Saturday, February 16, 2008

Flashback: 2005 Merdeka Article (Malaysiakini)

Stories for My Fellow Citizens
Story 1:
A 15-year-old boy was brought to the hospital with a one-day history of refractory generalized seizures. He was previously a bright, healthy teenager. At the age of 13 years, he complained of a three-day history of high grade fever, chills and rigors. The attending doctor at a clinic misdiagnosed him with a viral respiratory tract infection. He was sent home with symptomatic treatment only. Two days later, he fell into a comatose state and was brought to the hospital. After the necessary investigations, the final diagnosis was bacterial meningitis. By this time, he had developed severe irreversible brain damage. Ever since, he has been in and out of hospitals for recurrent epilepsy secondary to the brain infection. At present, he is permanently mentally retarded, being unable to recognize his own parents, unable to speak and comprehend the spoken language. He is totally dependent on his caretakers for feeding, dressing and personal cleaning. He is the only child in the family. His father, a 61-year-old taxi driver was recently diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, an irreversible heart condition that ultimately results in progressive heart failure if uncontrolled. Despite repeated appeals, he had been unable to secure his own taxi permit. Each month, after paying off the rental charges of his kereta sewa and the costly medications for his son and himself, he barely earns enough to feed his family. The last time I saw the boy, he was lying in bed, staring blankly into mid-air, saliva drooping in a steady stream from the corner of his lips, wetting his hospital gown and bed extensively. The last time I spoke to the older man, he cried - helplessly.

Story 2:
An 11-year-old boy with Down Syndrome was wheeled into the Accident and Emergency at 3 am for alleged overdose of sleeping pills. The necessary medical procedures were carried out. Thereafter, bits of the story began to unfold. His mother had passed away about 3 months ago from Aspiration Pneumonia due to complications of Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative neurological illness that leaves the sufferer paralysed and incontinent. Despite being progressively paralysed from the neck down over ten long years, the boy’s mother had been his pillar of emotional support. Her unexpected demise had apparently taken a heavy toll on him. His older siblings were studying for their upcoming STPM examinations and thus, were unable to keep him company the way his mother used to. That night, he was assumingly lonely when he ingested 7 tablets of diazepam, a benzodiazepine sedative belonging to his father. His 50-year-old father had had difficulty falling asleep ever since his wife was diagnosed with the illness 10 years ago. The patient’s siblings reported that the father had used up much of the family’s savings on medical expenses over those 10 years and had mortgaged the family’s home. In the ward, the patient was observed overnight, and was discharged without any complications. The last I heard from the patient, his sister is a successful speech therapist, two other siblings are medical doctors. All had passed their STPM with excellent results - without an inch of assistance from a ruthless and discriminative government.

Having spoken to so many patients and their families, the above stories are just two of the many I have heard. These are the tales of lowly Malaysians whose well-being will never be championed by the current ruling party. These are the plight of simple, honest people whose voices will never be heard under a corrupted regime. These are the Malaysians whose needs are incomprehensible to those in the corridors of power. These are the diligent citizens of the land whose primary concern is to make ends meet in the face of overwhelming and tumultuous adversities.

It is downright indecent that while thousands of Malaysians are languishing in poverty and sicknesses, one Chief Minister accumulated over a million ringgit in gambling debts while another caught red-handed with a briefcase of Australian dollars. It is blatant imprudent financial management when we erect white elephants costing billions of ringgit while offering a mere RM 180 of social welfare per month for families in need. The NEP or NNA will never be justified when rural folks continue to linger in poverty while AP Kings and BN cronies continue to monopolize the wealth and potential of the land called Malaysia. While Malaysians of all ethnicities, religion and culture are suffering from the physical and social impact of chronic debilitating illnesses, the BN politicians are still stuck in the pre-Merdeka mentality of racial politics, to the extend of wielding a keris on national television to achieve personal political gains.

Come August 31st, the Prime Minister will inexorably read from a well-worded speech, courtesy of his panel of brilliant speech writers. He would make grandiose proclamations of unbiased equality across the races, and pledge promises of transparency and efficiency. He would paint the country a picture of excellence and glory with assurance of continued financial growth and economic development. Inevitably, gullible Malaysians would once again be duped by well-phrased slogans, thanks to a government-controlled media. Yet, for one man, August 31st is just another day of driving a rented taxi in the heart of Kuala Lumpur to support his only son with post-infectious epilepsy.

“The true measure of progress is not how much we add unto those who already have, but how much we give unto those who have not.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919)

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