I guessed I was lucky. I did not have to join in the elite group of unemployed for long.
Just about a month after finishing my DVM, there it was my appointment letter. Thank God at last here I was, soon to be joining Malaysian professional working force.
I was offered a Probationary Veterinary Officer starting on the 16 May 1981. I had to report duty at the Institut Haiwan, Kluang. Everybody in the family, including my late grandmother, was very happy about the news that finally I was out of school and would soon be earning my own living.
Yes, I had been in school far too long. Fourteen years to be exact. I knew that I had troubled my father and mother for too long and now it was time to be on my own.
So, at midnight of the 15 May 1981, I was on the Transnational express bus on my way to Kluang. As usual, nobody accompanied me to Kluang.
Reaching Kluang town, I quickly got into a cheap hotel besides a taxi station. After a short rest and a cold shower, I was all ready to report duty.
While having breakfast in one of the food stalls near the hotel, I heard the news of the passing away of the Queen of Johore. It was a state regulation that when a royalty passed away, all the state citizens were expected to show their respect.
Muslim men had to put on a white band on their songkok where as non-Muslims had to pin a piece of black cloth on their shirt's shoulder. A tailor graciously offered me a piece of white cotton cloth for my songkok. For obvious reasons, not many Johorians dared not to follow this unwritten law.
At the Institute, I met, among others, Abu Hassan Mohd. Ali, Razali Manan, Fauzi Yaakub, Majid Awang, Majid Man (he reported duty a few months earlier), Maznah, Radzi Rasul, and Abas Sudar.
Dr. Cheah Pin Fook was the director of the institute then. For the first week we all were allowed to stay at the institute's hostel. After that, we moved into two rented rooms in a house owned by a Johore royalty, whom we referred as Mak Engku, not far from Kluang town.
We were a bit boisterous every time we were together, either going to or back from work. Luckily the landlady was an understanding person. She coped well with us.
A neighbour, a retired headmaster was at first very suspicious of us. One day he roughly asked us whether we had registered for the neighbourhood watch service and passed us the necessary forms.
After receiving and perhaps going through our completed forms, he changed his mind and said that we did not have to participate in the neighbourhood watch.
I did not know the real reason behind the sudden change in him. He respected us all after knowing who we really were after scrutinizing our details and perhaps our profession and salaries too!
In the institute we were assigned all sorts of duties, ranging from doing per-rectal pregnancy diagnosis, bleeding, and treatment of sick animals. I was excited and always looking forward to do the real veterinarian\'s works.
The late Dr. Vimalarajah was the leader in all the works in the dairy unit. Looking back, I thought it was in the institute that I mastered per-rectal pregnancy diagnosis and bleeding of dairy cattle.
We usually performed per-rectal pregnancy diagnosis on hundreds of cows per day
After a few weeks of doing that, I became quite an expert. I could accurately and confidently tell the status of the cows' pregnancy, even as early as 2 months.
It was just fascinating to feel all the changes in the cow's uterus during the different stages of pregnancy. Through the cow's rectal wall, I could feel the small swelling of the uterine horn and the slipped membranes of the early pregnancy, the dam's pulsating femoral artery, the cotyledons, and even the bobbing fetal head.
It was through a session of pregnancy diagnosis that I helped Radzi befriend his future wife. Pity the cow when two hands, Radzi's and Hajar's, were doing all the probing in her rectum!
They were later happily married and blessed with a few children. One day, while engrossed at the back of the cows, a cow suddenly kicked at the planks used to separate them in the trevis and at the same time crushing my left index finger that was sandwiched in between.
I was rushed to the hospital for treatment. At the hospital's outpatient department I saw a lady doctor who surprisingly turned out to be the niece of the late Dr. Nik Mahmud, one of my bosses in the Department of Veterinary Services.
After knowing who I was, she scribbled the abbreviation 'Dr." in front of my name on the hospital card.
I was then sent to the treatment room for cleaning and suturing the wound. As I was lying on the bed, I could not help noticing an old gentleman crying loudly, probably in great pain, as his facial wound was sutured unanesthesized.
Realizing that I was probably the next victim, I shuddered in anxiety, waiting for the curved needle to make its way in and out of the skin of my finger, inflicting unbearable pain in the process. A hospital assistant came to me and he roughly handled my injured finger.
After cleaning the wound, he then began suturing.
Suddenly, he stopped whatever he was doing. Through the side of my left eye, I saw his friend vigourously pointing to my card and softly saying something. I could guess what it was.
"Dr.! He is a doctor! Then all of a sudden, he stopped. He then gently put on the green drape over my finger, did a ring-block anesthesia, waited for the anesthesia to take effect, and then cautiously and cosmetically began suturing my injured finger.
I was laughing inside after watching the drama that had just taken place in front of my eyes. They practised double standard in giving treatment. "Why this has to happen in our own country to our own citizen?"
Perhaps the relevant authority should look into this matter seriously. Besides that drama, there was another incident that stuck to my mind till today.
One day, an old gentleman all the way from a remote part of Johor, came to see me. He was worried about his goats dying. Though it was not really my kind of work attending cases in the district, I decided not to frustrate him. We went to his farm to have a look.
According to him, his goat farm was very near to the institute, but we were surprised. As we reached the riverbank, he told us that we had to take a thirty-minute boat ride to reach his farm.
It was not much of a boat really. It was more of an old tree trunk with a hollow area for us to sit in. The river water was just an inch from getting into the sampan. It was a scary sampan ride for us.
Later I was told that there were crocodiles in the river.
Reaching the hard ground again, I immediately went to the goat shed. From the bloodstained feces underneath the shed, I knew that the goats were suffering from coccidiosis. They were also in bad shape due to heavy worm infestation.
We treated the goats with anthelmintic and anti-coccidial drug. We were treated with a delicious kampong-style lunch after that. He was very pleased with our help.
After lunch, we bade farewell with a special feeling, a feeling of satisfaction that we had provided a good service to that poor gentleman.
The other great veterinary incidence that was stuck to my mind till today was the outbreaks of Salmonella dublin infections among dairy calves. I remember having to personally administer antibiotics to each and every calf in the calf sheds just an attempt to prevent them from dying of the disease.
I was very emotional after I successfully saved an infected calf. I also could not help but laugh every time I remember how one day I was called by a group of Veterinary Assistant trainees to examine a bull calf.
The calf was lying on its side on the floor. Its penile area was markedly swollen and painful to my touch. From the history of the case I knew that a lady trainer had somehow in her zealousness to learn the castration technique, mistakenly crushed the penis instead of the vas deferens with the Burdizzo castrator.
The poor sexual organ was completely necrotic and I had no choice but to amputate it. I had to place a plastic catheter in its urethra just to allow the calf to urinate.
However my attempt was a bit too late. The calf did not make it. One morning a few days later it was found dead by one of the farm's worker..