Wires, wires and more wires

Back in May and June I tried to get back on track to get all my pending health issues addressed.  My general practitioner suggested that I go for a “sleep study” and gave me an order to meet with a specific ENT to make the arrangements, but I ended up scheduled to see the ENT who performed the two myringotomy procedures I’d had in previous years and he made the arrangements for this sleep study.  The other ENT that my GP recommended was not in-network for our insurance…

In the middle of June we all went over to Singapore and on June 17th, in the evening, I went to Glen Eagles Hospital and checked myself in for the sleep test.  Carolyn, the kids and Papaw were all staying at a nearby hotel.

Soon after I got checked in I was led to a private room in one of the wards on a high-up floor, and shortly after that a guy came by and took my breakfast order and brought me a pitcher of water.  Within an hour a Filipino guy showed up with a briefcase and got to work wiring me up.  He stuck electrodes to my chest, put some gel in my hair and hooked more to my head and face, tide some band around my chest, put something on my finger and fitted a tube around my head and into my nose and mouth.

All of the wires were connected to a little battery powered input module that was attached to that band around my chest.  I told the guy that the tube sticking in my mouth was annoying as hell and he said it was ok to try and bend it out of the way but that didn’t work at all because after a few seconds it would pop back into my mouth.

All of those sensors were there to measure different things as I slept, like my breathing patterns, my oxygen levels, my heart rate and so on.  All the data would be stored in that input module and the following morning the guy would return and collect it so that the data could be analyzed by software that would determine whether or not I had any problems occurring while I slept.

That night of sleep was miserable…  It was impossible to get comfortable with all those sensors stuck everywhere and wires all over me.  The tube in the mouth was a pain too.  I tossed and turned, only getting 30 minutes of sleep here and there until about 3:30am, when I finally passed out from exhaustion.  The following morning the guy came around 9am and pulled everything off and after another 2-3 hours I was discharged from the hospital.

Another two weeks or so went by until I went to see my ENT for the sleep study results.  He only met with me for about 3 minutes but gave me some pretty bad news.  He said the study showed that I have horrible sleep apnea, where you stop breathing while you’re asleep and then you wake up gasping for air and never really get into deep sleep.  That would explain why I am always tired and why I wake up 5-6 times a night and feel like I am out of breath each time.  He said my case was extremely dangerous and I could actually have a heart attack at any moment because the data showed I stopped breathing 68 times per hour!  The worst part was that my oxygen levels had gotten down to 40% multiple times throughout the night, meaning my heart was getting basically no oxygen – that is what causes a heart attack.

My ENT said I needed to start by getting a machine called a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which essential forces air into your nose or mouth so that it keeps the airway open and prevents it from collapsing, which is what stops your breathing.

I eventually got this fancy machine that has a mask I wear at night.  I hardly make it through the entire night with it on because somehow my airway still collapses and the pressure in this air tube builds up so much that I wake up with this mask literally blowing itself away from my face.  I do try to wear it for about 4-6 hours a night, and I have been able to make it through entire nights (7-9 hours) wearing it the whole time on some occasions, but it isn’t a very pleasant way to sleep.

Here are a few shots from my sleep test setup, and one of Papaw from the Korean BBQ place we always go to in Singapore, having lunch the day of my study:

A big scare

I haven’t fallen off a cliff and I do indeed feel badly about not updating my blog for nearly 4 months now. Truth is, I haven’t felt the same desire to write frequent blogs and post pictures of what we’ve been up to — after doing it steadily for 10 years it began to feel more like a chore instead of an interesting way to update our friends and family with what was going on in our lives.  Hopefully with some new and exciting things coming up in the near future I will again be inspired to update regularly…

I still want to update the blog, if for nothing else it’ll be a diary of sorts that I hope my children will enjoy reading some day.

This entry goes back to the end of February, and even though the details aren’t as fresh now after 7 months as they were then, the events that took place around that time were so stressful that I surprisingly remember most of it quite well.

I last left off at the point where I was suffering from my second kidney stone in a relatively short period of time, and I had been in and out of the hospital multiple times over 24 hours. I had just returned to the hospital in Singapore after a painful period where I couldn’t urinate, but felt like my bladder was about to explode. In a state of pain that I’d never felt before, coupled with exhaustion and fear, I agreed to allow the ER doctor to put a catheter in me to get some relief from what felt like a full bladder that everyone believed was due to a kidney stone blocking flow in my bladder. Sadly, after the catheter was inserted there was no success – nothing came out.

In closing my previous post, I said this horrible moment would get worse.  It did…  After the extremely painful procedure where a doctor and a nurse snaked a catheter into my bladder and nothing came out, providing absolutely no relief from the painful “I have to pee SO badly feeling!”, the doctor and nurse left me alone in my room – crying and completely defeated.  A moment later the door opened and in came Carolyn with the kids; they had been asleep in our van out in the car park for the past several hours and now came to join me since I had been admitted into my own hospital room.

The kids either went back to sleep or started playing on iPads, and Carolyn came over to check on me.  I told her I was exhausted for not really sleeping in two days, and I had pain radiating throughout my entire body from the kidney stone, feeling of an extremely full bladder and the catheter that had just been inserted.

I won’t get into the dirty details of what happened next, but things did get worse because that catheter failed (yes, failed), I called the nurse urgently, and as I was writhing in pain the doctor and nurse removed the tube they had inserted into me only minutes earlier as Carolyn rushed the kids out of the room as the girls started crying and yelling “what’s wrong with daddy?!”.  It was awful…

After the thing was moved and my bed and I were cleaned up, I passed out from sheer exhaustion and woke up a few hours later to a urologist standing over me.  Carol and the kids were back in the room too.  The urologist turned out to be a fantastic doctor and just a super guy.  Unfortunately I had to go through all sorts of tests (ultrasounds, x-rays, blood & urine testing, etc) over the course of the next two and a half days, but luckily the stone passed without having to do surgery.  My left kidney was significantly swollen, so I was put on antibiotics and finally released.

I eventually made it back to work after the kidney stone battles seemed to be over.  When I got back to work we had a serious problem, and during all of that I had an episode in my office where I could literally feel my chest tightening like I’d never felt before and I was short of breath and started sweating.  I was seriously afraid I was about to have a heart attack or a stroke, so I excused myself from the people in my office and got a cold glass of water and took it easy for about 20 minutes before returning to the discussion.

That next weekend I went weekend I went to see my general practitioner, the one who had started helping me control my blood pressure, and we spoke about the symptoms I had been having for the past few months – chest tightness, neck and jaw pain, left shoulder pain, and so on.  She asked me to see a cardiologist to confirm whether or not I had some heart condition that needed to be identified and resolved.

I visited the cardiologist almost immediately, and while I met with him I explained that I have always tried to stay away from doctors and that the past two months, and really 4 years, had been terrible because of all the hospital and doctor visits related to my deteriorating health — many due to allergies I’ve developed since arriving in Malaysia that led to numerous lung infections and ear infections, but most recently the high blood pressure and two kidney stones.  I explained the other symptoms I was having (tight chest, etc) and he said I needed to do an EKG and a stress test.  I asked what was involved in each and when he said the stress test involved pumping fluid into my body through an IV so they could see contrast in my heart to check for blockages, I asked about the timeline to get these done and he said “immediately, right now”.

I almost fell out of my chair.  I told him I had been through enough recently and asked if it would be possible to do the EKG today and to come back the following weekend for the stress test.  He said “no, the symptoms you’ve described sound like there is a possibility of an imminent threat of cardiac arrest, so it really needs to be done now so we know what exactly the condition of your heart is”.

Well, no I was scared that I was going to have a heart attack…

I went through the entire thing – EKG with a bunch of electrodes hooked up all over me, then to another room for even more electrodes, getting on a treadmill and then onto a bed for them to look at my heart with an ultrasound, and yes, I got another IV.  It was not fun, but once it was done I was hoping to get good news and be sent home, but I met again with the cardiologist after all the testing and he said “well, unfortunately the testing was not conclusive so we will need to do a cardio angiogram to be 100% sure”.  I asked what that was and he described a procedure where they stick a tube through your thigh or wrist and snake it inside your artery all the way back to your heart and then pump fluids into your heart and check the fluid flow with a camera.

I can’t describe the fear going through me at this time.  He explained how it is a safe procedure, but if they find blockages in my heart they may have to put in a stint or worse case scenario do open heart surgery if the blockages are too many, and he mentioned that like all surgeries that there is a risk of cardiac arrest during the procedure.

Hell no!  I did not want any part of this.  I asked again what kind of timeline he was talking about (this was a Saturday) and he said “I could get you in here for the procedure on Monday or Tuesday.”  WHAT?!  I had hoped he would say we would schedule it for the following month or so, and when I told him I wasn’t ready for it he said I could have a heart attack immediately and they needed to find out what was going on.  I felt like I was going to throw up — I went and talked to Carolyn about it and she looked as shocked as I was.  I eventually made an appointment for last the next week and we left.  Shell shocked.

That night we spoke about it and decided that it would be best to return to the US for this surgery.  Children aren’t allowed in most ER areas, so Carolyn wouldn’t be with me and I didn’t want to be alone through this if possible, and if something did go wrong we thought it would be better to be in the US that Asia for pure logistics — how would Carolyn get my body shipped back if the worst happened?

I spent the next several days making hundreds of calls — insurance, different heart surgeons at Duke, Vanderbilt and Emory, airlines for flight arrangements, etc.  It was even more disheartening that out of maybe our top 20 heart surgeon choices none of them were available or taking new patients.  Eventually we found a surgeon at Vanderbilt in Nashville who had done thousands of these cardio angiograms for decades and would see me.  My Singaporean cardiologist was very understanding, but asked that I not return to work until this procedure was done because any added stress could maybe cause serious problems.

I took it easy at home for several days and then we finally boarded our flight to return to the US on March 11th.  I would be at Vanderbilt Hospital on March 15th.

The pain continues

My last post left off with us arriving at home around 8pm after a very LONG day in Singapore, where I almost passed out from the pain of a second kidney stone while giving a urine sample at my doctor’s office before heading to the ER at Raffles Hospital for a bent IV and CT scan.

We got home and I was exhausted, so I went straight to sleep while Carol got the kids ready for bed — baths, teeth brushed, etc.  I slept for around 4 hours and woke up at midnight and had to pee really badly.  I went to the restroom and tried to go but nothing came out, just a trickle.  It felt like I’d drank 8 beers within the previous hour because my bladder felt like it was about to burst, so I tried a second time and the same thing – trickle.  I shrugged it off and got back in bed, but within 10 minutes it was so uncomfortable that I tried to go a third time.  Same thing, trickle and no relief.  Again I got back in bed and again I was only there for about 10 minutes before I went back to the bathroom.  When nothing came out I started to get nervous that the kidney stone hadn’t actually passed but was now in my bladder and stopping me from being able to urinate.

I was frantic.  I told Carolyn what was going on and I tried over and over and over to go but nothing would come out even though my bladder felt so full that I was afraid I’d pee on myself in the car ride to a hospital.  By 1am I had decided that there was no way I could sleep like this so we loaded everyone back up in the car and drove back to Raffles Hospital.  I should have learned my lesson from the IV because their ER was just about to give me even more pain…

We got to the ER around 2:45am.  The kids were all asleep in car and Carol was exhausted, so I went in by myself and I left the car running in the parking lot so they could have some air and get some sleep.  I was taken into the back and left there in a bed alone for quite a while.  They said the urologist wouldn’t arrive until the morning, around 9am.  I made probably 50 trips from my ER bedroom to the restroom, trying to pee, and still nothing would come out.  Eventually they decided to put in another IV, which was the second in my life but also the second one in a 24 hour period.

After they had the IV in I asked whether I was going to have another CT scan or what and was told the IV was so they could give me fluids.  WHAT?!  I told them “hell no!  my bladder feels like it’s about to explode, I can’t pee at all, so I don’t want more fluids to feel even more uncomfortable!”  They left me alone again, sitting in the bed looking at my IV and walking back and forth to the toilet every 5 minutes.

Around 6am they admitted me and I was taken upstairs to a regular room.  I sent Carolyn a text message and told her I had a regular room with a couch and chair, so she could bring the kids up there to lay down instead of sleeping in the car any longer.  She said she was on her way up.  In the 15 minutes it took for Carol and the kids to arrive at my room I made the biggest mistake of the whole 24hr period.  I was hurting and sore and exhausted and just couldn’t bare any more discomfort after having tried to pee without any relief for more than 6 hours.  I called the nurse, she called the ER doctor to come up and within a few minutes he was there.

I told him I was so uncomfortable and was there anything they could do.  He said they could put in a catheter and it would drain my bladder.

Now up until that point in my life I had literally done everything I could to avoid scenarios like this.  I ran from doctors to avoid shots, I avoided doctor visits whenever I was sick until the point where my lungs got so infected or my ears got so infected that I ended up in ER’s for pain medications and heavy duty antibiotics.  I always thought I would get better and not need to see a doctor, and this usually worked until I moved to Malaysia.  I hated seeing doctors.  I hated getting shots.  I hated getting poked and prodded.  It’s just one of those things for me — I absolutely hate doctors, hospitals and everything to do with it.

So here I was, battling my second kidney stone within a month, my second time in the ER in 24hrs, my second IV (the first one was bent underneath the skin and had bruised my hand), and my bladder felt like it was about to explode so I couldn’t wait for 3-4 hours more until the urologist showed up.  I was so delirious that I said “fine, whatever will give me some relief; put in a catheter”.  Stupid move.

I won’t go into the details too much, but I will say a few things about it.  The doctor said it only hurts going in, then you can’t really feel it.  That’s not true.  The amount of catheter tube the cram into you is almost unbelievable; I thought he was threading it up into my throat because he just kept pushing more tube in, each time was painful as hell.  There was a nurse there to do the wrangling, so to speak, while the doctor did the tube cramming – not fun at all.  After about 60 seconds of immense pain they let go of me and he said “it’s in”.  I was in pain all over.  My lower left back was throbbing in pain, my you-know-what felt like it had been cut in half, my bladder felt like it was still just about to explode, and now I hadn’t slept except for 3-4 hours in the past 24 and was just miserable.

I asked if the bag connected to the catheter was full of urine, hoping this ridiculously painful experience would at least give me some relief, but nope, the doctor said “huh. it’s empty”.  What?!?  Noooooo!!!

I laid there in the bed and started crying.  If I’d had a gun I would have shot myself in the head.  It was one of the top 5 low points of my entire life, but it would actually get worse within the next 10 minutes…

Passports and stones

When we arrived back in Malaysia after the holiday trip to the US, I had hoped for a quiet, uneventful but enjoyable final year in Malaysia.  Unfortunately 2017 started with all sorts of insanity…

I won’t go through all the details, our first two weeks back in Malaysia (January 7-21) had some highlights, or at least some notable points.  Two main things happened; first, we had to figure out how to get new passports for Carol, me and Logan while also getting new Malaysian visas for 2017, and second, my health has continued to deteriorate with a new complication.

Back in November 2016, when it was absolutely clear that we would be staying in 2017, I asked my HR department about visa renewals because our holiday vacation was already set and our visas that allow me to work and the family to live in Malaysia all expired on January 20th.  I was told “it can wait, we have plenty of time”.  I asked again twice in December before we left for the US on December 16th, and both times I was again told not to worry because there was plenty of time.  I even mentioned that 3 of us needed new passports when we returned in January because we were almost completely out of empty visa pages, and I was told that it wouldn’t be a problem.

January 9th, my first day back to work in 2017, rolls around and I’m panicking because there’s still no sense of urgency.  Carolyn sets up appointments for us to go to the US Embassy in Singapore to apply for new passports on January 20th (Friday), the day our visas are to expire.  My company’s HR had recommended we just go across the border before midnight on the 20th and cross back into Malaysia after midnight.  I explained that immigration may have a problem with this since we clearly left on the day my work visa expired and we returned back just a few hours later, not to mention that middle-of-the-night visa runs wasn’t something we planned to do with 3 small children just because they failed to take renewal of our visas seriously.  I told them we would spend the night in Singapore, they must pay for the hotel, and I was given an official company letter stating that they were in the process of applying for our visas in case immigration had any issues when we returned.

Unfortunately for me, those two main things happened to cross paths starting around 3am on January 19th.  I woke up with a throbbing pain in my lower left back, which I thought was probably from sleeping some funny way.  Carol and I were sleeping in the spare bedroom because of work going on in our master bedroom, so I wasn’t used to that mattress and after getting a drink of water I tried to go back to sleep by 3:15am.

It wasn’t meant to be…  I tossed and turned and that throbbing pain in my lower back was alternating to pains in my lower abdomen.  It got worse and worse no matter how I flipped and tried to position myself in bed.  By 5:30am I was in serious pain, so I woke up Carolyn and told her what was going on.  I went into our master bedroom and tried to lay on or mattress but the intensity of the pain just continued to increase.  I started to get worried that maybe my hernia was trapped because when I had my hernia diagnosed they had told me that could be a serious problem and it would need to be taken care of immediately in an Emergency Room.

I laid in our bed for maybe 15 minutes and then I started sweating even though it was cold in our room.  I told Carolyn that something was seriously wrong with me.  It was obvious that this wasn’t some normal cramped muscle or something like that.  I told her I wanted to go to the emergency room immediately, so she got the kids dressed and off we went to the ER at Gleneagles in Singapore.  Having been to ER’s in JB multiple times I knew I didn’t want to possibly end up in surgery here, so there was never any doubt that we had to cross the border into Singapore, but in retrospect it may not have been so sensible because we sat in traffic in immigration and going across the bridge for almost 2.5 hours.  The pain was indescribable.  It was so bad that it was taking my breath away.

I was the driver, with our 3 tired and hungry children all complaining in the back seat, as I was in excruciating pain, inching across the causeway bridge while Carolyn tried to keep everything somewhat contained.  By this point I felt like I was about to pee in my pants — I had to go worse than I’ve ever had to go in my entire life and I was stuck in the middle of the bridge.  I won’t go into the details any further, but I felt like I was dying there on that bridge.  It was the worst 2.5 hours of my life.

Amazingly, as soon as we crossed the border into Singapore it was like a switch was thrown and the pain went away almost instantly, the sweat stopped pouring and I was able to breathe normally.  We continued on to the ER, where I was seen and after a urine sample and a long wait for the analysis it was determined that I had likely passed a kidney stone in the car on the causeway bridge.  The pain was from the kidney stone and there was blood in my urine, which they advised me to check in another week in case there are other stones and further action is needed to make them smaller or to remove them surgically.  I was told by the doctor that “kidney stones are the worst pain a man can experience – it’s like childbirth for men”.  I heard that repeated about 50 times over the next two weeks by everyone I told the story to.  I don’t know what childbirth feels like, but passing a kidney stone feels like you’re about to die.  I can’t recommend driving a family of 5 across an international border while stuck in traffic for hours during this episode either — it only made the experience worse, much worse.

Since we had to go to the US Embassy for passports the following day, we decided to just stay in a hotel since it was already around 2pm by the time we left the ER.  We spent the night and had a room with a great view of Marina Bay, then the following day we applied for our 3 new passports at the US Embassy before spending a second night in Singapore.  I was too miserable to do anything, so I basically slept the entire time except for while applying for the passports.  I was also on yet another round of antibiotics to ensure no UTI…

On Sunday, January 21st, when we finally came back into Malaysia, the immigration agent at the Malaysian border had a problem with giving us a stamp, just as I had imagined he would and just as I’d told my HR department he would.  My HR manager had said “you can call me if there are any concerns at all, and I’ll speak to them”.  Well, they had us pull over and took me into the office where a group of 5 senior officials went over all of our passports while I waited.  I tried to call my HR manager over 10 times while I waited there for nearly an hour that Sunday morning, but he never answered.  Eventually they gave us all “special visas” that needed to be taken to the immigration office immediately on Monday for a fine payment and endorsement.  Phew!  The only problem now was that we needed to go back into Singapore within 10 days to collect our new passports and we still didn’t have or new visas!

Here are some photos from that first two weeks back in Malaysia after our holiday trip to the US:

Jabs, myringotomy and dusky leaf monkeys!

I haven’t posted a blog entry in over 30 days and the last entry was about things that happened back in mid-November.  I haven’t been on the ball.  At all.

Quite a bit has happened since mid-November…  We’ve taken a vacation to the US for Christmas and New Year’s, Logan and Zoe have both started a new grade in school, Sebbie started officially talking the other night (Jan 22nd) when he clearly said “night night”, I’ve continued to have health problems and Carol has been trying to keep up with all that stuff and more.

I plan to update this blog in 4 parts – (1) mid-November to mid-December recap, (2) US Trip before Florida, (3) US Trip in Florida and (4) What’s been going on in January since our return to Malaysia.

Mid-November to Mid-December was a long time ago, but I’ll hit the highlights, and since this is written by me I’ll start with what was going on with me personally.  I couldn’t hear out of my left ear at all and it had been that way for a while due to it filling up with fluid from my allergies.  I’ve been battling allergies and their side effects (respiratory and ear issues) ever since arriving in Malaysia, but 2016 was the worst.  I spent the majority of the year feeling miserable and made way more trips to see doctors than anyone under 40 should ever have to.  I had chest x-rays, dozens of courses of antibiotics, constant coughing and couldn’t hear for months.

We had been planning a holiday trip in December so we could go to the US and visit family and let everyone see Sebastian since he’s only spent a couple of weeks in the US since birth.  As we got closer and closer to the planned departure on December 16th I was worried we may have to actually cancel the trip because I was making weekly trips to Singapore for literally MONTHS due to my ear problems and the ENT just kept trying to halfass treat it and “wait to see what happens”.  It just continued to get worse until one evening I got home from work around 7pm and went straight to bed because I left work feeling ok but started getting a headache on the drive home and that turned into a pain in my left jaw, neck and ear.

I wasn’t able to sleep and the pain got more and more intense until I told Carolyn that it was beyond normal pain and that I needed to go to the Emergency Room.  I know when something isn’t right with me, and this was definitely a time when something abnormal was going on because the pain came on immediately and got so bad that I was writhing in pain in the bed and couldn’t barely open my eyes normally as we packed the kids into our van and drove over to Raffles Hospital.  We made our way to the ER and the doctor had a look into my left ear and said “your eardrum is being pushed out of the ear canal – I will call our on-call ENT to come in and check this”.  The on-call ENT was the guy I’d been seeing who had been playing “let’s wait and see” for 2+ months.

He jokingly said “the doctor thinks your eardrum is coming out of the ear canal – haha – let’s have a look and see what’s actually happening…  oh.  well… he’s right, it is bulging because there’s a large blister on your eardrum that is about to rupture.  you have a bad ear infection.”  Lovely…

They asked me about the pain level and I told them it was excruciating.  I was given some pain killer injections and then they wiped some antibiotics in my ear and gave me some medications and sent me on my way.  We drove back home and I was in bed around 3am after taking a few more pain pills.  I woke up at 7am to blinding pain and wet pillow, covered in blood and pus from where the blister had finally ruptured.  Carol called the hospital for me and they told me it would continue to leak for several days and to rest and take all the meds.  The pain pills did nothing and what was almost as bad was that because a layer of skin on my eardrum had exploded and made it thinner I was now able to perfectly hear blood rushing through the capillaries in my eardrum with each heartbeat but couldn’t hear anything else because all that fluid was still trapped in my middle ear!

The ENT I’d been seeing for a while had finally met the end of his usefulness – my condition had progressively worsened the entire time I’d been his patient.  It was time to find someone else, quickly.  I needed to have another myringotomy, like I had back in March 2014 when my symptoms were exactly the same – persistent cough and clogged up ears.  Carolyn checked to see which ENT I’d visited nearly 3 years earlier for this procedure and she made me an appointment to see him.  Unfortunately he wouldn’t perform the procedure on the first visit and he didn’t want to on the second visit either due to the condition of my ear still healing from the infection with the bursting blister, so we literally came down to the weekend before we were supposed to leave for the US without knowing if we’d go or not.  If I couldn’t have the procedure done there was no way I was flying and taking a chance of the pressure causing that fluid to completely rupture my eardrum.

In the end he did the procedure but it wasn’t quite as thorough as 2014 – he only used the little vacuum for a couple of moments to get the fluid out instead of thoroughly clearing it out like he did previously.  The good news was that I was finally able to hear again – instantly.  They did a hearing test and said that I’d lost some of my hearing because of this illness, which wasn’t exactly good news.

At least we knew now that we’d be able to go to the US!

I wasn’t the only one during that time (mid-November to mid-December) who had to see a doctor.  Zobug was due for some jabs and she wasn’t really that excited about it until I told her she could go to Toys R Us and pick 1 toy if she got her jabs without crying.  I couldn’t take another episode like the last time where Carol had me take Zoe for her jabs and she was crying and looking at me with those big teary eyes pleading, “Why are you letting him do this to me, daddy?!”  It broke my heart and made me want to punch the nicest pediatrician on the planet in the mouth, so I needed another approach that worked for everyone.  Zoe took the jabs like a champ!  She was really brave and when he finished she said “that’s all?  it’s over? that wasn’t so bad!”  I took some photos that are included in the gallery below, showing her progression before-during-after the jabs.  Happiness, fear, relief.

Other than tons of medical visit trips to Singapore we also had a period where the kids were finally out of school on break, so Carolyn took them to the large play area at TESCO Plentong a few times.  Sebastian loved the balls and Zoe climbed all over everything.

The best thing about that period for me was that late one Sunday afternoon (11/27 around 5pm) I took the girls and our housekeeper, Rose, to Permas seafood for an early dinner while Jean and Sebastian slept.  As we left the restaurant we saw about 6-8 dusky leaf monkeys!!  This is literally across the street from the condos we lived in last year in Permas Jaya, and there’s development everywhere so they’ve obviously been there.  We’ve seen the normal long tailed macaques in that exact same area a couple of times over the past 4 years when leaving Permas Seafood, but we haven’t seen dusky leaf monkeys at all in Malaysia.  We’ve even been to wildlife refuges where they supposedly live and never saw them, so it was awesome.  Unfortunately all I had was my iPhone so the photos aren’t so good, but you can see that they have the white faces and definitely are the macaques that are all over Malaysia.  I just wish Carol had been there to see them too.  Hopefully we will run into them again before moving back to the US.

Here are some photos taken from mid-November to mid-December:

This is really becoming absurd

This last weekend Sebastian had a follow-up appointment with his pediatrician, so originally we planned on arranging transport from our home to the doctor’s office and back for only Carolyn and Sebbie.  By Tuesday Zoe was sick again (coughing) and we setup an appointment for her to see the pediatrician once again.  On Wednesday Carol said she needs to get her hair done and the only available appointment is at 5pm, so I decided that we would all just go so I could watch the kids while she had her hair appointment, and since being in Singapore riding around for 14-16 hours didn’t sound like a good time I went ahead and booked a hotel for the weekend.

I really cannot believe how we’ve been sick for so long and had to go to Singapore for doctor visits every single weekend.  It is ridiculous!  We just simply can’t shake whatever it is that keeps jumping around from person to person.  I’m absolutely tired of this.

The plan was to head over to Singapore on Friday evening once I got home from work, which happened to be around 7pm since I worked a little late.  Luckily I checked our hotel reservation to get the exact hotel name to put into my GPS as we were about to walk out the door.  I noticed that I’d made a big mistake with the reservation.

Earlier in the week I had been making online reservations for an upcoming vacation and during that time I also made reservations for the hotel this past weekend in Singapore.  Like a fool I apparently didn’t confirm that the dates were in the correct month.  The other trip was all planned in September and this hotel in Singapore was for August 19-21, but I instead booked the hotel for September 16-18.  The worst part was that I’d booked a non-refundable hotel because the price was much better.  Now we had a two sets of reservations for the same dates — one set for a hotel in Singapore and another set for a hotel booked in Malaysia for the exact same dates.  We also had no reservations for this past weekend in Singapore due to this mistake, and I couldn’t simply cancel and re-book because the reservations were non-refundable and a quick search found that there were no available 2 bedroom apartments in all of Singapore for the whole weekend!

I frantically called the hotel reservation website’s customer service, and to make a very long story short, after about 20 minutes on the phone we were going to the hotel after all because their front desk manager had agreed to manually move our reservations and honor the rate so we didn’t owe any money, we would slide our September 16-18 reservation to August 19-21, we had a 2 bedroom serviced apartment and we were out the door.

The hotel was the Somerset Liang Court in Clarke Quay, and it was fantastic after a little problem with figuring out which level of the car park to use (hint: use the basement for Somerset Liang Court and upper deck for Novatel).  Our room was large and comfortable and the staff were excellent.

Carolyn went and got some fish and chips for everyone for dinner and we finally hit the sack around midnight.

On Saturday morning we took all 3 kids to the doctor and he was convinced that they’re all nearly back to 100% and said there was clear improvement and they should be good after another 5-6 days of continuing their medications.  Carol had forgotten the nebulizer at the hotel, so after another wonderful brunch at Din Tai Fung we went back to the hotel and picked up the nebulizer so we could take it back to the doctor and drop it off.  We eventually got back to the hotel around 2pm.

At 4pm Carol and Zoe headed over to Hooters and grabbed a late lunch for everyone, then Carol took a taxi over to her hairdressers place.  She took the MRT (subway/train) back to Clarke Quay when she finished.  The taxi was S$12 and the MRT was S$2, making the MRT a great deal if you’re by yourself or a couple, but not such a good deal if trying to lead a family of 5 through a subway system to save S$2.

I watched the first and only Olympics coverage for this entire Rio 2016 2 week stretch on Saturday night – men’s singles badminton finals and then some 10m platform diving.  The only reason I watched was because Malaysia had their top athlete competing for their best chance at a gold metal in the badminton finals.  The guy’s name is Lee Chong Wei, and he was amazing but fell to a taller and younger guy from China.  The badminton wasn’t your normal backyard BBQ game; they played extremely fast and it was fun to watch and to pull for Malaysia.  I was sad he didn’t win, but a silver metal in the Olympics isn’t something to be ashamed of.  He’s clearly incredible at his sport to be the second best in the entire world, and to come so close to gold.

The last time the Summer Olympics were on tv we were visiting Malaysia for just 3 months during the summer of 2012.  I still remember watching them in our hotel room at the Puteri in Pasir Gudang.  Zobug was tiny and we really enjoyed being over here in a new place experiencing new things with our little girl.  Four years later and we’re residents here and have a much larger audience to watch with.  Unfortunately we don’t have cable (or satellite) television, so our only real opportunities to watch were online or at the hotel this past weekend.

On Sunday we woke up kinda late.  Zoe said she was hungry and wondered why we couldn’t just order room service.  Eventually everyone went to Subway to grab breakfast while I got on the phone with the hotel reservation company again for about 30 minutes because the hotel decided they wanted to be paid upon checkout instead of when our original reservation dates passed by in September and the reservation company finally released payment.  In the end the hotel allowed our original reservation to be refundable, so the hotel reservation company refunded the full amount, we paid the exact same rate to the hotel when we checked out, and the hotel reservation company allowed the original reservation to stay open so we could get credit for those nights in the hotel!  It worked out perfectly.  I felt horrible for my booking mistake, but the hotel and the reservation company both took good care of us.

Once we checked out we drove around to take some photos of Singapore.  Chinatown was fully decorated all through the streets and in a main intersection because they’re celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival right now (mooncakes, lighting fake money on fire for ancestral spirits, etc).  We also made our way to the hawker stall center in Chinatown where the first ever hawker stall was awarded a Michelin star – Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle.  The little guy who owns the joint (Chan Hon Meng) and was featured in the news recently was actually behind the counter preparing his now famous dishes for an enormous line.  Carolyn asked a lady who was picking up her order how long the wait was and she said it took her an hour and half.  It was too hot for that, so hopefully next time we can get there earlier and try it.  It’s the only place in the world where you can dine at a Michelin star restaurant for $2.

After we gave up on the soya sauce chicken we headed across the border to go home.

Here are the photos from our weekend in Singapore:

Back again…

Well, we all continue to be sick.  Not actually all of us, since Carolyn still hasn’t been sick, and Papaw has improved ever since his visit to a doctor in Malaysia, but Sebastian and I were very sick last weekend, Logan’s lymph nodes are still slightly swollen even though she no longer has a runny nose or cough, and Zoe had the sickness go away but it has started coming back.

Back on Friday, August 12th, I could no longer take it because I was coughing non-stop, my throat was hurting, and each cough made my hernias hurt pretty badly, plus my nose was constantly running.  I took the day off from work, we kept the kids out of school, and yet again we crossed to causeway over to Singapore and visited some doctors.  Sebastian was given antibiotics because the nebulizer hadn’t given the results his peditrician had expected, and then I saw an ENT at Raffles Hospital and he fished a scope up my nose again and said I have a sinus infection that had moved to my throat and caused an infection and now it has entered my lungs and caused infection there too.  I was given several medications, including antibiotics for 14 days.

On the drive home I experienced the worst pain I’ve ever had in my life.  Worse than breaking my arm.  Worse than breaking my fingers.  Worse than breaking my nose.  Worse that being bruised all over from an air bag knocking the wind out of me and not being able to sit up in bed for 3 days.  Worse than my hernias.  It felt like someone was driving an ice pick through the bone just above my right now (orbital?).  It came on suddenly, just as we were headed towards Singapore immigration.  It got so bad that my teeth and jaw were aching and I could barely open that eye.  I seriously thought about parking my car and getting out to swap driving with Carolyn even though we were in line at the border.  It was excruciating.  The only thing I can imagine is that the ENT had hit something or scraped something while he had that scope shoved 8-10 inches up my nose to inspect my sinuses.  He had sprayed anesthesia up both nostrils before starting, and even though it tastes absolutely horrible it works really well and you can’t feel your face or teeth for a while, but as it wore off it was painful as hell.

I’ve only had a scope sent up my nose 3 times, and all 3 have been over the past 3 years since I’ve been getting sinus infections over here in Malaysia.  I’ve always had allergies that go nuts in the Spring in the US, but something in the air over here absolutely kills me.  I get sick over here fairly regularly, and it always starts with burning and itching eyes and sneezes, then goes to runny nose and coughing, then to sinus and lung infections.

Anyhow, it has been a week since that doctor visit and I’m feeling much better even though I’m still coughing some and a little bit congested too.  At least I can talk again and I’m not coughing non-stop, plus my throat isn’t hurting any more.

Here are a couple of photos from yet another trip to Signapore for doctor visits:

The funk continues

Back on Saturday, August 6th, we made yet another early morning trip to Singapore for doctor visits because the kids were still sick.  Logan’s lymph nodes were still swollen and Sebastian was coughing and wheezing.

We noticed a billboard in Paragon that announced it was Singapore’s 51st Birthday that weekend.  Happy Birthday, Singapore!

While we were waiting to see the Pediatrician we noticed in the newspaper that Marina Bay, the area where we normally go in Singapore for the waterpark at Gardens By the Bay, had been threatened by Islamic terrorists but the threat was thwarted by the authorities.  Lovely…

After the checkups we took the family, together with a rental nebulizer for Seb, over to Dempsey Hill for a Mexican lunch.  As always, it was excellent, and the girls enjoyed riding the big iron bull in the front of Margarita’s.

Here are the photos from that trip to Singapore:

Logan turns 3

Two Saturdays ago, on July 30th, we woke up early and headed over to Singapore to celebrate Logan turning 3 years old.  Traffic over the causeway was horrible because for some ridiculous reason Singapore’s immigration has begun closing car lanes down.  We’ve noticed this trend for about 6-8 months now, where there’s little to no queue on the Malaysian side but Singapore has things backed up for hours because they’re turned what used to be 4-5 car lanes into 2 car lanes and either closed completely the other car lanes or switched them to motorcycle lanes.  It’s absurd.

Anyhow, we eventually made it into Singapore and we headed straight to Geylang to pickup dim sum for breakfast.  We tried to find an ATM for a the first 30 minutes, and we even got to witness what appeared to by a pimp and one of his “workers” in an argument — this girl was crying and yelling at this guy, who dragged her to an ATM and then they argued behind our car at an intersection for about 20 minutes while we tried to figure out why the ATM wouldn’t dispense money to us.  After HSBC confirmed that our card was fine we decided to try different machines and eventually found one with some cash.

We picked up breakfast and then headed over to Satay by the Bay, where we sat down and ate.  Sebbie was a little cranky, but the girls were super excited about playing at the water park.

We made our way over to the Children’s Garden and the girls ran around in the fountains for maybe 2 hours.  Papaw joined them and even carried Sebastian through the fountains a couple of times.  Everyone had a good time.

After everyone got dried off and changed into dry clothes we loaded up the car, got a couple of fruit smoothies and headed over to Orchard Road, where Carolyn ran in and picked up some chili crab buns and donuts for the ride home.

We finally pulled up at home around two and a half hours later.  The kids slept for most of the slog home, so they had energy when we pulled up.  We all gathered around at the kitchen table where we sang Happy Birthday to Logan a couple of times and she blew out her candles before we all had a birthday doughnut!  Next, Logan opened her presents from Papaw, Zoe, Sebastian and then from Carolyn and I.  She loved the play-doh and all her new drawing stuff (easel, crayons, coloring books, etc), but she has been carrying around her new Barney stuffed animal ever since opening it up.  She has also spent countless hours making “nakes” (snakes) and ponies with her play-doh.

Here are the photos from Logan’s birthday:

School break getaway

The girls have both been on their school break for the past two weeks (May 30 – June 10).  The schools here in Malaysia, at least the two where our children go, start in early January and end in mid-to-late December, with a summer break of 2 weeks in June.  It’s a strange school year for Carolyn and I, as we’re used to the US school calendar where you start in September and finish in May, then get June, July and August off for summer break.

Unfortunately the girls were stuck at home with not much to do for the majority of their break.  Zoe went to a few swim classes, they played with Ladybug some, and Carol even got their small blow-up pool out and set it up in the yard one day for them, but really it was coloring and iPad for most of time.

Jean did manage two outings though.  One morning in the second week of their break she took them to an early showing of the Angry Bird movie together with a friend and her two children, then they ran around the mall for a little while together.  They went to the theater at Aeon Tebrau, which amazingly now has Family Friendly showings!  Carolyn had enjoyed the Mommy Monday’s and similar promotions in California when Zobug was under a year old — babies were welcomed and it was a good way for mothers to get out and do something without worrying about the kiddos being distracting to everyone else.  They didn’t have anything like that at the theaters here when we arrived in 2012, but it appears that they do now.

The second outing was last Thursday (6/9), when Carolyn and the kids all went together with JoAnn and her three girls to Singapore for the day.  We hired a driver for the day, and they all took off in the transport van at 7am from our home.  They started at the Singapore Zoo, where they spent a couple of hours and were rained on, then they hit Dempsey Hill for some fajitas and “pizza” (actually quesadillas, but for Zoe and Logan they prefer “pizza”), and finally they hit the water park at Gardens By the Bay for a few hours before heading back to JB with a van full of exhausted kids.

Zoe and Logan had a blast, and Sebbie enjoys doing just about anything so he had fun too.

Here are some photos from the Singapore Zoo and water park — unfortunately there aren’t any from Margarita’s or the movie outing:

ER on a Saturday night

Two weekends ago, May 27-29, we spent the weekend in Singapore.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Atrium and went because Carolyn had a hair appointment and we wanted to go grocery shopping there to get some Western goods.

On the Wednesday before our weekend in Singapore (5/25) my nose started to hurt, like a dull pain.  On Thursday it was hurting more, especially on the right side.  By Friday it felt like I’d been punched in the nose – it was sore to touch.  On Saturday morning it was hurting so badly that I could barely concentrate on anything else and it was swollen out to underneath my right eye.

We ran several errands on Saturday morning – picked up Carolyn medicine at Paragon, got some chili crab buns, did some grocery shopping (prosciutto, woohoo!), and I dropped off Carol at her salon around 3pm.  I headed back to the hotel with the girls while Carol and Sebbie stayed at the salon, and she took a taxi back to the room when she finished.  By that point I knew my condition wasn’t getting any better and I was worried that by Sunday morning my entire face would be swollen, so I had Carol get a GOP (Guarantee of Payment) from our insurance and by 11pm we were at the Emergency Room in the Raffles Hospital.

I checked in and we waited for about 25-30 minutes before a doctor saw me.  He said it was either a sinus infection or a skin infection, but either way the treatment should start with antibiotics, so I started a course of antibiotics and got some pain medication (Ibuprofin).  I took one pill from my week long antibiotic regimen, and by Sunday morning the swelling was almost completely gone and the pain was much less.

I took Monday off and went to see an ENT as a follow-up, and Zobug joined me in the examination room.  He sprayed some stuff up my nostrils to deaden everything, then he crammed a wire with a tiny camera on it up each nostril to see whether or not there was any infection.  Zoe yelled “ewww!  gross!” when he started…

I finished my course of medicine 2 days ago as I write this blog entry, and my nose feels great now.  Unfortunately my throat started hurting yesterday.  I can’t seem to get well recently.  At least the kids and Jean are all feeling good, and hopefully I’ll be back to 100% soon.

Since we’ve been back from Singapore Carol has been getting a lot of mileage out of the groceries she bought in Singapore.  Zoe and I have loved it – Sloppy Joes, chicken squares, pot roast, shrimp dip.  It almost felt like we were back in the US!

Here are the photos from our weekend in Singapore:

Nice cars everywhere

Back on Saturday, May 7th, we drove over to Singapore early in the morning because Sebbie and Logan had doctor’s appointments.  We didn’t really want to stay for too long, so I dropped Carol and the little ones off at the doctor’s office and then I took Zoe over to Satay By The Bay to have an orange soda and throw ice at a huge lizard while we waited for them to finish.

When I went back to pick up Carolyn and the other two we ended up stopping at Din Tai Fung in Paragon to pickup some chili crab buns for the ride home.  In just a single lap around the small parking lot underneath Paragon we passed by a Bentley, 2 different yellow Ferrari’s and a BMW i8.  That doesn’t include all the Audi’s, BMW’s, Mercedes, Range Rovers and other luxury cars, and I’m sure I missed at least 1 or 2 high end cars.  I don’t think that parking lot has more than 200 spaces, but the four super luxury cars in the photos below were easily over $2,000,000 total.  Keep in mind that importing cars into Singapore (and Malaysia) means the prices are nearly double what you’d pay in the US, plus Singapore has a very steep fee for licensing cars.

I’ve actually seen that same BMW i8 at Paragon before, but I’ve never seen them anywhere else.  It’s a pretty neat looking car and apparently it’s environmentally friendly!

All clear!

On Saturday, February 27th, we had some big plans.  I had an early morning visit to my respiratory doctor to get a follow-up chest x-ray to see whether my pneumonia had gone away from all the antibiotic treatments or if it was still there in my lungs.  Sebbie had an appointment for his 6-month jabs, and Carol had an appointment to get her hair done.

My visit went wonderfully!  There were no longer any signs of infection (nothing white showed up on the x-ray).  A good byproduct of this sickness is that I’ve quit smoking.  I haven’t smoked in something like 7 weeks so far.  I think I’m done with it for good, or at least I hope so.

Sebbie was briefly upset about his jabs, but in the end it just made him tired.  He fell asleep shortly after getting his 6-month shots and basically slept for the remainder of the day, minus a few minutes here and there to eat.

We didn’t have much time for lunch, so we rushed to Geylang and grabbed some take away dim sum from our favorite spot.  I dropped Carol, Zoe and Seb off at her hair stylist’s building (Orchard Towers), and they took their dim sum while I kept some for Logan and I.  Carol took Sebbie since he was asleep and would just lay in his stroller, and she took Zoe because Zoe minds really well and would behave at the salon.  I took our sweetpea, Logan.  She’s a sweetie when she wants to be, but she can also be a little rascal if she wants to be, so Carol didn’t want to take any chances at the salon in case Loggie got into a bad mood.  I was excited because I don’t get much time just with just Logan.

I drove us over to the Singapore Flyer and we ate our dim sum there before going for a ride in the Flyer.  Logan was pretty sure she said “mommy” and “woo-woo” down below, as she kept pointing them out to me and waving at them.  She had a blast and she really enjoyed pointing out all of the different sights to me.  We eventually headed back over to Orchard Towers just as Carol finished up.  The drive home was horrendous; it took something like 4 hours because the causeway had a ridiculous jam.

Here are the photos from our trip to Singapore on February 27th, including some of a broken down van being towed across the causeway bridge by what looked like ethernet cables:

Still coughing but made it to the Henderson Waves

Two weekends ago we returned to Singapore because I had a follow-up visit due to my persistent coughing for which I had previously been given two different antibiotics.  My coughing had gotten much better for the week or two I was on the medication, but then came back in full force again just a day or two before the visit on January 30th.

We headed across the border in the morning and made it to the doctor’s office without any problems — the traffic crossing the causeway in the morning has been wonderful on our all of our trips in 2016 and we hope it stays that way.

I was given another prescription and told to come back in about a month for another follow-up visit where they would x-ray my chest again to see if the possible pneumonia in my right lung had cleared up.

After the appointment we drove around a little bit and eventually picked up some dim sum in Geylang and then headed over to Satay by the Bay to eat our late breakfast.  The weather was perfect, a nice breeze and not the usual 100% humidity.  After breakfast we drove around some more and eventually made our way over to Mount Faber and the Henderson Waves.

I’ve read about the Henderson Waves several times and have wanted to see them.  Singapore has a long pathway that crosses several different areas over the course of many miles (like 8-10 miles total I believe) that includes places like the Henderson Waves, which is a bridge that’s high above a road and goes nearly to the top of Mount Faber.  The bridge was designed to kind of look like waves, with smooth rolling wooden curves across entire span.

Logan and Sebbie were asleep so I just parked the car while Carol and Zoe went and checked out the Henderson Waves.  The photos look cool and I hope that the next time we will all get to go across it and maybe a little further along the pathway, which I believe is called the Southern Ridges.

Here are some photos from our trip over to Singapore back on January 30th, where I visited a doctor and Carolyn took Zoe out onto the Henderson Waves:

Jean ventured further into the heart of Thaipusam

Like I mentioned already, I stayed at the intersection of Serangoon and Kitchener for 3 hours while thousands of devotees paraded past me in all sorts of ways.  Jean decided to jump head first into the center of the action, and she took Sebbie along since he was riding in the papoose.  They left me at the intersection for about an hour while they went inside the temple itself.

Jean got some fantastic photos of guys having the kavadis attached and she even got one of the guy we believe was filling up the milk pots.  By the way, I just read an article about Singapore’s 2016 Thaipusam festival and it said that this was the first time in more than 40 years that live music was allowed in the procession — previously it was banned because officials were concerned that it would lead to unruly behavior.  I mentioned in a previous post that I was surprised at the lack of music in the procession, but I suppose if it was banned for 40 years then it may take a few more years before it really is well integrated into the procession.  The article also said that kavadi translates to “sacrifice at every step”.

Here are the photos Jean took with her new Samsung phone, along with a just a few I took from my phone while my camera was still fogged up: