Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Best of Both Worlds

Timmy Said:

Tammy and I went for her now weekly ultrasound and OB appointment this afternoon. Its going to be any moment now, and we can’t wait to see our baby. Both hungry, we decided to have early dinner at our favorite Chinese resto in downtown Boston – a relatively cheap place called Victoria’s. We ate our favorite dish there, Spicy Squid, and reminiscing about home – we ordered rice porridge (aka Congee). It was ok, but I still prefer the one from Chow King.

I’ve been here nearly three years and sometimes I still have those moments where I feel as though everything happening is so surreal. This happened two days ago, when Tammy and I were in Stop and Shop, doing some shopping. It was like the feeling you had when you were in the supermarket of Duty Free or any PX stores. Double that feeling, and that’s the feeling you get when you go to a supermarket here. Things that you just see here – apricots, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, cherries (these are fresh – NOT CANNED), every cereal brand you want, fresh orange juice (hindi Tampico), steak (and not the chewy ones from Tagaytay). There are just too many choices…so much food to choose from.

Contrast that to today’s feeling, when we went to the Asian store to satisfy Tammy’s cravings. We bought halo-halo, Silver Swan soy sauce, Haw Flakes….and to top it off, a can of Ligo sardines. We didn’t really care that they had a 7x markup for that can alone, you just can’t put a price on eating something that your farm boys back home are probably sick of.

Tammy Said:

As Timmy mentioned, we went for another ultrasound and OB check up today. Nothing really beats the experience of seeing your unborn baby move, breathe, and do cute little antics even if these movements are just in 2d. I was a little tired and hungry but those feelings immediately vanished the moment her little figure appeared on the monitor. The 2d pics taken today are not as clear as the 3d pics we had done at 30 weeks but this time, she kept her little hands at bay and didn’t cover her face. Good girl there, our little Chamo.

After the ultrasound, we headed to my OB’s clinic which was surprisingly empty. It was good that it was a slow day as I was immediately put on the fetal monitor to have my weekly non-stress test. Our little girl was surprisingly active today so my OB was quite amused with her hyperactivity. She also had the hiccups which was funny! One thing I really, really hate about OB appointments though, are IEs. I know that this is a necessary procedure to check developments in one's cervix, but every time I undergo this, I just feel so…violated. No matter how much I tell myself that it doesn’t hurt, I still feel uncomfortable. I don’t know -- must be the natural prude in me? Still, I hope the medical field develops some sort of a non-invasive test to check cervical developments. I’m sure a lot of pregnant (and even non-pregnant) women will rejoice, and, I have a strong feeling, even OB-GYN’s will too.

Lastly, as Timmy mentioned, we decided to eat out after the check up. Oh the food was just good…and cheap! Shopping at the Asian store, Super 88, we ran into several Pinoys – a couple at the patis & toyo aisle who were debating whether they have enough de latas at home and another was a pinay who bought so many Snackus(about seven of them, I think). As for me, I just couldn’t resist the lure of halo-halo and the epitome of kajologan (according to my husband), Ligo sardines. Yes, yes, yes, I admit, so jologs, but sometimes, that’s all you need to feel that you’re home.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Living in Boston

Timmy Said:

One month from now, it'll be my 3rd year living in the US. The past three years, i've lived in the best suburb (Newton), one of the worst (Malden), and now again in one the best (Arlington) around the greater Boston area. I am about to finish my residency in arguably the most dangerous part of the city (if there's a shooting in Boston, this is usually where it's at). I've worked with some of the best doctors, and inevitably, some of the worst as well. I've learned how to handle American grads and their hard-headed ways. They always try to test you first, try to see if you're tough enough to handle them, since you're a foreigner. These are some of the smartest kids, some Harvard trained, almost all from the four Boston top-20 Medical schools in the country (Harvard, BU, Tufts, UMass), most of them going to Harvard-affiliated hospitals. Thats why most of them have this snotty attitude, and look down upon foreign graduates. It doesn't help that the higher ups in our program prefer these people (who wouldn't) over us, foreign grads. I remember when I was in the first month of my second year, I got assigned to a really hard-headed intern and a medical student. She was such a pain, always questioning my patient management, and the sad part was she didn't know a thing. She confidently made up answers (and stuck by them, even though they were so laughably wrong) when I asked her questions. But I perservered, kept on teaching her, kept on being patient with this intern, and eventually I gained her trust. We actually had a great time together, she gave me advice on how to handle others in the future and opened up to me that they were brought up that way, and in their medical school you needed to show a strong front or you'll be eaten alive. The medical student on the other hand, was so happy with his rotation with me, that he wrote so many recommendations to the dean of medicine and our director, that I never had a rotation where I didn't have a medical student with me. But, not everything is peaches and roses. Another time, I worked with someone so bad, so arrogant, that in less than three days working with him, I needed to call him out, verbally scrubbed him clean, and even after not changing one bit, reported him to the director and chief medical resident. After that, he was so scared, that "I ruined his career". You need to clearly set the tone that you are the boss, and these a-holes better not mess with you. You can't be Mr. Nice Guy all the time here, or else they'll eat you alive. My first six months here, I was literally chewed out and spit out. My confidence was at the lowest. But sometime along the way, something clicked. Now I have the confidence that i'm at par with these people. Their only advantage was they were lucky enough to be born here, studied here, and to be American citizens. I have better USMLE scores than most of them, and far superior medical knowledge. They probably are in better programs, because of their advantages, but I am happy enough with my accomplishments, and how far i've come.

I personally believe in destiny. I feel that I was destined to live here in Boston, sometime in my life. Bostonians, like New Yorkers, don't give too much respect to "feeling", newly transplanted people here, especially, non-whites like myself. In sports, they think i'm just riding the wave of the Red Sox popularity, after they became 2004 champs. The funny thing is, I know as much about the Red Sox or the Boston Celtics as any die-hard out there, Bill Simmons included (btw, i'm a big fan of this guy, check out his work at I've been following the Celtics since the mid-80s, and the Red Sox since high school in the mid 90s. I know every player on the Celts and the Red Sox, every major trade they ever made since the 90s. So you might consider me the Asian Bill Simmons. But like Mr. Simmons, I do not follow hockey, and unlike mr. simmons, I prefer the Colts to the Patriots.

But it's getting better nowadays, ever since the Red Sox signed the best Japanese pitcher in the planet, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Now, people are nicer to us when we attend games at Fenway Park, assuming we are tourists from Japan. People in the elevators talk to us, thinking every Asian is Japanese, making small talk about Dice-K's last start. That's why a lot is riding on this guy's career. He has, not only the Japanese's fate in his hands, but the whole Asian nation. If he flames out, its back to being ostracized, if he becomes the next Pedro, we can even be heartthrobs (like what happened when all the South Korean telenovelas came in).

Anyway, its time to prepare for the finale of my wifey's favorite show....Grey's Anatomy! Last episode was....INTENSE.


Tammy Said:

An American poet once mused, “how much of human life is lost in waiting?” Yesterday, while Timmy and I were at the St. Elizabeth’s hospital in Brighton, I couldn’t help but wonder the same thing.

Waiting can indeed be sharp and tiresome, wheedling its annoying claws into every activity and event. The ironic thing is, the more we hate waiting, the more we have to do it. A traffic jam occurs just when we are rushing to go to work. We wait for a very late taxi to arrive just when you feel like crap and want to go home immediately. We wait for inspiration to arrive when we want to write. You just can’t help but think – minutes are wasted, moments of life are lost, why ever, do we need to wait?

Yesterday was all about waiting. Timmy had his hernia operation scheduled very early in the morning so we were called to come in at 630AM. Little did we know that the operation was not to begin until much later. We stayed in the ambulatory surgery waiting room for a full hour and a half before Timmy was called in to be prepped. It was a little amusing though because another lady (who was having breast augmentation) kept staring at my little belly. Baby Sophie was making major tummy waves at that time – whether it was due to hunger as I have not had breakfast then yet or just to show off I don’t know – and I noticed the lady’s eyes watching her movements. Turns out she had just had her 2nd baby (a boy) six months ago and she’s probably still giddy about her recent pregnancy experience.

After Arvin was prepped, I waited again, this time with a darling old couple waiting for their son to come out of the recovery room. From bits and pieces I heard in their conversations, he had dislocated his shoulder. They were so cute as the mom was very talkative but the dad was trying his darndest to stay awake. Anyway, being sleepy myself, I switched back and forth from sleep to wakefulness. This went on for two hours before Dr. Claros, Timmy’s surgeon finally came out of the OR to tell me that the surgery was successful.

Very happy that Timmy was out of danger, I said a little prayer of gratitude and this time headed straight to the ultrasound room, where I had an appointment at 1030. There were so many pregnant ladies milling around the waiting room when I arrived that I immediately had the scary thought that I would be in for a long wait. True to expectations, I waited and waited. I simmered silently in my seat as the minutes, then the hours ticked by. When I was finally called, I was just about ready to howl with anger. Thankfully, seeing our baby again on the ultrasound monitor erased all the negativity and I was able to go to my next appointment (this time with my OB-GYN) without smoke coming out of my ears.

Waiting at my OB was a different experience though. It was actually fun. Ever noticed how pregnant ladies or new moms are always so excited to share their childbirth or parenting experiences? Like the ultrasound waiting room, Dr. Falzon’s waiting room was full, but it was full of CHATTY moms. They were so amazed with my little belly and we ended up sharing stories about our pregnancies (I was the only first time mom there and the others had very useful tips to share such as listen to the doctor when she prescribes bedrest!). I enjoyed the conversations so much I didn’t notice the time go by. Before I knew it, I was being called to pick up Timmy from the recovery room as he was ready to go home.

Waiting need not be a tedious, unbearable process. We probably get so caught up in this fast-paced, everything’s about deadlines and rush-rush world that we forget that sometimes, waiting can be a good thing. We get to meet new people, we even get to learn a little about things and goings-on around us – things we don’t usually notice. Everything doesn’t have to happen fast and furiously. Like a pregnancy for example, waiting nine months for your little girl to arrive makes the whole experience more purposeful, more special, and more joyous. Seeing Timmy well, walking, and still smiling after his surgery also reinforced the rewards of waiting. From yesterday’s experience, I can say that waitng, can in fact, be a pleasant experience. It’s just a matter of perspective.

Roles Reversed

Timmy Said:

Sometimes you never want to be in another person's shoes. Sometimes you'll be curious and think about it, but deep down, you never want to feel what another person's feeling. If you're rich, you never want to feel how it is to be poor. If you're beautiful, you never want to feel how it is to be ugly. If you're a doctor, you never want to be the sick patient you're treating. Well, that happened to me yesterday. From a doctor's point of view, what I had was a fairly simple procedure - a hernia repair - something you shouldn't even be worried about. Try telling that to my wife and my friends though. Any kind of surgery has its risks, no matter how simple or complicated it is. You still need to be tubed, be given general anaesthesia, and.....(ouch) have a foley catheter placed. It's real simple telling that to a patient, but it's way different if you're the one getting that information. I can't really explain the's just surreal. Its funny for them to explain procedures you already know by heart. Sometimes, you just want to stop them mid-sentence, and say "I know, i'm a freakin doctor also, just do what you have to do". But of course, these are your colleagues, and you need to treat them nicely and with respect.

Three things I remember from this ordeal though: First, never, never order subcutaneous heparin UNLESS needed. Those things hurt like hell! I still have this huge hematoma on m
y right arm from the injection site, and I order these things to 90-year old women three times a day, without even thinking! Second, general anaesthesia + Percs (or any opiod analgesics) are not my cup of tea. Waking up from the effects of the anaesthesia, feeling groggy was an understatement. The last time I felt like this was in 1st year college, after a night binging on Absolut Citron and Goldschlager at Ritchie's place (and throwing up the morning after). But looking back, this was actually worse. It was a mix of the worst hangover, having had no sleep for 3 days, and being high (I never knew how this felt, but I think now I know). And some nurse sitting me up and trying to wake me up every 20 minutes DID NOT HELP. And three, i'm just lucky to have Tammy beside me the whole time. She's just the best.

Right now, im bloated and in pain. I have the prescriptions for the Percocet (very high street value, here - i'm actually tempted to fill it and sell it so I can buy myself a PS3 - with money to spare), but i'm toughening it out and just taking over the counter pain medications. That high was probably what druggies and alcoholics seek, since those meds basically act on the same receptors in the body. But I've never enjoyed that feeling, and i'm happy i never did. In a few months, i'll be having another surgery to fix something else, and i'm dreading being put to sleep again. At least now, I can empathize with my patients, that nothing is too trivial especially if it concerns you and your body.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Tammy Said:
Up, Out, Forward
As my husband and I drove through the long interstate from Massachusetts, I gazed at the beautiful green mountains of Vermont and I couldn't help but feel butterflies in my stomach.

In our ten years and eight months of being together, Timmy and I have planted our tents in various places. Manila, Newton, Malden, Medford, then our present house here in Arlington (all in the greater Boston area), have been "homes" to us. But, after three (for Timmy) and 2 (for me) years of living in Boston, Timmy and I are moving to Vermont.

The reason for this move (of which I am quite proud of) is that after finishing his residency in Internal Medicine here in Boston, Timmy has been accepted as a Nephrology Fellow at the Fletcher Allen Medical Center - University of Vermont. I am so proud of my husband as this is a very prestigious program and he, at 28, will probably be one of the youngest fellows in the department or even the hospital. He is starting his program on July 1 which means that in approximately two months, we will be moving out of our home and live in the mountains of Burlington, Vt.

The move will be quite a change for both of us. We will be leaving our house, our (few :D) friends, and as for myself, my job. Burlington is a very laid-back city compared to Boston, which is like a mini-NY, but cleaner, and should I say, more "refined?" It is smaller, less populated, and less modern in terms of lifestyle. The "scenes" are mostly concentrated along a short strip called Church Street which is about three blocks of quaint stores and cafes. Although it is a university town, it pales in comparison to the "busyness" of Cambridge. Even how people dress is so different from Boston. Timmy and I probably stood out with our neat and preppy polos and jeans against the sneakers, shirts, and shorts that most of the Vermonters had on.

Burlington, however, can be breathtaking. Strolling along the Lake Champlain boardwalk, you can't help but feel so much peace and serenity seeing the calm waters and the lovely sunset. Don't get me wrong, Arlington has its own Mystic Lake, which is a lovely lake near our house. But there's something different about Lake Champlain that tugs particularly at my heart. Everywhere, you see couples of all ages walking hand-in-hand, pet-owners walking their (very healthy) dogs, and families just lying on the grass and playing with their kids. Seeing all these erased all the uncertainties that I felt about the move. Indeed, Burlington couldn't have come at a better time. Timmy and I will be new parents soon. We are expecting our little bundle of joy at the end of June. At the same time, Timmy and I have recently rediscovered ourselves and are brimming with newfound love and happiness in our lives. This is just the right time for a fresh start.

I once read that moves can only be joy-filled if only we realize that they point toward something. For Timmy and I, this move definitely points towards something, and for us, it's something better.

Timmy Said:
First off, I would like to point out that this was Tammy’s idea. The thought of airing out your feelings and ideas to the world does not appeal to me. Some things should just be kept to yourself. But this is another thing I could do and share with my wife, and that’s something you always have to be excited about. So lets give this “Bloh-ging” (as Ron Burgundy would pronounce “jogging”) a try.

The past three days have been one of the most awesome experiences for me, myself, and our little baby girl. Shockingly, it was the first time Tammy and I had a long drive by our selves. And no, going to Tagaytay does not count. Maybe it was because both of us were brought up by really conservative parents, so we couldn’t really do the things couples do all the time now back home. (On a side note, what’s happening to the Philippines? That’s a whole different topic, to be discussed another day. But for the record, I’m blaming Cosmo, Sex and the City, for all the casual sex going on). Anyway, our trip - Boston to Burlington, VT, 498 miles (800 kilometers), traveled in two days. Compare that to the 250km from Manila to Baguio. The missus and I were debating how much better Vermont was to Baguio, and we decided it was probably Baguio in the 80s-90s times five. I thought it was times ten. Its definitely the Green Mountain State. The whole trip, we listened to and memorized 24 songs, 2 CDs, but it was the conversations that made this probably the shortest and most enjoyable trip I’ve made going to Burlington. I still remember the time I had my interview there, sometime in January 2006. I had call in the Cardiac Care Unit the night before, and woke up at 3AM the next day to drive for an 8 o’clock interview. I was half-asleep the whole drive, and just couldn’t take it anymore, and I slept for an hour in the first rest stop when I passed the NH-VT border. I did well, and I was their first choice. I was actually the first one in our batch to get a fellowship.

Contrary to what Tammy thinks, I think I could have done better. I could blame a lot of things, my being a foreign grad, my being non-white, my not being a US citizen. True, those things made it much more difficult for me to get a fellowship, but the bottom line is I underachieved in my residency program. But that’s not going to happen now in fellowship. It took me more than half a year just to adjust to the culture here. Medical knowledge-wise, it was not a problem. But you have to assert yourself, voice out your opinion, be confident at all times. That’s difficult to do, if you were just trained to get vital signs Q1 (nurse work) and pump ambu-bags (because patients can’t afford mechanical vents) for hours in your fourth year. If you’re quiet here, you’re labeled as stupid. It’s the exact opposite back home, where you’re supposed to be quiet or face the wrath of your senior resident. After breezing through med school at the top of your class, it’s a huge blow to one’s ego to get 2/5 in your evaluations and get laughed at by your attendings for asking stupid questions. Good thing they paid us enough to make it all worth it. Don’t get me wrong, an Internal Medicine residency back home probably is 10 times as worse as this one, with 20 times less the pay. And that’s the main reason I’m here anyway (and why everyone wants to come here also). The system back home is too screwed up. Too many patients, too few doctors, too much work, too little pay, too much seniority, too many attendings full of themselves. That would just be too much for someone forced into being a doctor.

It’s been three years since I’ve left home. It wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined, since I was roommates with one of the VI-pacs (my high school barkada) for the first two years and with my girl and sister last year. I’ve moved every year I’ve been here though, and it has been really tiring. I’ve actually developed a hernia with all the heavy lifting (I’m having surgery this coming Wednesday). This is where all my farm boys would be helpful, since we’ll be moving ag
ain this June. But this is by far the most exciting move, even more exciting than the move to our house last year. Because this time, I’ll be moving with my own family. My wife and our baby girl, into this (hopefully it gets approved) wonderful, brand new luxury apartment in South Burlington, walking distance to the shops and just right beside the gym. It was a really difficult decision not getting one of the other apartments, the loft with a magnificent view of the Winooski River, 26-foot ceiling, huge windows, since it would have fulfilled one of my dreams. But the savings will be going to our baby, so priorities, priorities, priorities. It’s basically the same thing when I decided to get a Corolla instead of an Acura RSX three years ago to help out others (I’ve been trying to get rid of my car since I got it though). I guess both of us are just “realists” instead of “hedonists” (more on that topic in the future).

This morning, after mass, we decided to watch Spider Man 3. In typical Timmy and Tammy fashion, we watched before noon, so the ticket would just be $5 each (usually $7-9). It was just a great date on Mother’s day with the only person I’d like to be the mom of my children. Like I said, it has been one of the greatest, if not the greatest, 3 day spans of my life…our life. In the next few weeks, our little girl will be joining us…and I just can’t imagine her coming at a better time.

First Post!

Searching for meaning -- whether it's for your mind or body, or soul, is never easy. I'm sure that anyone, at one point or another, has felt so uneasy that even your mind cannot be still.We've all been there -- when you get the feeling where you just want to stop thinking, stop doing everything, and scream air out of your lungs and tell yourself, what am i doing with my life?

Unfortunately, the world we live in makes it difficult to make the time and effort to do something that's just for us. Sadly, we content ourselves with fleeting moments of joy and excitement that are few and far between. Just as we make do with microwaveable dinners or quick sandwiches to get through the day, we also content ourselves with just hi-hellos and polite short conversations. Talk becomes mere necessity and not an enjoyment to be savored.

Timmy and I have recently gone through this process of searching and what we have realized is that it's not difficult to find meaning, and be happy. One of the most important things we discovered is that our happiest moments are the most simple of days when we would sit out on the sofa in our our sun room, on a cool spring day, have drinks and chips, and just talk like best friends and lovers do.

I guess the bottomline is that happiness is not necessarily about creating something complicated and new. It's about having the right ingredients and working with those. Communication and laughter are more than fuel. Done well, with honesty, with one's whole heart, and the people you care about to share it with -- they can get you through the most difficult moments of your life.When you take time to talk, it makes you a better person. Your mind becomes relaxed and balanced and your soul becomes calm and happy.

So from today, we are devoting some bandwidth to share our experiences, our little joys and quirks as individuals and as a couple. Because in the end, it comes down to realizing that life has to be lived... and shared.