Thursday, October 20, 2005


The following Friday, I had just got home from work when there was a phone call from Agosto’s married sister.

"Agosto’s very ill. He needs to go into hospital immediately," she said.

"Has he got a fever?"

"Yes. Can you come at once?"

"I’ll send my driver immediately and Agosto can go straight into hospital."

When Mo got back from delivering Agosto to Bogor’s Menteng Hospital, he related that the child again had typhoid and that the doctor was worried that the disease had been present for three weeks already.

On the Saturday morning I arrived at Agosto’s bedside. He was in that gloomy part of the hospital reserved for the most gravely ill and was linked to various tubes. His skin was grey, his flesh was pinched, and the lack of recognition in his face suggested he was semiconscious. What made me most pessimistic and distressed was the fact that the pupils of his eyes were rolling about in a wild erratic way.

"How’s Agosto?" I asked the only nurse on duty.

"He’s got encephalitis. It’s a virus that affects the brain," replied the very young man.

"Can I speak to a doctor?"

"A lot of the doctors are on holiday," said the nurse. "Idul Fitri holiday. End of Ramadan."

"Is there a doctor in the hospital?"

"In the Casualty Ward." The nurse walked away.

I took Agosto’s hand and squeezed it. I could feel him squeeze my hand in return. I found that comforting.

Seated next to the bed was Agosto’s brother-in-law, a distressed looking youth, not much older than Agosto. No sign of the sister.

An elderly surgeon came in to look at a female patient and as he was about to depart I approached him with a question.

"How’s Agosto?"

"Not my patient," he said, looking a bit confused.

The nurse came over to speak to me. "Better not to touch the boy," he said softly. "You might catch the encephalitis."

I went to wash my hands.

That evening I got a phone call to say that Agosto had died not long after I had left the ward.