|Justin and Jason Raymer at hospital|
I recently blogged about my creative writing workshop with nurses and found myself surrounded by nurses thanks to my two boys, Jason and Justin, ages 7 and 4 ½. On Monday we got a call from the hospital informing us of two cancellations so their circumcision operation could be moved ahead by two months, but we had to confirm right now and be at the hospital before 3pm. The time was 11:30. My brain raced back and forth. I would have to drop everything for at least two days, grab a quick lunch, pack for the boys and me (to spend the night with them at the hospital), pick them up from the school and then race to the hospital (the driving alone will consume 1½ hours).
I hurriedly grabbed what I could think of and off we went. After registering the boys at the hospital for admittance, we got lost several times en route to the children’s surgical ward, when hospital administration and nurses and some helpful people gave us conflicting directions. We ended up on the fourth floor of the wrong building. I felt frustrated since it was nearly 3, then I thought, wait a minute, this is good. We’ve been in Kuching nearly five years, with two small boys and we weren’t familiar with the General Hospital! In all that time, we have only been there once for Jason (but not admitted) and once or twice as visitors. Justin had been born in a different hospital and we’ve never been back.
No sooner had I got the boys settled into their ward and the boys in their green gowns, and in beds placed side by side, interns came by, one after the other, and asked all the same questions that the registration nurse had already asked and written down in their files. I got the feeling they were “playing” doctor by going through the motions, but this is probably how they learn and assist the attending doctors, who would later come around making their rounds, with an entourage of six or seven interns.
Meanwhile, I was distracted by my perfectly healthy, rambunctious pre-surgery boys who were enjoying this new adventure (as I had dubbed it when I first picked them up). They kept climbing back and forth like green monkeys raiding each other’s bed. I was hoping to get some writing and reading done, but I was kept busy fielding questions from the doctors and nurses and minding the boys, hoping to prevent them from getting in the way of the doctors and nurses and other patients, mostly babies and toddlers.
It takes a trip to the hospital, especially the children’s ward, to bring some humility into your life and to appreciate your own healthy children. One, a preemie, had been in the ward for two months since his birth due to several complications; another, has been there for two years, in and out of surgery for intestinal problems. One toddler had a growth on the back of his head that had to be removed; another had half of his face pinned beneath a tire, as his father backed up the car, unaware that the child was behind him. You couldn’t tell it from the way the toddler—who arrived a day after us—kept running around, happily playing, not a care in the world.
Luckily for Jason and Justin, the ward had a playroom, so they could play there, instead of chasing one another and making a nuisance of themselves. After a fitful night of sleep—nurses kept waking me to ask more questions about the boys—and then dealing with a hostile Justin who was angry at me because I wouldn’t let him eat. They needed to fast before their surgery.
|Justin just prior to surgery|
Justin’s turn came first, and he was quite calm, no doubt a little scared, as I accompanied him into the surgery room and watched as they put him under. I kissed him just before he passed out, and then waited outside.
They called me back in and Justin was still out, but then he suddenly woke up, in a dreamy, yet violent state, attacking me while I tried to console him, wary of his sensitive area that had just being operated on. They told me this was common and had to sedate him. When he later woke up again, the real Justin showed up and all was calm, until we got him back to bed and Jason saw what they did to his brother. First he hid under the bed, and then he locked himself in the bathroom. He shouted and fought with me all the way as I struggled to carry him to surgery. He regarded me as traitor, and I felt bad because I wasn’t on his side; I was preventing him from escaping. His mother accompanied him to surgery and waited for him while I went back to attend to Justin.
That evening, I was hoping they would release us since there were no complications, but because we lived so far from the hospital, they recommended another night for us, in case of a middle-of-the-night emergency. Since we already knew the routine, and since the boys were in some pain, there was no more running around or climbing in and out of the beds, I agreed. I brought some toys for them from the playroom and even got some work done.
This hospital adventure also brought back memories from two previous trips to the hospital in Penang that I wrote about in Tropical Affairs: Episodes of an Expat's Life in Malaysia, "Hospital Blues" and "A Week of Firsts". I have to admit, the hospital break did me some good. It not only gave me a chance to put my writing life into perspective, it allowed me to be there for my two boys when they needed me the most. So now I’m back home, blogging about this (and feeling a little guilty I’m not doing something else that’s a little more pressing), while the two boys happily run around without any pants. They’ll be doing this all week, comparing their you-know-what to see who got the worst deal from their adventure at the hospital.
-Borneo Expat Writer