Friday, April 9, 2010

21. 79-year-old war veteran with agile mind

This one-week in Perth, far away from my practice in Singapore, gave me time to reflect and see life and matters in a new perspective.

1. Be proactive.
Inertia is preferred as it is troublesome and uncomfortable to start something new. The status quo is what most people wanted and therefore, the "opt-out" system of organ donation is being used by governments. If you don't "opt-out" in writing, the law states that you have agreed.

Being proactive may lead to undesirable consequences. 2 days ago, I asked a young man to drive me to visit the practice at 10 am since I suspect that my "god daughter" would not have time or the principal vet in that practice would not have time for me. It was an impressive practice with all the latest equipment to test for cortisol and thyroxine, blood pressure monitoring, ECG and a breath-rate-monitoring alarm system during anaesthesia. I sat on the bench to wait. Within 1 minute, the receptionist attended to me. "She's out," the receptionist said. So, I was surprised. Ought to have made prior appointment. She came back soon. The principal vet was a dynamic successful man in his 40s as he has 2 practices.

I was surprised that he has no anaesthetic masks in his practice. "No need," he said. "I induced them with drugs." This was a new perspective to me. I did not ask whether he use anaesthetic mask in dogs in shock in Caesarean cases as I had little time and did not want to impose on a stranger vet. I was surprised tha he was allergic to rabbits. "How about horses?" I asked. "Yes," he said. I considered myself fortunate in not being allergic to animals for the past 30 years.

I checked out the ambience of the surroundings as this was necessary for me to assess whether this neighbourhood was relatively safe. A typical suburb but unlike Willeton with its manicured lawns and rose gardens and overwhelming one-storey bungalows, this suburb has apartment blocks and low rises. Willeton is said to be a middle to upper class residential area and I can see boats parked. The practice's neighbourhood appeared to be OK for my god-daughter and so, a lot of worries for her mum can be dissipated when I report to her.

I visited a beautiful lake near the practice. Many children and families were present on this weekday morning. Pelicans and water fowl were abundant. This was a surprise to me as most parks are quiet.

79-year-old war veteran
A strong-looking tough man in dark sunglasses was walking a dog in the beautiful park. I asked him about the plant with cones of yellow, white, pink, brown and black colours, so commonly seen in parks and appears on the logo of Murdoch University. "You can suck the nectar from the small flowers of this banksia plant," he said to me and asked whether I wanted to do it. "No, thanks," I said. He walks dogs every morning and boards them for people. "Do you charge for your services?" I asked. "No," he said. "Just whisky at the end of the walk." He was 79 years old, had both eye lens replaced, a not so strong heart. But his mind was very active and alert. Many men in their 60s are senile but he was so mentally alert and could tell me the species of various birds in the park and the whole history of coin-collecting. "How do you safeguard your coins?" I asked. I presume he was living alone. "I don't put all my coins in one place," he said. "Some in the bank, some in a safe." I asked him, "The thieves can just cart away your safe when you are out exercising the dogs."

"My alarm system is connected to the security and in 5 minutes they will come."

"A clever thief will deactivate the system," I said.

He had the answers, "My safe is underground and it will take a long time to haul it out."

"The thief will just clear the safe by blowing it open," I said.

"Not so easy," the war veteran who is an expert in explosives for the Australian army told me. "I have a steel door to the room."

This was one man who was well prepared for all contingencies. He was an expert in old coins and all his expertise is inside his brain. "How do you sell your coins?" I asked. "There is a Phoenix auctioneer who charges a fee on successful sale," he said.

This is a 79-year-old average man on a pension, but he certainly was not "one foot in the grave." He has daily exercise by taking dogs out for people free of charge.

On knowing that I am a vet, he said, "In Australia, vets make a lot of money."
An immigrant who owns the Bull Creek Hawker told me the same thing.
"Why do you say that?" I asked the war veteran.
"See the skin lump on this miniature pinscher," he pointed to a 1-cm lump on the left chest of the dog. "The vet charges A$50 just to tell me it is a skin lump."

The successful boss of Bull Creek Hawker told me that it cost over A$100 to consult a vet when the dog has flu while a human being pays $27.00. "So, a man with no gardens don't walk a dog," the boss referred to some Cantonese idiom, meaning that a poor man should not own a dog.

While back from the park, my driver, a student switched lanes from the right to the centre to the left as he had gone on the wrong side. "What to do?" he asked me as a policecar had flashed him to stop. "Get onto a side road," I said. "And stop the car." He was having hand tremors, I think. Singaporeans are intimidated by police as they, until recently, had been aggressively unkind.

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