Within a matter of months this year I already had to experience two emergency trips to hospital.
On the morning of Sunday 5th June, I took a Capirox-20 capsule hoping to get rid of the pain in my middle back which had been there for about a week. (That pain had been existing a day or 2 after I cut off a few branches from my mango tree because those branches were beating against the car porch roof during a thunderstorm the previous night. After that I sharpened the saw and put it away.) The pain did not go away. Instead, that afternoon after I had my nap my head was spinning and I wanted to vomit. It took a while and a lot of retching and a tube of ‘five-pagoda’ medicinal powder downed with some warm water. After throwing up a few bits of duck meat and water, I felt better. By evening everything was back to normal and I thought I was alright.
Wednesday 8th June, I was at the Perodua workshop getting my car serviced. I felt dizzy and thought I must be hungry since it was almost 11.00am and I had an early breakfast of kuayteow and black coffee. So I went to the tea-corner and made myself a 2in1 kopi-o and pressed the dispenser for hot water. Only cold water came out. I drank that because I needed the sugar to pep me up. I munched on a biscuit. A few moments later I found myself spinning.
I moved to a seat next to the entrance to the workshop. I tried keeping it under control without alarming anyone by breathing deeply and evenly. I couldn’t keep it down. The spinning got worse. I called out to a lady in the office for help. She said she could arrange for someone to send me and my car home since I was in no condition to drive. Somehow my condition worsened as I began retching but couldn’t throw up. I asked her for a plastic bag so that I could throw up into it. But after a lot of retching nothing came out. I thought the whole thing was like a scene from The Exorcist. I retched so hard I felt I was going to die right there.
The office lady asked for my home number and who I could call. I hesitated because I didn’t want to alarm my wife. But as my condition got worse I called my wife and gave the lady my phone so she could speak to her. A little later my daughter called me. She had assessed my situation and started taking her own actions to contain the situation. She arranged for my nephew to send my car home. She got a friend who is a dental surgeon in the hospital to check on me later and to call her back to report on my condition.
The office lady called for an ambulance. It was not available, so she called the St John’s Ambulance Brigade. These guys were pretty professional. They checked my vital signs and said I needed to go to hospital. The office lady finally managed to get an ambulance. Before the ambulance arrived I started to throw up the coffee I had earlier. This time I succeeded because I was lying back, almost flat, against the back of the office chair and I tilted my head to my right, like how they’d position a drowning victim. Later while being jostled in the jalopy ambulance I threw up some more coffee.
At the hospital emergency room a whole gang of people swarmed around me and some asked questions about whether I felt pain and where and if I had any heart problem, diabetes, hypertension, and etc. They poked needles in the back of both my hands. I don’t know what they were for. Then a nurse poked another needle in my arm to draw blood samples. They stuck electronic pads all over my chest and connected me to a heart monitor. Later another guy connected a pair of lead cables and clamps on my chest and another pair on both ankles. I thought they were going to apply shock treatment on me, but they didn’t. Then they x-rayed my chest and belly.
After the flurry of emergency activity the whole gang went off to one corner and chit-chatted among themselves. I started to retch again and threw up more coffee. Someone complained, and then called in a couple of cleaning personnel to clean up my mess. The atmosphere started getting colder. They pushed me into an emergency waiting room to wait for the diagnosis. There were rows of beds and every bed was occupied. Mine was the only vacant space left. It was really cold and I pulled the blanket to cover me up to my neck.
Later my wife and younger brother located me and brought me spare clothes and a large bath towel. I got my brother to put me onto a wheel-chair and pushed me to the toilet. I had a full bladder by then. Later in the afternoon I tried several times to get up and go to the bathroom but I couldn’t get on my feet. Each time I sat up my head started spinning. My body felt weak and wouldn’t stay upright. I gave up and waited for my brother to come back in the evening. By then a nurse had announced that the doctors had found nothing wrong with me and told me to go home. I called my brother and told him the news.
I waited for the nurse to remove the needles in my hands. She removed the ones on my right hand and said she’d remove the others later. My right leg started to cramp due to the cold. I moved it about and raised it a few times to keep it from getting worse. My bladder kept filling up again. It was a long while later that she came back and removed the other needles. She gave me a card and told me to collect my medicines from the pharmacy before leaving. When my wife and brother came in later we made another wheel-chair trip to the toilet.
As we moved out from the ward, I noticed there were beds filled with patients lined up against the walls of the corridor.