My life as a Malaysian doctor in the United States.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
My grand-uncle passed away today.
I got an email from my family last night about how they found him unconscious. Initially though to be a cardiac event, imaging studies apparently showed a large intracranial bleed. A hemorrhagic stroke. The doctors had recommended emergency evacuation, perhaps by burrhole surgery?
Except that there were no neurosurgeons in my hometown, and for some reason, they had trouble getting him transferred to KL for surgery. Something to do with lack of beds I was told. I had to urgently try to contact LP, whose father is a neurology professor in one of the hospitals, to try to facilitate things. Because, if the pressure builds up enough, brainstem herniate results in death.
Sadly, things were not to be. I don't have the details of what happened yet except that by the time he got to GHKL it was too late.
There's always been a generational and cultural gap between my grand-uncle and I. He spoke hardly any English, while I spoke no Mandarin. He was a Chinese-medicine physician/acupuncturist, while I'm an Western-medicine physician. And yet, he was always keen to impart onto me his knowledge of acupuncture. Perhaps, to keep things flowing within the family. Though I'd spent some time observing him at his clinic, it's difficult to learn something new when even the basic concepts are so vastly different.
Secretly, one reason why I enjoyed meeting him was because in so many ways, he reminded me of my late grandpa (his older brother) who passed away 10 years ago while I in Canada for medical school. They were from the same generation, and while my grandpa never lived to see me graduate from medical school, my grand-uncle did. So perhaps it was my connection to grandpa. They both came from the same generation. They dressed the same, looked similar, and in a way, had the same scent.
It's strange, that his first wife passed away just last month from complications of a stroke. And it's strange to think that just 7 weeks ago we were having dinner together, and he was saying how proud he was of me. Just 7 weeks ago, when Kristin's dad was having sciatica, grand-uncle graciously gave him a treatment of acupuncture.
My biggest fear, by far, being here and doing what I do, is not being able to help in moments of need, not being able to be with my family in urgent times. This, and another event last week, were just sore reminders of the downsides of being half a world away from my family. It's tough, and I hope every single day my family understands and supports that.
Goodbye, grand-uncle. I shall miss you dearly. Yet, I imagine somewhere in a different world, there is a joyous reunion between two brothers, who have not seen each other in 10 years.