How to Cross the Canyon


The canyons of the Napali coast. 2013.

Picking up the phone, I took a deep breath, then dialed the number.  One of the benefits of being multilingual is that you can communicate and cross barriers  to connect with others.  But one disadvantage is that you might also have to do the very thing that no one else wants to do… deliver bad news.

“Hello?” a woman answered.

“Hello, បង Bong (older sister)?” [In Khmer it’s polite to call others older brother or sister even if they are not related to you.]

“ចាស់ (yes)?” the woman replied, with a gentleness in her voice.

“This is the nurse from your OB’s office. We got your lab results back, and they show your blood pressure is high and affecting your kidneys. You need to go to the hospital now. They might have to deliver your baby today.”

“What do you mean? Why would I go to the hospital now?” she asked.

“Your blood pressure is high and when you’re pregnant, it can be very dangerous and cause you to have seizures.” I explained.

“How is this possible? High blood pressure? But I don’t feel sick,” she replied. “No… I’m not going.”

“If you don’t go, you could hurt both you and your baby,” I pleaded.

“But I feel fine,” she insisted, in an firm tone. “I’m not going.”

In that moment, with her still on the line, I felt like I was clutching onto a life raft between two tall canyons, one representing American culture and the other, my Asian heritage.

Since I was born in the States, I grew up largely with an American mindset, like my Western approach to patient care.  It was very straightforward to me, that she should follow her doctor’s instructions and go to the hospital based on her abnormal labs.  But the more I have worked serving a largely immigrant and refugee population, the more I have been challenged to think differently, and to approach situations from a new perspective.

How do I get off this life raft and cross to the other canyon?

Suddenly I was reminded of a Khmer proverb. “I see what you’re saying.  My dad taught me the saying, ‘if the wound is not bleeding, don’t irritate it…’, is that right? Have you heard that?”

Her voice softened. “Yes. EXACTLY. So why would I go deliver my baby if nothing is wrong? ”

“That’s the thing… high blood pressure is what we call a ‘silent killer.’ You don’t feel anything, but it’s there. And for you, your blood work showed that it’s already hurting your kidneys. And it could not just hurt you, but your baby as well.”


“Well how about this… pack your bags and go to the hospital. If the doctor there evaluates you and thinks you are safe to go home, they might give you medicine and let you go home. But if not, they will do what they think is the safest…”

She sighed. “Okay. I guess I will go then. Thank you… bye.”

~ ~ ~

A week later, my colleague scooted into her seat in front of her laptop. “Remember that patient? With the high blood pressure?”

“Yeah, what happened to her?”

“She had an emergency Csection.  It was pretty serious.  If you hadn’t talked to her… it would have been even worse. You saved a life,” she answered, while typing away.  She wasn’t even looking at me, like it was no big deal.

Actually, it was the first time…

I didn’t save one life.

I saved two.


Soaring (not snoring)! -2018 Year in Review


2018. How do I describe you?

Despite living on 4-5 hours of sleep nightly (because my toddler detests sleep), I learned to trust in God to survive each day.  The result?

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”-Isaiah‬ ‭40:30-31‬ ‭


My top 3 nursing ‭stories: (I’ll write about these, hopefully soon!)

3. Spontaneous Surprises – my ‘first day’ continued

2. Walking through the Seasons – reunited with an old patient

1. An Early Christmas Gift – one of the best gifts ever

Top 3 characteristics I learned about God:

3.  He is sovereign.

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me”- Isaiah 46:9

2. He hears our prayers.

I cried out to him with my mouth;
    his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
    and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
    who has not rejected my prayer
    or withheld his love from me!” -Psalm 66:17-20

 1.  God can do the impossible!

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

Random 3 photos of treasured memories:


Once in a Lifetime

3. Once in a Lifetime-  My dance troupe was invited to perform at the Massachusetts State House for Human Rights Day! Watching them grow stronger each practice, how they “stan with fallen/napping queens who can’t text,” their willingness to learn, to fall, to get back up again. Their motivation “slays” me. I can’t contain how much I love these students.


The Language of Food

2. The Language of Food – On Sundays, the Korean moms from a partner church teach our community how to cook Korean food, like bibimbap. Then, our Khmer moms teach them recipes like lemongrass beef (on a stick). Although they don’t speak the same language, sharing meals together has been inviting, nourishing, and sweet.


Fleeting Autumn moments

1. Fleeting Autumn moments –  阿爺 and granddaughter walk and play beneath glimmering gold leaves. As my daughter grows, I hope she cherishes the wisdom, sacrifice, and fierce love her grandparents have for her.

Top 3 personal stories:

My blog used to be primarily about life as a nurse, with some stories about food, family, and life as a Khmer-American. Other than nursing, what would you like to see me write more about?

Top 3 films/dramas/shows:

I only saw one play all year, and it was fantastic. See below.

  1. ខ្ញុំ (Knyum) – Watched this with my parents, and they were encouraged to hear a 2nd generation perspective (in the form of theatre!), as he navigates his Khmer American identity, history, and language.  After the show, we got to meet Vichet, the playwright. He totally inspires me to write!

3 (fav) books I read:

3. The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko

2. Tea Girl from Hummingbird Lane  by Lisa See

“All your life you wait,

and then it finally comes,

and are you ready?” 

– Anthony Doerr

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

3 new things I did in 2018:

3. Colored my sketches!

It might seem like no big deal, but I never took art classes so I have no idea what I’m doing. But I was inspired by fellow artists online, bought some markers, and voila!

2. Watched ZERO television/film/movies the entire year.

After reading the tech habits of parents, I realized I can’t enforce a “no-screen” policy for my toddler if I can’t control my own habits. (I still use social media, and my husband let’s her watch an occasional Peppa Pig clip online. What is it with Peppa?!) (Also, do you recommend any must watch Kdramas from 2018? hahaha)

There is one film I do hope to watch: Crazy Rich Asians. I read the book, but hope the film is better. (P.S. – check out my sister’s response to the film: Review of Crazy Rich Asians from a Crazy Poor Asian)

1. Started teaching Khmer reading and writing.

I love language learning, and I love helping others learn language too. =) How many languages do you speak?

3 random awesome memories:

3. My sister is expecting! *jump for joy* My sis in law created such an entertaining and suspenseful gender reveal game: Pictionary + Wheel of Fortune + the 3 Bears (and 2 of them wearing Kpop masks).

2. Whenever it’s bedtime, my toddler has a burst of energy, and gives these incredible soliloquies. Before age two, she was already preaching!

“The Bible says… you need to read this book!” – my toddler

1. We attended my aunt’s baptism this past year. When we asked her if there was in any change in her life, after deciding to follow Jesus, she answered:

“I used to be very anxious.

But now, I can trust, I can turn to God.

He hears me. And gives me great peace.” – Auntie Susannah

3 things I hope to do in 2019:


New Adventures Await…

3. Get to church on time -I struggle with getting my toddler out of the house on time. Any other parents have some tips?

2. Start & finish a scrapbook- I never did get to it last year.

1. Blog more- I know, I say that every year too. =)

If you’ve read this far, you’re awesome. (Check out my 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013 year in reviews!)

Thanks for coming along for the ride, and let’s embrace 2019 with courage and conviction. =)

Continue reading

Two Choices


Around the corner, I heard a soft, but labored, panting.

Curious, I walked into my patient’s room to find him breathing rapidly.  I took his vital signs: blood pressure was a little high, pulse ok, temperature ok.  His respirations were fast, but his oxygen saturation was 100%.

Normally, when I call a doctor to report a patient’s worsening condition, I’m ahead of the game.  If my patient’s short of breath, I hook them up to oxygen.  If they have ‘as needed’ medications available, I give them. If he’s aspirating (choking on fluids), I raise the
head of the bed, I shove a yankauer in their mouth and suction the crap

But this time, I was empty handed.  Continue reading

First Day on the New Job


Spring in Boston. 2017.

April 2017

Tucked into the front pocket of my scrubs, I carried a fresh, blank notebook and pen for scribbling notes and responsibilities.

“Welcome,” my coworkers greeted.  “Glad to have you here.”

“Thanks, I’m happy to be here.” But hiding behind my toothy smile, my knees were shaking, like a new student on the first day of class. Continue reading

The Reason Behind My (Blogging) Absence


Spring 2016. BIG news, the beginning of a new season of our lives…

A few quotes from my patients over the course of the last several months…

patient #1: “Whoa. You’re finally gaining some weight. You look good, stay this way!”

patient #2: “Aiyah.. Your face got fat!”

patient #3: “Look at you.. now did you swallow a watermelon or what?” Continue reading