Vol. VII No. 24 - Tuesday
June 10 - June 16, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


Chiang Mai FeMail
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Life Happens-Hospital Life with Dengue

OPINION

 

Welcome to this week’s Femail page! Again, not a lot of room for our usual features, as we thought you might like to read the final text from Nora and Kelly, the two Canadian Rotarians who made such a huge effort to collect and send aid through to the victims of Nargis. It’s little sad, though, that, after their magnificent contribution, their last memories of Chiang Mai should have been less than happy. We thank them, and wish them well as they travel on.
Burma….what did we expect? That the junta would keep to its word, and that professional aid workers would be able to do their jobs unhindered? The latest reports from that tragic land tell us that the state-run media is accusing those brave few who have managed to get video footage of the devastation, as well as eye-witness accounts to the world outside, of “self-seeking, exploiting cyclone victims and faking footage in order to tarnish the image of Burma with the international community”. Obviously, these guys can’t read English, or they might have noticed, over the years, that the international community’s perception of their actions is already as tarnished as a copper roof on a 16th century church! There is not, ever, going to be any good news in this or any other newspaper concerning that unholy crew. Except when…
See you next week!

Life Happens-Hospital Life with Dengue

Kelly and Nora have finally left for Singapore, on their way to Australia, having achieved an amazing result with their fundraising efforts for Burma. This is their last Chiang Mai update - it seems sad that their final memories of the city should be the report below.
“Hospital Update May 30 - GOOD NEWS! Kelly is on the mend - the fever has broken. The only time I’ve had to reflect in the last few days has been spent in uncontrollable tears. Here are some snippets of the fun we’ve had:
A new team of nurses joins us on Day 5. They speak no English and seem to lack many basic nursing skills, leaving arm bands on after drawing blood, bringing paracetamol hours after detecting that Kelly has a high fever, and never changing the sheets despite numerous requests - one of Kelly’s symptoms is profuse sweating - and when they finally do, not providing a blanket. When the chills arise, asking for a blanket with all the charades necessary is almost impossible. Kelly’s nausea erupts into vomiting - the first time he has vomited in 10 years. The nurse injects an anti-nauseant, which brings on hallucinations, pain, sweats, chills, and dizziness. He thinks he is going to die. An hour later, it subsides. I’ve been communicating with the insurance company almost daily. One particularly kind gentleman on the phone proves to be completely incompetent once he starts his promised task, and sends me an email indicating I have to call Australia’s enrolment department myself to sort things out. This proves to be the wrong department, but at least they are helpful.
Thursday, visa expiration day, comes. After being assured that we could wait until the last minute on Thursday to apply, the Immigration office refuse the application because the doctor didn’t write my name and passport number on the medical report. Back to the hospital, straight to the director, with whom I have to fight to get a new report so I can return to Immigration with literally 10 minutes to spare. Nice.
We are bored with the nurses. Initially, we talked to them, learned their names, and were courteous and attentive. So many nurses come in and out, we have started to react the way you react to the bus boy or server in a restaurant who has just filled your water glass for the tenth time. It’s uncomfortable and insincere to gush and express huge gratitude every time, but it doesn’t feel right to ignore the gesture either. So you politely cease conversation and then thank them as they’re leaving. We don’t know anybody’s name any longer and have lost interest in learning. There’s no getting around the fact that I’m absolutely exhausted. I was exhausted with the Burma project. Dengue Fever is just the icing on the cake.
On my way downstairs for yet another round of insurance phone calls, I sit in the stairwell in uncontrollable tears. My computer just had a mini-meltdown - the final straw. Kelly knew I was upset, but I couldn’t let loose in front of him; this was the sort of upset where things get broken - with Kelly at severe risk for internal bleeding, I didn’t want him to be the broken one. So I leave to go downstairs, but find myself unable to walk. There I sit, on the 10th floor landing, sobbing as quietly as I can. Every once in a while somebody comes through, so I go down a flight or two and resume my sobbing position. I pray. I really pray. I pray for Kelly. I pray for myself. I pray for peace. For wellness. For happiness. For something to go right in Asia. But most of all, I pray for the strength to get through this. The tears eventually end, and I resume my mission to make my phone calls, tear-stained face and all.
That isn’t my only fit. Yesterday, exhausted but not appreciating how much, with little sleep due to regular visits from nurses, walking through the mall after finishing my errands. Errands which include finding out where I can get documents translated for insurance purposes, running there before they close, begging them not to charge exorbitantly for translating two small receipts, and trying to impart a sense of urgency against their three-day turnaround policy. All after the big fight to extend our visas and other averted minor catastrophes. All of a sudden, my lips go numb, my knees buckle, I am fighting tears, and I start to pass out. I’d been light-headed much of the day - this is different. Maybe my blood-sugar is low, maybe a quick snack can solve my over-emotional behavior, stomach cramps, light-headedness, etc.
After a small Dairy Queen, I’m sitting on a bench waiting to recover, across from a home show display. Mattresses, fridges, and exercise equipment are on exhibit under fluorescent lighting. A small army of bored salespeople are scattered around, mostly talking on cell phones or text messaging their friends. Music that was popular in Canada five years ago is blasting from a nearby speaker. I actually enjoy listening to the tunes and let them take me back to the happy moments when I used to hear them back home. Music has a wonderful way of bringing back vivid, happy memories. I even find myself quietly singing along with a few of the tunes. I snap back to reality when I realize that instead of personal cell phones being the main attraction of the bored salespeople, I am. They are trying hard not to point and whisper, and failing miserably. This is my cue to do an internal scan. I feel a little better. Tears are not imminent. My lips are still numb, but I hope it’s from the ice cream. I try to stand up. Knees are working okay. I’m light-headed, but that’s common for me when standing up. Sick or well, I’ve just whittled away the last half hour and I must get some food for us both - “something American, maybe a cheeseburger,” which is Kelly’s dinner request. As I wander the extensive food courts, riddled with indecision, another wave of lip numbing, knee buckling, light-headed nausea washes over me. Oops - I’d better get something quickly. Anything. Korean food it is. As long as it doesn’t look like green curry, it should be fine for Kelly. Half the time he barely eats what I bring him anyway. I order and lean against a wall as they prepare the food. My stomach is churning, but not in a hunger-induced way. I want to close my eyes, and believe I could fall asleep standing up, even though I’m not feeling conventionally tired. I force myself to keep my eyes open and remain upright, grab the food, and make a final dash towards the finish line - a 10 minute walk away.
I walk intently, focused on the ground in front of me. My peripheral vision is dampening, and I coach myself out loud. “Keep going, Nora. It’s just around the corner. You can’t stop now.” I feel my forehead - sweaty, but not hot. Good. No Dengue for me. A dog barks - it startles me so much I scream in a new way which doesn’t sound like my voice. It wakes up the gate attendant, who stares, like “dogs bark all the time here, lady. What’s your deal?” I focus on the ground again and quicken my pace, embarrassed. The elevator ride to the 10th floor takes eons. I lean against the side, staring at the blank space about two feet in front of me. Once in the room, I let it all go. Bags drop to the floor, I collapse on the couch and can’t speak in full sentences. Tears stream down my face. I moan quietly. I can’t even qualify how I’m feeling to Kelly, who is obviously concerned. The man in hospital pajamas with an IV in his wrist is rubbing MY back and taking MY temperature. There’s something wrong with this picture. I don’t fight it. I can’t. I’m officially clinically exhausted. I can’t control the tears. I’ve cried in front of Kelly before throughout this episode/adventure/disaster, but not like this. I didn’t want him to see me like this. I wanted to be strong for him. But now Kelly is strong for me. All I can do is lean on his shoulder and cry.
Eventually I run out of tears. There’s nothing left to cry about. I’m tired, but I’ll be damned if I go to bed now without eating the dinner I just searched all over for. And so we turn on the TV, watch a movie, and eat dinner, side by side in the hospital bed. The episode has subsided, nothing left to discuss. We do our best to pretend we are sitting on a couch at home with no IV beeping, no nurse call button, no fluorescent lights, and no gurney bed. Just us, a nice dinner, and a movie. All that’s missing is a nice glass of red wine. But alas, I said I won’t drink any more, and so we make do with what we have. “Cheers,” we say as we clink water glasses and move on.

 

OPINION

Does it seem recently that the world has lost its collective sense of values? Burma, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Tibet, wars, political correctness, no-one listening to the pain and the protests? And that it’s getting worse frighteningly fast? At least, in our “village” here in CM we can do something about it as individuals - volunteering, helping and befriending, integrating, teaching and learning. Let the world’s governments play their power-over political games, as long as we remember that human beings, whatever tribe, race, religion, financial or social standing, are the wealth of this planet, not oil, gold, diamonds, shares, or any other commodity traded by the rich to the detriment of the poor. We belong to ourselves, no-one else, and we make what we can of that.
It was good to hear last week that the promised planting of more trees in Chiang Mai city is actually going ahead; most of us will have heard the expression “Trees are the lungs of the earth”, and will have been aware of the value of trees in controlling pollution, a seemingly never-ending concern in these parts! However, those of us who have heard the Mayor speak recently will also be aware that her actual sphere of influence is limited to the inner city areas themselves; local authorities operating under their own agendas have the say in the outlying country areas within the city boundaries. As a result, the “lungs of the earth” may be more at risk in, say, Sansai, than they are in the city itself, given the number of perfectly healthy trees that seem to be falling victim to the axe, (or rather the circular saw). Whoever thought that country people might be more able to appreciate the value of trees than their counterparts in town would be wrong right now, as we suspect that more trees have been felled in the last month than were planted last week! Perhaps our conservation and environmentally conscious Mayor might like to have a persuasive word with some of the headmen and Amphur officials of the outlying villages within the city boundaries? We’re sure that it’s the number of trees over a particular area which count, if as many are being cut down as are being planted, what’s the point?



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