Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Chronicle of Mak's Illness - Part 2


I am trying to recall, either on my own or through my siblings, the time line of Mak during her last 3 months (may be 6 months if I could). I believe that there are missing links in Part 1, especially timelines prior to July 1 event. I believe Mak was staying with me for quite sometimes, mainly the weeks after the renovation of my house. During those weeks at the height of the renovation, she was staying at K Sham, as remember telling Mak that my house was a bit noisy with drilling and knocking, and it was after the main renovation was completed, that I brought her home (to surprise her with the renovated house). 

She was still at my house while I was changing the sliding door for the dining room, as she related to me the progress of the new door when I returned home from office.

Ampang Puteri - 1-13 Aug 2012 (Continuation)

While I was displeased that APSH has not been making much progress on Mak's illness, the specialist did tell us about the two possibilities that might ailed Mak. One of that possibilities is that Mak might have cancer. When I spoke to Mak (or was it the doc herself?) about this possibilities, Mak was adamant that she had none of it. "Mana ada keturunan Mak yang kena cancer?" she asked us, matter-of-factly.

I didn't answer her, but neither can I deny her statement. I can't, for the life of me, think of any incident of cancer in the family. Yes, diabetes we have; yes, hypertension is an issue in the family.

But never cancer.

So with Mak not keen on bone marrow biopsy, I did not think twice of agreeing with her decision. A decision I still regret to this day.

I continued to be there with her during the day. I knew I can still get some (minor) work done at the hospital - wifi is available at APSH, and my BB works anywhere anyway. But being there during the day is the easy part; taking care at night is the harder task, a task I normally left to my sisters. We decided to take a second bed so that the night care-giver would have an easier task, and be able to sleep (properly) whenever the opportunities arose.

Normally I would leave Mak at around 6.45 pm. By that time the traffic had receded, and going home on the MRR2 was a breeze. I would normally be at home for breaking of fast with time to spare, if I were to leave at that time. For breaking fast with Mak, there would always be Ani, or Aishah. Or K Sham; so she was in good hand. So it is not true that traffic in KL is bad at that hour. As long as you don't come in at 6 pm, you should be ok. From my observation from Mak's room at APSH, at 6.30 pm or later, traffic was light.

Leaving at 9 pm should be an easier task too. I've done it countless of times.

(So I am not sure why some people would complain about KL traffic at magrib time, or use that excuse not to visit Mak. Ampang from PLUS highway using DUKE should be easy too. If anyone had been using that excuse to NOT visit Mak for bukak puasa, honestly I think you had not plan to come at all, and were looking for excuses or scapegoats.)

Raya was getting nearer; I was getting ready with the duit raya myself. So one day I called my new bank manager to get some new notes for Raya for me. When I related to Mak, she wanted some herself. "Eh, mak pun nak sama," she told me.

So I had to double my quota of the new notes from Public Bank. Luckily it was a non-issue with him - ample of new notes at the bank, I supposed.

During one of those breaking of fast session, Mak had inadvertently mentioned to one of her grandchildren that she would be handing out RM50 for Raya. So we knew that they would eagerly wait for Raya day. (With a caveat, but i forgot what it was.)

That morning we (K Sham, Mak and I) were busying ourselves in counting the new notes - on Mak's hospital bed. It was quite an amount that Mak had changed, so we were facing difficulty in counting (yeah, we had to get the accountant to do it for us), and getting it ready for the big day. And there were countless of ringgit notes all over the place at that time.

So there was no question that Mak would be coming home for Raya then.

Generally speaking Mak was ok (read: not too bad), while she was at Ampang Puteri. Her fever mysteriously came and went, irrespective of the antibiotics. She would be shivering heavily, so much so at times, I thought she would go into convulsion. No matter how thick her banket was, she would shiver endlessly. Most of the time, we even had her room's air-conditioned off. Her vertigo was an issue then; but none of these were life threatening. She would be able to chat with us; at times watching the Olympics. She, at times too, would be able to walk on her own to the bathroom - without my help, much to my delight.

I had to be on standby only, just in case.

So after thirteen days, and after the last experiment of a new antibiotics, we decided that we should be taking her out (and get second opinion somewhere else). I by then had decided that APSH is unsuitable for Mak, and thought a hospital nearby would be better for her.

But we did not go straight to the next hospital. We thought a change of pace at home would do her good, since she has all her medications with her. We knew she had grown tired of staying at the hospital, and I don't blame her.

Gleneagles (17-19 Aug 2012)

View from Mak's room at Gleneagles Hospital.
Taken on Friday afternoon, on the 28th day of Ramadhan.
Mak stayed at K Sham's for a few days, until we brought her to Gleneagles. There is a reason why I thought highly of Gleneagles. Many years ago when Mak was very ill (so much so I had put up a bed in the living room for her, and turning it into her private living quarters), we brought her to APSH, but she continued to be ill.

So one day, I thought I had enough seeing her not getting any better, I thought we should be getting a second opinion.

"Mak, jom kita pegi Gleneagles; kita dengar apa kata doctor yang lain," I said to Mak. Mak was weak, but she was ok with that plan; she had been lying in bed for days, and weeks. So in my then main car the SLK - the Sweet Little Kelisa, I drove her from my house to Gleneagles, and of course we brought all of her APSH medications.

Honestly we were not suitable to be in the SLK, but I had no choice then. It was not comfortable - both of us were big in size, and that car was the reverse.

At Gleneagles, she put herself on the doctor's table - she was that bad. She did not bother sitting; she was lying down on the doc's table. After examining her, the doctor decided to throw away all her APSH medications and put her on a new medication regiment. Strangely, he did not even recommend hospitalization for Mak, but with His grace, Mak was soon back to her normal self. 

I am not sure how long it took her to recover now, but recover she did. 

I think that was circa 2004-ish (since I bought the SLK in 2003).

How bad Mak was then? Othman (a neighbour, and a friend of my bro) called and asked if Mak dah nazak at my house. Nazak? I was not sure where he got his info from, but while she was very ill, but she was not in nazak state. A couple of days later, my bro from up North dropped by to visit her, I believe that stemmed from that conversation with Othman.

How bad Mak was then? I had to turn my living room into her living quarters, with a bed on the side. It is more comfortable, and better for her. Any guest would enter the house via the dining room. I had even given her phone to call me, if she needed me.

So Mak and I had fond memories of Gleneagles, I thought, and I was hoping that the doc there would know what ailed Mak and would be able to help Mak this time around.

(So I have had two chances or occasions to care for Mak -Alhamdulillah.)

We were a bit clueless as to the specialist we should take Mak to. So we had to look at the list of available specialists, and chose one for her. Dr Leslie Chai, who did his medical degree and post-graduate training in London, was ready to see Mak without appointment.

Immaculate in dressing, and with intelligence to boot, he was full of authority, and yet he is so unbelievingly gentle and nice. He took Mak's blood sample, and in the end, held the cotton against Mak's skin to prevent it from bleeding - all by himself. He seems eager, and seems to know what would be needed to get Mak healthy again. The kind of doctor that Mak would need.

And he wants Mak warded so that he could monitor her.

It was a quick admission via Emergency, and soon was put into a two-bedded room.

Not for long though. As soon as her urine test indicated infection, she was transferred to a single bed room. The regiments at Gleneagles were pretty much similar to APSH. As the days went by, his confident aura of the specialist seems to be missing. "Where is this thing hiding?" he asked, not expecting answer from me obviously. He had referred to a thick reference book on antibiotic, done enough tests, and coupled with the report and tests from APSH, I thought he would soon nailed it.

But nailed it, Dr Leslie didn't (but not due to his incompetency, I must add).

"I would recommended that a bone marrow biopsy be done on your mother." Mak cringed upon hearing it. "What's the risk doc?" I asked him. "No risk, no risk at all," he replied.

"Would it be painful?" I was probing it in front of Mak, in order to convince her. "We would put her on local anesthetic, so it would not be painful." How long is the procedures would be other question I would ask of him.

"There you go Mak; you don't have to worry. It is not that bad." I told Mak, after he had left. I knew Mak was not totally convinced, but we were getting there I guess.

By then, Saturday had come, and we were expecting Raya on the next day, so we did not pursue it. By now we knew Mak was more serious than we initially thought, but we were still puzzled and stumped by it.

But even Dr Leslie did not think she was terminal, so I was quietly confident eventually they will nail it soon. It was a matter of time, and since Raya was coming, we had no qualms telling the doctor that we were discharging Mak on Saturday, before the Raya eve, but not before asking if he was going on leave himself, should we needed him.

Gleneagles had not taken any deposit from me upon Mak's admission. I told the cashier that I was impressed that they had not bothered to ask me for the money upfront for Mak's hospitalization, so I asked if this was the SOP upon Mak's discharge. Actually it was not; we should have been asked to deposit some money, but I guess they may have missed it.

For that, I am pleased. We were at last being treated as human being, and not as a cash vending machine for the hospital!

"Naik kereta engkau lah. Kereta engkau rendah sikit, senang masuk," Mak told me. By then, I had already told Ani to pick hers to send Mak back to K Sham's, so I told Mak that Ani had gone off to take her car. I had thought she would prefer the three-pointed star car, but apparently mine was more suitable to carrying her.

So with Mak back at K Sham's, we decided to divide the tasks of preparing for Raya the next day. I volunteered to prepare the ketupat and kuah kacang. I knew Sarah are cooking the rendang, and so early Raya morning, I would need to just get a couple of those lemang tepi jalan.

I did not stay long. I had job to do myself preparing for Raya, and I am going to personally contribute for the tasks.

I knew this Raya would be like no other; I had, a long time ago, told Mak to start celebrating Raya in Kuala Lumpur and may be this was to be her first Raya in KL - ever.

What I did not realize was that it would be Mak's last!

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