One Man's Meat

Published: Saturday March 28, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday March 28, 2015 MYT 1:46:28 PM

A near-death experience

I thought I had proven the effectiveness of a do-it-yourself remedy, but the doctors are still laughing.

SOMETIMES when someone asks me “How are you?”, I lie. It is not that I’m a pathological liar. It is because – when I feel sick – it is easier for me to answer “I’m ok” or “not bad” or “great”. I am not sure why I don’t tell the truth.

Perhaps it is because I don’t think the person asking the question wants to hear anything negative.

“How are you?”

“Well, I’m actually in pain. I have gastric and I feel as if someone is kicking my stomach repeatedly.”

However, if I’m sick and in a chatty mood and I’m comfortable with the person asking, “How are you?”, I’ll tell the truth.

The other day I had a nagging dry cough.

The type where your throat is itchy so that you have to cough and cough and cough so that the itch will go away.

“How are you, Phil? Your cough sounds bad,” my colleagues asked me.

“Not as bad as my experience with the doctor. Here’s what happened,” I said.

Me: “Doctor, I have a nagging dry cough.”

Doctor: “You must have been drinking cold beer!”

Me: “No, I don’t drink cold beer. In fact, it is rare for me to drink beer or alcohol.”

Doctor then did the usual. Checked my pulse, my throat and my temperature.

After the examination, I asked: “What is the cause of my nagging dry cough?”

Doctor: “Because you have been drinking cold beer.”


Doctor, who I suspect is a 60-something-year-old locum: “Sorry, I forgot that you told me that you don’t drink cold beer.”

Me: “So why do I have the nagging dry cough?”

Doctor: “You must have been drinking cold water. Take the antibiotic and stop drinking cold water.”

Now each time my colleagues hear me coughing, they’ll accuse me: “You have been drinking cold beer!”

My classic example of how I’m dishonest when asked how I am was during the recent school holidays.

One of my good friends WhatsApp-ed me: “Phil, how’s your holiday? How’s Penang?”

“Great!” I replied. “I’m having fun with the kids in Escape (an outdoor theme park in Teluk Bahang).” In fact, at that moment I was having a near-death experience.

The Penang trip was a hell of a holiday.

The day before, if you asked me at noon whether I was going to drive from Subang Jaya to George Town (my actual ultimate destination was Betong in southern Thailand), I would have said no, as I was feverish.

However, by 3pm – pumped up with pain killers/fever medicines – I felt I could drive up north. The next day – filled with the drugs and desire to make Apsara, my six-year-old daughter happy – I drove my family to Escape.

After 30 minutes in the outdoor theme park, I had a severe stomach ache. I went to the toilet. There, I was drenched in cold sweat.

I had excruciating abdominal pain and felt like I was about to faint.

“Am I having a heart attack?” I asked myself, as I remembered a story a Tan Sri told me.

The Tan Sri had severe gastric pain in the evening. However, he felt no pain in his chest.

Puan Sri persuaded him to go for a check-up in the hospital. The doctor found that he had a mild heart attack and performed heart surgery on him that night.

Worried that I would see my Maker soon, I quickly Whatsapp-ed my wife who was about 50m away to tell her “Don’t worry, but I might be dying.”

I also quickly searched in my smartphone’s WhatsApp for medical advice that I’d received from concerned friends and family members (some of them former heart patients).

This is the advice:

1) Let’s say it’s 7.25pm and you’re going home (alone of course) after an unusually hard day on the job.

2) You’re really tired, upset and frustrated.

3) Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to drag out into your arm and up into your jaw. You are only about 5km from the hospital nearest to your home.

4) Unfortunately, you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it that far.

5) You have been trained in CPR, but the guy who taught the course did not tell you how to perform it on yourself.


Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack, the person whose heart is beating improperly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness.

7) However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest.

A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let-up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.

8) Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain its normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital.

9) Tell as many other people as possible about this. It could save their lives!

10) A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this mail kindly sends it to 10 people, you can bet that we’ll save at least one life.

11) Rather than sending jokes, please contribute by forwarding this mail that can save a person’s life.

12) If this message comes around to you more than once, please don’t get irritated. You need to be happy that you have many friends who care about you and that you are being reminded of how to tackle heart attacks.

So there I was, coughing repeatedly and very vigorously. And it looks like I had prevented a massive heart attack.

Not bad for a DIY heart attack remedy.

Fast forward to yesterday. I forwarded that message to a doctor (not the 60-something locum). And here are his answers.

Doctor: “Tips 1–6 legit. Seven onwards, it’s almost impossible to practice that since a heart attack is an acute process, when your heart tissue has less oxygen; same thing happens to the brain. How are we suppose to practice all those given tips?”

Me: “But if we are able to do 7 and 8, will it actually help?”

Doctor: “7, 8 – anecdotal. No proven studies.

“Not mentioned even in ACLS (advance life trauma support).”

Later, he WhatsApp-ed: “By the way, I sent that exact text to a few of my emergency physician friends. They said, ‘Ha ha someone should stop circulating that.’”

The next time when someone asks me “How are you?”, I’ll answer “I’ve been drinking cold beer.”

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Tags / Keywords: Philip Golingai, columnist

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Deadly heart attacks strike swiftly, leaving the victim no chance of settling unfinished business or even saying goodbye to loved ones. - Filepic

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