This may well be the second strangest, but second most useful, post on my blog after the one on my hotel quarantine.
OK, I did not expect to be in another quarantine a week after I left my last one.
The reason for returning home to KL from London is that my dad underwent major surgery at the beginning of February. As he is elderly, his recovery has been slow.
During the pandemic I was advised by doctor friends that I should not take any trip back to KL unless it was an emergency. It’s like when you play Monopoly and have one Get Out of Jail Free card. Use it wisely because for a while the authorities were allowing Malaysian citizens living overseas to only make the one trip back to KL. I am not sure what the current rules are, but I saved my one Chance card for now.
The long and the short of it is that after two weeks of being at home, my dad became rather dehydrated despite our best efforts at giving him fluids and also, his surgery wound looked sore.
Late last night I found myself at the back of an ambulance to Pantai Hospital. I think the driver put on the siren for effect because my dad’s blood pressure, pulse and other vital signs were stable. I will remember this as my ‘Korean Drama emergency scene’ albeit without the trauma you see on screen with tears and exhortations of please don’t leave me!
I would not be any good in those sorts of situations because I am not a very emotional sort of person.
Because of the risk of infection the hospital does not allow you to leave once you are registered as the patient’s carer and choose to stay with them. Unless you you are in a VVIP suite then a normal room in a ward is quite small and extremely noisy from the machinery running 24/7.
Here are my Top Tips for surviving a hospital stay not as the patient but as the carer or guardian. My dad is bed-bound until it is safe for him to get back on his feet again.
Tip Number 1:
I helped with my children’s Scout Group for nearly 20 years and one of my jobs was to help with Admin. When the ambulance was on its way to our house I had 15 minutes to pack my overnight bag. The first thing I threw in was the file in which I had kept my dad’s surgery notes, as well as his hospital admission card, his MyKad (all Malaysians have a national ID card) and a bundle of cash.
All these things were called for within half an hour of being admitted to A+E. The cash was especially useful as this is a no-money-no-talk society. How I miss our beloved National Health Service back in the UK.
Tip Number 2:
The essentials you need for the patient: any ongoing medication, spectacles, dentures, clothes including pyjamas if not using hospital gowns, cardigan and bed socks as it can be cold in the room. Medical supplies like gloves, wet wipes, wound dressings can be provided but they will be charged with a mark-up, so you should bring these if you have them at home anyway.
Bring the patient’s mobile phone as they are likely to want to contact certain people with important messages. In my dad’s case it is his broker to sell some shares. He really eats, sleeps, dreams and lives the stock market. Even in his half-delirious state he has the presence of mind to say it’s Saturday it’s too late to call the broker. Then he fell asleep again.
The essentials you need for yourself as carer: any small samples of cream and wash you need to get you through the next few days, also a face towel and bath towel. The ones provided by the hospital are small and thin, reminiscent of the made-in-China Good Morning towels my dad used to wrap around his neck when he used to go jogging in that padang behind A+W in Petaling Jaya.
I always carry ear plugs and a first aid kit, which is so essential here. The machinery and air-conditioning drones on 24/7, my dad snores and there is continual disruption to check on the patient. This is what paracetamol was made for.
The hospital does give you a basic washbag.
Tip Number 3:
Upon entering, take a long look around the assigned room. Unless you have a VVIP room this will be small, so identify all the areas you can put your things on as well as any available cupboard space. You need to mark out a work space because 19 hours is a very long day to kill. I don’t sleep for more than 4-5 hours at night in such situations, so writing helps pass the time away.
Tip Number 4:
I was quite prepared to stay in the hospital with my father but did not think that once you entered you cannot leave because of the risk of infection. I also had to do a covid test before being allowed to enter the ward, my third test in under 3 weeks.
Since you are then on duty 24/7 you will need lots of things to read. I brought along a thick Korean grammar textbook. Now also would be a good time to schedule Zoom meetings with friends you have not connected with for some time. This you can do in the Visitors’ Room. The one here is small but empty because, actually, few people stay with their relatives in the ward. But I stay with my dad as I didn’t want him to have no one to talk to when he is awake (and looking for his broker).
It turns out I do have a Get Out of Jail Free card in this situation.
The Caretaker Pass allows you to exit the ward to walk around the hospital premises but not to leave it. So you can visit the coffee shop, sandwich shop, fruit shop, book shop and healthcare shop.
I am actually wondering: do they have a beauty salon here, and can I have a pedicure? What about a hair wash? A visit to the dentist perhaps for some teeth scaling?
I have never had a Subway sandwich and the only times I visit Starbucks were at this hospital when my dad had his previous consultations, or in Seoul. So this might be my chance for a Starbucks and Subway combo lunch.
Turns out Subways are disgusting. Mr Gochugaru did warn me that if I wanted to try oneI should try it in Seoul where there might (might) be some sort of standard. So this one went into the bin after three bites and I had a soft bun instead with a Starbucks Hot Chocolate.
Now might be a good time also to go on diet.
The doctors come and go, the nurses come and go. I look out the window several times and think: why don’t people clean their windows instead of hiding it with a voile curtain?
I woke up at 5am and it is 3pm. There are another nine hours to go before I even feel sleepy.
Let me think about Netflix. Now where are my account log-in details?…..