Thursday, November 24, 2005


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I made a Saturday morning visit to the mental hospital at Babakan in Bogor. It had been praying on my conscience that, while dealing with John’s problems, I had been neglecting Daud and the other children still in the hospital. Last time I had been to Babakan, John’s friend Daud had been looking poorly. I wondered if Daud had the same diarrhoea infection that John had had.

"How’s Daud?" I asked Diana, the nurse on duty in the office within the children’s ward. She was the one who had told me she was a regular church attender.

"He’s OK. How’s John?" she said, with a look that puzzled me. Was it sympathy or sourness?

"John is cured, has put on weight, and is safely at home," I announced, triumphantly. "Can I see Daud?"

"He’s round the back," she said. She was watching TV and apparently trusted me to explore the place on my own.

In the back yard I found Daud was tied to a metal bed and he had lost a lot of weight. His eyes looked misty. His naked body was lying in a pool of diarrhoea.

"What do Daud’s parents do?" I asked Diana when I returned to the office. I had decided to avoid conflict, and be practical.

"Mother’s a nurse at the children’s clinic at the Laja Hospital," said Diana. "Father works for the government."

I wondered how a nurse could let her son get into the state that Daud was in and decided to take a trip to Bogor’s Laja Hospital to find out.

The Laja Hospital was an old government hospital, a smaller version of Jakarta’s Dipo. After making a few enquiries, I found Daud’s mother in a grubby room where she was sorting out patients’ files, prior to ending her shift. She was small, had greying hair and had the sort of serious, caring face you would expect of a good nurse. I introduced myself and explained why I was there.

"I haven’t seen Daud for some time," she admitted. "I’m grateful you’ve come."

"Has he always been backward?" I asked.

"He was normal until the age of nine. A good student at school. Then he got a fever and his brain got damaged. Meningitis. We had to put him in the Babakan Hospital because both my husband and I go out to work."

"How much do you get paid at the Laja Hospital?" I asked.

"About eighty thousand rupiahs a month. That’s about forty US dollars a month. My husband doesn’t get much more."

"If I paid you that amount, would you look after Daud at home?" I asked.

"Perhaps I could find a relative to look after him while I’m at work. We’ve been thinking about bringing him home some day. My husband’s building a room upstairs where Daud could live. Do you want to see it?"

Daud’s mum and I motored to the nearby government housing estate where Daud’s family lived. It was a place of pleasant villas, large and small, with gardens of bougainvillea and hibiscus. The largest houses were luxurious six bedroom affairs occupied by people like judges. Daud’s home was of a more modest three bedrooms. I noted it had a large TV, a music centre, two posh bicycles, a smart settee, photos of a girl still at school and a boy at university, and a big framed photo of the cute little eight-year-old schoolboy who was now in the mental hospital. Upstairs there was indeed a sunny room that had been prepared for Daud. Daud’s mum and dad were evidently doing quite well in their government jobs. I assumed there were all sorts of perks and that that was why mum did not want to give up her work as a nurse.

"I think you should take him out of the Babakan Hospital as soon as possible," I said. "When can you see him?"

"My husband will take me there this evening."

"What does your husband do for a living?"

"He works in the prison service," she said.


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