The story behind Memoirs of a Doctor:
In Dec 2019, I had an accident resulting in a neck injury, compression cervical myopathy, and spastic tetraplegia. Miraculously, by the grace of God, I recovered uneventfully, after surgery and rehabilitation. In January 2020, I retired from my medical practice and decided to take up writing as a hobby. I had a lot of time to reflect, think, meditate, and write. This kicked started my writing journey in March 2020. Meanwhile, my children also encouraged me to write my autobiography before it is too late. I had not told them about my story because I had been quite busy with medical practice during my working life. I had to tell my story before it is too late. Life is very fragile and unpredictable. It can change with the twinkling of an eye.
James 4:14, “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”.
The accident and retirement gave me the inspiration to write my memoirs. As the campfire song goes, “It only takes a spark to get the fire burning”. First, I had to think of a title. I played around with several titles until I remembered the film show “Memoirs of Geisha”. So I entitled my autobiography “Memoirs of a Doctor”. I searched the Amazon website on “Memoirs of a Doctor” and there was no book with the same title. This title was easily searchable and should be relatively easy to be discovered when it is published on Amazon later on. Then I added the chapters and the outlines. After this, it was like filling in the blanks. The whole undertaking from a blank page to a printed book and published as a paperback in KDP Amazon took me slightly more than 6 months. The experience was challenging, fruitful, enlightening, and enriching. I learned many new skills, met new friends, reconnected to old friends, revisited my past, and enlarged my worldview. Finally, my story is out there for my family to keep, to treasure, to tell it to the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren. Simultaneously, I had also written and published 2 other Christian books in KDP Amazon for the church. So, the past 12 months of my retirement had been excited, busy, fruitful, and productive.
First, I had to overcome my inertia, inadequacy, fear, and procrastination. I had to focus my attention on the task at hand and write out the first paragraph. I had to research into my past by going back to my hometown, interviewing people who knew me when I was young, my family members, relatives, friends, school classmates, school teachers, and so on. I had to take a step back into history and relive the past all over again, to bring back memories from my subconscious mind. I also attended seminars on book writing, joined an author group, researched on google and youtube on memoir writing. Armed with all these, I was ready to proceed.
Advice to aspiring authors:
Everyone has a story to tell. Your story is powerful, valuable, life-changing, and priceless. Write your story before it is too late. Start writing your story even when you are young. Start by writing your diary or journal. Every 10 years, you can look back into your dairy and write your story. This is probably the best approach to take. In the course of your life, so many interesting events happened along the way. Do not worry about the grammar and style. Just write out the draft manuscript. Editing and proofreading will come in later. Join an author group on Facebook. Learn what other authors are writing and get tips from them. Join in the conversation by contributing to the chat and replying to the chat. Add comments, reply to comments, make yourself known and be a part of the community. Start your website and blog to get a following.
Plans for future writing:
At this point, I need to take a rest and a breather until I get another inspiration. The journey had been very tiring and exhausting. No doubt, I will be embarking on my next book soon.
How to purchase:
Tel or WhatsApp: 0125391180
Price : RM 35, excluding shopping charges.
Discount code: Dobbs
Nett price after discount RM 28, excluding shipping charges.
Rob from USA:
Dr Koh provided glimpses of his life through the years in a short, loveable, and easy to read book. I enjoyed his reminiscing about the kind of life he used to live in cities and villages in Malaysia before the arrival of social media. His varied experiences as government, private, and military physician is a novelty in itself. A truly Malaysian experience.
Dr. Koh has portrayed an excellent abstract of his life-story defining significant times such as childhood and adolescence, and the times he was touched by the grace of God. It is an interesting book, full of the spices of life, touching, sad and sweet reminiscences of his past that will stir the heart of any reader. It is extremely well-written with a few sweet little poems here and there. Passionate touches of God in his life gives one great inspiration and encouragement to strive on.
Received your book and straight away read it. Could not put it down as it was an interesting write-up and easy to read. Congratulations.
A delightful book, with the flavors of life, touching, sad, and yet sweet reminiscing of your life, interspersed with the hand of the Lord’s anointing! Praise God for your family and you. An excellent piece!
Excerpt from Next Book -Memoirs of A Doctor
Private practice in Ipoh was very demanding and labour intensive. I had to manage a busy outpatient clinic. Then there were cardiology procedures to do, invasive, non invasive, interventional, and emergency procedures. Then I had to be on call 24/7. My REM sleep was frequently interrupted and I was also exposed to a lot of radiation. These had taken a toll on my health.
My social life was severely disrupted. Time management was important to prevent burning out. Every few years I had to take substantial time off from my work as a form sabbatical leave to rewind, recharge, regain balance, and prevent burn out. Studying in the bible college was a form sabbatical leave.
In the course of my medical practice, I was also a market place soul winner. I shared the gospel with many of my patients using my office as a pulpit. Many of my patients came to know the Lord as their Lord and Savior a result of my sharing. I prayed for Christian clients when they come to see me as a patient.
I attended the Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Ipoh. I attended weekly bible seminars and classes taught by an anointed Pastor from Kuala Lumpur. I followed him from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation for 16 years. This gave me a very solid foundation on the Old and New Testament.
I also followed the pastor on pilgrimmage tours to the Holy land in 2005 and 2019. The bible comes alive when I visited places of the bible like Sea of Galilee, Mount Carmel, Bethleham, Joppa, Mount of Olives, Western Wall, Shiloh, Temple Mount, City of David, Magdala, Capernaum, Engedi, Via Dolorosa, Garden Tomb, Gethsamane, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Temple Institute, Hezekiah’s tunnel, Pool of Siloam, etc.
After returning from the Holy Land, the bible also comes alive whenever I read and study the bible. For the past 16 years, I also had the opportunity to preach in three local churches once every 6 to 8 weeks.
My wife and I also managed to travel locally, regionally, and internationally for medical seminars and conferences as part of continuing medical education for renewal of my yearly annual practising certificate.
Over the many years of medical practice, I was awarded Fellow of the Academy of Medicine Malaysia, Fellow of the National Heart Association of Malaysia, Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians, Fellow of the Asean College of Cardiology, and Fellow of the Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology.
My wife and I also managed to travel yearly to Auckland and Dunedin in New Zealand and Melbourne in Austrolia to visit my sons, daughters-in-laws and grand sons and grand daughters.
Thank God, by 2020 we had 3 daughter-in-laws and 5 grand sons and 4 grand daughters. By the grace of God, my family had grown from just 2 in 1977 to 14 in 2020. My God is a good God. He looked after me through the years, taking me through the best of times and the worst of times.
From Moblie Clinic to and Air Force
”Nothing that we do, is done in vain. I believe, with all my soul, that we shall see triumph”, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.
After completing the housemanship in the Ivory Tower of University Hospital, I joined the ministry of health Malaysia in the middle of 1978. My first posting was to Taiping District Hospital as a medical officer. This is a small hospital with very basic disciplines such as Medicine, General Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Orthopedic Surgery, Dentistry, Oral Surgery, and Anaesthesiology. Taiping is the second largest town in Perak with a thriving population of 245,182 in 2013. It is located 48 km north of Ipoh and 78 km south of George Town, Penang. It is famous for its Taiping Zoo and Night Safari, Taiping Lake Gardens, and Maxwell hill. By this time I was already married to my wife who was also posted to Taiping Hospital as a dental surgeon.
Working in Taiping was an entirely different ball game when compared to working in the teaching hospital of University Hospital. It was a service orientated hospital and not a teaching hospital. There was no emphasis on training, research, or continuous medical education. In those days, doctors were short and the patient load was heavy. The hospital had a vacancy for 15 medical officers but at any one time, there would be only about 5 medical officers in the establishment. This is in stark contrast to the situation today where doctors are way far too many. The medical library facilities were severely inadequate and the system was not at all conducive for any postgraduate medical education or research.
After the first 6 months of manning the outpatient department, I was posted to the mobile health clinic team. The mobile health clinic team consisted of one medical officer, me, one hospital assistant, one staff nurse, one dispenser, one attendant, and one driver. We offered our service 5 days a week, traveling by the mobile clinic van from Taiping Hospital to the rural towns in the district of Larut, Matang, and Selama. Upon arrival at the site, we open the doors to the public using the van as a mobile clinic. We offered consultation and treatment for simple, stable conditions and we dispense basic medications for hypertension, diabetes, antibiotics, deworming medications, creams, lotions, eye drops, and so forth. Patients who required hospitalisation or specialist care would be referred to the Taiping Hospital by way of a referral letter. The team leave Taiping Hospital at 7 30 am and return by 4 pm daily from Monday to Friday. In exchange for our services, some satisfied patients gave us fish, crabs, prawns, fruits, and vegetables to take home as tokens of appreciation.
Besides medical practice, my wife and I also attended the Taiping Gospel Hall church for Sunday service and weekly Bible studies.
After 1 year in Taiping, I joined the Ministry of Defence as an army medical officer on a 2-year contract. I was drafted into the army by the government of Malaysia. I underwent a 1-month army training course in Kinrara Camp Kuala Lumpur after which I was commissioned as an officer with the rank of a Captain. After the training, I was posted to serve in an army hospital in the Royal Malaysian Airforce Base (RMAF) in Labuan, East Malaysia for the next 2 years.
So towards the end of 1979, my wife and I left on an army aircraft, Charlie 130, from Kuala Lumpur en route to Labuan to report for my tour of duty. The flight took us three and a half hours and we arrived at the Labuan RMAF Airbase. We were provided with free accommodation in the officer quarters near the military hospital. My wife was also posted to Labuan District Hospital as a dental surgeon.
The military hospital in RMAF airbase Labuan was a small setup with a facility for outpatient consultation and a treatment room for minor surgical procedures. My job was to look after the healthcare needs of all the army officers, rank and file soldiers, airforce officers, airman, and all their family members. I was also required to do yearly medical examinations for all the soldiers as part of their service requirement. Patients who required admission or major surgery would be referred to the Labuan District Hospital nearby. The clinical workload here was very light. I only got to see about 10 patients per day. In the evening I like to play tennis, and at night I like to visit the officers’ mess for social gatherings, chit-chat, and refreshments. The beer was cheap as it was a duty-free item.
Life in the army was very relaxing. Clinical work was minimal and this gave me a lot of time to study for the MRCP part 1 examination, (Internal medicine specialist examination) which I managed to pass before my tour of duty comes to an end. As a Captain, I wore an army uniform at work and would be saluted to and called Sir many times a day by the rank and file, and I had to salute back as a sign of courtesy.
I get to know and made friends with senior air force officers, pilots, and their families. Sometimes, when I travel on army aircraft for official duty, I got to sit in the cockpit next to the pilot. There was once when sitting in the cockpit, I saw a genuine full-circle rainbow. It was breathtaking, to say the least. The panoramic view from the cockpit was extremely impressive and beautiful, especially during take-off and landing.
There was one unfortunate incident too. One of my pilot friends lost his life in a helicopter crash in his mid-thirties when he was on a search and rescue mission due to bad weather. He was survived by a young wife and small child, and she was devastated. This incident was so heart-wrenching and sad that even until now, I felt could emotional whenever I thought about it.
Apart from all these, my wife and I also attended an Anglican Church in Labuan, for Sunday service, weekly bible study, and other activities.
Serving in the army was a great experience, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. This unforgettable tour of duty is second to none. The highlight of my army life was the regimental night held once a year in the officer’s mess. All officers arrived in style, dressed in their official regimental attire. Sitting would be according to ranks. A multiple course meal was served according to protocol and all the officers had to adhere strictly to it. We had to know how to use different kinds of knives, forks, and spoons for the different courses and correctly hold them. It was a solemn affair. There would be speeches, toasts, and so forth. No one was allowed to leave the hall until the commanding officer had left. There was a rehearsal before the regimental night for those who are new to familiarise with the protocol.
Labuan is an Island located off the coast of Sabah. At that time, it was a tax-free port. Electronic products were very cheap. Imported cars were also very cheap as these were completely duty-free. Almost all the officers in the army and airforce drove flashy and expensive cars, waiting to ship them back to West Malaysia at the end of their tour of duty. I bought a Honda Accord and my wife bought a Nissan at a fraction of the cost in West Malaysia and we sent them back to West Malaysia by a Navy ship at the end of my tour of duty.
To be continued……..
Memoirs of Dr. Andrew C. S. Koh
From Tanjong Malim to Auckland, a Journey of Faith
Growing up in Tanjong Malim:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.
I belonged to what is called the baby boomer generation. My story started in the year 1952 when I was born in a town called Tanjong Malim, a very small insignificant town in Perak, Malaysia. According to my parents, I was born in a shophouse where they lived. In those days medical facility was poor, transportation was poor, there was no ambulance service, and my parents do not own any car. My mother did not have enough time to rush to the hospital when she went into labour pains. So I was born at home assisted by my mother’s friend who happened to be there at the time. My mother was very grateful for this and they became best friends ever since. On looking back, it was God who rescued me. If not by the grace of God, I would not be around to tell you my story.
My grandfather being the patriarch of the family was given the task to give me a name. He came up with the name, Chan Sing which in Cantonese means, “praise the star”. In Cantonese, chan means to praise, and sing means star. According to my grandfather, I was born at night and there was plenty of stars in the sky that night and so he praised the star and called me Chan Sing. I was one of those twinkles, twinkle little stars in the starry night. Remember the song, Vincent, starry, starry night?
My name reminded me of the story of Abraham (Abram) in the book Genesis. In the book of Genesis, God promised Abraham that He would bless him with posterity. Genesis 12: 2-3, The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” But when after so many years had gone by and Abraham still did not have any offspring he was worried. So one day, God appeared to Abraham in a vision and gave him a promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the night sky. Genesis 15:5, He took him outside and said, ‘look up at the sky and count the stars if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “so shall your offsprings be”.
So that was how I came into this world and how I got my name. Tanjong Malim is quite a unique town sitting over 2 states, Perak and Selangor. One half of the town is in the state of Perak and the other half of the town is in the state of Selangor. The town is divided by a river called the ulu bernam river. Even the water in the ulu bernam river was unique. One half of the river is clear while the other half is muddy. The township on the side where the river water was clear is in Perak. The township on the side where the river water was muddy is in Selangor. So I have friends in Tanjong Malim, Perak, and friends in Tanjong Malim, Selangor.
Tanjong Malim is famous for Yik Mun Pau or dumplings, made by the Yik Mun family, which is still in operation today. Tanjong Malim is also home to the famous Sultan Idris Teacher’s Training College, inaugurated in 1922, now called the Sultan Idris Education University, and the RM 1.8 billion Proton City township, which housed the Proton car assembly plant, constructed in 1966.
My grandfather came from China in the 1940s. He had 2 sons in China but for some reason, he came to Malaysia with only 1 son, my father, and my grandfather’s wife. Unfortunately, his younger son, my father’s younger brother was left behind in China under the care of relatives. So my father did not have any siblings in Malaysia. My grandmother passed away before I was even born so I did not know anything about her. My grandfather was a cobbler or shoemaker. He owned a one-man cobbler business, repairing and restoring broken shoes for his faithful customers. However due to alcoholism and opium addiction he always lived in poverty. He was a kind-hearted man and I loved him very much. He passed away due to old age. His death had a profound effect on me because this was the first time I saw death in the face.
My mother originated from another town in Perak called Bidor. She came from rich family background and her father owned land and plantations in Bidor. She was 3rd in a family of 6 siblings, 2 boys and 4 girls, and she was the favourite daughter of her father. My parents were match-made as this was the custom of those days. In those days, people do not fall in love. Their parents chose life partners and arranged their marriage for them. I have many cousins in Bidor where I spent a considerable amount of my childhood days during the school holidays. Tanjong Malim to Bidor is only an hour’s drive by car.
My parents own a tinsmith shop at number 22, Chong Ah Peng Street, located in the town centre. Until 2019, this shop was still there in its original condition but in 2019 it was taken down and rebuilt. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a photograph of this shop in 2018 with 7 of us who lived in this shophouse in 1958. We stood in front of the shop according to the same positions as in the 1958 photograph. In 1958, we were all kids and I was only 8 years old. Providence, the grace of God, and nothing short of a miracle brought the 7 of us back together for this historic and rare photoshoot in the Chinese New Year of 2018.
I am the youngest in a family of 4 siblings, 3 boys and 1 girl. I have 2 elder brothers and 1 elder sister. My second elder brother passed away peacefully in his sleep in Singapore in 2009 at the age of 59 years. I am now left with 1 elder brother and 1 elder sister. My parents, both of whom had passed away were very poor when they were in Tanjong Malim. The tinsmith business was slow and trading was very difficult. Malaysia was in a deep recession and the economy was extremely bad. They were always in debt, living a hand to mouth existence. They were Taoists, idols, and ancestors worshippers.
Growing up in Tanjong Malim was very difficult for me due to poverty. We could not afford many things. Even the purchase of food and sundry supplies were on credit. My family was among one of the poorest families in Tanjong Malim. We lived in a rented shophouse. My father rented half the shop downstairs and one of the rooms upstairs. The other upstairs rooms were rented out to other tenants. The other half of the shop was rented out to a car and motorcycle repair shop which was very noisy and dirty. The place that I lived in was not conducive for any form of study.
My parents were very superstitious and believed strongly in traditional Chinese medical care and healing by mediums. They were also very involved in the Chinese temple worship. This childhood background gave me the impetus to get a good education to free myself from the bondage of poverty and hopefully to get a better quality of life. It also gave me the ambition to become a doctor at a young age. I wanted to treat sick people based on proper medical science and not based on a superstitious belief system. According to my parents, when I was only a baby I was down with measles, had a high fever, and almost died. But God was there again to preserve my life so that I am now able to tell you this story.
I studied in the Methodist English Primary from 1959 until 1964 and moved over to the Methodist English Secondary School from 1964 until 1969. I do not remember very much about my primary school years. I remembered my first day at school, my parents put onions and sugar canes into my school bags. They believed that onions will make me intelligent because onion in Cantonese means intelligent. They believed that sugar cane will make me sweet because sugar cane is sweet. When one of my classmates opened my bag and saw the onions and sugar cane, he laughed and laughed until I did not know where to hide my face anymore.
This same classmate became my best friend in primary school. We did many things together. We read books together in the library, we listened to the radio together for pop songs from bands like the Cliff Richard and the Shadows, the Beatles, the Monkees, the Marmalade’s and so on. He combed his hair high, like his idol, the late king of pop, Elvis Presley. We played tops, played catapult, played marbles, catch fighting fish from rivers, catch spiders from trees, ride bicycles, played games, and participated in the Boy Scout movement.
One day I was very sad when my best friend suddenly left the school without informing me and I never got to see him again. I did not have any closure. I remembered him telling me that he might have to follow his parents to Seremban one day but did not give me any forwarding address. I lost contact with him until 2015 when we were united again thanks to Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, and social media. He is now living in Jakarta and I visited Jakarta twice just to meet up with him.
I remembered when I was in primary school there was a free period every Friday morning, where students were free to do whatever they wished. During this free period, I liked to attend the chapel service in the school church. I remembered on one of those Friday morning chapel services, my class teacher, the late Mrs. Jothi told the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15:11-32, in a most masterly manner. A man had 2 sons, one “good” and one bad. The bad son took his share of his father’s inheritance, left the town, and squandered his money on wild living. When the bad or prodigal son came back to his senses, he returned to his father’s house. To everyone’s surprise, the father welcome him back with open arms and hosted a grand feast to celebrate the return of the prodigal son. In this parable the father represented God. The prodigal sons represented those who ran away from God, but God never gave up upon them. Although I was a free thinker, the parable of the prodigal son made a deep impact on me and got me thinking about God.
I was active in the boy scouts movement and participated actively in all the scout activities. I was quite good in my studies and was chosen to be prefect, class monitor, and other prominent academic roles. I looked forward to scout campfires, camping, and other activities. But I was not much of an athlete and was not very talented in sports.
I did a lot of brave and unwise things in my secondary school years. On two occasions, I went hitchhiking once to Penang and another time to Melaka. This was to fulfill the requirement for getting the king scout badge. I did not have much cash in my pocket and did not inform my parents because they would not have allowed it. I also used to go swimming with friends without informing my parents. I remembered on one occasion, I had leg cramps while swimming and almost got myself drowned. I screamed and someone pulled me out of the water just in time before I went under! On looking back, it was God again who saved my life. This was the third time He saved me as far as I could remember.
I rear pets too. They say the dog is men’s best friend. I had a dog, called Bobby, a mongrel dog. I took him back when he was just a puppy. He was a loyal dog and playful dog and I liked him a lot. But as he was growing up, he needed a lot of attention and care. When I realised that I did not have the time to look after him properly, I gave him away to a farmer. I blindfolded him, took him to the new owner’s lorry, who sent him to his farm in another town. Two weeks later, to my surprise, Bobby came back to my father’s shophouse, dirty, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted. I was in tears when I saw him. I was so heartless to send him away, but he faithfully came back to me. Ever since that day, I have looked after Bobby until he died. I also had 2 monkeys, one a male and the other a female. The male one was called Abang but I could not remember the name of the female one.
I like reading the novels of William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Enid Blyton’s and so on. One day after reading the book Robinson Crusoe, I built a treehouse at the back of my father’s shophouse. Every night, I would climb up into my treehouse to read books. This was my secret hiding place.
I was active in a band called the Asteroid where I was the lead guitarist. It was a 5 piece band, with a singer, a drummer, a lead guitarist, a rhythm guitarist, and a bass guitarist. We played in the annual school Talent-Time, weddings, other schools, and private functions. This band was partially reunited when the three of us got together as a 3 piece band in our MES class of 69 annual reunions in 2018 and 2019.
After the Form 5 school certificate examination in 1969, I had to wait for several months before the results came out. During this period I went to Kuala Lumpur with a group of friends to work in a bakery in Pudu Road. I remembered we were being exploited by the company. We started work at 8 am and worked until 10 pm, with breakfast, a lunch break, dinner break, and tea breaks in between. After finishing work, we sleep in the bakery complex. The pay was very poor and working hours were very long. This was my first experience with working life. When the results came out, I returned to Tanjong Malim.
I left Tanjong Malim in 1969 to continue Form 6 education in Telok Intan, which is another town in Perak. After leaving Tanjong Malim, I lost contact with almost all of my Methodist English School Tanjong Malim (MESTM) classmates except for those who were selected to study in Telok Intan. In 2015, through Facebook, Googles, and social media we were able to reconnect and formed the MESTM Class of 69 common interest WhatsApp chat group. This culminated in the first grand reunion in Shah Alam Club in 2016, followed by annual reunions in 2017, 2018, and 2019. A small group within the group also made several overseas trips to Perth, Jakarta, Medan, and Vietnam. We also had yearly gatherings during Christmas, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, and Deepavali. However, our activities had been curtailed in 2020 due to COVID 19 pandemic.
To be continued ……