19th NOVEMBER 2009
It is Thursday, and soon our mission would be complete. My patient from the other day did not make an appearance last night, although we waited. Perhaps the idea of having to travel to seek medical help did not appeal to the parents I presume. However, it was a total shame as his left distal thigh abscess was quite big and without a proper incision and drainage it would spread to his need joint and he is at risk of developing septic arthritis which in the long run without proper treatment may lead to injury to the knee joint and impair mobility. I’ve already explained to the parents concerning the consequences of no surgery. The least I did was give him antibiotics, which pray to God, he has the decency to take. Being trained in pediatrics for many years has made me extremely sensitive to child health issues. I feel that this is also a failure on my part.
I got up a bit later than usual, perhaps close to 8 am. Haji Hani was out handling some cattle issues for the upcoming Aidil Adha celebrations. Breakfast was fried rice courtesy of Norhayati, my only female nurse and company.
This morning we set out to see the progress on our home building projects. We were taken on a few sights near Sungai Sarik that was our next clinic destination of the day. These homes were a bit different from the temporary homes that we saw before because it still uses the old housing frame, and recycled rubble added to rebuilt the collapsed home. There were certain criterias to fulfill before a home is built for the victims, which includes the victims’ capability of income, presence of little children and elderly people.
After the short visit, we headed to Limpato, Sungai Sarik for the next mobile clinic. On the way there, Pak Yah told us that yesterdays drama was actually more than it seems. Apparently, it was not a matter of road rage, but rather crime of passion. The man beaten up was upset because the guy who beat him up ran off with his ex-wife and this was part of a revenge plot. They were actually having a chasing tail gating scene prior to banging into each other and fighting with each other and landing on our doorstep that night. I guess life in Padang could be interesting at times.
Limpato was a nice village which was related to one of the DDI ustaz, whom I’ve seen a couple of times visiting our home stay in Pariaman. We set camp in front of a school under an open stall. Luckily, there was a nice breeze blowing through which made the hot morning sun bearable. The response from the locals was surprisingly good, although initially the clinic ran slow. We saw 110 patients that day in a span of 4 hours. Haji and me even went to an extent of doing an incision and drainage for a boy with a right thigh abscess, this time smaller than the one previous. After a positive pus aspiration via syringe, I made a small X cut on top of the fluctuating area to remove the pus. We removed almost 5 cc of pus from the abscess, but what I was more astounded was the fact the boy could stand the procedure with only ethylene chloride spray given prior. He didn’t even cry, he only admitted to pain – and he was not even a teenager yet. Thumbs up kid! We washed and dressed the wound and I wrote a letter for the parents to bring to any nearby facility for dressing daily. I covered him with antibiotics and some panadol and he was on his way. Another observation that we made was that the people there were very patient and orderly, not like our previous clinics. They even helped us carry our boxes prior to the clinic and as the clinic ended.
We finished at about 3pm, exhausted and hungry. Lunch was again nasi padang, but this time the shop had more meat in it. I opt for simple plain rice and rempah fried chicken because I wasn’t feeling to good. The rest had the fried rice that we packed from this morning with some of the dishes sold. Buffalo stew was actually quite nice as we tried a plate to eat. After lunch, we went back to the ‘telekung’ factory we visited earlier to buy some more and then headed home. It was still early when we reached home and so we decided to take a look around the area. We went to a nearby stall selling ‘Bika’, which was something like our version of ‘Apam’ except for the coconut was blended into the dough. They used a special leaf found by the beach as the placemat that gives a very special aroma that adds to taste. It was quite sweet. We also went to visit a nearby telekung factory in front of the house, but we found that the designs and price were not up to our liking.
That night, we were pretty exhausted from the long day. It was Friday night, so we had our prayers and Yaasin reading. Dinner was chicken soup and mix vegetables with omelet. We were pretty exhausted after all the cleaning and rearranging drugs, and that night we slept early because the next day we need to get up early for our next clinic which was situated quite far from where we were.
20th November 2009
We got up early since we were to set out before 7am. Breakfast was simple bread and jam, some coffee and we were good to go. The journey was a long one. We stopped to fill up for gas on the way. It took us almost 2 hours to reach the last clinic spot which was near Maninjau Lake called Sigiran. Surrounded with natures finest greenery, we were awestrucked at the sight of the huge lake situated amidst the mountains. It looked like we were by the seaside, except for our brains telling us we went uphill. On the other side, there were remains of a landslide which made the road all too narrower.
We arrived at Sigiran mosque at half past nine. I was feeling a bit queezy. Motion sickness perhaps, more like morning sickness. We set camp outside the mosque. Time was limited due to Friday prayer’s but we managed to see 104 patients altogether. One boy had persistent rhinorrhoea with foul smelling discharge. I took a look and it appeared that he had put something up his nose. Thanking God for my 6 months ENT training before resigning, I found a curved forceps and managed to remove the foreign body with ease. It was all green and smelly. There was a bit of blood afterwards, and he cried mainly because of the blood I think.
My head was hurting and luckily the clinic was closed early for the Friday prayers. The men went on with prayers while Norhayati and me dispensed the remaining medications and then packed up all our stuff. After prayers, we said goodbye to the people of Sigiran and had lunch on the other side of the lake. Menu as usual, nasi padang. It was still quite early when we finished lunch. Since Bukit Tinggi was another half an hour drive, we decided to check out the place, just to see why people were really excited about it. The journey up was breath taking and altogether there was 44 bends to reach the top. It was quite cool, comparable to our Cameron Highlands I would say. The Bazaar was mayhem and it was interesting to see the different type of stalls. Mostly sold praying clothes, embroided clothes and bags. After a few hours we headed home. We reached Pariaman at around 9pm. Dinner was Pariaman Fried Chicken bought prior to reaching home. We packed our things for the journey home tomorrow.
21st November 2009
Dawn arrived and most of us woke up a bit later than we normally did. I wasn’t feeling so well, the Fried Chicken had caused me to purge all morning. My staff nurses helped clean up the house before we got into the car for our journey home. Of the many days staying in Pariaman, we finally understood what ‘Gempa Sumbar’ meant – we thought it meant earth quake, but actually ‘Sumbar’ was an acronym for West Sumatera (Sumatera Barat).
We reached the airport early at around 12 pm. Pak Yas cried as we said our goodbyes. Apparently in our short stay, he grew fond of our small team.
Whilst waiting in the airport, we met another group of volunteers from University Malaysia Kelantan. It was the first time they were there to offer humanitarian help. The dean wanted his students to be exposed to humanitarian work besides just studying for a certificate. He is also sending a bigger group to Cambodia for the coming Aidil Adha.
We got on the plane and I guess everybody gave a sigh of relief. One week away from our beloved home town makes the journey home the most anticipated part. The flight was a bit bumpy but the takeoff and landing was super smooth.
It was a wonderful experience, the journey, the people, the new surroundings and the new friends we made. Watching other people’s home being struck by natural disaster makes us feel so blessed that it did not happen to our homes instead. Despite the help given, it wasn’t really much but perhaps it was enough to remind them that there are people who care about them in the world. As for my team, I couldn’t have asked for a better one. Definitely I need to say thank you so much for their cooperation and dedication. I couldn’t have done this mission well without all of you. A special thanks to Haji Hani also for his guidance and patience with us.