My 2017 Year of Travel

This year, I must admit, I travelled more than I ever have before. Most probably because it’s also my final year in medical school ever = final year of freedom from real responsibilities. I even reached my 50th country! Without further ado, here’s my 2017 Year of Travel.

Previous Year of Travel posts: My 2015 year of travel and My 2016 year of travel

All photos are from my Instagram.

1.  Began the New Year in the Big Apple

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPfCB83gnT1/?taken-by=samvsworld

2. Attended my very first Indian wedding in Leicester, UK

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPxCyl0gLdH/?taken-by=samvsworld

3. Seeing good old friends in London a month later

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRLseNdFkTL/?taken-by=samvsworld

4. Watching beautiful sunsets in Boracay, Philippines

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRzm33wl1PE/?taken-by=samvsworld

5. Interned as Dr. Sam in Philippine General Hospital, realising how grateful I am to live in a country like Sweden

https://www.instagram.com/p/BST8jMylOj2/?taken-by=samvsworld

6. Represented my choir and sang with hundreds of other choir singers around the Nordic region in Oulu, Finland

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTwhdTpF3Yp/?taken-by=samvsworld

7. Passed by Tallinn, Estonia for a weekend

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVRvk0FBKl9/?taken-by=samvsworld

8. Learnt how to scuba dive in Subic, Philippines

https://www.instagram.com/p/BV2AfINhbs7/?taken-by=samvsworld

9. Rode a kalesa in Vigan, Philippines

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWkW8tABKJL/?taken-by=samvsworld

10. Discovered beautiful natural springs in Bicol, Philippines

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWzIG_2BI6N/?taken-by=samvsworld

11. Made a quick trip to Hong Kong Disneyland

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXII6O1BSh3/?taken-by=samvsworld

12. Visited paradise in Pangasinan, Philippines

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXrHtKghWuU/?taken-by=samvsworld

13. A quick stop over in my paradise home in Subic for a few days

https://www.instagram.com/p/BafrhmVBf9I/?taken-by=samvsworld

14. After a quick stop over in Subic, I got to sit in the cockpit of an airplane for the first time ever!

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bag9B2iBMKk/?taken-by=samvsworld

15. Escaped winter and interned at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia for four weeks

https://www.instagram.com/p/BbpJcLoB5_Y/?taken-by=samvsworld

16. Got to finally dive the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia

https://www.instagram.com/p/BbMF_NpB3Kn/?taken-by=samvsworld

17. Made a quick stop over and explored Singapore for a few hours

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bby__TmhyfD/?taken-by=samvsworld

18. Returned to Philippine General Hospital for my final rotation and delivered my first baby!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BccCX8Shm4r/?taken-by=samvsworld

19. Finally got to see the beautiful Hundred Islands in Pangasinan Philippines with Jonas straight from the airport

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdPd8UTB-Ob/?taken-by=samvsworld

20. Happily ending this year and starting the next, with this guy by my side in the country of my birth ❤

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdRNoJOhgR1/?taken-by=samvsworld

PHEW! That was a long list. Definitely the longest ever. It was a good year of travel, and we’ll see where 2018 will bring us! However as now that I will start working, probably not to very far away places. But my wandering soul will forever remain.

Happy new year everyone! 😀 ❤

The Miracle Of Life

“In terms of rape victims who get pregnant from their aggressors, would it be okay for an abortion?”

“What if the baby has a life-threatening condition, should one still continue with the pregnancy and go through the trauma of giving birth, when knowing that the baby has no chance of survival?”

“What if the baby has a serious condition requiring lifelong medical care, leading to the child having a poor quality of life? Should one still continue the pregnancy?”

As a Catholic doctor as well as a woman, I have had difficulties with these questions. I have long pondered, if a patient asked me for an abortion because of these reasons, what would I say? Or perhaps even, what would I do if I was put into that situation?

A few months ago, I was doing my anaesthesia rotation. The next patient to come in for surgery read “abortion,” and it was for a baby just about in the Swedish legal limits for a woman to have full autonomy in having an abortion – 18 weeks. As a medical student, it was my job to receive the patient from the waiting room. After introducing myself to the patient only a few years older than me, we started walking together to the operation room. On the way to the operation room she said: “I can’t wait for this to be over, and for this thing to be out of me.”

I was filled with sadness, for both the mother and the baby. I was sad for the mother for failing to see God’s gift for her, and sad for the baby who was robbed of God’s greatest gift for them, their life. After escorting the patient to the operation room, followed by a quiet prayer to myself for both the mother and the baby, I excused myself from the surgery. At that moment, the teachings and answers provided by the Church regarding my questions on abortion all made sense.

*

Right now, I am in the Philippines for my Obstetrics/Gynaecology clinical rotation. Right before leaving, my boyfriend Jonas and I decided to do the First Saturdays Devotion together, as requested by Our Lady of Fatima. On the day I was leaving for the Philippines, we went to mass together on the first Saturday of December, followed by praying the Rosary and afterwards meditating on the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary for 15 minutes – which are all parts of the things to do during the First Saturdays Devotion. I chose to meditate on the Nativity.

As I began my meditation, I pictured Mary. Already from the moment the Angel Gabriel announced her miraculous conception of Jesus, she decided to accept and trust God’s plan for her. As crazy as it may sound that she became pregnant despite being a virgin. Even St Joseph her spouse was fully supportive, after being spoken to by an angel of God in a dream. Mary and Joseph both trusted God’s plan for them and embraced this blessing fully until the very end. Even when Mary was about to give birth. Even though Mary and Joseph were not welcomed in any home in Bethlehem, they had no fear. In the end, Mary gave birth to the Saviour of the world, in a manger.

Then I pictured Mary with thorns in her heart. Unlike Mary, many women today fear pregnancy, and see it as a “disease” needing prevention and treatment. Unlike Mary, many women today do not love their children, in the same way she did. I could feel Mary’s pain for all the children both born and unborn, who are unloved by their parents especially their mothers. These children are so unloved, that some mothers even decide to kill them before they are born into the beautiful world God created for us. I realized what Mary was telling me. No matter the circumstance, every child conceived is a miracle and is God’s most precious gift to the world, life. And just like her, I will love every child God will bless my husband and I unconditionally.

*

I have always said Obstetrics (the medical specialty concerning pregnancy and childbirth) is the happiest specialty. The patients are usually healthy mothers excitedly waiting for the birth of their children. Doing my obstetrics rotation here in the Philippines has been an absolute joy, as it makes me happy being surrounded by expecting mothers, as well as happy mothers with newly born babies. Last week, during the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, I was given the opportunity to deliver my very first baby.

When the baby had just been successfully delivered, I was standing there in silence and awe, looking at the baby in my hands. It felt as if time had stopped, until I heard the doctor say, “You can pass the baby to the midwife now.” I passed the baby to the midwife, who then passed the baby to the mother. After the delivery, I changed out of my scrubs and rushed to mass.

I cannot explain the emotions that ran through me as I was holding that baby. As I held that baby, the miracle of life, I could just feel the immense happiness and love for this child. Just like every one of us, this child was born because of God’s love for us. What a blessing it was to be used as an instrument to deliver life, God’s most precious gift, into our beautiful world.

*

Every child is a miracle of life and a gift from God, out of His love for us. Just like the child Jesus, God loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to save us from our sins, so that we can join Him again in Heaven. This Christmas, let us thank God for this blessing of salvation, and celebrate our Saviour’s birth. Let us also pray for all the children born and unborn, and their parents. Let us pray for all parents especially mothers, to always love their children unconditionally, in the same way Mary and God love us.

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten son: that whoever believes in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God sent not his Son into the world to judge the world: but that the world may be saved by him.

I thought I couldn’t do it but… here I am

First of all, I’m so sorry dear blog for having ignored you for months. Life got a bit too much for a while. But now, I’m again back in my tropical home country of the Philippines at my more relaxed and habitual state So let me tell you what’s been going on.

This semester, I think I really pushed myself to my limit. At least nearing the end of the semester anyway. As a hired part-time researcher and now hired in a start-up IT health company, I already had a lot on my plate outside of medical school. Luckily because of this, my wallet allowed me to do more things without feeling as guilty. However on top of this, I am also the Regional President of the Swedish Young Catholics of my region. I also was organising the wedding reception of two very good friends of mine (who got engaged in my apartment last year) a week after exams and lastly, I was preparing for the visit of a friend of mine coming all the way from Guam for two weeks. And again, I’m also a full-time medical student.

For the past few months, I guess you can say I was stressed. However as my exams came closer and closer, and the end of semester was coming closer and closer, my physical and mental health suffered.

As a transfer from the UK to Sweden, the layout of my medical program differs slightly from my peers. Long story short, I had three exams at the end of the semester (my classmates only had one) of which two I needed to pass to continue on to my next and final semester. I also needed to give the best wedding reception my friends could ever have because they deserve it, and I wanted to give my friend from Guam the best vacation and first visit to Europe he could ever have, considering the recent events in his life and that he just finished his tough military engineering training. All within a span of two weeks. Oh, and also reach all my work deadlines too of course.

I stopped eating and sleeping. I started having daily nightmares. I would wake up 5am no matter what time I slept the day before. I could also go an entire day and realise I hadn’t eaten. My colleagues in the office had to force to go on lunch break. They would also bring me snacks in the office to help me take care of myself. I have the best colleagues in the world.

As a previous sufferer of depression and anxiety, I noticed the warning signs. I know that I was reaching my absolute limit of my physical and mental capacity. However what could I do but to carry on?

The days of my exams were in a few days and I was stressed as ever. Then I receive a text from Guam two days before my biggest exam saying that he couldn’t come anymore. This being something I had been looking forward to for months as my award after these exams, and had been my voluntary distraction whilst studying, I was… disappointed to say the least. I cried for half a day until I realised, what can I do, I still have exams to go through. Thanks to a friend who was with me that day (who’s birthday is today actually, Happy Birthday Merlijn! :D) who encouraged me to just keep going I kept studying. The next day the day before my exam, suddenly I felt as if a weight just lifted because I realised, hey, it’s one less thing to think about for now at least. I just have to get myself through this.

The day of my biggest exam arrived and there I was sitting there discouraged and feeling unprepared, with thoughts of anger rushing through my head because of my friend who cancelled so last minute. I left the exam room knowing that I failed it. Then I came home thinking, damn, I have my exam to prepare for tomorrow I haven’t done any preparation for at all.

I talk to my mom and my friends and tell them I want to defer. What’s the point I’ll fail anyway. After some convincing, they managed to encourage me to go to my exam the next day anyway. So I pushed myself for one final evening and thought to myself, whatever, I’ll learn from my mistakes this time and I’ll redo it in August. I came to the exam the next day expecting to fail and left the exam room with the same expectation. But once I left that room I realised I’m finally free.

The week after my exams, all my time and efforts went to preparing for my friend’s wedding (as the main in charge for the program and as Toastmaster with another friend) as well as going to the Philippines straight after. I still wasn’t eating or sleeping properly but as I came to the Philippines, I automatically switched to my more relaxed state and now here I am. The wedding went well by the way. 🙂

Two weeks later, our exam results came out and I don’t know how it happened but… I passed all three exams. I laughed out loud when I saw my results. How did I even do that?! Nevertheless, I was ECSTATIC. I am now assured to be able to continue on to my next and final semester of medical school, and I am graduating as Dr Sam in January 2018.

So what’s been going on these past few weeks? Well to be honest, the past few weeks have been hell. But those weeks are finally over and I’m now relaxing by the sea which I love best in the Philippines. And no matter what happens next semester, the end is finally near! So here’s to my final summer vacation and then final few months as a medical student until my real doctor responsibilities start! 🙂

For Elena (original)

All of us, or at least the majority of us, become doctors because we want to help people. We’re idealists, hoping that we can make a difference in people’s lives. After two weeks with a refugee doctor, I realised that sometimes, we can’t.

Everyday, I heard stories of families being separated because of war, innocent loved ones being killed or even worse, being deported back to the place they fled from.

I was frustrated. So frustrated that their stories stayed with me even after I left the clinic, even during my sleep. I hated that my patients had to go through this and worst of all, I hated the fact that I can’t do anything about it.

During my final day, I received a patient about my age who has been through a lot more pain than anyone in their 20s should do. I asked her what she wanted me to do and she just said she wanted someone to listen to what’s inside her heart. Even though I was happy she eventually left the clinic with a smile, I was burdened more than ever.

I realised that as a doctor, and as a person, I’m limited. I can’t change the world, I can’t stop the evil that’s happening around us, and I can’t undo what has happened to the victims I meet. What I can do though, is be there for them and pray. And so that’s what I’ve been doing.

This is a song I wrote for that patient (the title is not her real name) and all the other patients I met and will meet. To my patients, I’m sorry for everything that has happened, but I hope and pray that everything will be okay from now on.

 

I’m tired. (KUA/student-lead ward finally over)

I’m tired. For the past two weeks of this student-lead ward placement, I’ve been met with prejudice, discrimination and disrespect. Even some trying to undermine my role as in this case, the doctor. It turns out, it doesn’t matter how many times I present myself as the doctor. Just because of my appearance, it will never sink in for some. During the day, I told myself to hold on for just a few more hours but… I broke down.
 
The world is unfair I told myself. No matter what I’ll do, some people will just never take me seriously. Why did I even choose this profession in the first place? After crying on the phone to my friend, I returned to the ward.
 
At the end of the day, as it was our last shift at the placement, I said goodbye to our patients. They then told me that they were sorry to see me leave, and thanked me for all that we’ve done.
 
“With you guys around, I will always feel safe even if I’m home alone. We always hear nonsense on the news, when they should really be publishing about the work you all do. I wanted you to know that and, thank you very much for everything.”
 
I remembered why I wanted to be a doctor again. ❤️

World Health Day 2017: my story

I know this might come as a shock to some of you, but I have long thought that it’s about time for me to speak openly about it. Especially today, on the launch of WHO’s 2017 World Health Day campaign. Two years ago, I was suffering from depression. #letstalk 
I was doing well academically: published as an undergrad and was even invited to present my research internationally across the world. I was proud of what I had achieved, but others around me did not share my happiness. I was bullied in my medical school. I sought help from my medical school but I was told that it was my fault. They referred me to doctors and psychologists/psychiatrists for my depression, who all disagreed with my medical school. However, my medical school didn’t listen. I was forced on medication and psychotherapy. I then started to believe that maybe there was something wrong with me, that it was my fault I was being bullied.

I left my medical school that following summer and moved back home to Sweden from the UK. I was ashamed of the weak and lost person I perceived myself to have become. I chose to isolate myself and battle with my thoughts alone, as I didn’t want my depression to be noticed. Until one day, my sister sent me contact information to a therapist, and I secretly started to go.

After half a year of therapy later, I came back to my now new medical school, continuing where I left off in the UK. I learnt that everything that happened wasn’t my fault, and I was no longer ashamed. Now, I can talk about it more openly and I’m back to the same old happy and always smiling Sam that I’ve always been. 

So to all those battling depression, you are not alone. Acknowledge it, open up, and talk. I’ll listen if no one else will. If needed, professional help is always available. No matter what, never believe that it’s your fault and never be ashamed. We’re all human so in the end, we’re allowed to act as one every now and then! 😊

Happy International Women’s Day 2017

Throwback to my days following Marie Curie’s footsteps, working at the same institution where she and her husband used to work and teach at in Paris. Where the laboratory where she made her two Nobel Prize winning discoveries, was only a few footsteps away from mine. The lab where I later became one of the few in the world to know how to successfully utilise a novel modern research technique.

Today is in honour of Marie Curie and all other strong female role models out there. Thank you for paving the way for other girls like me to have a chance in science and the world. Now, it’s our turn. Happy International Women’s Day everyone, only the sky’s the limit.

 

View this post on Instagram

Hi, I like, do research and stuff. #gotmylabcoattoday

A post shared by Sam (@samvsworld) on

 

 

 

No man is an island (Psychiatry in Växjö)

I’m now on my final week in psychiatry in Växjö, and so far it’s been amazing. This week is a bit special though, as now I’m in Children’s Psychiatry. Otherwise during the past three weeks I’ve been in Adult Psychiatry, rotating within Emergency Psychiatry, Psychosis, Geriatric Psychiatry, General Psychiatry and lastly what I call the Psychiatric Jail. I’ve seen a great array of cases, and I think if there’s something I’ll bring from my placement, that would be that no man is an island.

Psychiatry is all about relationships. Well, for the main part anyway except for perhaps the cases of schizophrenia, autism etc. Otherwise, it’s all about relationships.

Relationships with your family, with your partner and of course with yourself.

When I was in the Emergency Psychiatry clinic on Valentine’s day, we all of a sudden saw a rise of emergency bookings compared to the day before. 10 patients vs the 2 yesterday on a Monday. It’s just a regular Tuesday I thought, but nope. It’s Valentine’s Day. The next day, only one patient came to the clinic.

Patients came in with depression which started from their divorce and/or patients coming in with suicidal thoughts from failed relationships. I thought to myself, this must be because of the holiday. If you’re surrounded by things that will constantly remind you about love, loved ones and relationships, if you don’t feel loved, it’s not too surprising if you would do something crazy on Valentine’s day.

As humans, we have a strong sense of belonging. Sure, being strong and independent is a quality to be desired and to strive for, but being independent doesn’t mean one is alone. Being independent means you are in control of yourself and your surroundings. With surroundings, I don’t only mean the things around us, but also with whom we live our lives with. Because it is through these people we feel like we belong and we gain purpose. It is through these people we find a home. And a home is a place where we feel loved.

When I meet these patients in the clinic, it saddens me that they are deprived of a home where they feel like they belong, a place where they receive love. If these basic needs were met, I believe a majority of these patients wouldn’t be here in the first place. If they have a place where they feel love, it will be easier for them to have love within them for themselves. And with self-love comes our power as human beings. Without power, what are we then?

It’s true what they say, love makes the world go around. Love is the answer. I believe this is more true than ever in psychiatry. Sure, as doctors we can give medication to try and help their situations, but if they don’t have that love within, medication is only a band-aid. If they haven’t nurtured a love within, with the help of others’ love for them, then they definitely need it now. In the end, no man is an island.

…But then again, what the heck what do I know, I’m only a student ✌️️

Sometimes (original) – Valentines 2017

Aaaaaaand it’s that time of the year again. Valentine’s day – or more like Single Awareness Day (SAD) in my case. As per tradition, I write a song every Valentine’s reflecting my current relationship status. Basically, it’s to show where I am in terms of my love life to those who ask lol.

Now that I’m nearing the end of my medical studies, and I guess now that I’m coming to that age as well, being asked why I’m still single is something that comes more frequently than I’d like to admit.

Here are some examples of things I hear:

“Sam, you should prioritise your love life too!”

“Have you found anyone yet? Remember ___? He’s single and I think you guys would be great for each other!”

“You have an important duty to spread your genes to the world.”

Well sure, there may be some truth in all those statements… but why the rush? As a response to all those asking me why I’m still single, here’s a song I wrote called “Sometimes,” which sheds a light on my current stance in this topic.

Hope you all had a better Valentine’s Day that I did – note to self, Valentine’s day is probably one of the worst days to work at an emergency psychiatric clinic. But someone’s got to right?

Hope you all felt the love on Valentine’s Day! ❤

My previous Valentine’s Day songs:

2016: Single Awareness Day, Again
2015: Valentine
2014: Single Awareness Day
2013: You 
2012: A song for you – my Valentine’s day songwriting tradition was born!

Sometimes (original) by Sam Valles – Valentine’s Day 2017

Chords:
Verses: E A C#m A B
Bridge: A E C#m A B
Chorus: E A C#m B

Lyrics:
Verse 1:
I like to think sometimes, sometimes
I like to hope sometimes, sometimes
That someday, sometime, I’ll know, I’ll be ready

I like to pray sometimes, sometimes
I like to dream sometimes, sometimes
That someone, somewhere, out there, is waiting for me

Bridge 1:
But no matter where I go and no matter where I stay
I say, no no, not today
And no matter who I meet, and no matter who I know
I say no no, even if I like him so

Chorus 1:
I guess I’m vulnerable, fighting to flee
From these feelings surrounding me
But deep inside I hope, I’ll see
That someone, somewhere, someday, will set me free

Verse 2:
I like to sing sometimes, sometimes
I like to say sometimes, sometimes
That no matter wherever, whenever, I’m better off free

But then I think sometimes, sometimes
It must be nice sometimes, sometimes
That someone, somewhere, out there, is there for me

Bridge 2:
But no matter what I do there’s a message in my head
That says, no no, don’t be mislead
And no matter what they say I will always run away
Because I’m scared, will I let them in someday

Chorus 2:
I guess I’m vulnerable admittingly
Scared of giving a piece of me
But deep inside I hope I’ll meet
That someone somewhere who’ll make me believe

But yes I’m vulnerable, but that’s not me
I believe that feelings don’t make me weak
I’m just waiting to be ready
To give me to someone who cares for me

Outro (like verse):
I like to think sometimes, sometimes
I like to dream sometimes, sometimes
That someday, someone, out there, will love me for me

 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.