Finding calm in turbulent times
My first post in 2014. It has been a very eventful start. Since the first day of the new year, I have been in and out of hospital. My aged father was admitted at a critical stage and within the next day, he went through an operation to remove the lower portion of his colon. Upon discharge, there're many follow-ups in hospital and arrangement of post-operative care. I would say this is a precious time, to reexamine many areas of my life, with a fair share of ups and downs.
Some important lessons that I learned from this experience:-
1. Perception of government hospitals
I've a negative perception of government hospitals, from years of experience bringing my parents for check-ups and admission to such places. Most of the outpatients have to wait for a year for an appointment to see a doctor for a consultation lasting less than 10 minutes. The whole process usually starts as early as 7 am. The waiting hours are long, the waiting area is overcrowded and this definitely has an effect on the quality of service and attitude of the staff. In recent months, all government hospitals are seeing a surge of patients, partly cos of the rising cost of living. Most affected department is the A&E. It's like a 'pasar malam' atmosphere, and you see patients with drips in the waiting area cos of a shortage of beds. I believe this situation is not unique to Malaysia only. I've developed such an adverse reaction to government hospital.
A butterfly or flower depends on our attitude
But over the course of 3 weeks, I see something else. I see there're doctors and staff working selflessly, long hours, even on New Year's day, and in pathetic conditions. I see the surgical team working with such urgency to ensure my father got immediate medical attention at the A&E, I see the doctors and surgeons engaging in serious discussion, making calls, reading reports and making decisions at wee hours, performing the operation at midnight, I see them taking time and care talking to the family. I see the physical condition of the ward and the facilities and the no. of patients waiting to be attended to. I see the strain on the nursing staff. I see them cleaning up the poop and pee, changing the gowns from bed to bed. I see the stoma nurse spending hours caring for my father's wound and guiding us how to change and clean the stoma bag. She seemed not bothered by the smell and filth and carried on her duties professionally. I see a pregnant physiotherapist still working with patients. I see caregivers standing by their loved ones, aged parents caring for their sons, wives for their husbands, grandchildren for their grandpa.
I didn't see the shortcomings and constraints as overwhelming though they are still real and happening. I no longer have the phobia of going in and out of a hospital - the kinda adverse reaction every time I go for a hospital visit. I appreciate the medical and nursing personnel, for continuing to serve and not giving up. I spend a lot of time behind computers, chatting with friends in the social media, until I've lost so much reality of what's happening to real people, and forgetting real needs. I realise that so much could be done with the time every day.
2. Post operative care
This is an area that is most lacking and under-developed in medical care. We went home with little information and counsel on how to care for my father with stoma. The 1st week was most depressing. My aged mother is the primary caregiver for my aged father. This is a disastrous combination. We need good quality home care nurses, experienced stoma nurses (cos not all nurses know how to deal with stoma) as well as counsel for emergency esp during weekends and public holidays, a helper for my parents at home, patient transport services for my father to the hospital for follow ups and help to do shopping for essential things. The timing could not have been worse with my husband overseas and schools have reopened. We've to respond and deal with unexpected issues and crisis, and hands-on training to care for the stoma.
Overloaded but keep going!
Living in the city, we are chasing after certain lifestyles and more privacy, we plan for our children and holidays, etc. But these few weeks in somewhere like ground zero, I am living moment by moment, not knowing what will happen next, and going back to basics in most situations. It's not all gloom and doom and I tried to make time to do things with my boys, even a day trip of more than 150km per way to Sg. Besar fishing village, baking and cooking, house cleaning and swimming. My emotions were like a roller coaster and I count my blessings for the ongoing support and prayers from friends and relatives.
3. Check your tyres!
Walking on thin ice
I ran around so much each day, and there were many days the weather was bad and rainy. Thank God for His mercy even at times, I was plain foolish. I overlooked checking my car condition and my front tyres were both bald. I was filling petrol to get ready for the day trip to Sg Besar the next day, when - a divine intervention - a car tyre salesman approached me. Only then I realised about the condition of my car tyres. At the workshop, I realised my brake pads were in bad shape too. I was this 'close', and this was indeed a good lesson to remember!!
There's always a landing place even in unfavourable conditions.
Everything happens for a purpose though I've to spend the New Year and first few weeks in and out of hospital. The experience changes the ways I look at many things and a reality checkpoint of my life.