Weirdness within Weirdness within Weirdness

I’m writing this from my hospital bed in Mt. Elizabeth’s in Singapore. From the window of my shared room, I can see a canyon of walls in this massive complex. Nothing to gaze out at and conversely nothing to gaze in. Restricted to my bed because of regulations, I pee in a cup. I’m on a fast due to testing coming up sometime this morning, and it’s been 20 hours since I’ve had a cigarette. As you can see, this is not my normal life; how did I arrive at this situation where I have assigned the right to direct my actions to others, and in this case, specifically to a group of others whom I’ve never met.

So back to the past – in this case back 33 hours ago. While watching television and talking to my children on the hand phone, I suddenly lost the feeling on the left side of my body. There was some accompanying discomfort in that I was finding it quite difficult to keep track of what the children were saying, that is make sense out of their words, and at the same time verbalize some response to them. I managed to end the conversation without alarming the children, and as I rose from my chair to get some water, I stumbled. 15 minutes later the episode passed, and except for continued numbness in my left arm, I was well enough to go to bed.

The next morning I went to work as usual, but after doing a quick search on the internet, I discovered that I may have had a tia (transient ischemic attack) – basically a mini-stroke. So after teaching my first period Social Studies class, I made an appointment at the clinic in townsite with the expat doctor. After an examination where the doc noticed that I am pretty fit for a 60 year old, he said that I should have immediately reported the episode right when it happened and that we would need to do some follow up work including CAT and MRI scans.

Now this is one of those stories that can go on interminably, so I’ll present a shortened version as I’m probably the only one who would find the long version of any interest whatsoever.

In a quite short amount of time, the doctor in Sumbawa arranged to have be flown from Sumbawa to Bali to Singapore and checked in to a hospital for a series of test in order to discover why or how, I went through my 15 minutes of confusion. I’ll leave out the hospital weirdness for another blog and focus the rest of this account on strange travel arrangements.
wheelchair
People that have strokes, or at least this person who had a stroke, are treated like they are made of glass. My colleagues at school wanted to drive me home and to the clinic, no riding my motorcycle. Once I made it to the clinic, I was told to stay in bed and rest, no work. Actually, that was quite helpful because I was exhausted from the night before and immediately fell asleep.

Going from the clinic in townsite to the airport/seaport in Benete, I had to lie down in the ambulance. I had a doctor from townsite accompany me from there to Bali where he handed me off to another doctor who would be accompanying me to the hospital in Singapore. There was an ambulance waiting to get me when we arrived in Bali, and it took me to the international section of the airport where I waited in the ambulance until one of the SOS people from Bali had finished arranging my ticket and checking me in. While I waited in the ambulance, I sat on the bed with the backdoor opened and watching all the tourists arriving at the airport making their way back home after a lovely vacation in Bali. Most of them looked quite happy and satisfied. Some pointedly ignored staring at the ambulance sitting in front of the departure terminal, while others stared at me sitting there (thinking by the way, who can I trick or kill to get a cigarette?) looking as bewildered as they appeared looking at me.

Eventually, I was put in a wheelchair and rolled into and through the airport with stops at various locations (ticket counter, immigration, etc) until we made it to the premier lounge where I was actually allowed to walk around by myself and pick little morsels of food and drink. It was lovely. The lounge was quite empty most of the time and very quiet. I tried the internet but it was incredibly slow. We sat around for several hours in the lounge until it was time for the flight.

I was put in a wheelchair again and wheeled through the airport to the boarding lounge where I waited with what seemed to be a full flight. Bali does not seem to be suffering from any effects of the bombings last week in Jakarta. When the boarding announcement was made, one of the Singapore Airlines staff held up a card with a wheelchair. It was quite strange to see all of these people who just minutes earlier had surged around me so as to queue up to be one of the first in the plane, quickly part like the Red Sea to let my wheelchair through.

As an long-time expat in Asia, I’m used to being something of a curiosity and someone to be stared at, but this situation was more intense than normal: a closed space, a large crowd of people who were all about to share an even smaller, more enclosed space with a stranger being pushed around in a wheelchair who looked (or so I suppose) seemingly normal – no obvious injuries or disabilities, no mask over the face, nothing that stood out as an explanation for the wheelchair.

The flight to Singapore was comfortable, but uneventful. Once we arrived in Singapore, I had to wait for a wheelchair to take me through the airport and to a waiting ambulance. Finally off to the hospital where I’ve been since Friday night.

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~ by drbrucepk on July 26, 2009.

2 Responses to “Weirdness within Weirdness within Weirdness”

  1. Now you experience the life of a raj, carried from place to place on your settan. Hope all ends up fine for you. Glad to see you are making the best of it.

    • The 21st Century version of the Raj. It was an interesting visit to Singapore, although I prefer getting around on my own. Thanks for writing.

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