Monday, April 20, 2009

11. DOCTOR JOSEPH


When School was over next day, I hurried to my van.

"Doctor Bahari’s clinic, fast!" I instructed the driver. We moved at a reasonable pace until we hit the rush hour traffic and began to crawl down Sudirman Boulevard and past Le Meridien hotel. One hundred thousand families in Jakarta are five-car families. Mum, dad and three of the kids each have their own car. And then there are all the four-car families and three-car families and two-car families. Now you know where some of the World Bank’s money goes.

How would Ujang be faring among the mentally disturbed adults? Would he know I was coming back to his locked ward?

After a journey of at least an hour, we passed a Hero’s supermarket and drove up to the clinic. I jumped out of the vehicle and hurried in, looking carefully at people’s faces. All smiles. The heavy door was unlocked and there stood Ujang. He was alive and well; his skinny little body was dressed in new shirt and shorts. He wasn’t exactly smiling; more hesitant and worried. I took his hand and he gripped it strongly.

"How’s Ujang?" I asked a nurse.

"He’s fine," she said. "He’s eating well, and this morning, when he woke, he gave a whoop of joy!"

"Great." I felt like giving a whoop of joy.

"Come to the doctor’s office with Ujang," said the nurse, "Doctor Joseph would like to meet you."

Dr Joseph, round faced, middle aged and Chinese, sat in his comfortable leather chair looking totally relaxed. It was the child psychiatrist from the Dipo hospital, the doctor who had been attending to Bangbang before he got lost.

"We’ve met before," said Dr Joseph, smiling warmly. "You know Bangbang’s been found? He turned up at his parent’s house."

"Yes, I know," I said.

"We’ve an open door policy for those children at the Dipo hospital," said Dr Joseph, "but here there’s a locked door for some of the patients."

I thought it better not to comment on this.

Dr Joseph continued: "My colleague told me the story of your finding Ujang in the street. It’s very kind of you to help this poor child. Ujang still doesn’t speak. It may be depression. He may have been lost for some time."

"How’s his health? Do you think he might have TB or anything like that?" I looked at Ujang who was still looking rather frail and heartsick.

"No," said the doctor. "We’ve done some tests this morning. Apart from worms, he’s fine."

"Should I try to visit him every day, or is there a danger he may become too dependent on me?" I suspected that Ujang and I might well become dependent on each other.

"I think you should visit him because it’ll help him to come out of his depression. He hasn’t got anyone else to visit him," said the doctor, giving me the answer I had hoped for.

"Is he safe here with all these strange adults?" I asked.

"They’re all heavily sedated. There’s no problem." Dr Joseph smiled broadly.

"What treatment will Ujang get?" I said.

"We’re giving him some drugs to deal with the depression. We could try electric convulsion therapy."

"I don’t want that for Ujang!" I said, gulping, "It’s too controversial and Ujang’s only a child."

"But it can be very successful."

"Well, I’d prefer not to try it. Definitely not."

"OK. We’ll continue with the drug treatment."

"He seems to shake a little bit. Is that the drugs?" I asked.

"It could be."

"Can you please reduce the dosage, so he doesn’t shake?"

"We could do." Dr Joseph was politely indicating disagreement with me.

"Can I take Ujang for a short walk or for trips in my vehicle?" I hoped I could play uncle.

"Certainly. It’ll do him good."

"I’ll take him to the supermarket now," I said.

~

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