2015 is on its way out. I've probably missed out a few things in this post, but that's okay; 2015's ending in eleven minutes, and then it's on to the next, hopefully with bigger and better things.

Goodbye, 2015, and thanks for the memories.

Hello, 2016. Please be kind.

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