Friday, July 11, 2008

Moments of My Life - Part 8

Then there was this incident in a village somewhere in Selangor that I thought was worth mentioning here. It was a clear case of miscommunication and jumping to conclusion too soon.

A Punjabi dairy farmer came to the clinics reporting that there was something wrong with one of his river buffalo cow. His Malay language was really bad. No one really understood what was wrong with his cow.

He told us that: "The buffalo was leaking." So off we went to his farm thinking that his cow was having diarrhea. It was very late in the afternoon when we arrived at his farm.

Reaching his sick pen, I saw a cow lying on her side appearing in great pain. She was suffering from dystokia! There and then I realized that a big problem was in store for me. I was not prepared for a cow in labor difficulty.

I then examined the cow and found that indeed I was having a caesarian surgery candidate; the cow had a breached calf and was so exhausted that nothing else could save her and the calf.

Opening my bag, I found only a scalpel blade without a scalpel holder, a set of suturing needles, a few rolls of catgut sutures, and a bottle of local anesthetic.

At that instant I felt like suggesting to the farmer to just slaughter the cow, but by looking at the farmer I knew that he loved the cow too much to agree with my suggestion.

I then decided to perform a caesarian. For anesthesia I performed an inverted L-block. Using a scalpel blade I quickly and surely made a six-inch skin incision, blunt dissect the muscles, and incised the peritoneum to reach the uterus. Then it began to drizzle.

My assistant opened up his umbrella to cover the operation from the rain. I then pulled the gravid uterus out of the abdominal cavity through the skin incision.

Then I made a bold incision in the uterine wall and taking care to avoid contaminating the peritoneal cavity with the birth fluids, I pulled the calf out.

As my assistants were busy cleaning and helping the poor calf, I was busy removing the placenta and other debris, cleaning the uterus, putting a few antibiotic boluses, and closing the uterine wall using a double inverted stitch, and closing the peritoneum, the muscle layers and subcutaneous tissue, and lastly the skin with simple interrupted sutures.

I had to finish the skin sutures under the light of a kerosene lamp, as it was already dark by then.

At the end of it all I knew how Dr. James Herriot must have felt when he was attending a sow in labour difficulty in a snow-covered field!

Despite the unsterile condition of the surgery, I was told that both mother and daughter were doing all right. In fact the cow continued to give birth to many more calves after that.

During one of my free semester breaks, a relative from Kelantan paid us a visit in Kemaman. He was my mother's cousin. It had been years since he last came visiting. With him were his children, and among them was his daughter. She was Ani.

Through my lectures, I managed to motivate her into paying more attention to her studies. Her parents were glad to see positive changes in her attitude towards education.

Once or twice I even paid them a visit in Chabang Tiga, Tumpat. To me, our friendship was nothing more than a big brother to a younger sister relationship. We continued our friendship through frequent exchange of letters.

Too frequent was our correspondence that someone mistook me for trying to win her heart away from him. I did not know then that she was secretly engaged to the guy.

Once that guy wrote a very nasty letter to me, accusing me of all sorts of things. It was very unbecoming of a teacher to act without actually knowing what he was talking about.

At first I was thinking of writing back to him a similar letter, if not worst. But then after thinking it over, I just decided to forget about the letter and rubbished it.

I thought I was a far better person than him. I would not have stooped so low to steal away someone's fiancé. Then we stopped corresponding.

They were later married and had a few children. We had never met again after that, not because we hated each other, but it was just that I did not want to meet her husband. His harsh words in his first and last letter to me were just too much for me to forget.

We Veterinary students did not have the luxury of completely free semester breaks since our second year. Unlike students from other courses, we had to undergo compulsory practical sessions during most of our semester breaks.

That was why I could not help but laughed at Latif Ibrahim's role as a Veterinary student in the film entitled Dendang Perantau. He had all the time to work part time as a gas station worker and go around courting girls during semester breaks.

Also, the books he was carrying around in the film, especially the Introduction to Biology or was it Fundamentals Biology book, showed how little they had prepared for the film.

At the most, we were only given a week off at the end of the practical session to go home. During our first and second year's practical sessions, we were usually sent to various farms all over the country. We were supposed to have a first hand information about livestock industry in Malaysia and a little bit about livestock management.

For our third, fourth and fifth year's practical sessions, we were exposed more to clinical works, either in the Veterinary Research Institute or in our own faculty in UPM.

When we were in UPM, we had to cook our own food. Talking about cooking reminded me of several occasions where we had to go against hostel rules just to ensure our survival.

Cooking was strictly forbidden in the hostel. We took turn to go to the market, to clean the fish or chicken, and to do the actual cooking. Abu Hassan was particularly good in cooking, especially the gulai lemak cili api whereas Bashir on the other hand, cooked restaurant-standard capati.

I especially loved Bashir's special sambal telur to go along with his capatis. I was just a useful hand at frying and looking after the food when it was cooking.

More than a few times, Yang Berhormat (YB) Puan Napsiah, the hostel warden and once the Negeri Sembilan Member of State Assembly, raided our 'kitchen'.

Being a strict warden she was always in her unforgiving mood whenever she caught us cooking in the hostel. She would usually confiscate our foods and cooking utensils lock stock and barrel.

Luckily we had an understanding friend in the hostel office. She would always provide us with the store's keys for us to repossess our cooking properties as soon as the warden left the hostel!

The frequent confiscations of our cooking utensils by her did not stop us from continuing preparing our own food.

There was this incident at the beginning of my last year in the university, in the first week to be exact. It made me laugh every time I thought about it.

I was visiting the third college then. Then a student roughly shouted at me. He called me to run to him. Realizing that he had probably mistaken me for a freshie student and wanting to teach him a lesson, I dumbly ran to him.

"Do you know who am I?"

"No, I don\'t."

"Everybody here knows me, you know!"

As a punishment for not knowing his name, I was asked to follow him to the canteen. I just followed all his orders just impatient to embarrass him in front of the public. As we were seated in a table, he then ordered something to eat.

A friend of mine passed by us. He saw and heard what was happening at our table. I winked at him, a signal not to expose my identity. As we were enjoying the delicious noodle soup and he was still yelling and shouting at me, perhaps to show off to another friend of his who was just joining us.

Then my patience reached its limit. I was going to explode. On seeing a dormant volcano going to erupt, my friend who was quiet all these whiles, put his hand on my shoulder to cool me off.

So, instead of going amuck, casually I asked him what was his matrix number.

"What is your matrix number?"


"Ooh! Mine is 2768!"

Suddenly he went pale. He was speechless.


Then my friend from the next table came to our table and started harassing him for his action. This made him to be in the worst position.

He then repeatedly asked for my forgiveness for all that he had done to me. He even agreed to pay all that my friend and I had enjoyed that night. I reminded him to see first before jumping to conclusion; do not think that I was a freshie just by looking at my hair.

Any way I did not look anything like a freshie. Actually I really hate bullying ever since I left SDAR. I remembered slapping a Form four student just because he was bullying a junior.

What had made me angrier then was the fact that that particular Form four student had not even been touched by any senior when he was a junior himself, but I was the real victim of the school bullies, and came to think about it, I was the one who should do all the bullying!

In the final year, we all had to do carry out a simple research project and write a report on it. In the beginning I was planning to write something on cattle ranching in Malaysia, but the academic committee did not agree with my idea. Despite of my unwillingness, a lecturer picked me to carry out a favourite project of his – environmental physiology.

I was to study the effects of exposing a group of purebred Friesian and Friesian-Sahiwal crosses cows to continuous sunlight and providing them shades on their respiratory rate, blood parameters, body temperatures, and also skin temperatures.

I was not interested at all to carry out the project but I had no choice. I just had to follow his wish and went on doing and finishing the project. He was not much help in anything as far as the project was concerned.

He seemed like not to know anything at all. Just imagine I would never get any decent answer from him every time we met to discuss the progress of the project.

So, I had to go around and meet other lecturers, even in other faculties, to get help. He did not even help in my project presentation.

Looking over my shoulder at my classmates, I knew they were very lucky. Their supervisors went all out just to see them through with their projects.

Despite all the trouble that I had to go through in carrying and writing up the project, I just got a frustrating B for it. Not worth all the batteries that I had used up for my simple calculator in doing the statistics for all the data accumulated during my project.

It was also not worth all my energy cycling up and down the hills from the dairy unit to the faculty five times a day while collecting blood samples and running a variety of tests in the laboratory.

All throughout the project, never for once, I was given words of encouragement by the supervisor, whom I was once told that he was jealous of us veterinarians for getting the title 'doctors' after completing our DVM. Where as for him, he was called a doctor only after receiving his PhD. How very childish of him!

The comprehensive examination, on the other hand, was so neatly handled that I felt alive again after that dreadful project. There was one examiner from Australia who outshone others in as far as our comprehensive examinations were concerned.

He was a master in asking final year students like us. I was sure that his philosophy was: "Ask the students what they know and not what they do not know."

He asked me this interesting and helpful question, "You are called to a goat farm. There, you see many goats were having diarrhea. Could you tell me what are the possible causes?"

I went on and on telling him what I knew best. Another examiner was Dato' Osman Din himself. He asked me to show him the right way to give a pill to a Persian cat.

Full of self-confidence, I was successful in one attempt, a feat that I had never done before. Even Dato' Osman was amazed at my clinical skill that day.

Credits were also due to Tom, the understanding cat that had given his fullest cooperation that day! I was very happy with my overall performance in the comprehensive examination.

When everything was over, we all left for home, knowing well that we had made it. We had passed the DVM course. All we had to do was wait for the official results.

The results did come a few weeks later. I made it. Finally, after a long winded road, I was now a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine!

It looked like my philosophy of life 'Our greatest glory consists not in never falling but in rising every time we fall' was proven right after all.

Every body in my family was very happy. Then came the telegram from Dr Sheikh Omar. He asked me to consider joining the faculty and later furthering my studies in immunopathology.

I was caught between working in the Department of Veterinary Services and joining the faculty.

After seriously thinking it over, considering all the pros and cons of both alternatives, sadly I had to turn down his offer.

I was just too tired, that was all. Also, the pull from the Department of Veterinary Services was just too great for me to resist. The knowledge that Dr. Ahmad Suhaimi Omar, a first batch student, was already the State Veterinary Director of Perlis was also an attraction in itself.

Being a fourth batch student, I was pretty sure then that there was still a good prospect for me making it to the top in the department in the near future.

The moment worth remembering for the rest of my life was when we attended an oath-taking ceremony at the faculty a night before our convocation.

That night we, the nearly graduated DVM students declared that we would try our very best to look after our profession and the animals' welfare.

We also signed our membership to the Malaysian Veterinary council and the annual practice certificate. My father was with me witnessing the historic moment for his eldest son.

The next day was the joyful and momentous day for me. It was my convocation. Both my parents and two younger sisters were there to join me in celebrating my success.

What a great feeling it was to walk up the stage and receive the degree from the University's Pro-Chancellor. It was just a fantabulous feeling, walking in the green robe along the aisle and up the stage and to receive the scroll in front of my parents, two sisters and an aunt.

The joy and jubilation made me temporarily forget my rumbling stomach. I had not had anything since dinner last night and now it was already past lunchtime!

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