Letter from Queen Mary

I can hear it, “Queen Mary?”

Yes, this is none other than the Queen Mary Hospital, which must be fast becoming an institution of Hong Kong, of the collective memory category. This was where both my children were born, where Rosita spent her last month and where I bade farewell to quite a few friends. But if my memory served me right, I had yet to spend a night in between the magnificent columns of the QMH, that is, not until four days ago, when at 4:30am, my body temperature went up to 41 degrees Celsius.

I had not been feeling particularly great since last Saturday night. Su and I rushed to Manderly Garden at Deep Water Bay Road after the Lang Lang concert and its three or four encores. These were all good friends and they were playing and dancing to modern Indian music when Martin said he would like to leave and asked me whether I needed a lift. It was past mid-night, albeit just; but I said yes almost by reflex. I needed immediate bed rest; I was probably tired out; I was shivering in bed by the time I got to it. Su took my temperature: over 38 degrees. Against Su’s advice, I took two drops of extra strong Panadol which I used to take before I met Su. I put on extra clothes and tried to sleep off what I dismissed as just another very bad cold. I sweated heavily; changed to dry clothes twice and by daybreak, appeared to be ready for another busy week.

It was to be a very busy week indeed. From Sunday onwards, I have dinners scheduled all week, lunches almost every day and a few rather interesting meetings, not to mention that I was scheduled to do scripture reading at Ricci Hall morning Mass this week.

The body spoke in no time. By 3pm Sunday, I felt so tired and exhausted that I had to drop everything and sleep. My choice was whether to continue to take Panadol or Aspirin which Su prefers. It didn’t matter. I spent the rest of Sunday bed-resting and was cautiously optimistic that I could sleep off the cold and be up and running the following week.

Monday morning, the situation did not improve and I was hovering between 38 and 39 degrees which began to set me worrying. Su suggested going to Casualty Department direct, but I persuaded her to call my Family Visiting Clinic for an emergency appointment. She managed to secure one for 3:20pm. I saw the same Dr Wong whom I consulted regularly for my regular essential hypertension drugs. Dr Wong suspected a mild case of pneumonia, for there were no other indications. I was not coughing nor sneezing and I did not have a sore throat or running noses or any of those normal upper respiratory infection syndromes. On the safe side, he asked me to take a chest x-ray at the hospital next door and gave me a 7-day course of antibiotics plus plenty drops of Panadol.

While I was still looking well at this stage, particularly after taking my mighty Panadol; and those were the words of the friends we met; I felt I should be taking steps to notify the hosts of the events to which I had committed to attend, The first two casualties were the Anniversary Dinner of Rotary Club of Kowloon East scheduled for Monday night, and the 187th Congregation of HKU Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, my body temperature continued to run high; so Su and I decided that if it went beyond 41 degrees, we would go to Queen Mary.

This takes us to Wednesday morning when I hit 41 degrees. We therefore headed off to Queen Mary direct. Su was convinced that I would be admitted and she packed a small overnight bag with the basics including the prescriptions Dr Wong gave me two days before. As we sat in the taxi quietly, I thought it was some three and a half days since my fever began to brew; enough is enough. We were there in no time, at around 5am, when the place appeared deserted. There was no one at the registration, that is, no patients, and I was promptly triaged under the Priority No 4 Category. There are 5 categories, with No. 1 being the most seriously and life threatening and hence would receive top priority attention and so on. Due to low traffic, I was called before I could warm a seat in the almost empty waiting hall. The usual questions and answers followed and I was asked to go to the Admission Counter to await admission, thus opening up another new chapter in my life. It was not even 5:30am yet.

Presently, I was put in a wheelchair and taken to Ward A2 where I was asked to assume the garb of a patient and assigned a camp bed designated as Bed 8A. With Su still around, we switched to emergency mode. She took away all my valuables and I had my iPhone with which I began to email or WhatsApp people with whom I had appointments for the rest of the week. We would compare notes around noon.

My mind drifted back to the last admission of Rosita in an emergency situation. It was Saturday night or something like that: an inconvenient time to call friends. She was given a bed in an open ward – B2, could be – which she abhorred. She cried and begged me to get her into a private room, which was vital to her at the time. I assured her that I would as soon as my people opened their eyes. I began to have her feeling running in my system. My thoughts were interrupted by a young intern doctor, a Dr. Leung who began to ask me questions which I had answered a few minutes before at the screening counter, but this was what they would continue to do. It appeared that they all operate from a manual with a checklist of standard questions. When I slipped in mine regarding when I could have a private room, I was given a rather funny look which would translate to, “Are you dumb? Is it more important to stay alive or to die happy?” I wish he had verbalized those questions when I might have given him a little piece of my mind, but these answers were never easy or satisfactory anyway.

Let me quickly jump to the present and maybe come back in the next letter with more details. I had kept plenty of notes on paper – because there was not a lot to do – and I had done this one largely on my net-top, which by the way was lost and found, which could be the subject of another letter or series, intending it to be uploaded from QMH physically, but which did not for technical reasons. I have since been discharged. My fever has gone. Thanks be to God. But we still don’t know the cause.

Talk to you later.

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