It is Wednesday, 29th April 2009. A rainy day. With a mug of hot coffee and nothing much to do, I think I will allow myself to recollect back to 29th April, 2002.

My son, Vincent was transported from Lam Wah Ee to University Malaya Medical Centre, Paediatric Intensive Care Unit a few days earlier. Dr. Cheang told me the night before, “Lilian, tomorrow I MAY be able to bring this naughty guy to UMMC. Prof. Lucy has a bed now. But no promises yet ‘cos sometimes, they have emergency cases.” In Malaysia, at that time, only two hospitals have PICU facilities, i.e. HKL and UMMC. The children there came from all over the country.

On the morning itself Dr. Cheang came to the ICU in LWE and he told me, “Lilian, we are going to UMMC this afternoon. I will close my clinic half day. I have arranged for the ambulance.”

I said, “OK, I will go back now and arrange for my kids to be sent to my sister’s place.” The nurses were like, “WTH….this woman thinks she is going for a shopping trip with Dr. C or what? So cool, one?” (transferring to UMMC is the last resort and they know it is either bad news or I am going to be stuck in UMMC for months and even years) I rushed home, took my #3 out of kindie, went home to pack my own clothes and Vincent’s. Called my sister to come to pick all 3 kids to her place and phoned hubby that we are leaving for KL.

Then, I went back to the hospital and I even have the clear mind to tip the ambulance driver for his and his assistant’s lunch when they came up to the ICU for briefing by Dr. C. I slipped the money into the pocket so that the matron doesn’t see it! Crazy woman with organised mind like me only do all these nitty-gritty things but I know they have a tough job ahead, driving for 3 + hrs, non-stop, not even toilet stops.

I couldn’t follow the ambulance because Dr. C needed extra oxygen supplies and the ambulance only fit one other nurses. In our country, we also do not have ambulance with a kid’s ventilator so the nurse and Dr. C has to bagged Vincent all the way. (Bagged means using hand to manually pump the oxygen into his lungs, ventilator is the machine. Adult ventilator cannot be used for kid because the pressure is too strong.)

So, Vincent reached UMMC safely, despite of a few bronchospasm. He had BPD and sometimes, his airways have spasm and he turned blue then black when oxygen doesn’t get to him.

Maybe, on the 29th April, 2002 I was back to Penang for a while because I have to deal with the school going kids here. But at that time, I already had plans of what to do if I have to stay in UMMC. Like, asking my sister-in-law to watch over my kids here and I shuttle between UMMC and Penang. For someone who can even get lost in Penang itself, it is a very ambitious plan to shuttle.

UMMC PICU have Prof. Lucy Lum and her team of very specialised, trained nurses. Though it is a Government hospital, it is nothing like what I expected. Of course, some of the things they use in UMMC are not as modern or canggih but the treatment is definitely much more advanced as they have better medical equipment.

Children were dying in the unit but none died while I was there. One kid, aged 6 yrs, very chubby, very handsome got a flu and eventually turned septic. Another boy, a son of an Ustaz had a liver condition. And on May 1st morning, both of them died. I was there on May 1st and I had meant to return to Penang. But upon seeing those two kids died, I decided to stay back because I think Vincent is ‘going to be awfully lonely’, now that the two boys died. I was dreading how to spend my night there because I didnt’ bring enough clothings and *ashamedly* I had been spoilt with first class hospital room facilities all the time. But a mom gotta do what a mom gotta do, so I told myself I can live in hospital corridor. (you cannot sleep in PICU, only outside at the corridor)

Later in the evening, when my hubby had driven up to Tapah, he got a call from me to ask him to return back to UMMC. He didn’t know how serious it was because I only told him half the story as Tapah to UMMC is still 2 hrs drive away. I only told him Vincent had one nasty bronchospasm and needed Code Blue (resuscitation). One thing that I won’t forget is, hubby still didn’t know what had happened when he arrived. When he got there, Vincent was technically gone but we maintained his heart beating with oxygen supply. Yet, Vincent was seen sucking his pacifier and hubby still thought he was still within help. It is one of those things….you can say the body is having spasm or you can say it is that one last look.

After about 10 days in UMMC, Prof. Lucy has endeared herself to my son. She cried along with me while we were chatting and waiting for my hubby. She was holding on to Vincent’s little hand and told me about work in the PICU. Her husband is the head of consultant in the adult ICU, Prof. Tan.

PICU and some of the other children’s ward in UMMC are filled with many sad cases but sometimes, there are miracles too. Prof Lucy told me about some of the cases, of how doctors had given up but the kid fought through. She told me she was hopeful for Vincent as he had been improving and she never expect it to happen. She said something like this, “Vincent…..why don’t you let me take care of you more? I was so sure you will get better.”

Overall, I never spent any nights in the PICU because my brother was staying not too far. We spent a few nights at my brother’s place. But there are many mothers whom had lived in the hospital because their children never get to go home. For eg. like Taufik (whom had died a few months after Vincent), another boy with a condition like elephantitis, with a huge growth on his face also had stayed there for years. The mothers of these children sometime faced divorces due to the pressures.

So, why am I telling you this? Wait I elaborate in another post.

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