Friday, November 30, 2007

One Night at A & E

Recently, I have a constant chest pain. It has this cramping feel, and my left arm becomes weak, sometimes even numb. I got a bit scared so I visited the company doctor on Monday. She then referred me to A & E. At the nurse's recommendation, I went to Tan Tock Seng Hospital's A & E.

I arrived at around 5.30pm. The A & E was relative quiet and not that many people. Quickly I registered. Then proceed to the screening station, where the nurse checked my temperature. This is a legacy from SARS days. Funny the Filipino nurse can actually speak some Chinese, but subsequently she asked a paramedic to translate for her from English to Chinese. Thinking it a bit too troublesome, I just replied in English.

After the screening station, another Filipino nurse did an ECG for me, then again another Filipino nurse measured my blood pressure. Everything was fast and efficient, and then I just sat there and waited.

Around 6.40pm, it was finally my turn to see a doctor. Dr. Lee Ching Ching asked me some questions. She said most probably my chest pain was not heart-related, but just to play safe, she would keep me in observation for 6 hours. She took my blood sample at 7.00pm, a 2nd blood sample would be taken 4 hours late, then if everything was fine, I then could go home at 1.00am the next day.

Oh my, that started my one night experience at the A & E. I could walk on my own, but they insisted I should lie in a bed, and the nurses would push me, wheeled me around from this place to that place.

I did 3 x-rays. One for my neck, one for my chest, one for my back. Dr Lee suspected I had a neck pain. Frankly speaking, I was not very sure whether I had or had not a neck pain myself. Is stiff neck considered as neck pain?

Up to the x-ray part, it was still ok, but after that, the experience was a bit dreadful. They placed an Indian worker next to my bed. The Indian worker probably was injured at work, a fall or something. He vomiting violently for a while, what came out was blood! His pillow and bed sheet were stained with blood.

Then came a man in his 30s. He is very tall, at least 1.80-1.90m in height, but he is also very skinny. Chinese always say "skin wrapping the bones" (皮包骨), that describes him perfectly. His face was pale without any blood. I don't know what his illness is, but it looks like cancer. What other illness can rib someone of his life this much? Soon he was admitted.

Looking around the whole observation room, I was one of the 'healthy' guys, there was a 17-year teen too. He had a cut on his toe, and he couldn't extend his toe. How did I know this? His doctor was not sure whether he should admit the teen, so he asked my doctor, Dr. Lee Ching Ching, so I know :)

There was an old uncle in the room too. His head was bandaged. Around 9-10pm, a police officer came in to ask the old uncle questions. Very funny scene. The old uncle could speak good Cantonese to his sons, but when the police officer talked to him in Cantonese, he couldn't understand that guy's Cantonese. The old uncle's son wanted to help, but the police officer said no third party should be there while the questioning was taking place. According to the uncle, he was at the void deck of his block, and somebody hit him from behind and robbed him of his wallet. He was sent to TTSH by police.

At around 9pm, there was a change of staff. All those non-patients were asked to leave. The doctors and nurses handed over the shift. Some senior doctor came for his rounds. He went through each individual patient's record and plan. The junior doctors then would report.

The observation room is constantly in some kind of chaos. The drifts finished without being replaced. The oxygen tube removed and forgotten to be placed back. If you want something, the nurses will always let you wait, so you must be very patient, anyway, you are patient. I wonder, luckily I was not really in A or E conditions; if I were, I don't know how much my chances would be to survive. The staff were simply overwhelmed by the number of patients.

The last two hours were the most difficult times. The uncle beside me couldn't walk to the toilet, so he pee'ed in his bed with a bottle. I was like sleeping right next to a urinal! Around mid-night, a Cantonese lady was wheeled in. She was really energetic.

In her bed, she kept saying loudly her son didn't want her, her daughter didn't want her, her daughter-in-law didn't want her. She felt very terrible, hoping a good doctor would come and save her. She also said she had found a very good doctor, but that doctor's medical license had been revoked. She pleaded for that doctor, but didn't mention the name. She repeated that again and again and again, so much so that I could almost recite what she said that night word by word.

At 11pm, my doctor, Dr Lee Ching Ching came to take my blood sample again. She also told me my x-ray and blood test results so far were good. Then again, another ECG. At around 1am, a doctor came to me to say I could go home, but he also handed me a referral letter to see a specialist at TTSH.

Wah, I was so happy that finally I could go home and sleep. On my way out, at the screening station there, I saw a half naked tatoo'ed guy, with blood stains on his hands and forehead. Just wondering, victim of a gang fight?

An exciting night, but I wish never do I need to experience it again.


  1. Glad that ur alright mate and that u took time to actually give it some medical assurance. Janiel

  2. Thank you, guys. Everybody take good care of your own health. Life without a healthy body is very much a living hell...