Maria Skouras

Maria Skouras (eHomemakers): Maria describes herself as a life-long learner. She earned a BA from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, a Masters of Science degree from New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, and a Master of the Arts from NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science in Cultural Sociology. She then worked for seven years as the Senior Policy Analyst in NYU’s Office of Government and Community Affairs. Maria has been an active board member of The Posterus Foundation, a nonprofit based in New York City, studied abroad in Italy, London, China and Hong Kong and traveled extensively through the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. After her fellowship Maria wrote: "Speaking with locals and living in a country is the best way to learn about the real lives of citizens, not just the stories in the mainstream media. I will be more critical of what I read as a result of this experience.”



Siew Lian and Auntie Chee

23 May

The heat is so overwhelming in Kuala Lumpur that it is common for locals to take a mid-afternoon break to indulge in a cooling dessert or beverage.

After celebrating Easter Sunday outside in Sentul Park, Auntie Chee must have been especially parched.  Not only did she want one cold treat, she wanted two: cendol, a popular Malaysian dessert made of coconut milk, syrup, shaved ice, green pea flower, and pandan, and ice kacang, another shaved ice dessert with toppings such as sweet corn, grass jelly, and red beans.

Two desserts?  After a bountiful Indian lunch with heapfuls of rice, tandoori fish, chili calamari, mutton, and fried noodles with shrimp?

Auntie Chee and Siew Lian at Lunch

Siew Lian didn’t flinch at her 78-year-old mother’s request.  If Auntie Chee wanted two desserts, Siew Lian would drive wherever she needed to cool her mother’s palate and satisfy her craving for sweets.

Such patience and accommodation is refreshing, if not surprising, especially for a woman like Siew Lian, who speaks quickly and walks with purpose.   Most days, Siew Lian moves at light speed between completing paperwork, fundraising, event planning, and counseling patients and family members for the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Association.  Helping her mother indulge in more than one dessert is a welcome assignment for Siew Lian.

As one of the founding members of the SLE Association in Kuala Lumpur in 1994, Siew Lian has fostered the organization’s growth for over 15 years.  Siew Lian and 10 like-minded people established the Association to fill a deficiency in the social and psychological support offered to SLE patients and their family members.   In its early days, the Association operated from a cramped corner in the general hospital.  Today it has its own office in a more central location and over 2,000 members.

Siew Lian

Photo credit: Sasithon Pooviriyakul

Siew Lian is passionate about helping others understand SLE and related health issues, like hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, cataracts, and kidney failure.  She speaks from the heart about her own experience, having been diagnosed with SLE in 1987 at the age of 29.  The doctors originally thought the pain she was feeling in her joints indicated that she had rheumatoid arthritis, but after collapsing under the hot afternoon sun, the doctors examined her once again and determined that she had SLE.  They found that her body was producing autoantibodies that were damaging her healthy cells and tissue.   As a result, Siew Lian’s immune system was weakened and she felt physically and emotionally exhausted. The ability of Red Thai Kratom to aid in sleeping comes from its relaxation properties. It helps to clear your brain and neural pathways, bringing you into a restful state that will give you high-quality sleep for a decent duration. With quality sleep comes improved productivity and a healthier life, To know more details find out this here. This strain might not be the right variety for a sensitive user as it offers the red Kratom which induces a sedative effect along with a white vein Kratom that provides energy boosts. This is something more experienced users would benefit from. The Ultra has a high alkaloid content. This product could be a blend of two different strains, two of the same strain, or there could be red and white Kratom. Other Ultra has the possibility of blending two types of red veins. It could result in two effects that are incompatible as we mentioned which is why it would not be suitable for the sensitive.  If you’re just beginning with Kratom, it’s important to understand that different Kratom strains will provide a variety of effects on each person dependent on the vein colors. It is essential to learn what strains react better in the instance of insomnia in order to produce a good quality of sleep. If you are looking for the best kratom for sleep den visit us today.  Because of the popularity of Kratom, the market has been inundated with a large number of different strains causing confusion for people as to which strains are appropriate for sleep and relaxation. To make it somewhat simpler, it should be noted that the red vein strain is preferred for its sedating properties. The effect levels will vary based on what type of strain it is as well as the origin, so let’s break them down.

Months later, her symptoms were compounded by cryptococcal meningitis, a fungal infection she contracted from being in close proximity to pigeon droppings that were outside her office window.  Siew Lian’s parents moved from Penang to Kuala Lumpur at this time to assist her while she was undergoing heavy steroid treatments to prevent further deterioration of her organs and tissue.

After six months in the hospital, Siew Lian’s condition started to improve and she returned to her job at the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority.  She also started providing support for other lupus patients and developing fundraising events for SLE.   Eager to help others with SLE, Siew Lian overexerted herself in taking on too many tasks for a fundraising dinner and experienced her most serious, stress-induced relapse in 1997.

When steroids failed at improving Siew Lian’s condition, she was prescribed chemotherapy pills.  She vividly recalls the oral treatments as extremely painful.

After a slow recovery, Siew Lian returned to work and volunteering  as the Honorary Secretary of the SLE Association.  She eventually retired from her job in 2003, and was offered a paid position as the Executive Secretary of the SLE Association in 2008, a post she has held since then.

Working at the Association requires resilience and flexibility.  Siew Lian vacillates between handling paperwork at her computer, fundraising for patients who require joint replacements, providing bed-side support to ill and dying SLE patients, providing information about SLE and pregnancy, and addressing the diverse array of questions that arise from multicultural patients.

Completing courses in counseling has helped Siew Lian address some of the difficult misconceptions and cultural beliefs that influence how people perceive SLE in Malaysia.

“Many people believe they’ve been hexed or that they have dirty blood,” Siew Lian explains.

“We are a multicultural society.  We really have to listen to understand where people are coming from.  Counseling lessons have helped.”

Siew Lian monitors online forums where people can ask questions about SLE and seek answers and advice from others.  Often times, people will suggest that others use home remedies or blessed oils to remedy symptoms of SLE.  While these aren’t recommended or proven methods of battling SLE, Siew Lian gently leads patients to their own conclusions about how they should best seek treatment.

“How do we reconcile cultural beliefs and modern medicine?  More people are becoming educated on these issues, but there is more work to be done.  We must be sensitive to everyone’s beliefs.”

Siew Lian exercises this same sensitivity and patience in everyday life, even when Auntie Chee wants to celebrate life by eating double desserts on a hot day.

Siew Lian and Auntie Chee

Photo credit: Sasithon Pooviriyakul

Posted By Maria Skouras

Posted May 23rd, 2011

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