Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dear God, when will this ever end?

I should never have spoken too soon.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and the tingling sensation that I had been having all over my body for weeks was completely gone!

I was ecstatic. Finally! Full recovery from the viral fever and Bell's palsy. I could eat properly, drink, smile, sleep without having to cover my right eye. And now, I was finally ready for the swimming pool!

Or so I thought.

That night, having sat in the office the whole day doing light work, I started feeling feverish again. My temperature was up, my back ached.

After a while, I felt discomfort in -- of all places -- my shoulders.

It soon developed into full-blown pain. Excruciating pain. I lied down in bed, tossing and turning and writhing in pain.

I took some Panadol but the pain refused to go away.

I didn't realise it when I fell asleep.

By morning, the pain was gone. But I am left wondering what's next? Another day at the office, another potentially excruciating night?

God, when will this ever end? :'(

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Viral fever and Bell's palsy

Bell's palsy. I never knew it existed until I fell victim to the illness recently.

Bell's palsy is characterised by a paralysis in one side of the face. Some people might mistake it for a stroke.

There's no readily available explanation as to what causes Bell's palsy.

But it has something to do with the nerves and some kind of trigger.

In my case, it started with a viral fever that lasted about 3 weeks, one of the worst viral fevers I had ever had in my life.

My body was aching all over. I slept with ice wrapped in towel on my forehead at night and during the day, sometimes I felt so cold that I wore a jacket during mid-day. Outdoors.

My blood pressure dipped to 100/60.

I still went on that Mount Kinabalu trip, hoping to get whatever I could from the assignment. I was supposed to climb the mountain with a group of breast cancer survivors.

But, no go. I had to cut short my trip because my condition worsened.

It was a very long journey that day from Mesilau Nature Park to KK and finally to KL.

Then last week, the fever subsided. I was happy. I thought I was on the road to recovery.

I was wrong. One morning, I woke up, brushed my teeth and discovered I could not gargle properly. I just could not hold the water in my mouth.

I looked in the mirror and saw that my face was a little droopy on the right.

I also discovered I couldn't close my right eyelid or purse or pucker my lips. The muscles in the right side of my face had gone 'lazy'.

I panicked! I thought I had a minor stroke!

Got my friend Nurris to send me to hospital.

An extra challenge came in the form of my kids: I was taking care of them all by myself. Their mother had gone to Mecca while my entire family were away in Kota Bharu for a wedding.

I packed my stuff and the kids' stuff in anticipation of getting hospitalized.

Fortunately, a specialist determined that it wasn't stroke and need not be hospitalized. He performed a series of simple tests on the muscles of my body and decided only the right side of my face was affected.

He said the virus from the fever was still in my body and had begun attacking my nervous system.

He gave me some steroids and I was to see him again in a week's time.

I went home having to deal with not having the use of half of my face.

There was no pain but it's amazing how, when God takes away the use of just half of your face, certain things you take for granted like eating, drinking and talking become such a chore.

Tears welled up in my eyes when I ate, partly because of the amount of effort I actually expended and partly because I felt so pathetic (the 'why me?' question).

When drinking, my drink dripped right through my lips.

When facing people, I was embarrassed by my impaired speech. I couldn't pronounce anything with B, P or M in it.

I was overcome by depression.

Through friends on Facebook, I learnt that my condition is called Bell's palsy.

Most people recover from it, some as early as 10 days after the onset.

But others, like former Canadian prime minister Jean Cheretien, never did. Cheretien acquired Bell's palsy in his youth and his face has stayed that way since.

It's tough having to deal with two major illnesses back-to-back: viral fever and Bell's palsy.

Mom said God wanted to tell me something.

She also said I should count myself lucky that it wasn't anything heavier, like a stroke or a major accident.

She, too, suffered from a debilitating illness once. Between 1979 to 1981, when I was too young to remember, Mom suffered from TB.

Back to my Bell's palsy. Apart from taking the medication, I rested and did several other things.

I applied eye ointment and covered my right eye when I sleep at night to protect the cornea.

I heated the affected side of my face with some beach sand wrapped in cloth.

I practiced my smile every day in the mirror. Lifting my right cheek proved to be one of the heaviest liftings I had done in a while.

When performing the solat, I put in extra effort in pronouncing every word instead of just going through the motion like before.

Lastly, I kept my spirits up by thinking happy thoughts, singing along to favourite songs and watching movies that made me laugh.

It helped a little. After a week, I could move my right facial muscles a little. A few milimetres actually. But it was progress.

At the moment, I'm still treating both the viral fever and Bell's palsy. Hope to recover soon enough. The swimming pool and the sea beckon.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Mount Kinabalu and people from my past

What is it with Mount Kinabalu and me running into people from my past?

In 2007, I was at Kinabalu Park in Kundasang, at the foot of the mountain, for a media familiarization trip. We stayed overnight at the complex. Just overnight.

And that night, during dinner, I noticed a familiar face at the next table. A Chinese girl. She noticed me too.

I walked over and asked, "What on earth are you doing here?!"

She said she was there with her family and they were going to climb the mountain the next day.

Those were the first exchanges of words we had had after so many years. I had known her during my early working years. We became close. But somehow, during the course of the friendship, things turned sour. We stopped talking.

So, even though we both worked in KL, we had to bump into each other in -- of all places -- Mount Kinabalu in Sabah.

The other day, I was at the mountain again for another assignment.

This time with a group of climbers representing Pride Foundation, a breast cancer awareness NGO.

Not everyone in the group were cancer survivors. Some were officials and friends of the NGO. And not everyone in the group were women, obviously. Apart from myself, there were three other male climbers.

I noticed one guy named Suhairy. Quiet fella. Didn't get to speak to him until much later during dinner at Mesilau Nature Resort. That too, because we were seated at the same table.

He told me he worked with Plus and shared stories about his wife and kids. My impression of him: nice guy, a happy family man who could still find time to do what he liked doing: mountain climbing.

That night as I was about to sleep, a thought suddenly came to me: I knew another Suhairy from my uni days and he, too, loved mountain climbing. I wonder if this is the same guy.

The next morning, due to a change in my schedule, I had literally just a few seconds to establish if this guy was indeed whom I thought he was. The questions came thick and fast.

"Suhairy, you didn't happen to study in UIA the last time, did you?"

"Yes I did."

"Class of 96-2000?"


"Human Sciences?"


"And they used to call you Joko."

"(chuckles) Yeah."

"Omg. You're Haizah's husband!" I gasped quietly.

"Err, yeah?"

"You don't recognize me? We met once many many years ago at the UIA Matric Centre."

At that point, he took another good look at me and blurted, "Oh, you're THAT Ridzwan."

We have a history. To put it plainly, his wife was my ex-gf.

I knew Haizah when we both were studying in Forms 4 and 5 in Kolej Islam Sultan Alam Shah. We liked each other. I made a gigantic raya and hand delivered it to her because it would not fit in the mailbox.

We continued seeing each other through high school, matriculation and the first few years of uni.

When we finally broke up, it was a tearful one. They say you never forget your first love. It's true.

By then, I had already known about this other person in her life.

I never hear from her again after that.

But now I'm completely over the whole thing. In fact, I was actually a little excited to meet the husband, and to be able to guess, based on what I see in him, that they've had a good marriage with two kids.

I would have loved to stick around for breakfast that morning but my transport was waiting for me.

I volunteered for this assignment. I felt very strongly that I should go. Now I know why.