When I said I’d go on hiatus, fate will make sure I REALLY go on hiatus.
6th September. It was my first day at a temp job for a friend. I clocked in at 10am, full of hope that I would be able to perform well for the next couple of weeks and wriggle my way into a full-time corporate communications position they needed to fill.
Then at 12,I went out for lunch with the department I was working in. No sooner had I sat down and taken two sips of my teh peng, I felt this excruciating pain in my upper abdomen, scarily close to where I thought my heart was (please ah, no jokes about my wife stealing my heart at this point). For the next 5 minutes, my friend was looking at me funny as I clutched my chest and abdomen with my left hand, and asked if I was okay. Not one to lie, I shook my head. But I motioned for everyone to carry on while I compose myself.?Then I tried to eat. After swallowing 2 spoonfuls of rice, I knew I couldn’t continue, so I excused myself and said I’d see them back at the office after lunch.
I never got back to the office.
I subsequently checked myself into a toilet cubicle and sat on the toilet bowl wondering how I was going to get rid of the pain and get back to work. But it was so bad I could barely walk, and it was so consistently bad that after 45 minutes in the tiny cubicle sweating buckets in cold, I messaged the wife to tell her what was happening, describing the symptoms and the area of pain as best I could. The wife sought the advice of the most accessible doctor we knew – Google – and our online physician advised that I go see the doctor immediately.
I hobbled through two buildings trying to find a clinic I could walk into. It was 2.30pm by the time I finally found one, and the pain was so unbearable that I couldn’t speak. The doctor kind of freaked out when all I could do was point to my abdomen and blurt out single-syllable words, saying, “I can’t diagnose you. We have to call you an ambulance.”
The doctor put me in a room with a bed for me to lie down, and asked one of her receptionist staff to call for an ambulance (she had to repeat it three times to her staff, and later I overheard a young voice asking, “What’s the number ah?”), and another, older staff member to keep an eye on me while she administers some painkillers to help me with the pain. I was getting quite annoyed by my circumstances, knowing there’s no way I could go back to work, and no way I’d ever get full-time employment at the company any more (and I really liked the place, too). So when older lady kept standing there – literally “keeping an eye on me” – and started patting my knee (which unfortunately aggravated the pain) asking in Mandarin, “????” (or “Are you okay?”), I managed to catch a gap in between the waves of pain to snarl back at her, “????” (or, with consideration of said snarling, “What the hell do you think?”)
The ambulance finally arrived and I was loaded onto the stretcher, but the damn clinic wasn’t done with me. As I was being wheeled out, the same older lady stopped everyone just before I made it to the door, saying rather sheepishly, “Uh, Mr Tay, you need to settle the bill.”
What. The. Fuuuuuuuuu…
I thought to myself, the fools have my freaking address, a required piece of information for their record-keeping when I walked in and registered. I stopped my internal griping right there and decided I didn’t want to have anything more to do with this clinic. So in my stretcher, with 3 paramedics looking on impatiently, I dug for my wallet, wincing as my abdomen contracted for me to reach my back pocket. Then I slid out the first card I could find, and if not for the pain, I’d have thrown it into the face of whoever was standing closest to me.
I was lucid throughout the journey to the hospital, feeling, grimacing and groaning with every slope, brake and bump despite the ambulance driver’s best efforts to maintain a smooth ride.
My dad said over the phone to me while I was in the clinic that the most effective way to get attention at an emergency ward is if a clinic called an ambulance for you – it’s considered irrefutable professional opinion from a doctor to a hospital that you need help. I would stop short of saying said doctor’s opinion was professional (she said she couldn’t diagnose me), but my dad was right. I’ve never been attended to so quickly and attentively in all my life’s experience in getting warded into the A&E. And then when they asked me for the third time what score I would give my 0-10 pain scale (all three times I gave an 8 or 9, because the pain was performing so well), someone said morphine, and I thought, “Oooh.”
And it all got a bit fuzzy soon after.