Experiencing a medical emergency in a foreign country
And the biggest lesson learnt
So you might have noticed that you did not receive a newsletter from me last month.
(I know you were eagerly awaiting your Living Light June edition, LOL)
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Well, the title of this month’s newsletter says it all. I normally put my first draft together a few days before month-end, so that would have been Monday 26th June.
Monday morning 26th June I went to the local mosque for morning prayers.
While standing in prayer I was overcome by an overwhelming feeling.
Like someone just opened the oven door.
The intense heat was choking me.
My breathing became heavy.
I felt my body shutting down.
My arms dropped to my side.
I had to sit down.
Thoughts were racing through my head.
This was it; I was going.
Not a bad way to go I thought.
"In the mosque during prayers."
Sitting still, focused on my breathing.
Heart pill under my tongue.
Vision becoming blurry.
Flashes of my life.
A few of the men at the mosque helped me up and took me home.
30 minutes later we pulled up at the local hospital and I was wheeled into the ER.
A buzz of activity around me.
Intravenous injections in both arms.
Wires from the ECG machine attached to my chest.
I could hear the machines beeping.
Doctors on the phone with my cardiologist. They are speaking Bahasa!!!
My blood pressure and oxygen levels are extremely low.
They were treating it as a heart attack but were concerned with my low blood pressure.
After a few hours they managed to stabilize me and I was moved to the ICU.
My wife, Mariam, is normally very calm through these emergencies. But the next day the stress and anxiety took its toll, and she was also admitted to hospital. I spent two days in ICU on oxygen and drugs to stabilize my blood pressure. From ICU I was moved to a general ward.
The hospital was kind enough to place Mariam and me in our own room for the next two days. And that’s where we spent Eid on Thursday the 29th June.
(And that is why you didn’t get my newsletter last month.)
Our hospital window had a view of Mount Rinjani and… sunrise. The sunrise on Eid morning was extra special for me. The rays of the sun, the outline of the clouds, the early morning sky … all special. I have been given an opportunity to experience another day. The simple things really do become special in moments like this.
My first heart attack in February 2021 was the impetus to change my lifestyle. That’s how we ended up here on an island in Indonesia. This second heart episode just further emphasized the importance of being grateful.
Grateful for the opportunity to experience another sunrise.
Grateful to be living this adventure.
Grateful to be alive.
The healthcare and attention I received at the hospital in Mataram was amazing. They took special care of us and even provided us with a special meal on Eid. We had a few people coming to visit us in the hospital. These were people who had become our friends over the 13 months that we had been staying in Lombok.
Friends from the village brought us bananas and some other goodies. We even had a family from Johannesburg, who were on holiday in Lombok, pop in to see us. And when we got home a number of people came around to the house. Since I had my incident in the mosque people in the village were enquiring about me. And when I went back to the mosque a few days later people came up to me to wish me good health, “Sehat” which means stay healthy.
Over this period we were also sending messages to our friends and family in South Africa. We received many good wishes via WhatsApp and video. It was special.
But it was just not the same as having them in the room. And this would probably be one of the biggest challenges you face when you move to a foreign country. Not having friends and family around you during an emergency.
It reminded me of my heart attack in February 2021. It was in the heart of lockdown (excuse the pun). No one was allowed into the ER when I was admitted. And when I came home I couldn’t get any visitors. (Besides the few who were adamant they were coming to see me. (PS you know who you are.) So in a small way COVID gave me a taste of what it felt like to not have people around you during a traumatic episode.
This time it was different because I was on an island 10,000 km away from my place of birth. Far away from my eldest son and grandchildren. Far away from family and close friends. It gave me a deeper appreciation for relationships.
Relationships are the things that get us through difficult times.
Be it a parent, child, sibling, cousin or friend.
Our lives are defined by relationships.
But yet sometimes we don’t want to speak to someone because of …
a difference of opinion,
he said, she said…
Sometimes this goes on for so long that we can’t even remember what was actually said.
We just know that we don’t speak to that person.
Life is short. We don’t know when is our final curtain.
If you have a relationship like this in your life, be the bigger person and reach out.
Even if you were right.
Especially if you are convinced that you were right.
This lesson is for me first.
View from our hospital window
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