I have found out who are my real friends,
thanks to the illness and hospitals.
Chris Rea, British singer, songwriter

Hospitals — they are where life begins and where it probably ends.

I was not privileged to come to this world there, thanks to backwardness of the early 50s when longhouses were in a world of their own, almost inaccessible and oblivious to civilisation.

My four offspring, including half of the twin who was stillborn, were welcomed to this world inside comfortable hospitals — both privately owned and charging fees more than their sweeper’s annual pay.

The first girl and the boy sadly ended their short lives in hospitals — the girl, Garcia Ann Kejuang, at the Lau King Howe Hospital (LKHH), Sibu after a brief happy life of less than six years whereas the surviving twin, Jay Kingsley Gara, who only lived for 24 years, at the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH), Kuching. Garcia died on the spot in Durin, near Sibu in the fatal crash involving the Honda Ballade sedan I was driving and a Toyota 4WD.

Cancer had the better of my beloved Jay to which he succumbed on March 7, 2015.

I had my own dose of hospital wards, debuting at the LKHH ward in 1973 after a daring challenge of locally brewed liquor at the closing hours of a festival. The doctor said I had mild hepatitis and was warded for three days.

Hospital food was nothing new as I was used to it, staying in the dormitories during my primary and secondary days and the school hostel of Methodist Secondary School, Sibu.

However, it was a totally new scenario; the hospital wards were full of sick people, including those waiting for their numbers to be up.

In 1990 when my Garcia succumbed to head injuries, I was in a world of my own in the first class ward of LKHH due to cerebral concussion.

I found out later that our crash was front-paged by a local Chinese daily. It might be titled, “School principal cheats death in car collision”, or “School principal’s daughter, niece die in car crash”. I may simply put it as “Fatal crash takes two lives”.

It was only after seven weeks that I found out Garcia and Daphne had died during the crash; this time I was in SGH after being transferred from LKHH on a Fokker 100 flight occupying six seats.

Many probably blamed me though the real guilty party of the accident was the Toyota 4WD driver — he was jailed two weeks and fined RM4,000 (in lieu of three months’ jail) under 41 (1C) of the Road Transport Act 1987.

God has mysterious ways of imposing justice — the driver’s right leg was amputated years after the accident due to gangrene despite seeking treatment in Beijing, according to a source.

It took eight weeks for me to recuperate at SGH from my injuries — no fractures, thank God — including sucking blood from my head (can’t recall the medical term) as part of treating my concussion.

Four years later while serving at SMK Lake, Bau, hypertension landed me again at the SGH ward, albeit briefly.

After a misdemeanour due to an overdose of alcohol in Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), Brunei in 2000, I became the first person ever to crash (after driving against traffic flow at 2am) into the gate of the Lapau, the sultanate’s equivalent of Sarawak’s State Legislative Assembly Complex.

Upon waking up at around 6am, I found myself constrained to a strange bed and started barking expletives. It was in the A&E ward of the RIPAS (Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha) Hospital of BSB. When I was sober, they transferred me to the ward proper and I stayed there for another two nights.

“Don’t worry, you are covered by insurance,” said our Borneo Bulletin editor-in-chief Rex De Silva, a Sri Lankan, when he and others came to visit me. The hospital bill was B$1,504.

As a ward patient or as one who accompanies a patient, one will most likely find hospitals sickening — on top of your own or your charge’s sickness. One can be sick of the slow way everything moves in them.

No wonder most people are furious at the healthcare industry. The screen (around the bed), the blood work, the X-rays — everything has taken twice as long as it should have. And then the doctor has to be located, a pharmacist called in, a nurse or nurses found. Sick people and their families, however, are not blessed with choices.

A patient’s recovery isn’t just down to good medicine. Family support could often energise a patient, even giving him or her reason to live, said a RIPAS nurse. My colleagues, including my lovely and caring Singaporean live-in connection were all that I had in BSB. Their visit, especially hers, apart from Rex’s, gave me enough reason to live.

Back to present day SGH, parking problem is enough to worsen your physiological, psychological, even mental state and illness or ailments, if any. But one has no choice most of the time.


The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.