Friday, 29 July 2011

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

A friend of mine joked that Rihanna is in serious trouble. She has disturbia, she plays Russian roulette, she likes rude boys, she thinks she is the only girl in the world and to top it all off, she forgot her name! Talking of names, I heard this series of jokes about the Chinese. A Chinese who is a loser is called Hu Wes Mek. Another Chinese fellow went by the name of Dinka Adek. When asked how he obtained a Nilotic name while his looks definitely show that he is a born and raised Asian, he had a story to tell. He was at the customs walking behind this tall Sudanese guy, one Dinka Adek. After Dinka was served by the customs official, the Chinese came up next. The official asked, ‘Name?’ and the Chinese replied, ‘Sem Ting’, and the official went on to input ‘Dinka Adek’.

What’s in a name? I remember back in high school during one of the Sunday services, we had a visiting speaker by the name Kifo Mauti. That is what her parents named her, after the grim reaper himself. She explained that she was the product of a last pregnancy attempt, after her mother severally miscarried hence the mortifying name. With all the absurdity associated with introducing herself, she however took it all in her stride. It is just a name that she has refused to identify herself with.

Names have an aspect of psychology in them. Every time I hear a name I tend to make a mental picture. Today morning on my way to Kenyatta I saw a ‘Glory funeral services’ hearse. I think this name just makes funerals sound like weddings. In the funeral business, anything to make the bereaved feel that their deceased are going to a better place is primary. This is in tandem with the great reverence we give to the dead, how they treated us when they were still around regardless. With ‘glory’ in my eerie imagination, I saw a the hearse parked by a levitating casket bearing an evil man over a trolley with a white staircase above it leading to the clouds and all the living around the scene lifting their arms in awe. Now that is one ‘decent send off’ don’t you think?

After the bambua, kwachua mamillioni promotion and the likes, there is this advertising firm that decided to brand some promotion in a name I'm yet to fathom. I'm talking about the Fichua Nyumba na Githeri promotion. Now the price of maize is way above expensive. Despite that, some promoter managed to procure maize to cook enough githeri. Instead of offering it to the starving masses gratis; he hid it in several new houses. Perhaps the rationale to the name was in competitors finding these houses in which there is a token of steaming githeri. The winner can thereafter feast on it as they settle in their new home.

Lastly, there is Alfred Mutua. It’s unfortunate that since the days of Najivunia Kuwa Mkenya, every time I hear this name my mind goes ‘not again?’ To add salt to injury, someone insane decided to make a sentence with this name; here goes, ‘ALFRED alisema hakuna MUTU Amekufa njaa.’ I am a patriotic Kenyan but this is one name I do not associate with. After his recent address, I think as Kenyans we all agree that the government speaker should take a vow of eternal silence till the day he is going to say, ‘My name is Alfred Mutua, and I just quit my job.’

THE ‘e’ IN MeDICS PART I

I think that the ‘E’ in mEdics stands for ‘Examinations’, and here is why. Being a medical student basically means signing a permanent contract with the examiner. When exams are around the corner, there is a ‘before-and-after’ effect. These are the frequent experiences where we have adrenal surges that leave us insomniacs for the days prior to and tormented for a few days after an examination. The effects hardly have time to wear of before another exam comes knocking. Even those times when a medic feels adequately prepared, in the exam room our minds often just go blank!

On a light note however, it is how the exams are tuned and more so how students embrace them that makes the experience comical. There are those who believe in their mental abilities and endure throughout the paper without consulting. I think members in this lot prefer to sit in clusters. Perhaps it has something to do with solidarity in the only difficult real life emergency where lone ranging is upheld and ‘socialism’ goes punished.

Maybe it is also to avoid being put in ‘awkward’ positions by members of a second lot who work in an ‘anastomotic team’. For non medics, an anastomosis is a communication between two or more branching systems of blood vessels for collateral perfusion or drainage. In an exam situation, the axiom ‘a degree is a joint effort’, best defines ‘anastomosis’. In tandem with varieties in the human anatomy, I came up with the following anastomotic types;

The ‘aterio-arterial’ anastomosis where all members are oxygenated (read charged) with relevant information. I think this type of anastomosis is non-involving and perhaps only meant for the verification of answers. With the wide scope of medical knowledge to revise for, this type is perhaps mostly non-existent.
Then there is the ‘arterio-venous’ anastomosis, a cocktail of hyper and hypo members. Maybe this is the most common type. Following the basics of diffusion, you can figure out how it works. Sources say that a student who is stuck in the exam and equipped in stealth can join in this anastomosis. How information flows along the long chain of ‘beneficiaries’ while eluding the invigilators nose is just a wonder.

A third variant is the ‘venous-venous’ anastomosis. Members of this arrangement are in an unfortunate situation where after establishing an ‘aterio-venous’ anastomotic arrangement, the invigilators decide to relocate part of the crew to a different venue. This negatively affects the formation’s maneuvers. Members therefore survive on the information discussed immediately prior to the exam or if in luck, by secondarily anastomosing to nearby willing ‘arterio-venous’ or the rare ‘arterio-arterial’ anastomoses.

Lastly, there is what I simply call a ‘shunt’. This is an imposed anastomosis where a student finds themselves next to another who has absolutely no clue of what is happening in the exam room. When I say no clue in a medical exam, I mean to the point where a student forgets their admission number. To establish the shunt, the desperate member of this arrangement resorts to methods ranging from pinging point blank questions to those seated close by, to grabbing the answer sheet of an unsuspecting neighbor and downloading all the answers into theirs.

As an afterthought; it is funny how some medics joke of anastomotic formations right before a paper. Things like soccer team formations and other algorithms can be heard during the tense pre-exam conversations. With increasing quantities of work and pressure to perform in examinations, I’m theorizing that future students might build an anastomotic formation so solid that it will make the arterial circle of Willis look like mere child’s play!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

MUSINGS OF A FATHER TO BE

Sometime ago while I was hanging out with the guys, the funny topic of family came up and the most discussed question was what type of fathers we would make. One guy is petrified by fatherhood responsibilities for reasons best known to him. He calls it fatherhood-phobia. The other would like to sire a whole basketball team, and perhaps add a few substitutes to the number due to his love for children. We are talking figures of seven to eight children here. I wonder what kind of modern woman would bear such a load.

Talking of child bearing women, I hear that in Malawi, unless the woman is short and comparable to a round-about, suitors there will hardly ever look her way. Apparently, they take this body shape as a sign of fertility and a qualification for the child bearing ‘job’. I am thinking of adding ‘visiting a Malawian homestead to see a mother and her battery of daughters ready for marriage’ to my bucket list for the sole purpose of comic relief.

This fatherhood talk got me thinking. While I indeed look forward to being a father later on in life, I have questions about how my progeny might turn out. Will they be disciplined, ambitious, hardworking or downright lazy and lackadaisically drawled? Will they be polite and well mannered, or just spoilt, rude and care free? Will they be brilliant, outstanding in everything that they do, or just dull and dumb? Dull and dumb children: now that there is a really bad outcome.

All fathers want the best from and for their children. By fathers here, I mean the responsible man who is there for his family: to provide materially, emotionally and to give security. Modern science shows that parents can influence what their children grow to become. This is due to the fact that their brains are malleable, an empty slate perhaps: equipped only with the basic framework for survival. It has been proven that the work of molding this brain into genius lies more on the environment that the child is brought up in and is influenced by the child’s genetic framework. Parents can therefore bring up a child into what will suit the child best to pursue their life’s choices. So I made a plan.

I want my kids to be brain smart. It does not mean that I will buy them a full volume of encyclopedias on life’s basics and some miniature spectacles as daddy’s gift for ‘the first time they open their eyes’ much as my imagination has contemplated this option. No way. I will closely follow up with their mental growth though. Read them at least a book a day as they graduate to toddler and to child, trigger their curiosity by all means. And when they get to the ‘read on their own’ stage, I will ensure that their bookshelf is well stocked with varied material. I will also liaise with mum to censor the media influence. This is to by all means prevent those awkward moments when baby might ask ‘daddy, je una yako?’, or a flabbergasting sight as one I witnessed the other day, a five year old boy in the matatu sitted comfortably on her mother’s lap blissfully singing ‘bibi yangu: KIGEUGEU!’ I have nothing against the song, but in the context of such a spectacle…

Secondly, I would like my kids to be exposed to all positive things that they may choose to follow and that could shape their careers. This translates to me buying the necessary toys, from lego sets, miniature cars, a few rug dolls, to musical instruments, a chess board, baby laptops, and plenty of writing, painting and drawing material for baby. Of course, NO gun toys are included here. I do not wish to breed a ‘Matheri-incarnate’, the gangster whose life the trigger-happy Kenya police halted by sending an avalanche of bullets in his direction. With regard to the police, I agree with some comedian in proposing that the tax on bullets be exaggeratedly hiked and Kiraithe’s ‘mboys’ be coerced to individually procure them to bring numbers of innocent by standers to a desired minimum.

Back to the plan, I would also like to bring up emotionally intelligent individuals. As opposed to being a brainiac which is manifested by completing tasks in most efficient ways, emotional intelligence is based on social aspects encompassing courtesy, taking one’s responsibilities and knowing the best ways to interact with others. Emotionally unintelligent people seldom say phrases like ‘thank you’, ‘excuse me’ and constantly over react instead of being objective to confrontations. In extremes of pressure, they will let others catch Bruno Mars’ grenade save the pin which they neatly tuck in their palms and briskly walk to cover. Constant interaction with mother and me as role models and other well behaved kids should help baby be a sociable and dependable character in future. And mother will tune the house help to this effect.

Lastly, I want healthy kids. All around, an increasing number of kids are real-life paragons of the consequences of unhealthy eating. As the president of my house hold, I am not going to foster this. I will ensure that the ministry of motherhood and internal affairs is well financed and stocked with nutritious edibles for the little hungry citizens. The CDF will go into ensuring that the Compound is friendly for outdoor games. I will go out of my way to provide sporting equipment to keep the young ones running in their free time. I will enact a law restricting computer games from citizens below a certain age and up to certain times. Finally, I may impose a penalty to be slapped on citizens found lounging at ‘off hours’. A few extra hours manicuring the garden, perhaps a hand in house cleaning, or sometime in the kitchen peeling potatoes should adequately serve to clarify to them the need to abstain from being couch potatoes.

IF I WERE A MEDICINE MAN

Two examinations, a bout of upper respiratory tract infection and a cranked up schedule has made the past week of medical school a traumatizing one. In fact, I'm writing this note as a therapeutic intervention aimed at relieving this ‘post traumatic stress disorder’. So bad has this week been that I even wished I had lived in an earlier time dimension, my specific epoch of choice: 1800 AD.

If I were living back then, my father would have been a medicine man and I as his first born son, his apprentice. I would be living in the comfort of my hut. Perhaps with a wife to warm my bed, conditions very unlike the congested hostels I am currently surviving in. The village rooster would wake me up early every morning to start my daily duties, no alarm clock and therefore no snoozing. After the early morning preparations, I would accompany my father to ‘medical classes’. Being a solo student has its advantages. One obvious benefit is not risking my health while scramming for a school bus to take me to the learning venue.

I suppose my dad would be a kick ass medicine man, his alias something crazier than a ‘Dr. Kifimbo’ or a ‘Dr. Mamba’ I saw on a recent trip to a market in town. The fact that I am his apprentice could earn me points among his clientele and their families. It would therefore be easier to work once I started flying solo. Medical class would be way more interesting than it is now. It wouldn't be like Kenyatta Hospital. Class there means sitting on stools for a whole day listening to the audio version of Katzung Pharmacology till one suffers cranial overload and gluteal cramps. Learning would be very interactive and mostly placed in a natural setting. Daily walks into the forests in search of wildlife with medicinal value ingrained in their anatomy would be adventurous. The multiple bee and wasp stings would of course serve to nail the concepts learned into memory.

Diagnosis would be easy to arrive at. It would be a century or so before the knowledge of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites gets to our disposal. We would have to get by with what we know at the moment. The neighbors ‘evil eye’ for instance would be an undisputed cause of varied diseases. Yes: even in instances where the neighbor is blind as a bat. Other causes would be things like curses or taboos. Things like lab diagnoses, biochemical tests and molecular analysis would have absolutely no importance. They say ignorance is bliss, and I concur. People still got cured at the time didn’t they?

Prescription would range from something subtle like a couple of bitter herbs to swallow or rub on the lesion, to the crazies. Like going around the neighbors house seven times. This would be followed by plucking a few tail feathers from his favorite chicken and burning them at his door step to put a smoke-blind on this ‘evil eye’. This would obviously come with a contraindication. That the neighbor should not see you doing this lest your ailing behind ends up in the flames instead. Regimens would mostly cure on belief rather than on any clinical relevance. The fun would be in asking people to do all sorts of wacko rituals in exchange for much needed healing.

Payment would of course be way higher than the general practitioner’s remuneration today. This is in direct translation of economic matters factoring in inflation minus time. A few white goats and red hens. Maybe a piece of fertile land I had been drooling over (while waiting patiently for the owner to fall sick) would do just fine. And those who had come from far and wide to look for cure would serve me well by carrying my good name along once they got better.

Life would be smooth until the white guy showed up. His weaponry far outmatching the fight in the local warrior, a colonial intent in his lunatic brain and to top it all off, small pox: a disease I won’t be able to cure will take my life away if the bullets don’t catch me first. And that would be the tragic end to the life and times of a medicine man. All said and done, thank heavens I am a medical student, life might suck once in a while but I have a feeling that the prognosis is much better.

HOW I LOOK AT THE WORLD


I have been told that people tend to see the world according to their line of study or profession. Let’s take a tout for example. Most are uncouth, rude and disrespectful to say the least. They view passengers as commodities and don’t give a tad as long as they get their money. Their profession trains them to fold currency notes in between their fingers, cram human beings in every nook and cranny of an un-roadworthy vehicle, shout at the top of their voices to lure any prospective passengers and when police show up, run faster than Usain Bolt on cannabis leaving travelers dumbfound and stranded.
Closer home to the medical realm, knowledge how the human body works in health and disease has given my visual perception another dimension. Recently, I sat for this general pathology paper where the examiner asked something about Down’s syndrome and judging by the gibberish I amply concocted in answering, the P-Unit crew would sing twice that I was ‘Down tu sana’. I had to look up this disorder after the paper to learn its cause and its myriad of bizarre manifestations. To reinforce the knowledge, I have been practically combing the masses to meet a resembling fellow live and in color with no luck. So if you have an idea of the whereabouts of such a patient please get in touch.
The human anatomy is interesting. When a lady puts on high heels and strolls by, there is a lot to behold. For the normal man, either the wobbling looks funny, or your head and eyes are swaying to the cat walk spectacle. For men learning anatomy, things may just roll off differently. What they are likely to see is the hyper-extended talocrural and subtalar (ankle) joints leaving the foot in a position vulnerable to orthopedic accidents. Also, the gluteal and trunk muscles are working overtime to keep the trunk steady making the hips sway exaggeratedly giving the impression of a fish-tailing behind. And this is where the ordinary man sighs and exclaims, ’Oh, what a waste of a view!’
Persons who follow mobs and crowds are psychologically analyzed as having a low sense of self awareness. I had to experience this to prove the theory. I had gone for supper last Friday when a group of drunk and disorderly students walked in and ordered the management to shut the premises down. Reason; there was a ‘political’ meeting right outside and everyone ‘needed’ to be there. Now in my opinion, anyone who attempts to ruin my appetite for supper with the rationale of getting me to attend a gathering where a team of so called ‘politically correct’ people who have come together under the name of a piece of cutlery and are allegedly paid to cause chaos, is a retard. This is a low reasoning capacity and low sense of self awareness combined.
Lastly, there is this group of individuals that I find particularly interesting psychiatric specimen. The Al-shabab has raised the bar of ill reasoning by instilling dietary constrains in a hunger stricken country. Surely, how do you deny your countrymen the privilege of enjoying a samosa with the idea that its triangular shape is symbolic in a religion different from yours? I believe that come judgement day my diet shall not come to question. Let’s face it, regardless what you eat and except the thanksgiving prayer prior to ingestion, there is nothing religious about digestion: not even divine absorption, holy metabolism or sacred defecation. In fact, the future doctor in me would diagnose this as ‘idiocytosis’ (overwhelming levels of systemic idiocy)  and prescribe a lengthy stay at Mathari Hospital psychiatric wards for whoever came up with the lunatic idea and all those who seconded it!         
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