The first month of 2014 is almost all gone and I’ve been very quiet, not writing any entries. Sure, I was busy doing mummy stuff, like getting my little girl settled in her new school, getting her settled in her new routine since school time is different from last year, and adjusting to life back in our own home while coping with the pregnancy.
But what has kept me away from writing wasn’t all of that.
My dad has been in hospital since the second day of the new year and he is still warded as I write. The new year started with a huge bomb, with many days of agony, with my family living in anxiety and the fear of losing my dad. My mum, and my brothers and I have basically been at the hospital daily, covering different shifts and as much as I don’t want to admit it, it wears us out, physically, emotionally and mentally.
What got my dad into hospital really doesn’t matter to me at this point. All I knew was, I had seen him on the night of 1st January, and early 2nd January, I got a call from my elder brother that my dad was in the intensive care unit and was pretty much fighting for his life.
That led on to days of tears, and of counting down milestones that the doctors said my dad would have to clear for us to know that my dad would survive. From brain wave tests, to blood tests, to waiting to see if he suffered brain swelling, to waiting for him to be off the respirator, to now, it’s all been a waiting game. And an expensive one, no less. He was in the intensive care unit for about 10 days, and he’s been in the high dependency unit since.
Countless relatives and friends turned up in the first 2 weeks, almost daily, to visit and to “console” us. “Console”, because trust me, not everyone had nice things to say. Or maybe they thought they were being real and were keeping us in check, but seeing my mum cry day after day, with different people she spoke to, I started getting frustrated. I knew my mum needed hope, and it wasn’t that I wanted my mum to have false hope, but really, my mum needed hope to have strength to carry on every day.
From day 1 at the hospital, emotional as I initially was, I chose to believe my dad would eventually fully recover, and I would talk to my dad whenever I was by his side. I reminded him of his promises to care for my kids when I went back to work, and I told him how much I wanted him to cook confinement food for me in May. A lot of the people who visited my dad initially shushed me whenever they heard me and told me to let my dad rest. I told them no, my dad could hear me and I wanted him to hear me. When it got challenging to sneak Phoebie into the ward to see my dad, Ben and I recorded videos of her that we would take turns to play at his ears.
I also took it upon myself to “filter” what “well-meaning” relatives said in my dad’s room. I told my mum that I believed whatever we said affected my dad, so I told my uncles and aunties that if they wanted to speak, speak words of encouragement to my dad. If they wanted to say otherwise, like “poor thing” or “why so cham”, please hold back those words and say them outside at the waiting area. I honestly didn’t care if they find me rude by saying that, but I just wanted my dad to be encouraged to fight on.
Over time, even the doctors started telling us to speak word of encouragement to my dad and to stimulate him either by letting him listen to videos of people whom he dearly loves, or playing music or simply by talking to him. My mum caught on with that and started doing the same. Even my dad’s sisters who were initially overwhelmed by emotions started doing the same.
My dad is still considered to be in a coma at this point, but the neurologist observes that my dad is making progress. He saw me playing my daughter’s videos by my dad’s ears and he said, “Good good, keep doing that. He’s making progress. Talk to him more.” My mum and I recently also started massaging my dad’s hands and legs and some days, my dad would open his eyes as we did, though not seemingly to look at us, but him doing that gives us hope.
In the past almost one month we have spent at the waiting area of the hospital, there was one thing precious that I learnt. When we need support and hope, it might not come from people whom we know for a long time, it could simply come from people who are in the same boat. We have met numerous families, who, like us, are rooting for someone they love who are fighting for their lives in the intensive care unit. We may not know these families well, but we have learnt to draw strength from one another and to rejoice with one another. We ask one another how our loved ones are doing and we hold hands if need be.
Many of these families we have come to know are not Singaporeans and we don’t know what their background is like, but it doesn’t seem to matter. We all have the same goal – we want the person we love who is warded in the hospital, to be well and to be okay.
I am thankful for these people, because they have provided much needed support for particularly my mum when I cannot be there with her. They talk to her, they listen and they lend their support. They share their stories and my mum listens too. My mum also has her turn to support others and I think that helps her carry on.
So what does it matter that we come from different parts of the world? When our loved ones are down, we all want the same thing. We just want them to be alright. And we can comfort one another because we can empathize with one another. We know the pain and the agony of the waiting game. But we all hope for the best.
What has turned me off and became such a peeve to me over the past month? People who cannot stop being negative and people who caused my mum to crumble, not able to filter the things they say. One example is an uncle to came yesterday with his wife. They were there for about one hour or so and my mum was crying from the moment they came till the moment they left.
The uncle had gone on and on about how doctors cannot guarantee things and what we should have pursued, citing examples of someone he knew who simple didn’t recover and remained a vegetable. His wife initially nudged him, seemingly to hint him to filter his words. His reply, “Why are you stopping me? What I’m saying are all true.”
Perhaps there was some truth to what he had been saying, but he had also torn down much hope that had built up in my mum, blasting her with anxiety and fear.
I was frustrated, listening to everything this uncle had to say. If I could, I would have asked him to leave. Or perhaps ask him if he was a fortune teller who could tell the future. Doctors do not make guarantees, sure, and there is a good reason for that. This uncle may know someone who didn’t fully recover but medically, we know some people do, so who was he to say which one my dad will be?
My dad has been responding and making progress and that is truth too. When we mentioned that to this uncle, he would say things like, “Responding doesn’t mean he will recover.” Could he then explain to me what the responses from my dad mean?
When this “well-meaning” relative and his wife finally left, I told my mum how I felt. My cousin who was with me, echoed my words. I was angry and I wasn’t going to hide it from my mum. I told my mum that I was angry because she was in tears the entire time this relative was there. Was he there to be support to us in time of need? Or was he there to spout whatever he deemed fit without sparing a thought for our feelings?
Comparing such relatives to the strangers we have been meeting at the hospital, I would rather we only speak to the strangers. Sure, we may build up some “illusion” of hope but guess what? Hope is easier to live on than destructive biased opinion.
The fight is still on for my family and I cannot be more thankful for people who have been supporting us and praying for my dad and for us. I don’t know how long this will go on for, but I’m not giving up on my dad. I choose to believe that he will recover fully.