It is the third day, and there’s already colour in her face. And she is sitting up, scanning her new surrounding, looking at other patients who have visitors. Her eyes light up when she found us. How young and vulnerable she looks. Six months ago, she was with her husband and son thousands of miles from where she is sitting now but a desperate call for help from a cousin brought her to a foreign land whose language she barely understands, whose culture so very alien. And now she is surrounded by mostly strangers. The only person who she could speak to in her own mother tongue is a few beds away, like her, still recovering from an operation - the operation which was only made possible because she came to offer one of her kidneys. How noble – a word I struggled to find because there’s not many selfless acts that we encounter these days.
I had met these two amazing cousins by chance. One was working as a maid but what a wonderful employer she has – one who tended to her during her illness and didn’t allow her to do any heavy work. And one who paid for her private hospital care and treatment. Again, such act of kindness restored my faith in mankind.
How awful it must be to be ill, seriously ill in a foreign land, when all you want is to be surrounded by your loved ones and be pampered. But how wonderful it is that in times like these you find kindness and compassion in strangers.
I remember a Malaysian family who wrote a letter to another Malaysian she didn’t even know – saying they were coming here for a transplant. She was giving part of her liver to her daughter to save her life. They didn’t know anyone here – but when they left, the whole Malaysian community became their friends. We not only visited them, but we cooked for them, we cried with them in their darkest hours and we rejoiced when things looked brighter.
Recently too, a family came for a holiday and suddenly found themselves spending more time in the hospital than sightseeing. The husband fell ill almost immediately on arrival. But these people are fortunate in a sense that they could even fly family and friends to visit. Not many, especially my newfound friends from our neighbouring country, could afford that. Thus, we find ourselves alternating between the two beds, wiping a tear, spooning a drink, massaging an arm and most of the time – just to talk in a language that they can understand and not make them feel totally lost, even in a very friendly environment.
I was away on the day before the transplant, but I received a call, “Ibu, doakan saya, Ibu.” Given the distance, that was all I could do but visited as soon as I could.
I remember the few hours after the transplant, I didn’t really know what to do, how to cope. They were groggy and looked so vulnerable. I could only hold their hands – and even then, one at a time as their beds were so far apart. When one of them woke up, I felt the squeeze in my hand, and saw the grimace of pain in her face. I remember the same tight squeeze of hand when the mother in the liver transplant I mentioned above came to after her operation to save her daughter’s life. The squeeze that signalled the pain as the pain killer ceased to be effective.
Yesterday, one of them was transfered to a ward below. And they worried about each other. So, you can trust Kak Teh to take pictures on her digital, changed into her superwoman outfit and then flew back upstairs to show the picture. That brought a smile to her face.
Today, I am told they can eat something and they yearn for something Malay. Am sure I can manage that! And if you are reading this, please say a prayer for them too.
I am glad to report that the two ladies are doing very well - sitting up and eating. They are encouraged to walk around a bit. Makanan pun banyak..Alhamdulillah - banyak yang melawat dan bawa makanan - jadi macam pasar malam pulak! Kak Teh dah sampaikan salam dan doa semua di sini dan mereka juga mengucapkan terima kasih. Their beds are now side by side! Alhamdulillah - they are well on the way to recovery.