Thursday, December 16, 2010

How I Met My Dr. House

I rarely watch TV these days so my friends get frustrated when they want to discuss the politics of West Wing or the mysteries of Lost or the latest showbiz buzz and I give them a blank stare. However, there are a few shows, and characters in particular, who interest me.

One of those characters is Dr. House, pictured above. I like him because he is brilliant, cranky, and decisive. He is like a sharp-shooter when it comes to diagnosing patients with conflicting symptoms. The relief on the faces of the patients and their families each time he detects their mysterious illnesses and cures them is something that never fails to move me. He appears to be tough but he cares about people more than he wants to admit. I think I just described my ideal man, but I digress...

I think I may have met my Dr. House yesterday here in Sydney, Australia. Yes, something meaningful and life-changing has happened to me during this vacation, even with all the occasions my family is celebrating, and in the midst of the city's frenzy over Oprah's visit. My elation after this particular doctor's appointment even eclipsed my excitement at watching U2's concert the night before.

I have a medical condition, detected in 1994, which is not life-threatening, at least not yet, but which has caused me much grief over the years. I will not tell you what it is exactly because this is a sensitive topic for me. What I want to share is how God answered my prayer to be taken off my medication which has side effects that were driving me, and, consequently, the poor people around me, crazy.

For the past 15 years I have taken many blood and ultrasound tests that I did not welcome and consulted many doctors who have given me different ways of taking the same medication, which had become like the bane of my existence. Increasingly, I experienced vertigo, nausea, migraine, depression, mood swings, and weight gain. I once consulted a Chinese doctor in Shenzhen who told me that Western medicine always came with side effects. He prescribed a bottle of pills that cost me my entire stipend for that business trip, but it was worth it. For the next three months I was healthy and happy. Unfortunately, I could not read the label on the bottle and was never able to purchase it again because I could not remember the place and did not get the name of the doctor.

It came to a point when I refused to see doctors anymore about this condition. I also stubbornly resisted having another ultrasound test. I went to God in prayer and asked Him to heal me on many sleepless nights. I shed tears, saying that I knew there were millions of people with more serious illnesses, but I could be a better person if He healed me. I thought God didn't hear me at all. I was wrong.

Last year, my sister who is based in Sydney told me that she was referred to a specialist who diagnosed that she had a medical condition which was related to my condition. She was all praises for this doctor, whom I shall call Dr. House, because he was a pioneer and world-class and professional and brilliant. Dr. House apparently told her that her siblings with similar symptoms should take the same test she took and be given the medication he had prescribed her. That sibling was me and my sister practically nagged me to get my behind to a specialist and to take that test. I tried and tried but that test, as Dr. House described it, did not seem to be available in my city, or at least out of my reach.

In the meantime, the migraine attacks and other side effects became more debilitating for me, so I saw another doctor, supposedly a specialist, who increased the dosage of my medicine. I became very sleepy as a result, and was unproductive for the months that I was on that increased dosage. I finally had enough and self-medicated by lowering the dosage.

Then I went on this trip to Sydney for a holiday. My family conspired to make me go to Dr. House. I was resistant, naturally, for I saw him as yet another doctor who could not tell me something I did not already know. Plus I was tired of relating my medical history over and over again. I went to mass and prayed hard for a quiet heart. I lifted up to God my consultation and the results. I put my trust and my hope in Him.

First, I had to take his famous blood test. A note on this, my veins are very thin so it takes more than one try to get a test tube full of blood. For this test, 6 tubes were taken from me, from four different veins, in a span of two hours. The blood collector assigned to me, an Asian, was thankfully very good, but still she had to use the butterfly needle on my hands several times just to get enough for the test. I was weak and hungry by the time I left the clinic, and had to sleep several hours to recover from the experience.

The day of my consultation came and I did not want to be late for my mother and I had Googled Dr. House and had seen how widely known and respected he was in his field. I waited for an hour, and this would have normally ruined my mood, but I did not mind. As I told him later, he was worth the wait.

When he called me by my first name I felt important and recognized, like a little girl picked up by Santa Claus from the crowd. So I followed him to his office and sat down. He went over my account of my medical history. He knew, for his nice secretary told him, that I did not have Medicare and had to pay a lot to get his required test done. Then, he began to explain my test results and what my real condition was. I listened to his every word. He used PowerPoint slides, which endeared him to me. THAT was the way I wanted my doctor to explain to me. Scientific, accurate, and authoritative.

He told me that two things could worsen my condition: the medication I was taking (I was sooo right about that!), and stress. The first one was easy as he prescribed for me the cheapest brand of the right medicine I should have been taking. I asked him what to do about the stress part because it was an occupational hazard for lawyers, and he said I had to see a pscychologist for that, as he had advised all his professional patients. He answered patiently after my every question. I interrupted him when I did not understand. He even anticipated my questions because every time I would start to frown due to incomprehension, he would go back a slide and explain further.

He painted my road to health for the rest of my life in the most convincing manner that it was as if a bright light had enveloped the darkness in my mind. I felt tears starting to form in the midst of our consultation and I fought them back. I invited him to come to my country to lecture to at least the 7 doctors who had misdiagnosed me and to all the doctors in that field, not to disparage them, but because his findings were amazing. He said I should understand that those doctors were concentrating on a different area, not realizing that it was related to another area of my body. Some of them also went the easy way out of addressing the symptoms and not the cause. I asked when he started publishing his findings and he said 1998. I said I wished I had met him then, for I felt cheated of 12 years of my life. I told him some of the things the other doctors had said to me and he replied that if those were done in Australia, the offending doctor would be facing a lawsuit already.

He also had a sense of humor. He measured my height but I forgot that I was wearing my sunglasses like a head band. He said, "Take those off! You're cheating. Like a lawyer." Laughing, I removed my sunglasses and restrained the urge to give Dr. House a bear hug. He informed me so much of my body that I felt like I saw and appreciated it for the very first time.

I was reminded of Helen Hunt's character, Carol the Waitress, from the movie "As Good as It Gets", when she could not stop thanking Jack Nicholson's character, Melvin, for sending the right doctor to her house to heal her sick child. She was so grateful for the miracle that Melvin got embarrassed. If I had the chance I would pour those words of gratitude to my Dr. House. But I did not want to embarrass him.

He gave me a huge discount, considering my situation of not having the Australian government pay for his professional fees. He also showed me a slide that said something like all I needed now, after diet, exercise, and the medicine he had prescribed, was to wait for the right man. I said, "Could you please prescribe one for me, and also send me to the right warehouse where I could get a discount?" He laughed out loud and said I could call him anytime and he would be happy to talk to me, free of charge, if I had any questions about my condition and his prescription. That was generous of him. His professional fees were worth a transatlantic trip. My sister said that I bonded with Dr. House more than she did.

After thanking him and his secretary profusely, I left the office. Every step I took became lighter than the previous one. I had to stop in the middle of the bus station to thank God for this answered prayer. So He was acting, after all. So He was going to save me from my sufferings, after all. So there was an end to my crying, after all.

I celebrated by buying myself a healthy tuna sandwich on wheat with ranch dressing from Subway. I missed the bus by doing this but I did not mind. I decided that MY doctor was indeed a cross between Dr. House and Santa Claus. Most of all, I recognized that he was sent by God, through my family.

If this is my Advent, I am sure that Christmas will be even happier.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mass at St. Patrick's Church

Today is the third Sunday of Advent. I was able to attend mass at St. Patrick's Church in The Rocks for the first time.

Although the mass is the same everywhere, I am making a pilgrimage around Sydney's Catholic churches this season of Advent.

The priest wore rose vestments to signify that Advent is drawing to a close and the Lord Jesus is coming soon!

I prayed for greater focus because I had many distractions. There have been movements in my heart but I have not had the opportunity to pray about them as much as I would have wanted.

This was even made more manifest when I got distracted by two little boys' whining during mass. They cried nonstop. I prayed for the grace to restrain myself from giving the boys' parents dagger looks. I was, after all, in the house of God and was supposed to be participating at mass. I thought the boys were disturbing the whole congregation, but after mass I asked my father if he noticed the noise, but he said he did not. Papa must have been praying while I was complaining.

I related it to the way I looked at the week ahead. I came to mass with much anxiety about an upcoming checkup and an event I did not plan to go to. I was so consumed by all my fears when I should have been grateful for the opportunity to be seen by a world-class doctor and to meet new people at the event.

Even up to now, I still hold on to the worry button when I should be filled with gratitude, appreciation, and excitement. I have to consciously clean my thoughts so I would look at the blessings instead of the challenges.

So I asked God to give me the grace to believe in Him more so my fear would give way to joy.

I saw this sign at the store: 12 more shopping days until Christmas. For a Christian, this sign should read: Twelve more days until we remember the first Christmas!

I wonder where I will attend mass next week. I am certain that by then I would be reporting all good news for the things I prayed about today. For I am well into Advent, the season of Hope.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Now Showing: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I highly recommend Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I found it was much, much better than Prince Caspian, as I fell asleep while watching the latter on HBO, despite the boy-next-door charm of the lead character.

In the third book to be made into a movie, Lucy has grown up and is no longer the innocent and cute little queen we have loved from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In this film, she struggles with her self-image issues and battles with her insecurities. Edmund is still haunted by the White Witch somehow and deals with his baggage about always playing second fiddle. And Caspian... what can I say about Caspian? If I were a teenager I would be swooning over him. He has transformed from prince into king splendidly.

I watched it on 3D so the special effects were more magnificent. I thought I would be seasick but thankfully, I did not. The film was so realistic I momentarily thought I had water on my 3D glasses.

The movie's Christian theme, injected in a few lines all throughout, came to a glorious end with the appearance of Aslan. Somehow, it made sense that he did not come early to rescue the young people from their battles. They had to go through them, to fight the darkness inside them and to face their fears with courage.

The faith and hope that the characters had was contagious. By the end of the film I too wanted to believe that I must not shy away from adventure, that I had all the tools and weapons to fight my enemies, and I would happily meet Aslan, but by the Name He is known in this world.

This movie is for God's children, for them to be in Narnia again so they can go back to the real world knowing that God is real. He is there for all His children.

I have to refrain myself from adding spoilers here. Please watch it and believe again.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A New Church Every Week

This season of Advent, one of the blessings I have received is the opportunity to visit a different parish every Sunday.

Last week, I attended mass here:

This was at St Peter and Paul's, Wisdom St Garran, ACT, where 17 priests from the Missionaries of God's Love concelebrated the mass. It was their 25th anniversary and also a time when brothers made initial vows and promises.

Then yesterday, I was in Lane Cove, Sydney. I heard mass with my father at the church where my sister got married:

Next week, I will post another photo. And maybe my advent reflections too. :)