Life lessons from a patient who survived 

(Disclaimer: I received verbal consent from my patient to share about my experience with him.)

Last week, I wrote about a patient of mine who almost died… twice. And I was there with him. I have been visiting him regularly and I am happy to announce that he is now stable. After a month of not seeing his wife, he is now at home with her. 🙂

The weekend before his final operation, I visited him the Friday before I went off to Stockholm. I told him I was going home to sing. He told me that he wishes he could hear me sing sometime. He told me he enjoyed jazz, and so I decided to learn “Fly me to the moon” by Frank Sinatra to perform it the same evening. I showed him the video the coming Monday and was happy to see him smile, laugh and slightly calmer before his upcoming operation. However as he was still nervous, I decided to follow and observe his operation, so I could be there with him as he lay there during his awake surgery. He was grateful.

 

Right before he went home, I visited him for one final time. As usual, laughter and words of wisdom were exchanged. Before saying goodbye, he asked for my name on a piece of paper so he would remember me. I wrote my name down and handed it to him as I told him his full name. I will never forget you either I said.

So to remember him not as a patient but as a person, here are a few wise words from him that I know I will bring along with me throughout the rest of my life. Things I learnt that is not because he was a patient, but because he’s a person caring for another. Note, most advice were aimed at my lovelife…

1.

Gör något som du brinner för. Om du inte brinner för det, sluta. Annars kommer du inte göra bra ifrån dig.

“Do something you’re passionate about. If you’re not passionate about something, stop. Otherwise, you won’t excel.”

2.

När du träffar någon ska det gå långsamt, så att du hinner se både fördelarna och nackdelarna av en person och kan göra ett bra beslut

“When you meet someone, take it slowly so you have time to see both the pros and cons of the person to make a good decision”

3.

När du är i ett förhållande är det DU som ska bestämma, så att allt går som du vill att det ska gå och du blir glad

“When you are in a relationship, it is YOU who should decide, so that everything will be how you want it to be and you will be happy”

4.

Gör alltid tid åt din familj, i slutändan är det de som alltid kommer finnas där för en

“Always make time for your family, because in the end they will be the ones who will always be there for you”

5. And last but not least my absolute favourite… (I hope you guys understand I’m always laughing each time he gives me advice on my lovelife)

Om han inte kommer eller gör någonting för din skull så är han inget att ha

“If he doesn’t attend or do anything for you then he’s no one for you to have”

Oh dear patient of mine, I hope you are enjoying your time drinking red wine with your wife at home. I will never forget you!

In the end though, what did I really learn? Medicine goes a long way, but empathy goes even further.

 

What do you tell someone who’s about to die?

(Disclaimer: I received verbal consent from my patient to share about my experience with him.)

This week I’ve been at the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, and nothing has challenged me more physically, mentally and emotionally during a placement.

At the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, many patients come in after suffering heart attacks. They are in critical need of care, where many patients are vulnerable and are fighting to stay alive… and the healthcare team fighting to keep them alive.

The week began quite calmly, which gave me lots of reading time, but since yesterday and especially today, I’ve been running.

Running. Trying to learn and help out during critical situations, but mainly trying to keep out of the way. Running to wherever the alarm rings. Another patient is dying. Every second counts.

Yesterday, in the midst of a flurry of doctors and nurses trying to save another patient from a cardiac arrest, everyone leaves the room to discuss. At this point, several life-saving electric shocks had been given, and I was there to witness them all. Even seeing the patient in pain.

I tried fighting my tears as I realise, I don’t like seeing patients in pain. And I really wish I don’t ever have to. But there I was.

I was left alone in the room with the patient and I take their hand to comfort them. The patient then looks at me straight in the eyes and tells me:

Jag kommer nu.” – “I’m coming now.”

Coming. Coming to a place beyond us. Coming to death. Coming to what I like to believe, life after death. Coming to Heaven.

I was silent, again fighting my tears. I look straight back not knowing what to say. What do you tell someone who knows they’re about to die, and you know it too? What do you tell someone who’s about to die?

*

This question wracked my brain until the next day. Could I have said anything to improve the situation? What if that really was the last chance I got to talk to them? What if I was the last person they spoke to, and I couldn’t even say a word?

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. After a rough night and morning of more emergency interventions, the patient is alive and recovering. I finished my day early and decided to pass by the patient’s room to talk to them. It didn’t really feel right for me to leave for the weekend, not knowing whether they will be okay or not when I return. I waited for their room to be free, came in, and in the end I stayed for over an hour chatting. At the end of it they took my hand and told me:

“You have an important duty to pass on your genes to the next generation and I hope you have many children… but be careful with your choice!”

I promised I will, and in return I made them promise they will be around when I come back after the weekend.

As a medical student, I usually joke that another day at the hospital is another life saved, but now I realised this is not a joke at all. As healthcare workers, we are given the unique opportunity to make great changes in people’s lives, and sometimes even save a life. However at times, we are also there as they take their last breath. Being prepared for both scenarios would make the best impact on people’s lives and today, I realised I still have a lot left to learn.

heart ECG tracing recording

 

I am now a T8/T9 student

I’m finally back in medical school! I have never had a more confusing introduction…

As how it turned out, this semester, I will be doing a part of T8 (termin 8 or semester 8) and a part of T9. Owing to this, I belong to two classes, namely my old class from last year and the class above. In addition to this, I’m a hired researcher for the university simultaneously. My introductory day last Monday went a little like this:

  • Roll call with T8 followed by introduction to the semester and presentation of important people
  • Department fika with my research group and meeting our new student in the group
  • Roll call with T9 followed by introduction to the semester and presentation of the SAME important people, hence same information
  • Lunch with T9 classmates
  • Orthopaedics teaching session with T9 classmates
  • Back to the lab

I have never had a more confusing first day. Where do I even belong?

The next day I was in lectures + practical session with my T8 class with a research meeting in between. The rest of the week I was in cardiology, which actually has been really good. I think now my schedule is finally stabilising at least!

So if you ask me what class I’m in, I don’t know. If you ask me if I’m working or if I’m a student, I don’t normally know how to reply either. I thought it was difficult being able to differentiate if I’m a Linköping medical student or a British medical student but well, now it got even more difficult.

But it’s okay. I like it this way 🙂

Confusing, but so far so good! Here’s to a good semester as a T8/T9/researcher! 😀

New apartment and my friends’ engagement

After so many months, my apartment is finally finished. Fully furnished, with a table and chairs even! I can finally eat on a table.

For the first time, I finally have a place in Linköping I can call mine. My home. In my past years in the UK, I have always lived in student accommodations, in dorms etc., but now I have my own apartment!

In my religion (I’m Catholic), when one gets a new house, it needs to be blessed as a part of a house warming. As my friend hadn’t gotten her apartment blessed since moving in, we decided to have a dual house blessing together. We only live a few minutes away from each other anyway. We invited our closest friends from church, as well as two priests from our parish. Believe it or not, but we were over ten people in my tiny apartment.

At the end of the house blessing, as we were singing, eating and being merry in general, I hear my friend joke about when my friend (who I had the dual house blessing with) and her boyfriend would get married. Then I hear my friend (the boyfriend) say: “Speaking of rings…” as he took out a ring from his pocket.

WHAT IS GOING ON I THOUGHT.

I thought he was joking. But then he bent down on one knee, and asked my friend to marry her. And she said yes.

As both my home and their love was celebrated and blessed in my apartment, I don’t think I could’ve had a more perfect house blessing.

Congratulations Emelie and Mikael, we love you!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

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The future newlyweds. ❤

On being a young researcher

Since the age of 16, I have known my way around a research lab and understand research jargon. I have familiarised myself with the research life, where everything you do is highly dependent on your cells (your babies) and the experiments you do with them. You never leave your experiment without a timer and when it rings, RUN. Otherwise that experiment you’ve paid thousands for and have been working on for the entire week would’ve been all for nothing. Or when you successfully get your results and realise that you’ve contaminated the sample?… There can be no greater research pain. It’s happened to all of us, and I know that you who are reading this who have done research before can relate.

Call me doctor Sam first lab internship as a 16-year old at Stockholm University

Self-proclaimed nerd since 2010, at my first lab internship as a 16-year old at Stockholm University

However there is one thing that has been harder to get used to. In every research group I have been in, I have always been the youngest.

As a high school student and later medical student in my early years, it was hard for me to enter a group of people who were in average normally 10 years older. All incredibly intelligent, talented and experienced, not only in what they were working with but in life too. They were in much different stages in their lives than I was. Married with their own families, sometimes with children my age. They had their lives established already with fancy titles beside their names…. and I was always just Sam.

 

I often felt lonely. How could I relate to these people? These people who are all so amazing, how could I match with them? I always looked up to them, and was often intimidated. Would I even be able to say anything smart and mature for them to see me as a peer? I didn’t want to risk it, so most of the time I just sat quietly and did my work until the day was over. Until now.

Since February, I have belonged to a research group in Linköping University working on colorectal cancer. Two days ago, I have finally signed my contract as a Research Engineer for the university. In my research group, I’m the only one without a Dr. title in front of my name – where all are medical doctors with years of experience (doctors/surgeons with MDPhDs mainly) except for my project partner who’s a postdoc from medical sciences, which is why they paired me with him. Two days ago, I found out that he has photographic (eidetic) memory.

 

Yes, I have asked myself several times – what am I doing here. If there is one group that I should feel most intimidated by, it would be this one. But rather, I could have never asked for a better group to work in. Despite being the least qualified in the group, somehow, I still feel that I belong. It was only in this group where I realised that if amazing, talented colleagues of mine see me as a peer and believe that I can contribute and belong to the group, I should believe so too.

Being surrounded by intelligent people on an everyday basis is definitely a humbling experience. Like before, I still often feel small, but now instead of questioning my own abilities, I ask my colleagues about theirs. I am given the unique opportunity to learn from the best, for me to improve my own abilities. I get inspired to dare to dream for my own ambitions, from those who already are exceeding theirs.

I have been blessed with amazing colleagues who I am looking forward to working with for the year(s) to come. They taught me that having big crazy dreams is good, because they do too. So together we dream and work for something as crazy as even finding the cure for cancer. Who knows, maybe someday we will!

dinner in 1853 eating italian food like pizza in linköping with my research lab colleagues

Introducing my research group from our dinner at 1853 in Linköping! Dr. everyone but me 😀 

TRAVEL VLOG: World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow

Indescribable but definitely unforgettable. Who knew I’d be missing the crammed trains with singing French youth, the long queues to eat and the long walks in the sun/rain with millions of other pilgrims from around the world. Exhausted physically and mentally, but it was worth every moment of it. Yes, I’m definitely still experiencing the “World Youth Day hangover.” I wish you all were with me to share the same experiences I had in Krakow, but I’m hoping that you all can get a glimpse at least through this video 🙂 

See you in Panama in 2019! 😀

Footage, background music and editing by me.

TRAVEL VLOG: Iceland 2016

I’ve realised that the best way for people to join me on my travels, is by showing how it really was for me there. What better way than through a video – so I have decided to start travel vlogging! Much easier to show than to describe through writing 🙂

This is a glimpse of our trip to Iceland July 18-22, 2016. Iceland, you have been amazing but we haven’t had enough of you. Until next time! For now, thank you for the adventure 🙂

Here are the places included in the video in order of appearance:
Harpa, Reykjavik harbour, the Sun voyager, Þufa, Perlan, Hallgrimskirkja, Fridheimar farm, Geysir, Gullfoss, Thingvellir national park (where we snorkeled in Silfra!), the Bridge Between Two Continents in Sandvik and last but not least, Blue Lagoon.

All footage taken by me or my mom/sister, edited in iMovie by me and background music produced in GrageBand by me. Cameras used: Nikon D3100, iPhone 6s, iCreation action camera and Nikon AW 110.

Well look at me – I’m 23!

Life is too short to not celebrate birthdays. Even such a meaningless number like 23. Or well, now I can get inside Ugglan, woo! 😛

 

As I rarely am in Stockholm/Sweden during my birthday as it’s in the summer, I usually celebrate my birthday abroad. However as my sister is turning the big number 25 on the 21st, we decided to celebrate it properly. So I decided to only have a short stay in the Philippines so I can be there for my sister. As I’d be here for my birthday, why not celebrate it?

Last time I celebrated my birthday was when I turned 18 five years ago. It was about time.

I had planned a pub crawl around my favourite themed bars in Stockholm. A friend from St Andrews had come all the way from the UK to visit, and my two little sisters from Linköping had come to celebrate as well so I wanted to make the night out more interesting. Despite having planned everything with a pub crawl app and all, in the end we only managed to go to one bar… the Vampire Lounge. At least we managed to go out anyway – E for effort! We later ended the night at one of my favourite clubs Hornhuset and headed home.

After celebrating my birthday with my close friends, I felt blessed and grateful for the wonderful people I have around me. Friends who have stuck with me through the years and friends who I still maintain close with no matter the distance. I have definitely hit it big these past 23 years. I will cherish these friends I have, and hope to celebrate even more birthdays with them in the future.

Thank you life for being good to me, despite all the ups and downs. You have made one happy girl nevertheless! Until the next birthday ❤

20+ years of friendship in Cebu/Bohol

Since I was a baby until we moved to Sweden, we lived in an apartment within the campus of the University of the Philippines Diliman. My sister and I weren’t the only babies and children in the area, two floors above us for example lived two girls our age, the youngest only being 3 months younger than I was. As we were around the same age and lived so close to each other, we became best friends when we were babies until we were children, and remained so until I moved to Sweden.

After a few years in Sweden, we unfortunately lost contact. However after over ten years later, we reconnected again a few years ago. It’s funny how life turns out sometimes, as everyone were surprised at how alike we still are despite growing up apart. Some things just never change.

To celebrate our over 20+ years of friendship, why not go on our first vacation together to somewhere we have never been to before? Bohol it is.

*

As the goal of my trip was to see as much of the country as I can, I was excited to visit a new place. I have heard a lot of positive things about Bohol, especially about its snorkeling on Panglao island. But before that, we decided to pass by Cebu because why not!

We had no plans when we were in Cebu, but somehow, we managed to see all the must-sees. Sto Nino church, Sto Nino’s mom’s church, Magellan’s cross, eat lechon and buy a ukulele. We just walked around with our suitcases and somehow we managed to do everything we wanted to do. Even if it included walking through basically ghetto with people lying in the streets to get my ukulele. It was worth it nevertheless. We were happy with our short few hours trip to Cebu, and all the friendly locals greeting us as sole two female young travellers. Short but sweet, enough to make us want to come back to see more! But now time for Bohol.

 

In Bohol, we stayed with my mom’s friend on Panglao island, who slowly but surely became like a grandfather to us both. He picked us up from the ferry in Cebu and took us first to Alona beach in Panglao for dinner. Let our Bohol adventures continue.

On the first day, we went island hopping on “grandfather’s” boat, with our boatman Joel. You know those National Geographic programs talking about fishermen who can dive deep in the ocean and shoot spears underwater? Basically that’s what Joel did for a living. Joel took us to Balicasag island where we – tried – to snorkel, but unfortunately owing to the strong waves, he ended up just pulling us all the time on our life buoy… But we saw a sea turtle at least! Afterwards he took us to the Sand Bar on Virgin Island, where basically they sell food in the middle of the sea on a little beach area. Really random, but interesting nonetheless! Lastly, he took us to Islo Francesco which is part of Virgin Island, a religious island dedicated to Padre Pio (who happens to be my favourite saint!). I’ve never thought I would kneel down to a shrine and pray while wearing only my swimsuit…

 

On the next day, we did our land tour of Bohol. We ticked off all the must-sees such as the Chocolate Hills and the tarsiers. To be honest though, the other places like the Butterfly House and the cave were more fun. Mainly because of the guides that we had. Nevertheless, they are must-sees for a reason, and those Chocolate Hills are pretty cute in the end. Tired owing to the heat and all that walking touring around, we came back beached and napped, preparing ourselves for our night out in Alona. Which we did well, because as it turned out, Alona nightlife delivers.

 

While doing shisha, two Australian-Chinese sisters joined us where we bonded over being international. We decided to continue up to the bar, and there we met a group of medical students from Leeds in the year below me in medical school. You know it’s a small world when people you meet on the other side of the world are friends with your friends in the UK. Yup, they knew my medic friends in the UK. They even went in the same class as an acquaintance of mine. Crazy isn’t it?! It was a fun night being with international people, and I guess that’s the type of crowd this place attracts 🙂

 

On our final day, our “grandfather’s” niece decided to join us, and together we went to the mall to buy souvenirs and finally got to try snorkeling again. This time we were lucky with the winds, and managed to properly snorkeling. Wow, it really is this beautiful and calming under the sea. We ended the day by checking in to Bohol Plaza hotel, with a beautiful view of Bohol. We jumped in the pool, sat in the jacuzzi and just reminisced of the days past. What an amazing trip it has been.

 

Bohol you have truly been amazing, and we are in love with your beautiful waters and even more wonderful people. What an amazing way to celebrate our over 20+ years of friendship. We promise to return, but until then, stay beautiful. Until next time! ❤

It’s pretty chill in La Union

Last year, and all the times in the past, I’ve always been staying in the same areas: Manila, Iloilo, Subic… basically where I have family. I told my family this year that I want to see more of my country and so they decided to take me to places I haven’t been to. Somehow, my family had a feeling that I would be a surfing person, and luckily they were right.

Earlier in the week I visited one of the Philippine’s famous surfing spots, Baler. This weekend, my Titos and Tita decided to take me to another of the famous surfing spots in the Philippines – La Union.

We stayed at San Juan Surf Resort, a small hotel founded by, owned and run by a Filipino-Australian surfer, who now resides in the area. Already upon arrival, you could get the feeling of the sea, the sun and the warm summer breeze. I quickly changed to my surfing attire and went to the surfing school. I’m gonna work on what I learnt from Baler I thought, here we go!

I met my surfing instructor Ronnie from San Juan Surf School and hit the waves. Or well, what we could call waves at the time. Yup, as it turns out, there was no swell when we were there… Dang.

 

Nevertheless, I found new surfing buddies. The next day, my Titos and Tita joined us surfing and Ronnie grabbed his surfing instructor friend Jeff. Again no waves, so I decided to just be a cheerleader for my Titos and Tita as they were learning. I made my surfing instructor buddies promise to teach me tomorrow morning instead when there are hopefully waves.

In the evening, we tried the hotel’s salo-salo, and we were hooked. A mix of four dishes good for four, with different combinations everyday. In the end it was so good, we ate all our meals there… yum. Trying different combination of traditional Filipino dishes everyday. Like what my mom says, soon she will be able to just push me down a hill and I’d roll. Unfortunately, she’s not very far from the truth…

After dinner, we’d have drinks by the beach at a local bar, with live music. Did my Titos make me sing? Why yes of course they did. Because that’s what family do, always find the chance to embarrass you.

 

The next day, I woke up again early in the morning to meet my surfing instructors by the beach after breakfast. To my disappointment upon looking at the water… it was as calm as a cradled baby sleeping. Again dang. So instead, we chilled by the beach chatting, swam and Jeff even let me try his paddle board. Oh well, next time! 🙂

Owing to my constantly changing and fast-paced lifestyle, I’m starting to appreciate the peace of being out in the province. Especially by the sea. Meeting new people, and chilling with a drink at hand eating good food. Surfing or no surfing, I had an amazing time due to the people I was with.

Thank you Titos and Tita for bringing me to San Juan in La Union, and thank you to Ronnie and Jeff for being awesome! Until next time. Bawi sa waves. For now, let my adventures by the beautiful waters of the Philippines continue!