Whenever my mum sends me messages like this, my heart feels all warm and fuzzy and I feel a little bashful. I am so thankful for this beautiful and resilient woman who gave birth to me and raised me, and till this day still loves me so unconditionally. On a day like this, my celebrations are now so much more about her and less about me. Thank you mama, I love you to the moon and back.

In these last few years, I have really struggled with conflicting feelings on each birthday. On one hand I feel like “this is SUCH A SPECIAL DAY, I need to cherish every second!” Yet on the other hand, I do not really know how to celebrate anymore. I do not throw parties, or invite friends to dinner, or want to make much of a fuss these days… largely because I don’t really have many close friends left in this city, but also because I am too lazy, and also because I do feel burdened by the weight of every rise in the numbers that indicate my age.

Perhaps on a day of emotional conflict like this, it will be best to spend some time in thoughtful reflection. Here it goes..

Things I am thankful for:

  1. I am finally in my final year of specialist training. This time next year, I will have CCT’d and be eligible for a consultant job. At last, after so many years on the conveyor belt of exams, WPBAs, registrar on-calls and ARCPs, the end is in sight. Imagine me, a consultant, a boss!
  2. I have found a creative outlet/ hobby at last! Since October of this year, I have taken up brush lettering. It is perfect for a person who cannot commit to doing things at fixed times at specific locations like me. I can practice anytime and anywhere. All I need is an ink-filled brush pen and some paper. I am in awe of people who write beautifully. I hope my practice pays off, and I can eventually graduate from brush lettering to modern calligraphy.
  3. I SAW GD IN CONCERT THIS YEAR! I breathed the same air he breathed. I saw his charming, bashful smile in real life. The excitement of seeing GD made me feel alive again.

Things I am prayerful for (short-term):

  1. Smooth sailing redecoration of my parents’ house. It is an exciting time- we are renovating! The 20 year old, yellowed and creaky built-in cupboards, desks and shelves will finally be hacked. The tiny holes on the floor will finally be filled and the tiles polished. We are installing an oven in the kitchen. The greyed walls will finally receive a fresh coat of paint! I am so excited to see our old flat look new again. We have been packing and throwing- that was all I did when I went home in October. It is such a challenge to try and throw out the trash we have hoarded for the last 30 years (I found it particularly hard to throw away stuff from my childhood) and to pack everything into boxes. I was exhausted after only 2 weeks of that… I hope my parents cope better as they have to continue this process till the actual renovation begins next February/ March. I pray that mum will not get too stressed out and that the whole process goes a lot smoother than we ever expected.
  2. What happens next in my career. I have come to yet another point/ cross-road where I have to apply for jobs again. What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? What does God want me to do? Where does God want me to work? I am thinking of a post CCT fellowship, potentially at the tertiary paediatric centre in this city… but I am also thinking about Canada, or Australia, or even Singapore? I also want to go and work on Mercyships for a bit. However, if I leave the UK, does this mean an end to this chapter of my life? Moving on after 14 years is not going to be easy.
  3. I need some new friends. New good friends. New best friends.

Things I want to fully trust God for (longer-term):

  1. Health for me and my family. I have started exercising regularly, and have certainly started taking a keen interest in what I put into my body. At present, I STILL haven’t seen much change in my body but I need the Lord to help me persevere. I need to lose weight, and I want to look beautiful for myself. Quite honestly, I would like to have a 6 pack at some point in this life. I hope this point is now.
  2. A husband and children. When I was about 14 or 15 years old, my mum suggested that it was a good time to start praying for my future husband. I took her advice and have done so for years. Yet, I am 32 and STILL single. Cycles of posts have come and gone on my social media. Friends posted about their new boyfriends and girlfriends. Then people started getting engaged. This was followed by a flux of wedding photographs. Baby pictures then flooded my FB feed. And now people are posting about their 2nd, their 3rd or their 4th child. Other friends have gotten divorced and are re-married. Through all of these… my relationship status has remained unchanged. Single, a little desperate, and seemingly unwanted. I’m not entirely sure why men are not interested. Perhaps it is my fierce independence? Or maybe I am just too boring? Now that I am 32, I’m thinking that I may be too old? Whatever it is, I hope these will be overcome and that the Lord blesses me with a single, Christian man. And if possible, a couple of wonderful children.
  3. Contentment. People love to ask the question “If you were to have one superpower, what would it be?” I’ve thought long and hard about this… and whilst most people will tend to suggest “invisibility”, “telekinesis” or “time travelling”, I think I would prefer to be blessed with the power of feeling content. I would like to be content and happy in any and every situation that life throws at me.

Dear Lord, hear my prayers.


I was invited over to the Tons’ residence for dinner this evening.

It has been a while since I’ve had a dinner invitation of any sort by anyone, so I was very happy to accept their invitation.

We had dinner in their new house, which was beautifully decorated.

N made a really pleasant dinner- roast chicken, mixed salad, egg and couscous, beans… yum.

JH and DW live with them too, so I had the pleasure of enjoying their company for dinner as well.

After our food, we sat out on the steps leading out to their backyard. DW lit a fire in the little ‘cauldron’ outside so as to keep us cosy and warm on this cool summer’s evening. We threw some incense into the fire too, and were quickly enveloped by a magnificent aroma. Soothing music played in the background, and I was thoroughly relaxed.

Under the beautiful full moon, we sat around the crackling fire chatting about anything and everything. From our work, to birthing, musicals, food, dental whitening, superstitions, to Christian attitudes towards gay friends and how to show love to homeless beggars on the streets… we spoke sincerely to each other and laughed a lot.

It was wonderful.

It has been a really long time since I have spent such an amazing time with friends.

Dear Lord, thank you so much.

Pensive on the train back home again

Just dropped my parents and brother off at the airport.
I absolutely hate goodbyes. Whether I am leaving them or being left behind by them, I always end up turning the waterworks on full blast. I find myself reduced into yet another sobbing mess as I bemoan the distance and time that separates us. I love my fam-bam and really wish I can be closer to them. Sure, there are plenty of trying days when we are together- dealing with my bro’s complete nonchalance about virtually everything, my dad’s apparent acopia borne simply out of laziness & forgetfulness, and mother’s fearsome and capricious temperament. There are days of frustration, days of anger, days of tears… But ultimately, I know that my mood gets swayed so much by these three people simply because I love them and care about them too much. Will I be moved by people that I simply do not give two hoots about? I very much doubt so.

When we are together, I feel stronger. I know someone has my back. I know they will be there as extra pairs of hands (as demonstrated by this morning’s extremely efficient packing and house-cleaning), I know they are there to comfort me in my sadness (trying not to remember last August), to advise me in my searching moments, to multiply the joy that bears out of my proudest moments (a la FRCA graduation). I treasure this family and I am ever thankful to God for them.

The last 12 days with them by my side have been tiring but precious. Tiring because I am an interpreter, a tour guide, a driver, a grocery shopper, a time keeper, a bill payer. I am weary because I find myself constantly worrying if they are still hungry, if they need the loo, if they are warm enough, if they are sufficiently rested, if they are too tired or achy as we travel across and even out of the country. I have had many chances to hold my parents’ hands these last 2 weeks. However, the strength of their grip and the weight of their pull on my arm has made me realise how much they have aged, and their increasing dependence on me- this realization makes me sad, and this has been emotionally exhausting.

Nevertheless, these days have been precious. We have gone away and seen some of the most stunning of God’s creations. We have enjoyed each other’s company and have created a multitude of wonderful memories for us to hold on to.

Perhaps being such a family- orientated person is God’s way of telling me that He will ultimately provide me with my own. Perhaps He will one day bless me with a husband and children. After all, He knows how much strength I draw from family, and will hopefully complete me as a person by eventually placing the correct puzzle piece of a man to fit me wonderfully- complete with all my jaunty angles and jutty- outty bits.

I shall not assume that God’s plans are going to necessarily fit mine. Perhaps He knows that my overt attachment to my worldly loved-ones is actually not healthy for me. Perhaps God has decided that keeping me single will spare me the potentially debilitating ache of fretting over, and ultimately losing loved ones in this world that we are simply passing through. Perhaps this is His way of protecting me.

I lift all up to you Lord.

My mum, my dad, my brother.

And my future significant other.

Blown it

There is a guy in church JH whom I have been really wanting to get to know for the last year or so. I never had a chance to go up to him and have a quick chat- no, not even a superficial one. Lately, he started attending the afternoon church services (whilst I continued to go to the morning ones) so the chances of seeing him have been reduced dramatically. We have known of each other for the last 10 years, but never actually had a proper conversation. Why am I interested now? you may ask. Well, because he is a rarity. He is a single, Christian, (pretty good-looking) man- one of the last few that I know of who isn’t 10 years my junior.

Today, I got my chance. We were at a thanksgiving lunch for one of the kids from our church. There was an empty seat next to him, so I asked to join him at the table. We got chatting and it was nice. It was really lovely to see a man who loved Jesus so much. His passion for the Lord translated into real action of going out as a missionary in parts of the world hostile to the gospel. He spoke animatedly about his desire to share the good news of Christ with the people around him. It was evident that God has filled his cup, and his cup runs over. I was attracted to him instantly purely for his love of my Lord Jesus.

But I faltered. Throughout our conversation, I do not think I came across eloquent, or confident, or attractive at all. I am completely clueless/ rusty at the whole flirting game. Well strictly speaking, I was not trying to flirt, though I was definitely trying to make more of an impression, and make myself appear more interesting and attractive. I was failing majorly as a woman seeking something more.

I guess I can say that I have “blown my chances” as the attraction certainly does not seem to be mutual.

Oh well. Pressing onward in my singleness. Chin up J.

It is all in God’s hands.



I’ve turned tremendous thirty today.

Feeling thoughtful, thankful and terrific! (And maybe a little timid)

Blessed with the company of my lovely family, seeking new adventures and creating new memories.

God is so good, is so good, is so good to me.

I love you Jesus

BFFs? Maybe not anymore

Today I came to a (startling) revelation that one of my girlfriends whom I have always considered my “BFF” may not be a BFF after all.

I have known her for 14 years and we have certainly been close friends… but upon careful reflection, she is not my best friend by any measure.

To me, best friends are people who will be there for you all the time. People who have the same general outlook in life as you do. People who will stick with you through thick and thin and provide encouragement along the way. BFFs are people whom you can pour your heart out to, who will listen to you rant and ramble without making any judgment. They are the ones to whom you can speak before you think, or maybe even know what you want to say without so much as a word being exchanged.

KS is none of the above.

I have no doubt that we used to “click” and enjoyed each other’s company. I have no doubt that there was once a time when I could say anything and everything to her. I have no doubt that she was once a true BFF to me. Once upon a time.

I think time and distance has drawn us apart. Perhaps further than I am willing to admit. With her living in the USA for the last 8 years and me in the UK for the last 12, her living with her boyfriend and me remaining forever alone still, her pursuing an academic career and me a clinical one… I think our paths which once were crossed have now straightened out into parallel lines. Perhaps I don’t know who this person is anymore.

I find it so daunting to speak to her these days. Everything that I say needs to be politically correct. Everything I say gets a comeback from her. When I make a comment about my wants and desires, she throws a wet blanket over and never ceases to remind me how the grass is always greener on the other side. When I pass judgment over someone or something, she quickly reminds me that she never judges because “you have to hear the other side of the story.” When I talk about something interesting I’ve seen on facebook, she is swift to tell me to stop living my life through others’ and to “get off facebook and get a hobby” (whilst she herself is a subscriber to every single form of social media known to mankind). When I lament about the tragic state of society in general, she hastens to quip that “you shouldn’t make such sweeping statements.”

Yes, I know that she may well mean well. She may sincerely want me to have a balanced outlook at things. But no, I need this voice of reason when I’m being stupid; not when I’m frustrated and upset. When I’m irritated or sad I need a girlfriend who will just listen and build me up, not someone who will kick me to add an extra bruise to my wounds.

I’m fed up and sad at the same time.

Every time I get beat down I get so angry. I get so mad that I can literally feel the heat build up towards my head. I shake with frustration and then become completely inarticulate (which totally does not help my cause). I get so pissed off with her for making me feel like I am of questionable character.

Or am I really just pissed off with the fact that perhaps we are truly no longer the BFFs that we naively thought will actually last forever?

I really want this friendship to work. Having lost so many precious friendships to time, distance and relationships, I am grasping onto whatever is left. But I guess whatever is left is simply not good enough.

Not good enough.

And it hurts.

Wherefore art thou, Peace?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:6-7

A catastrophe at work has haunted me for the last month.

Guilt, regret, sadness and fear have become my predominant emotions of late.

Within my head, there are dark clouds looming. A howling wind sweeps across my heart, and a severe chill pierces my soul.

I have been washing my face with tears. I have been crying in the bathroom at work- a lot. Anything and everything seem to be capable of turning the tap on- a word from my consultant, a dirty look from a nurse, a careless remark from a junior, and even an attempt to share prayer requests at cell group.

The flashbacks have been particularly painful. Scenes of that fateful morning run across my mind a couple of times a day, each time ripping my heart apart to make it bleed just a little bit more.

Why did it have to happen to me?

I am awaiting closure, which as yet does not seem imminent.

The helplessness and suffering is real. It is so real that it is crippling.

I have been struggling to get out of bed. Struggling to smile. Struggling to find confidence.

Dear Lord, through all of this, please help me sing the words of the psalmist:

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Be still, my soul. For the Lord is on your side.

Success is sweet because the sacrifice has been so great

The week leading up to the final viva examination were awfully horrible days. I had taken annual leave to revise at home; but after 4 months of solid revision, I seemed to have completely and utterly run out of steam. I would get up at about 10am everyday, faff around for about 2-3 hours on youtube before finally forcing myself to sit down and stare at the books. The procrastination got so out of hand that I ended up having to eject myself from the house and its distractions to study at the nearest cafe. Nevertheless, the first couple of hours were always the least productive, and it would take me another 2-3 hours to learn the first topic of the day. My revision momentum would build up so painfully slowly, and I would only feel as if I was starting to get into the rhythm of things at about 7 or 8pm at night. The “real revision” then goes on till about 3 or 4 am in the morning before I decide that I have done enough for the day and probably deserved to go to bed.

Once in bed, I would proceed to “quickly” run through everything I learnt that day in my mind. The process was often not as quick as I had expected it to be, and regularly led to tangents whereby I would try and remember other things that I had learnt the day, week, or even month before. Going to sleep was never a conscious decision, and I was almost always led to dreamland only when the machinery that is my brain would “hang” mid-thought. Sometimes I would fall asleep, then suddenly jolt awake and begin to run through how I would anaesthetise a phaeochromocytoma, or a patient with chronic renal failure, or someone with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (just checking if I had forgotten).

It was really a rough time that I thoroughly did not enjoy. The more I revised, the more things seemed to crop up that needed looking up. Learning about oxygen was never just about the gas itself. It would lead on to how oxygen is distilled from air, how it is stored, how it is transferred from the pipeline through the anaesthetic machine and to the patient, how it is measured. That would then lead on to a question on the oxygen cascade and oxygen carriage in blood. Which then brings us to the topic of indications for long term oxygen therapy, or hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and the effects of oxygen toxicity. Now, that is only on the topic of oxygen. Imagine expounding on every single other topic that is in the curriculum in the same way. My mind was completely and utterly saturated.

I remember evenings when I would feel so overwhelmed and anxious that my palpitations would kick off again. I remember the uncomfortable churning in my stomach as I struggled to cope with the knowledge of my lack of knowledge. I remember the one night when I prayed to God and sobbed my eyes out. It was all getting too much. I was physically, emotionally and mentally drained. My stamina was running out, but somehow I had to keep it all together. I must not peak too early, nor should I sink into a state of despair prematurely. I had to keep myself together and pace myself to reach peak form on the 24th of June.

Hobbo and I became a revision pair before the exam as well. Thanks to the wonders of technology, we could viva each other almost every evening via Skype. We tried to work through the past questions on the Coventry Final FRCA website, and sought to ask each other the harder & more unexpected questions that have previously come up. Somehow, we had to practice how to talk AROUND things that we knew nothing about. We had to dig deep into working things out from first principles, and learn to deliver an answer we are unsure of with an overwhelming confidence. I found that one of the hardest things to do.

I took the train down to London the day before the exam. En route, I worked through the College questions from the College guidebook. I managed 2 long cases, 2 short cases and 2 science questions… and then headache struck. The same headache I had when I was on the train down to London for my Primary viva 2 years ago. The headache that required me to close all my books and bury my head into folded arms on the table.

I eventually arrived in London and checked into my usual exam hotel at Studios2let. I revised a little more. I then headed off to Nandos for the usual pre-exam dinner, and as usual looked through R.Craig’s statistics notes as I ate. I must have gone through these exact same motions at least 3-4 times in the last 4 years. Anyway, I continued to do some more revision on one of the art installations outside Euston station that evening, and it was only after I had convinced myself that I could remember the Van Hoff’s equation for osmotic pressure that I decided it was time to head back to the hotel. More attempts at last minute cramming ensued, but I could simply put no more into my brain that day. I was completely spent, and all I was achieving was placing myself in a state of panic. I made the conscious decision to stop. Shower. Sleep.

The alarm clock rang. It was a signal to war. I got up and showered, packed, and prayed. As I cried out to the Lord, I could feel my teeth chattering, my hands trembling, my muscles stiffening up. Adrenaline and anxiety surged through me. The nausea I felt that morning made having breakfast a rather difficult and drawn out affair. I had no appetite to eat at all, but I knew I had to force this brain food down my gullet. Breakfast was followed by a long, slow walk to Red Lion Square with my luggage in tow. I did not feel good that morning- my head was not clear. I felt fuzzy. I knew I was not in top form. Had I gone past my peak? I contemplated this as I made my way to the college… and then something caught my eye. A passer-by emerged from a shop wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Success is certain.” That proved to be my motivation for the day, and I regarded that as a sign from God.

More palpitations, tachycardia, shortness-of-breath, and queasiness later, we were finally led to our exam. The morning exam was the clinical vivas. My long case was on an obese man with hypertension and a history of alcohol excess presenting for elective knee replacement. He was found to have an ejection systolic murmur and left ventricular hypertrophy on his ECG. I prepared my case as though he had aortic stenosis, only to be given an echocardiogram and cardiac MRI result during the exam itself saying that the valves were normal! So scrap aortic stenosis! Summon all knowledge on HOCM, on the spot! That was the route the exam went down instead.

My first clinical short case was on sepsis- fairly straightforward in my opinion.

The 2nd started with “What is Crohn’s disease? How does it present and how is it treated?” My heart sank- medicine! Flippin’ medicine! I’m trying to sit an anaesthetic exam here! Leave medicine to the medics! Anyway, I summoned everything I could remember about Crohn’s from my med school finals as a 4th year medical student 8 years ago. It was slightly painful. Thankfully, we moved away from general medicine and swiftly onto sedation practices for gastroscopies and colonoscopies. Not my hottest topic considering that I last looked up sedation guidelines 2 years ago- but it wasn’t terrible.

The final short case was on retained placenta. Great- I cover the maternity on-call ALL THE TIME so I should be hot on this. “What are your concerns pre-operatively?” I started with “the patient still has the physiological changes of pregnancy…” Nope, they didn’t want to hear that. “Bleeding.” What else? “Infection?” What else? I ran out of things to say. “How quickly does she need to come to theatre?” “Immediately if she is bleeding and haemodynamically unstable. As soon as is practically possible if she is stable- excessive delays should be avoided.” Not the answer they were looking for. “Within 75min?” They didn’t look happy. The examiner took me all over the place with this question, and kept coming back to “what are your other concerns?” I was so frustrated as I simply did not know what she was looking for. Thankfully, the final bell rang just in time to save me from the misery she was putting me through.

I left the morning exam feeling intensely dissatisfied. The exam just kept replaying in my mind, and the more I thought about it, the worse my performance appeared to be. I was convinced they had both given me a 0 for that last short case. That means I lost at least 4 marks just on that question alone. Assuming that I scored full marks for the other questions (which I was not sure I had), that gave me a budget of 4 marks to lose in the afternoon’s science exam- my weakest area, the very area that led to my failure the last time. That means I am likely to fail. Fail. Fail. Fail. I imagined having to undergo the hell that is revision and exams a 3rd time. I thought about how upsetting it would be to have to scrap my 30th birthday plans so as to revise for the December re-sit. I was miserable (even when eating lunch from my favourite Japanese fast food restaurant in London: Wasabi!).

After lunch, I went back to the college and sat in the lecture theatre for about an hour or so whilst waiting for the afternoon exam to start. I tried to put some last minute information into my (still fuzzy) brain. There were a couple of other candidates around me that afternoon, everyone desperately trying to keep it all together. Eventually, it all got a little bit too much. I needed to have a breath of fresh air, so I went outside to Red Lion Square and sat on one of the park benches there. I stopped myself from thinking about work, concentrating instead on how lovely and sunny it was, and how comfortable it was to feel the light breeze in my hair. Now and again a moment of panic would strike, and I would calm myself down by thinking of that “success is certain” sign I saw in the morning. Nick had also sent me a message that afternoon “Good luck Dr T! Keep going, you can do it!” YES I CAN. Keep the 3Cs J. Remember the story of the broken pencil. You are the worst judge of your own performance. Forget the morning, concentrate on the afternoon!

A gruelling 3 hours of waiting later, I went back to sit my afternoon exam. After putting my bag back into the locker, I thought “I should just quickly glance at the anatomy of the facial nerve…” Nevertheless, I struggled to find the appropriate page in my textbook… so I thought “oh screw it, I can’t be that unlucky.”

My anatomy viva started with “In which situations do we have to monitor cranial nerve function?” Flippin’ heck, I knew what they were going to follow up that question with. I kept my composure and started going on about monitoring facial nerve function in ENT surgery, 3rd and 6th nerve function in raised ICP, brainstem death testing, Guillan Barre Syndrome…” Then the question came “describe the anatomy of the facial nerve.” Great, I know nothing about it. I made some crap up on the spot, and even said that it exited the base of skull via the foramen magnum???!! (what an idiot). I was just about to lose it when I remembered some advice I received via email- move on! There are marks to be scored in later questions, don’t dwell on what you don’t know. So move on I did. We talked about the cranial nerves tested in each aspect of brainstem death testing, how recurrent laryngeal nerve function is monitored… we talked about loads of stuff, and even though I have never really encountered this question in my exam prep, I was surprised by how much I actually did know.

Then, the rest of the exam flew past and I knew I nailed the science. I was so thankful to God that nothing unexpected came up. We talked about the physiology of moving from the supine to lateral position in thoracic surgery, and causes of hypoxia in one lung ventilation. My pharmacology question was on drugs for diabetes and the treatment of DKA. I offered them 2 classification systems for insulin. How they are made (bovine, porcine or recombinant DNA), or how long their effects last (rapid, short, intermediate, long). They caught onto it and said “ok, so tell me about how insulin is made from recombinant DNA.” I had no idea, so I threw in any DNA-related jargon I knew. “I’m not entirely sure, but I assume that we hold the genetic code for insulin, and using codon-anticodon triplet matching, amino acids can be lined up in the correct order for expression of the insulin polypeptide.” Completely made that up, no idea if it is even true, but at least I think I sounded confident. They then wanted me to dig further into my knowledge as a foundation doctor from years ago and tell them about the times to peak effect and duration of action of each class of insulin. I wasn’t too hot on that, but could give vague timings based on memory. Finally, the physics question was on the safety features of vapourisers. I like the vapouriser topic, so didn’t struggle too much. I even offered to draw them a picture of the desflurane vapouriser! They asked about the effects of altitude on the functioning of vapourisers- something that I still cannot get my head around till this day, but I said what I knew (partial pressure unchanged, concentration decreased) and left it at that… I caught myself just before I went on to expound on my lack of knowledge.

I came away from the science exam feeling rather good. However, the dark cloud from the morning continued to loom over me as I sat in the Square Pig pub with Hobbo and Matt. The both of them were convinced they had failed. Honestly, they were so sad and angry. Hobbo had a different set of questions to mine and I can honestly say that he had a really bad set of questions. Apparently he had to tell them about the exact cytokines and local mediators and how their concentration changes in the presence of pulmonary hypertension (what??!). But the worst question has got to be “Tell me about Alzheimer’s disease and the drugs used to treat it” Are you for real?! An entire pharmacology viva on drugs for Alzheimer’s?? I’m not even sure that is in the curriculum. We have certainly not seen it in any of the anaesthetic textbooks. Hobbo said that he tried to direct his viva to talking about drugs for Parkinsons or drugs for depression, but they would have none of it. His examiner literally had to lead him to every answer “if they are very agitated what do you think they will need?” “If I told you that they are low in acetylcholine what do you think they may be on?” I felt sorry for him for having such bad luck.

1715hr eventually came, and it was time for us to return to the college for our results. I remember standing right outside the college’s glass doors panicking. I muttered under my breath “please let me see my candidate number on the grid, please let me see my number…” I paced up and down and back and forth feeling almost sick from the anxiety. Matt was worried sick too, and eventually came and put his head on my shoulders. That was when I whispered to him “shall we pray?” Matt nodded.

I’ve always known that Matt is a Christian, but we have hardly ever said much about Christianity or our faith to each other. That day though, I felt the overwhelming need to pray with him and for him. We have been through a heck of a lot of hell together for this exam. So there we stood, outside the door of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, heads bowed to our Lord and Saviour. 2 desperately anxious anaesthetists begging the Lord for peace.

And peace was bestowed. Almost instantaneously, I felt so much better. Through prayer, we were reminded that everything is in God’s hands. We need not fear nor tremble, for the Lord is sovereign over it all. That was possibly one of the most precious moments I experienced on that horrible day- the reminder that GOD IS IN CONTROL.

We eventually went inside to collect the “Success grid.” I peeled away from the others with my little sheet. I closed my eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. This was the moment of truth. Slowly, ever so slowly, I worked my way from the bottom of the grid upwards, scanning constantly for my candidate number…

AND I FOUND IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Final SOE pass

I passed! I passed! I passed!

I turned around and saw Hobbo peering over at me. The moment I saw him, my face just crumpled up and I started sobbing and sobbing and sobbing. After trying to hold it together for the last few months, after all the fears and frustration, after all the sacrifices I have made, suddenly I have received relief. Hobbo hugged me. “Did you pass?” I nodded, and he held me even more tightly. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I looked up at him and asked “did you?” And YES HE DID!!! I was elated!! The Hobster and I have worked so so so so hard together. Right from the very start when we were building the structure of propofol from styrofoam balls and sticks, to our days revising for the primary viva exam at the women’s hospital, to the times spent working through final MCQ/SBA/SAQ questions with study gambling, through all the courses we attended together, failing the final viva exam last December, to the evening skype viva revision sessions we did together in the last few months… now we have both passed! Together! On the same day! Freedom is offered! I thanked the Hobbo for being my revision partner, and he said to me that “I couldn’t have done it without you either.” Such precious words.

We turned around to find Matt, and he had passed too! Group hug! We are now fellows of the Royal College of Anaesthetists. We are post FRCA. No more exams thank you very much. The thought of it, no more exams! This is all too good to be true. We are so elated. So joyous. So relieved. So thankful. Matt pulled me apart and said “let’s thank God together.” So there we stood, this time INSIDE the Royal College, as fellows, praising God and thanking Him for His goodness to us. Through the tough times when I was hospitalized with palpitations, and Matt needing a gastroscopy due to exam-anxiety related reflux, God has been faithful and led us through it all to this point. The point of relief. We are so thankful.

The people from the college then called out our names and candidate numbers so that we could form orderly rows. We listened to a retiring examiner give her speech to the newly appointed fellows (whoop! whoop!) and then proceeded to this strange college tradition whereby the successful candidates would go and shake the hands of all the examiners that day (they were all stood in a line). We were then offered the legendary glass of wine- the one that we’ve heard talked about so many times, the glass of wine of success. Not the finest of wines out there, but certainly the most expensive glass I have ever paid for– £2700 worth in exam fees alone (primary & final exams). That’s not even counting the money spent on books, courses, train tickets, hotel fees. Or my mental health and social life. That day, I had a change in mood… and it was only then that I realised how miserable I have been for the last 4 years. I had become so used to feeling so miserable that it seemed like the normal way to feel! Every single year had consisted of 3-4 months of exam prep, exam, rest for 2 months. Start revising for the next test again, exam, rest. And the cycle repeats. Now the cycle is broken. Thank God.

We were all so excited that evening. Matt was so excited that he even went on to (accidentally) smash his most expensive glass of wine onto the floor (silly thing)… but that did not put a damper on our spirits. We just could not help but address each other as Dr_____, FRCA. Whoop Whoop! It was a pleasure to sign in the register of the Royal College of Anaesthetists. Yes, my name is finally in the book. It is in the book! In the book! Whoop whoop! I was drunk on happiness and relief.

We took a tonne of photos that evening. Eventually, when we had savoured our time in the “pass room,” it was time to head back home. As we headed towards Euston station, we agreed that we will allow ourselves to relish in pride and maybe a little bit of arrogance that day and perhaps even the day after before getting back to reality (and humility of course). Because who are we? WE ARE CHAMPIONS!!!! There were so many smiles and laughter abounded that evening. Even our Burger King dinner at the train station tasted like it was manna from the heavens. This time, I wasn’t taking the train of shame back home- I was on the train for champions!

What a day to remember, and I probably will not forget this for a very long time to come.

Hallelujah, praise the Lord.

Biggest meltdown of 2014

I have spent most of boxing day today enjoying the Korean TV series “You Who Came From the Stars.” It is a great show, and I am now hooked after an online marathon of the last 12 episodes.

However, about 20 minutes ago, I found myself sobbing my eyes out in the middle of the show. It was not so much due to the drama’s plot, but rather because I was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of overwhelming loneliness and helplessness. Out of the blue, I started feeling intensely sorry for myself.

December has been a particularly rough month for me. While I am thankful for the Christmas break this weekend, my mind continues to replay all the little things that have been taking it in turns to nibble away at the facade of strength I wear everyday:

The work-study-sleep life cycle that ushered in this last month of 2014.

The times at viva practice and at the revision courses when I felt like everyone else just did not like me and wanted to work in a different group from me.

The dirtiest look Liz has ever thrown at me when I could not describe to her the anatomy of the Larynx during one of our practice viva sessions.

Sitting the exam with such confidence that I will pass (because I have worked so so hard), only to scan the list of successful candidates over and over and over again but fail to find my candidate number over and over and over again.

The shame of having to tell everyone that I have FAILED and let them down, especially after all the efforts that some people have gone to help me out.

Being on lists with consultants who repeatedly tell me that what I am doing is wrong. In fact, A Jones went as far as not even letting me touch his patient or the anaesthetic machine when we were on an eye list the other day.

I am a crappy anaesthetist. I was 2nd on-call 2 days ago- I could not do a sciatic nerve block, could not get the damned CVC line into this renal patient (granted, she has had LOTS of IV access issues in the past), did not notice that the patient had been slowly oozing out a fifth of her circulating volume in the last 4 hours…

Went on holiday with JX and had her antagonising me and throw scathing remarks for all my inappropriate jokes, my vulgarness, my inattentiveness, my general stupidity… all whilst willing myself to swallow down my pride and not say or do anything that will ruin a friendship that I actually still do treasure.

Attended the Christmas day church service yesterday morning, only to be surrounded by families with babies and lots of people that I do not know (mind, I have been in this church for 7 years). Even a family that I did know chose to sit a seat away from me to keep their distance, and said very little to me. I ended up being seated by my lonesome self in the corner of the room most of the morning.

Spent Christmas with the W family yesterday, which was lovely, other than the fact that the invitation came so late that inviting me almost seemed like an afterthought. Their oldest little boy, whom I love, also treated me like he did not care that I was there- no requests for me to read him a storybook like he always did… in fact, no interaction at all!

I am lonely and pining for some love and affection.

So yes, for all of the above reasons, I wailed and whimpered for a good 10 minutes. I had thought that my lacrimal glands do not work anymore… especially when I simply could not summon tears when I had wanted to vent my exam-related frustrations earlier in the month. Well, that is definitely not true because the tears came on fast and furious today. My “walls” broke down during that time, and for 10 minutes, I stopped lying to myself that everything is ok. I know that all is not fine. I am miserable, insecure and lonely.

Obviously, the sobbing had to stop when I finally managed to tire myself out. It almost seems ludicrous but I also patted myself on the shoulder for a good 5 minutes in consolation that “everything will be alright,” “things will get better.” I really needed a touch, a hug, a hand to hold, but that was all I could offer myself…

Now that the tears have been wiped off, time to pick yourself up again J.

Gambatte ne!