A JOURNEY OF FAITH-Dr. R. Meganathan
Everything seems to be going right until our son Vinod called us one evening in May 1998 and said he was not feeling well. We thought he was stressed due to the exams, he was going through. He was then studying in Wichita, Kansas. The next morning he broke the dreaded news that he was having numbness on one side of the body. We told him to go to the campus clinic for consultation. The same morning on the 13th May, the doctor called and informed our son had burst one of the blood vessels in the midbrain. The MRI showed the evidence of vascular opacity above the pontine region, well circumscribed. He needed urgent intervention.
When I heard the news, the ground below me sank in disbelief.
How could that happen, when my son was a healthy young man. He had just visited us in Kota Kinabalu a year earlier when his mother was admitted with deep vein thrombosis of the left iliac artery. That was too much to bear ! He was our only child, having lost a daughter in childhood due to a viral illness many years earlier on a holiday to the native village in India.
I hung up and told my son that I would be on the next flight to Wichita.
My head spun and everything went blank, I thought I might faint any moment. My colleague , Visva, sitting in front, saw the predicament I was facing. He knew I could not leave my wife , Mano alone. She had childhood polio with physical disability in her lower limbs.
Visva assured me, he would make all my travel arrangements. My leave was approved by my immediate superior in the Ministry of Health. I left hurriedly on the second day after making arrangements for Mano to follow me subsequently.
Many friends stood by with prayers, moral and financial support.
Four things happened during that time.
Firstly, I was appointed the acting Director of the Medical and Health services of the State of Sabah. Secondly the Asian Financial Crisis was in full swing with the Malaysian dollar plummeted 4 to 1 to the Greenback. Thirdly I had no hard cash in hand. I had to borrow some money for the expenses. Lastly, the most dreaded thing, my son had lapsed the medical insurance for three weeks.
Without my knowledge funds were raised by some friends for the passage. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of love and kindness. I felt extremely undeserving for such magnanimous response! I knew it was not me but the supernatural hand of God over me and family. That was the beginning of the many favours that followed throughout our travail. I bid farewell to Mano in tears, asking for forgiveness. I felt that I need to have a clean slate of my blunders before venturing on that journey of faith.
Vinod in Wichita was referred by the campus physician to Dr Shapiro, the neurosurgeon at Wichita Hospital. Dr Shapiro without delay referred Vinod to the eminent neurosurgeon, Dr Robert F Spetzler of the Barrow Neurological Institute at the St Joseph ‘s Hospital in Phoenix , Arizona. He was the top neurosurgeon then in the US for all forms of cerebrospinal aneurysms and cerebrovascular accidents.
One morning I received a surprise phone call from Dr Spetzler, who out of his busy schedule, asked me to bring Vinod on an appointed day soon before he went away on his traveling to other parts of the country.
While I was in Wichita, two of our friends came by to comfort and assist me, Ivy Chong living in Milwaukee, a Malaysian and Bill Lowe from Salt Lake City. Both of them I had met previously in Sarawak while I was working there. Ivy paid up the hospital bill upfront ( almost USD 40 thousand ) and Bill stood by me while Vinod underwent the long eight hour operation guided by MRI probe into the midbrain.
The operation was a success with very minimal neurological deficit. Mano accompanied by Visva came on the second post-operative day. Vinod stayed 2 days in the ICU and 2 more days in the ward before he was discharged. The surgeon and the anaesthetist reduced their fee by half and the total hospital bill came to only half the estimated amount. My financial burden was lifted ! I was able to clear Ivy ‘s monetary assistance soon after returning home.
Behind the scene many things happened in Sarawak. My ex-colleagues and friends raised up almost 100 thousand Malaysian dollars within a short span of a few weeks. I did not know that but Ranjit, my college mate and others worked so hard, that at the end of the day, there was surplus collected from well wishers from all over the country and overseas. While in Phoenix the Rotary Club and the Buddhist Association came forward to show their hospitality.
Amazing how even strangers responded, one unknown person in Hong Kong send a 10 dollar bill!
Vinod ‘s rehabilitation was slow and gradual. He was depressed often not able to perform his routine functions. He was not able to write nor read clearly. His concentration on any task was short. He had mood swings and looked very apprehensive. We were at a loss trying to handle him as gently as possible. His mother made him to write on a notebook to improve his hand writing which was scribbles and illegible. That went on for a while until one day he decided to go for a walk to the town library. He came back with cookery books and began copying the recipes ! To our amazement the writing improved so also the word pronunciation.
We could see his sense of self-worth improving.
In the meantime, he went for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychological counselling. In the following 9 months after his surgery, he showed remarkable improvement.After an year he yearned to go back to the US and complete his studies.
We saw him leaving the airport carrying his shoulder bag, still walking with a slight limp. He waved and disappeared into the departure lounge. He was in the US during the 9/11 incident in 2001 which eventually made his final departure to Malaysia. He took up Hospitality Management in Kota Kinabalu and finally graduating with a degree in Adelaide, Australia. Currently he is working as an assistant manager in a resort on the Manukan Island off the coast of Kota Kinabalu.
What can I say after the long roller coaster journey of uncertainties except to submit humbly to the divine plan and to believe in the God of the impossible!!
DR MEGANATHAN R
State of Sabah,