Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Teluk Gong Hospital


Photo of Jakarta skyscrapers by Kevin Aurell from Indonesian Wikipedia Category:Jakarta

Next day, my driver found John’s mother. She was occupying a room in a relatively large wooden house owned by her brother. This house was in a poor part of Teluk Gong, surprisingly near to Min’s old home. My driver explained to John’s mum that John was seriously ill and that I was prepared to pay for his treatment at a decent hospital in Jakarta.

On the Saturday morning, John’s mother, sister and an uncle met me at the main office of Bogor’s Babakan mental hospital. The uncle was a stern-faced captain in the army and the owner of an enormous Toyota. John’s sister was an attractive teenager wearing cord jeans. John’s mother was a relaxed-looking women wearing shoes, rather than sandals, and a cheap white dress.

"We’ve done all we can," said the full-faced doctor, "but the patient has not responded to the treatment."

"I can see that," I said. I wanted to ask the doctor how many times he had visited John and what treatment had been given, but then I thought that this was not the time to be getting people upset.

"We need a document signed if he’s to be transferred to another hospital," said the impassive doctor. "When he leaves here he ceases to be our responsibility. If anything happens to him, it becomes your responsibility."

John’s mother signed. I insisted that John be transported in the Uncle’s vehicle, as I was scared the boy might die and I didn’t want that happening in my Mitsubishi. John’s fragile body, with its bones sticking out, was eased into the back of the Toyota, which was then driven at speed all the way to the Teluk Gong Hospital in North Jakarta.

It occurred to me that the hospital might refuse to take John if they discovered he was mentally backward. But John was too weak to give any indications of his mental ability, and no-one was going to make an issue of it.

John was admitted to a gloomy third class ward, where a tough looking, female nurse tried unsuccessfully to fit a drip to John’s arm. John wailed, the nurse became cross, and the sharp looking attachment repeatedly failed to get lodged in the right place. I became concerned at the nurse’s roughness and apparent lack of skill.

We moved John to a brighter, cleaner, first class ward and the drip was successfully attached.

"During the car journey," said John’s mum, who had seated herself on a chair next to John’s bed, "we thought John was going to die. At one point he had one of his epileptic fits."

"Where’s John going to stay when he gets better?" I asked, determined to think about the future rather than the depressing past. "I don’t think he should go back to the mental hospital. He’s not dangerous is he?"

"Not dangerous. No," said mum.

"Just backward," I said.

"The problem is he can’t stay at my brother’s house," said mum. "They don’t want him there. That’s where I’ve been staying with my daughter."

"Could you rent a small house?" I asked.

"Yes, but I make very little money."

"What would the rent be?"

"Fifteen thousand a week," she said, smiling and blushing. "That’s about seven dollars."

"Well I’ll help with the rent," I said, "if you find somewhere suitable."

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