Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Highs and lows


So, I've survived my 2nd week in Borneo :) It has rained a LOT - and I'm talking torrential monsoon, wet-through-to-your-underwear-rain. Its been a busy week, with some real highs and lows...

* Lows:

I've had a few challenging experiences in the hospital this week, especially involving the unexpected deaths of young people. One particular case was a 24 year old girl, who presented to the Emergency Department following a collapse, with her very loving and anxious mother. An ECG revealed that she had heart block and ventricular fibrillation. Consequently, she was cardioverted (shocked) and then externally paced (a temporary measure to regulate her heart beat).

Later however, I discovered that she needed a pacemaker (surgery), but was not entitled to one because she was not Malaysian. I was informed that it would cost "thousands" for her to have a pacemaker and  her family simply could not afford it. End of story. I was deeply troubled by this. How is it that money should buy us life? Buy us time?

I resolved that I would try to find out exactly how much it would cost and then see whether I could somehow try to raise the funds myself... it just didn't seem right to me that someone so young, with so much ahead of them should miss out on the experiences and opportunities that we take for granted. However, by the very next day, when I returned to see her, I was already too late... she had died just a few hours earlier :(

* Low to high to low:

A man presented with shortness of breath and atrial fibrillation. Then, he suddenly went into asystole (flatline/ no cardiac activity).

The staff immediately started CPR. After a while, the doctor giving chest compressions was tiring, so I took over. It was pretty hard work, but hope and adrenaline somehow kept me going. Time passed, I've no idea how long, it was all a bit of a blur... but I was surprised and elated to be finally told to stop compressions, as we had a pulse! :) We'd got him back :) :)

Sadly, I was informed the next day, that he'd gone into asystole again later that night, but this time they'd not been able to get him back... His family were distraught.

* Highs

A 17 year old girl being pushed in a wheelchair burst through the A&E doors and the person with her shouted "In labour!" Given my enthusiasm for all things O&G, I was very excited by this declaration! I hurried over to see if I could help. Fortunately for me, I was able to stand alongside from the start. The young, worried mother-to-be squeezed my hand and I smiled back reassuringly. Even though we couldn't speak the same language, I really feel that simply being a hand to hold and the exchange of smiles made a small difference. Later on, I donned the sterile gloves and was able to assist with the delivery. It was such an special experience to witness the arrival of a small, slightly blue, but otherwise health, beautiful baby into the world. Amazing! :)

Life outside of the hospital has also been eventful this week. Katie, Nadiah and I went for a full body massage and reflexology session one evening after work at the Borneo spa. Sooooo good (although I did slightly regret asking the muscly masseuse to be as strong as she could - she was very strong!) We also went to karaoke with some of the lovely Malaysian medical students. I've been hiking again through the wild forest with the friendly and fun Hash Harriers. Some Australian guys staying at our hostel attempted to bring 3 transvestites back to their room... when the manager refused to let them bring their "women" in, one semi-naked Aussie attempted to try his luck with us - unsuccessfully! ;)

At the weekend, we climbed Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South East Asia at 4095m. We hiked up to 'base camp' on the first day, which was steep in places, but overall pleasant and manageable. The lush, rainforest scenery along the way was wonderful. That evening, the accommodation we stayed in was basic, with no heating and an outside cold shower and toilet, but the food more than made up for it (a huge, delicious buffet spread, mmm!) The next morning, we were up at 2am, ready to hike to the summit by head-torch-light to watch the sunrise.

This part of the hike was tougher and much more exciting. Clinging to climbing ropes and scrambling along uneven rocks in the middle of the night. It also became a lot colder and more exposed as we neared the summit. When the sun rose, the views were breath-taking. Majestic mountain peaks rising out of the morning mist. It felt like a little bit of heaven. Just spectacular! :)

That's all for now. My bed calls... until next time, keep smiling and sweet dreams xx


  1. Wow, Emma. Amazing! I am so glad to read your post and see how you are coming along. I am so happy another part of this world gets to be blessed by your wonderful presence and faith. I am sure those who died this past week were blessed to have your intervention in the last moments on earth..a gift from God. Love and miss you!!!! xxxxxx

  2. emma! i was so happy to find your blog! your adventures sound incredibly touching and what you're doing is wonderful. i hope you're well, lot's of love from this side of the world :)

  3. Emma you are an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your blog. It sounds like this is a life changing experience for you and for those whose lives you have touched. What a difference an eternal perspective makes.
    Enjoy the rest of your adventure and keep safe!! Lots of love xx

  4. Sounds like you're having an amazing time (despite the lows)! And I bet that sunrise was amaazing! xx

  5. Like the others have said, this is a post worth reading, to hear about the good, the bad, the incredible, and to make you think about it. It made me think a lot about last summer, where every night, all of us tired, isolated field study students would sit down to dinner together and immediately share our daily hi's and low's. There's something wonderful in being able to have that kind of public, frequent reflexiveness. For me, I find days like that, even with those sinking, lead-heavy low's, prove far more valuable in the long run than the average, uneventful days. They may be terrible/wonderful, but at least they're the days I can remember.

  6. You went up Mount Kinabalu, wow, that a high!!! Keep up the good work and its great to read the experiences you have :)