Wednesday, March 5, 2008


On a cool, misty morning 11 August 1990, we went to KLGH - Ma and I in the ambulance and Aboh and sis in our car. It was pitiful to see Ma in her condition to travel cramped in the van. She was expecting another child at the time.

I was put in ward K6 of the Childen's hospital. In the ward I noticed there were many others who were in the same boat with me. Gradually I made friends with some of them and also with the staffs. Though I was still giving problems to the doctors and nurses, my uncooperativeness was fast disappearing.

I began to make friends with my consultant doctor, Dr Raja Khuzaiah, Dr Jenny, Dr Anita, Dr Rozini and many others whose names - but not good deeds and tender loving care - I had forgotten. I became friendly with the nurses and called them aunty instead of crying whenever they touched me.

I was still pale despite the umpteenth bags of blood transfused into my body. I was so pale that Matron Rohana referred to me as 'the pale boy from Ipoh'.

After about two weeks in K6, I was transferred to K5, the first class ward. I liked it beter because I had a separate room, the food was better and the nurses were much friendlier.

But most of all, I liked it because Ma was provided with a separate bed and she could at last put her over-worked and tired body into a more comfortable bed instead of the back-breaking easy-chair.

My fever persisted despite antibiotic injections. I had to be sponged many times to bring down my body temperature - a procedure I disliked because I had to be stripped naked in the process and this really embarrassed me, more so with the nurses doing the sponging.

The paleness too did not improve much though many bags of blood had been transfused into my veins. I wondered where on earth all the blood disappeared to.

One morning Aboh was shocked to see that my stool was dark red in colour. He immediately reported it to the doctor and was told that I was suffering from internal bleeding due to the low platelet level in my blood. The problem continued for a few days and to combat it I was given platelet transfusion.

The bleeding did not stop. I saw Aboh being called by Dr Jenny. I knew that something was gravely wrong with me. Aboh did not tell me what it was, but I guessed it it was a serious problem because I noticed that Aboh was always nearby, night or day.

To investigate the problem, they performed gastric aspiration on me. A long gastric tube was forced down my nose and throat straight into my stomach. A few milliliters of iced water was syringed into my stomach - wow it was cold! Then my stomach contents were syringed out again.

Everybody, including myself was surprised and worried over what we saw coming out of my stomach into the kidney bowl : blood clots mixed with partially digested food. How eerie!

The ticklish nature of the tube made me vomit and there it was, more fresh blood clots! On seeing this, Dr Jenny immediately gave a 'nil-orally' order and so began my out- of- Ramadan fasting. No food, water nor anything except medicine could be allowed into my stomach!

Words could not describe how frustrating it was for me not being able to to have anything for breakfast, lunch, tea or dinner. I could not understand why they were doing this to me. Being a boy with a hearty appetite, I suffered extreme hunger pangs. I begged for food everytime I saw Aboh. He would tactfully avoid the word food whenever he confronted me. I was on dextrose drips all throughout my fasting.

They said that dextrose drips would give me energy, but to me, this was a little use if my throat was parched and hunger pangs still haunted me. I began to recollect all my favourite dishes.

Everytime I met Aboh I begged him for food. He was speechless and could not explain or make me understand why I had to go on fasting. On one or two occassions I remembered seeing Aboh crying openly on hearing my incessant pleas.

Failing to understand why I had to go off food and water for so long I even asked Aboh if it was because he had no more money. My craving for fried chickens, doughnuts, milk and chocolate was so great that I often dreamed of food.

I grew emaciated over time. Bony protuberances were clearly seen and I was so weak that I could hardly move my legs. The fasting went on for 10 long days.

Only on the eleventh day I was allowed to take in fluids. The first thing that went into my stomach was my favourite - milk.

I was glad that the 10-day ordeal was finally over. Since my condition was was stable at the moment, the doctor finally ordered induction course chemotherapy for me.

Being always afraid of medicines and injections, I found the course a real test. A battle raged inside my mind - the battle between the strong will to get better and the bad influience saying that the drug was bitter, the injection painful, so why bother cooperating.

From Aboh I knew some of the names of the drugs used on me - they were prednisolone - the bitter one, VP 16 which was given intravenously, Methotrexate and a few others that I did not remember.

These drugs, with their cytotoxic nature, began to cause side effects. The first victim was my beautiful black hair, which started falling and soon became so sparse that you could clearly see the scalp.

Within lessthan 2 weeks, my head was nearly bald, save for a few strands. Gone too were my eyebrows and most of the hair on my body.

I felt so inferior with my almost-hairless head that Aboh had to get me a cap to cover the head rom the belittling stares of those who did not understand.

THe second side effect was worse. Ulcers began to develop in mu mouth.

To be continued...

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