This month, during the 3rd day of Hari Raya, Dr Ramesh called me to see a patient (aged 60) who came from Mersing in Johor. He had advanced carcinoma (cancer) of the oesophagus and he could not eat. So Dr Ramesh dilated his oesophagus so that he could eat a little. He was being discharged from Hospital Tuanku Jafaar Seremban (HTJS).
What touched the Doctor's heart is that he has two young children ( aged 8 years and 10 years ) now living on charity with his ex-employer's family as the patient's wife passed away 8 years ago of cancer. Dr R requested me and Ms Goh to see whether we could do anything to help the patient for the children's sake.
My husband and I managed to see the patient as he had missed the last bus to Malacca. Being the festival season, all the buses were full of passengers returning home or to work. He had booked a ticket for the earliest bus the next morning and got himself into a small budget hotel in town.
That evening over a cup of Horlicks, I saw how thin he is. He had great difficulty in swallowing even his own saliva. Every now and then, he got up to spit out his saliva. We were amazed to know that he traveled from Mersing to Kluang to Malacca and then to Seremban HTJ by bus or taxi. Each trip cost him about RM 100 one-way and his ex-employer is so kind to give him RM200 - RM300 for his expenses every time. Last year he stayed at HTJS for two months to complete his chemo and radiation therapy in Nilai. I gave him Ensure milk and asked him to drink often before he comes to see Dr Ramesh on 13 October.
The next day my husband found out that it took the patient a whole day to reach home late at night ( 8.30 pm). Meanwhile I contacted Ms Goh and she told me to get him have his identity card, his children's birth certificates and his bank book front page's details photostated and bring all these copies along. This is to facilitate the procedures of asking aid from the Welfare Department and if it is approved , the financial aid can be banked in straight into his bank account.
On Monday (13-10-08) Ms Goh and I met the patient at HTJS. He had travelled the whole night to reach HTJS for his morning appointment. Ms Goh got the necessary forms from the relevant departments for the patient and the Doctor to fill them up in order to get aid from the Welfare and MAKNA (National Cancer Council)
In Dr Ramesh's clinic at SOPD, we were told that the patient needs to buy either a RM2700 or RM3500 "stent" to insert into his oesophagus so that he can EAT TO LIVE. We were stunned and shocked! This was the first time that I heard a patient needs to cough up money as I thought the HTJS will supply the necessary things or medicine for free especially for poor patients. Unfortunately Dr R told us that the "stent" must be bought from a supplier in KL as the HTJS does not have this "stent". We need to find a sponsor/sponsors fast. It was so short a notice to find any. How long will this "stent" help him to live ? we asked. Doc said, "about 6 months". Ms Goh suggested to ask help from MAKNA but with the procedure and paperwork, the money will come in two months time. "Too late", the doctor said. Then Dr R wanted the patient to go home and come back again later. My mind was racing. Now it's Monday. How can we let this poor man travel a whole day back to Mersing and then to come back later again ? He is suffering and time is so precious for him. I asked doctor how soon can he do the insertion of the "stent" if we have the money ? "Tomorrow" the doctor answered. So I told Dr R to get the patient admitted to day as I offered to advance the money. Immediately Dr gave a call to the company in KL to have the supplier bring in the "stent" tomorrow. I only need to bring in the cheque at 3 pm the next day.
Dr Ramesh was very touched by my offering that he said he would gladly contribute some money for the purchase too. It was very big-hearted and generous of him but Ms Goh and I told him that he has done enough in trying to save patients. Ms Goh also said she will call up her friends to help out. She even said that she will give her money when her fixed deposit matures at the end of this year. Bless her heart ! I told her it's not necessary as I think my family can afford it. My children can help to contribute the sum. We were all thinking about the two children's future without their pa eventually.
The patient could guess that something was importantly discussed as he could not understand English. Ms Goh only explained to the patient that he needs to warded so that something will be inserted inside his gullet for him to eat food later.
Then we brought him to the hospital Welfare Department for an 'interview' and to fill up the forms. The lady officer said she will try her best and that the most he can have is a monthly allowance of RM300 for about 6 months or one year. "Good enough" we said and thinking how soon and fast will the money arrive ? We left with hopeful thoughts that at least this patient may get some money into his account. Still at this time, the patient doesn't know his critical condition. We saw him safely warded in HTJS in Ward 3 A.
The next day (Tuesday) at around 3 pm, my husband and I went to the X-Ray department at HTJS. We saw the patient lying on a bed wheeled outside the X-Ray room. He looked okay and calm. Then Dr Ramesh came out and saw us. He said that the supplier is on his way. While waiting, Dr R came out again and handed me a roll of money bills into my hand. I was surprised and quickly my husband and I politely declined his donation. I told Dr that Ms Goh has really found a sponsor ( a patroness from KL) who is happy to donate to a charitable and worthwhile cause.
God really moves in mysterious ways. There are so many good angels around and I thank God and ask HIM to bless Dr Ramesh, bless Ms Goh and the kind sponsor for helping unselfishly and unconditionally by coming to the "rescue" of this patient.
The supplier explained to us that the "stent" will take some time to expand fully in the oesophagus usually after being warmed up by the patient's own body temperature.
With this RM2700 stent, the patient can eat and drink hopefully well but he must take medicine daily to prevent the reflux and bile from coming up.
The other more expensive RM3500 stent has no need of medication.
On Wednesday, the patient was X-Rayed to make sure that the "stent" was properly inserted and functioning well.
On Thursday morning before his discharge, my husband and I saw him again. I told him to drink Ensure milk (given by Ms Goh) often and to keep us in touch. His next appointment with Dr Ramesh is due next month. We ask him to give us a call when he arrives.