Saturday, May 26, 2007

Let's wish Rayyan well!

I promised Nik Aiza, a former colleague of mine, to blog her son's ailment a few weeks ago. I must apologise to her for not doing it earlier. I was travelling and doing some NGO work that made me forget what I had set out to do. I now want to rectify that. Hence, this piece.

Aiza's son, Rayyan, went through an extremely difficult period recently, As the doting mother, Aiza focussed all her energy into her son, The following is her e mail to me, which she had also sent to other friends.

It shows that one is never alone when faced adversity. There'll always be families, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers who, out of the kindness of their heart, will come out with deeds or kind words to help us see through the tough times. Aiza certainly had her share of such goodwill.

Let's hear her story:

"I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for the well wishes, kind thoughts, encouragement, contribution & prayers during this difficult period. Rayyan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in early March & was hospitalized in Pantai Medical Centre & then the Pediatric Cancer Ward in University Hospital.

"The total count of his white blood cells were extremely high & his platelets were really low, causing him to bruise easily. He is now undergoing chemo treatment which has several phases, depending on how well he responds to each phase & each phase lasts from about 2-5 weeks. He will finish his 2nd Phase by end of this week, followed by the next round of chemo.

"As the pictures show, he’s generally in high spirits when he’s not being jabbed or treated by the doctors. He especially enjoyed the visitors & gifts (especially Shakirah who is always excited to go to the hospital – never before in her whole life!) – and thank goodness for the portable DVD player! The hospital has volunteers who come over every week with small gifts & balloons.

"And sometimes there are organizations or companies that have small parties – it’s certainly an eye-opener to see that small efforts like these have a huge up-lifting effect not only for the patients, but the affected families & hospital staff as well.

"Rayyan is now at home & needs to visit the hospital every 3 days for his treatment. His blood count is still sometimes low & they’d give him a blood transfusion. There are several types of chemo drugs & ways to administer them. He has oral pills to be taken daily, medication to fight against pneumonia to be taken every 3 days, his hospital treatment is a jab on the butt & also another one thru IV.

"Every 15 days they also take a sample of his bone marrow to test & also to administer another drug thru there. The side effects differ from one person to another & this round of chemo drugs have increased his appetite & made him extra hyper as it works like steroids.

"As we go along, the chemo drugs will intensify & might cause him to get weaker, lose appetite & hair. He’ll need to go for surgery next week to insert something like a chemo-port, which is a tube that’s inserted thru the neck and comes out from his chest.

"The drugs will be administered thru the tube as it is more central & his tiny veins might not be able to “carry” the strong drugs. The doctors have assured us that this is a better choice as it reduces the frequency of his jabs, but we’d have to take extra care of the tube so that it’s not exposed to bacteria.

"When we go for his check-ups, he’d be extremely distressed when we’re in the treatment room, but he’s immediately cheerful again once we leave. I’m relieved that he doesn’t really act like someone who is ill. Insyaallah he’ll be alright as long as things go as planned & we don’t face any set-backs such as fever or falling down.

"With his low blood count & weak immune system due to the chemo, these would be his biggest challenges.

'It’s certainly a difficult journey, but one that must be done for him to return to health. On behalf of my whole family, I’d like to say thanks again to everyone. There are no words to express how thankful we are to have the support of so many. We can only hope that all the blessings will be returned to you & your respective families as well.

"With warm regards,
-Aiza, Izlan, Shakirah & Rayyan."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mahathir met Mahathir - a reunion in Nias

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RECIPROCITY works - that much I can tell you. When Utusan Malaysia reporters working with the Malaysian Red Crescent Society brought back to Kuala Lumpur an Indonesian orphan by the name of Mahathir about two and a half years ago, little did we know that his namesake would in turn visit him in his native land - Nias, off Sumatera.

Nias was hit by a major earthquake about three months after the world's worst tsunami in December 2004. Malaysian rescue teams joined their counterparts from other parts of the world and provided all sorts of help to restore life on the poor island. The MRCS also headed for Nias, as did Mercy, Yayasan Salam, and a host of other NGOs from Malaysia.

It was during one of these missions that Utusan Malaysia journalists encountered an orphan by the name of Mahathir. Upon probing, it was soon revealed that the boy's parents had named the boy after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malausia's former Prime Minister.

The boy was flown to Kuala Lumpur where he had hi-tea with Tun Mahathir and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali at the latter's house at The Mines. There were many well-wishers too who gave the boy gifts while some donated to help repair the orphanage in Nias. Mahathir Jr went home after spending almost one week in KL.

Exactly two weeks ago, on May 4, both the Tuns flew into Nias on a 5-seater Beachcraft King Air. It was a whirlwind tour as Tun Mahathir had really wanted to see how his namesake was doing. As it turned out, Mahathir Jr was down with fever but that did not stop him from welcoming the former PM.

It was a touch and go trip, but Tun still had time to visit the Mercy hospital in the town. The hospital was built with the help of donations from well-wishers, mostly Malaysians, and should be opened soon. Tun's visit was a much-needed boost to Malaysian social workers and volunteers in Nias.

Tun Dr Mahathir and Tun Dr Siti left the island just before dark, catching the next plane to Kuala Lumpur from Medan.

Nias is popular among surfers who said that the waves are very challenging. The island is in need of more infrastructural developments. Much of Nias looked very much like Malaya before Merdeka. Nevertheless, many houses and shops have big satellite dishes. Even Astro is available there.

It was in Nias that I saw AC Milan gave a classy lesson to Man Utd's tired players. "MU kena bully Pak," said an Indonesian worker watching the game live at Mercy's base camp.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Catch the rainbow at Tasik Raban

WHEN you have the time, take a ride with your family or friends to Tasik Raban, about 200-odd kilometres from KL. You take the North-South Highway, exit at Kuala Kangsar and move towards Gerik. You won't regret it.

Just before you take the long Raja Nazrin Bridge near Lenggong, turn right up to a small hillock. A very nice rest area awaits you, with promise of ikan bakar of the exotic kind. You get ikan kaloi, ikan tenggalan and sebarau if you are into fresh water fish. These fish are not sold in the city, and if they are, would fetch hefty prices.

But it is the view from the rest area that takes your breadth away! You can see the long bridge and beneath it is the river that provides livelihood to the local folks. You can see lone fishermen in small boats with their nets besides fish cages where the kaloi and tenggalan are bred.

I stopped there just before sunset last weekend and one can see white clouds on the green-blue hills yonder. It had rained before that and i could feel the cool breeze besides the smell of ikan bakar. At a distance, one can see flock of white birds resting on tree tops and they would occasionally fly in formation. I couldn't make out what birds they were, but they certainly keep everyone fascinated.

It's a great feeling really!

Stay awhile and you'll get to see a rainbow if you are lucky. I saw one, enough to make you wonder how blessed is this country of ours. Up there on the hillock, one is protected from the harsh realities of life, from the hard and dubious campaigning that had taken place in the Ijok by-election, of the traffic snarls that add to the mad rush and stress of urban life.

If you have a free weekend, then make the short trip to Banding, the gateway of the Royal Belum Forest, the world's oldest rainforest. The forest is God's gift to the world and one must visit the area before one retires to the Hereafter.

A gathering of conservationists, naturalists, members of the academia, the corporates and a couple of bloggers last week came away with the conclusion that the Royal belum Forest is the world's heritage that should be protected for future generations.

Dino, Baskaran, Angela, Maye, Latiff, Mashor, Mohan, Kadir, Fabio, Peter, Mus - to name some of those at the gathering - were unanimous that every individual must play the role of a custodian to what could be a haven that may provide the cure of the world's ills and diseases.

Pack your knapsack, load your cameras and make the short trip to Banding. As I said, you won't regret it!

PP, David, Zainal Rampak - labour icons

THE late Dr P P Narayanan used to tell me: "There's plenty of darkness under the lighthouse!" Many of you would know that PP, as he was fondly referred, was somewhat of an icon in the Malaysian trade union movement.

In his hey day, PP was well-loved and respected, and in the rubber estates, he was seen as the champion of workers who toilded to make our rubber industry what it is today. Today, as Malaysian workers celebrate Worker's Day, I'm not sure if PP is still remembered for his contribution to a better life for Malaysian workers.

In the early days, Worker's Day was referred to as Labour Day, which was also referred to May Day. Changing the name Labour Day to Worker's Day was an attempt to dignify the blue collar workers, while widening the scope of recognition of other employees.

PP, usually in his white suit, would walk the estates getting them united in the common pursuit of better wages, living conditions and benefits. He led the National Union of Plantation Workers and under his leadership gave the workers reasons to be together as a movement seeking a better life.

PP had a disciple in the form of the late Dr V David, another stalwart who took labour into active politics. David succeeded in garnering workers sentiments and votes that took him to Parliament in the early '80s. David was a labour leader in every sense of the word, and with his burly size, was often mistaken as a rebel-rouser, which he was not.

His erstwhile partner in labour then was Zainal Rampak, a younger version of David himself. Zainal was a pupil to both PP and David, though it was with David at the Transport Workers Uion that he made his name as an influential trade unionist.

There were other names too who were respected - Ragunathan of the Malaysian Technical Services Union and T Narendran of Cuepacs. Both these leaders were articulate and argued their cases with force and conviction.

The trade union movement had its fair share of critics too. Imagine PP, David and Zainal having had to deal with a union of their own employees! The workers of trade unions formed a trade union because they felt left out and were taken for granted by their employers!

Today's trade unions have a different set of challenges. They have to make a paradigm shift because they no longer lead workers who are only good with their hands but with their brains as well. Today's trade unionists must be e-unionists as well, competent with today's ICT tools so that they can lead by example.

If they don't, they may find themselves no longer relevant to the employment scene in the country. Happy Labour Day!