A nasty and pained welcome awaited me this time, as I returned to this Emerald Island yet again. Just days after my arrival, I was walking back from my daily morning outing. It had rained earlier and the ground was moist and wet. Just nearby my house, there is a little ramp finished with gravel. There has been some algae growth, around these miniature gravel stones embedded in concrete. However, as I stepped on this ramp that day, I had a distinct feeling of having entered into a skating rink. The next thing I recollect is my landing on the hard concrete with a big thud. There was an excruciating and sharp stab of pain from my left wrist. I went breathless and blank for next few seconds. After a while, I managed to sit up and had a look at my hand. My palm no longer looked aligned with my wrist. It had taken such a ghastly angle that it looked like some amateur sculptor’s bad job. My wife turned out to be very resourceful and made a makeshift sling from her ‘dupatta’. With help from others, I reached home and from look of things, it was obvious that a quick march to a hospital would be the most desirable action.
Getting entry into a hospital in Singapore, even during an emergency, can be very fiddly. The first thing they do, even before you can even hope to gain an entry inside the lobby, is to look at your forehead with a strange contraption, similar to what ophthalmologists use to look at your eyes. As I found out later, this was done to check my body temperature. I was certified to have 35.8 degrees as my temperature. I had a momentary shock, because right from childhood, I always thought that my body temperature was around 97 degrees. This girl, amazed at my ignorance, told me that, now days, body temperatures are only around 36 degrees. My daughter, who mumbled something about centigrade and Fahrenheit, cleared matter. We were then asked to fill some forms, which, beside personal details, such as my passport number and visa number, also wanted to know if we have visited any foreign country in last seven days or we have met any person who has returned from a foreign country. It was somewhat funny, that besides me, who anyhow desperately wanted to gain entry into the hospital, my wife and daughter also had to fill these forms. Finally, two girls, dressed in attire, which was fit for a chemical warfare squad, classified all wishful entrants like me, into two classes. We were sent to the main lobby. Some unlucky people were sent to another room. I later found out that this room was an isolation ward, where these people were supposed to cool down, just to get inside the hospital.
Once we reached the main lobby, we became cogwheels into a super efficient organizational system, which is a trademark of Singapore. I was x-rayed number of times and finally reached the consultation room of a specialist. Apparently, he had two choices for me. Either the bone could be set manually, where games like golf would be out of my reach forever, or the bone could be set by surgery. Since, I have never twittered with birdies and eagles in my life at par, and do not intend to do so in future, I opted for the first option (which was incidentally cheaper also). The specialist put a half cast around my wrist, bandaged my arm, gave me handful of painkillers to sweeten my life and sent me home.
I began my days of agony, pain and helplessness. I soon realized that some simple chores are impossible without two hands. Tying a knot or dental flossing for examples. Drying your back after bath is also tricky. You cannot hope to do much with your one hand into a sling. Typing anything is such a hard task with just one hand. My fitness regime just became history.
I have no doubt in my mind that in future, I shall always look at any disabled person with great empathy and compassion, having shared his world even though for a short time.
As I look outside of my bedroom window now, I see that the nature has opened up the emerald bounty of a tropical rain forest for my entertaiment. For next few weeks, this appears to be the only solace for me.
30th May 2009