Photobook Interviews: Syaz

Landing 3

Landing 3

They say the most beautiful thing a woman can wear is confidence. Syazwani gracefully harmonises life between being an amazing doctor and stellar mom, giving exceptional dedication to both career and family. She sneaks a way for a moment and snubs her scrubs to hang out with Photobook Worldwide.

 

1. Hello Syaz! Thanks for spending some time with us. Could you please say a little something about yourself for our readers around the world?
Hi guys! My name is Syaz and I’m from Malaysia. I’m 33 years old and married with 3 kids. My parents are of mixed Malay and Chinese heritage and I am the eldest of 5 siblings. I was born and bred in Kuala Lumpur/Petaling Jaya except for a short stint in the UK when I was younger while dad was furthering his studies abroad. Dad’s a doctor and mom’s in the legal profession, and apples don’t fall far from the tree with us; all my working siblings are either doctors or lawyers.

Since I was more of the quiet and bookworm one of the lot, I decided to become a doctor like my dad from a young age. I am currently a paediatric medical officer working in Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia.

 

2. We know it’s not easy, and it’s a lot of hard work too. Give us a glimpse into how you became a doctor. We want to hear your experiences.
I grew up in a middle class neighbourhood and attended public schools throughout my childhood. After high school, I continued my studies at University of Malaya’s Centre of Foundation Studies in Science, from which I was then offered a place in its medical programme.

Apart from being the oldest university in Malaysia, this place also holds another significance for my family as it is the alma mater of both my parents and the place where they met. Without hesitance, I joined the programme and 5 years later, graduated with a Bachelors in Medicine and Surgery (MBBS).

Little did I know that that would be the easiest hurdle to overcome in a doctor’s career.

After graduation, I started my housemanship with the Ministry of Health Malaysia which is a supervised period for newly graduated doctors. Being the lowest in the hierarchy of medical professionals, I went through a gruelling 2 year training period with my colleagues where we barely had enough time to eat, let alone sleep. We worked almost every weekend with 36 hour shifts working up to more than 90 hours per week. We were all severely sleep deprived and whenever we had a day off on the weekend, I would use that to reimburse my sleep. At that time, I had no social life and was definitely beyond exhausted. It was a common occurrence for us to get into car accidents on the way back from work by sleeping at the wheel. Apart from losing weight, I felt like I was losing my sanity. At one point in my career I also had an episode where I lost consciousness from exhaustion requiring several stitches on my forehead. Thank goodness during that time, I was living under my parent’s roof so it was them and my then-boyfriend-now-husband that helped me through. As they say, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger and today I’m grateful for that experience which has shaped me to become the doctor I am now.

 

Ward 1The NICU staff with one of their little patients

 

3. That sounds intense! Well what about now – How do you balance between being a mom and a doctor?
I wish I could say that I have figured out a magic formula on how to balance between being a mommy and a doctor but to be honest, as with other career moms out there, there is no such thing as the perfect balance. There are good days and there are bad days. But I feel as long as you know your priorities and make choices based on the kids best interest first, then the decisions you make become clearer.

For me, no matter where I am, weekends are family time (unless I’m working). This is something ingrained to me by my own upbringing. Whenever I get my monthly work schedule, the first thing I do is to look for the weekends that I am free and plan an activity with the kids. It may be a simple picnic at a park or a movie together or even a weekend getaway. As long as the whole family is together then I’m good. In fact, whenever an opportunity arises such as being able to come home early from work, I make sure I make it up to my kids by doing something together like letting the kids help me out in the kitchen. We bake cupcakes or cookies or any simple dinner dishes together. They absolutely love it. I’ll put on some music in the kitchen and we’ll all mix the batter while dancing to Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ or Moana’s ‘How Far I’ll Go’ or any other Disney song together. It’s simple things like this that brings us closer together.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive activity, just plain old simple quality time that builds the bond. I myself come from a close knit family. I remember back when we were younger on how my dad would sometimes bring us out for random drives at night. We would wander aimlessly until we got sleepy then go home straight to bed. He used to say, it’s not about the destination but the journey. True that! In those car rides we would catch up on each other’s day and just generally bond with each member of the family. Whenever I’m tired, I try to remind myself that as a parent, our kids have been waiting the whole day to spend time with us. Don’t disappoint them.

 

With the first 2 kids 2016With the first two kids 2016

 

4. It’s not easy juggling between the two. Share some mommy tales with us!
This story might sound a little gross to some, but it’s real and I think mommies out there can relate. I remember working during one busy night shift and being engorged as I didn’t have time in between seeing patients to express my milk. My baby was about a year old at that time and still dependent on my expressed breastmilk (EBM) which I would pump at work and leave for her the next day. In between the chaos of the unstable patients, someone pointed out to me that I was leaking and my clothes were stained. It was so embarrassing and I immediately left to a private room to pump. As I was so tired, I switched on my automatic breastpump and laid down in a semi recumbent position. I must have been really exhausted as I actually fell into deep sleep while being pumped and only awoke when my phone rang only to find that the milk that had been expressed out had spilt while I was lying down. Only a breastfeeding mom would understand the sorrow of seeing your liquid gold spilt all over your shirt and the bedsheets. I ended up crying a river of tears for a good 15 minutes before composing myself and going out to see referred patients as usual.

 

WardPediatric ward

 

5. You’re a Pediatric Medical Officer. Care to share some behind-the-scenes Pediatric tales with us?
Being in this field, you definitely come across patients who leave a lasting impression on you. One such patient was a 3 month beautiful little girl who came to us with pneumonia. We were prompted to search for any other underlying diseases because of her abnormal slow recovery rate. Amidst the investigations, we found out she had a faulty gene and was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy or SMA, a lethal and progressive condition in which your muscles slowly become fatigued to a point they don’t work anymore. It’s easier to understand if it’s the muscles in your arms or legs becoming weaker but just imagine this condition affects all the muscles in your body including the muscles that control your breathing. Slowly but surely, this baby lost her ability to breathe and you could see her struggling even while she was on a ventilator which is a machine that breathes for you. We took care of her for 2 months before her parents made the decision to bring her back so she could pass away peacefully in the comfort of her home surrounded by her loved ones. I will never forget the look on her parents faces when we broke down her diagnosis and its lethal ending. The parents were almost in their 40s and even though they had 3 boys, they have been waiting for the arrival of their only daughter for so long only to have her taken away from them prematurely.

Another case I will never forget is of a 2 year old boy who had been totally healthy up until 2 weeks prior to his admission. His mother pointed out that he seemed paler and less active than before. A simple blood test showed that he had extremely high white cell counts and further testing confirmed that he had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. As if that wasn’t sad enough, his family had been planning to migrate to a foreign country the very next day and even the plane tickets for the entire family had been bought. At the time of diagnosis, his father was overseas, sorting out the living arrangements for when his family arrives. Upon hearing that his son was severely ill, he flew back on the next flight to Malaysia and upon his arrival to the hospital at night, I had to break down the worst possible news any parent would want to hear of their only son. We spent the night in a heartfelt conversation where in between tears he would question “Why? Why? Why us?”. Understandably, the family missed their flight the following day and the boy was transferred to a nearby oncology ward where he would start chemotherapy. Within just 48 hours, that innocent family’s entire world had been turned upside down and there was nothing anyone could do about it except to pray for a victory in the upcoming battle they’ll face.

Another patient that I remember dearly is a 1 year old boy who due to an underlying genetic condition was thought to be a female at birth but later on had to change his IC into male after chromosomal studies confirmed him to be an XY. He came in with the most laboured of breathing due to sensitive airways and a severe lung infection but was still able to smile and make joking gestures with his hands every day to the doctors and nurses. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his lung infection after a week of hospitalisation. I couldn’t hold back tears upon his passing, even in front of his parents. This boy had a been a fighter and going in and out of hospital his entire 13 months of life, and despite that he was still able to smile even when he was suffocating from the lack of oxygen. At his passing, his mother and I shared an embrace but I will never forget the words of his father beside us in the ICU. This big sized man was sobbing uncontrollably at his only child’s bedside saying “siapa nak teman papa pergi playground lepas ni?” or translated means “who will daddy play with at the playground now?”.

Being in this field is definitely mentally and emotionally challenging but because you deal with so many heartbreaking stories, it makes you appreciate what you have even more. I always say now that children are just on loan to us from the Almighty. You never know when they would be taken away from you, either abruptly as in car or home accidents or slowly as in the above conditions but whatever it is, appreciate them and treat each day with them as if it’s your last.

 

“Every night when my children kiss me at bedtime
is a moment I look forward to each day”

 

6. Okay that crushed us. We can see why you’re spending as much time with your family as you can. You did mention to us that you’ve been bringing the entire family traveling. Aesop said “Adventure is worthwhile”. Is that why you guys go on holidays as much as possible?
Definitely! I mean, who doesn’t love travelling right? I love exploring different cultures, food, sceneries, weather and everything else associated with travel. It opens up your mind and makes you more accepting and tolerable of other people which I feel are important values to instil in the young. Unfortunately, most people feel that you can’t go on holidays anymore when you have little children. I do agree somewhat that it is harder to travel but it’s not impossible. You just have to do a little bit more preparation and be a little choosy on the destination beforehand, that’s all. For example before having children, I would love to visit historical sights and museums but now with a young brood of 3, destinations would have to be more family friendly. You wouldn’t want to hear children screaming whilst admiring art in a museum, would you?

In the 6 years of being a mother, my husband and I have brought our little family to Paris, Bali, Perth, Krabi, New Zealand and numerous local destinations too. The one which the kids remember the most (maybe because they were older then) was our New Zealand trip. We spent 2 weeks on the road from North to South Island in a campervan covering almost 1,300 kilometres. The view from the road trip was breathtaking enough but we also managed to do so many activities with the family as well. I even managed to tick off a thing on my bucket list which was to go bungee jumping which is an experience I’ll never forget. Until today, my kids still talk about that trip. They even changed their ambitions to become farmers in New Zealand!

 

New Zealand 1Hobbiton, New Zealand, 2016

 

7. You’re a very busy woman. Besides work, family, and travel, is there anything else that you get involved in?
Since having children, I have found a new interest in party-planning, specifically children’s parties. For each of my children’s birthdays, I try to DIY everything from A to Z. So far I have helped friends and family organize parties and even helped a banking company’s reward day event. If I have more time on my hands in the future, this is definitely something I would try to pursue further.

 

“Trolls” themed birthday party

 

8. All these things that you do are in an effort for a fulfilling, and well rounded life. Do you have a favourite moment(s) you wouldn’t mind sharing with us?
Where do I begin? I have many favourite moments. Every night when my children kiss me at bedtime and say that I am the best mommy in the world is a moment I look forward to each day. The sound of a newborn taking his or her first breath after an intense resuscitation at birth is another favourite.

 

9. What’s in your bag?
– A calculator! I get random questions on dosages of children’s medications all the time.
– Wet wipes (every mother’s must-have item)
– Essential oils (helps to calm me down)
and of course my phone and wallet!

 

Syaz

 

Family 1The entire family!

PlaytimePlaytime at home

Elmo CupcakesElmo cupcakes

 




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