“Masih Sakit?” The Indonesian Hospital Experience

12 Nov

I had always said that there was one place I didn’t want to end up- in an Indonesian hospital. Contingency plans meant going to Singapore or Jakarta if any emergencies happened however on my last trip I got to experience the Indonesian hospital system first hand and it turns out I was pleasantly surprised.

There are a few photos of me on my last trip with a white band around my arm. No this wasn’t a fashion statement but in fact the remnants of my trip to the wonderful Rumah Sakit Elisabeth in Semarang.

The story- It was my host dad’s birthday so the Jeep Club came around for a surprise party and what a party it was! There were tequila shots and local wine and bintang flowing, the dangdut music was blaring and there was more than enough food to be had. With uni the next morning I called it a night after a few (too many) drinks and woke up the following day with a headache and fever. I couldn’t believe I was so hungover but then tried to get up to have a shower and go to class and realised I was dizzy and my arm was in severe pain whenever I moved it the slightest. Then I saw it.. What had been a seemingly harmless looking bite a few days earlier now resembled a volcano ready to erupt and my arm was swollen and red. Oh **** I thought and hobbled off to uni where my first reaction was to show it to one of my friends and say “do you reckon there’s something wrong here?” She freaked out and demanded I show our director who swiftly decided the best thing for me to do was to head down in a car to the emergency room of a private hospital in the capital of the province.

So here I was stuck in a car for an hour and a half slowly feeling sicker and dizzier, every bump shooting pain up my arm and dreading what lay ahead of me. With family working for the health department in Australia I could only imagine what awful things lay ahead of me. Finally we arrived at the hospital and walked into the ER where filling out the forms presented the first problem of the day. What do you mean I HAVE to nominate a religion? While I have no problem with those who choose to follow a religion it’s not for me but I was told to just put Christian down because I’m white and it’s expected. Then we took a seat only to be called up 5 minutes later (as opposed to the typical 3+ hour wait in an Australian hospital)

Walking into the treatment area I was shocked. This looked quite nice, sure not as modern as some of our hospitals but it was sterile and all the nurses had cool old fashioned style uniforms so I jumped up on the bed and started to realise how bad my Indonesian was. They started questioning my medical history which I couldn’t understand but luckily I had a friend to translate… Who left the room swiftly as soon as blood or needles were mentioned. So it was me and a doctor and a nurse, which soon became four doctors and about ten nurses all to see the bule (foreigner) and this strange thing on her arm which no one could determine what it was.

This is where you should probably stop reading if you are squeamish

The doctor spoke quickly to the nurse who brought in a trolley with all sorts of surgical implements on it. Oh **** I thought again as they pulled out a needle which I had no idea what was in it but none the less they stuck it into my arm and then started tapping the wound saying “Masih sakit?” (still hurting?) Aaah anaesthetic! But it was still hurting… a lot. Aaaah MASIH SAKIT! They waited… tap tap tap masih sakit? YA YA masih sakit! They looked at each other shrugged and then started cutting my arm open anyway. There was a lot of blood and I tried to ignore the next 15 minutes but to cut a long story short it turned out the infection was growing threads down to my veins which they had to remove (and which apparently could have caused a blood infection which may have resulted in a trip to Singapore or death) and then bandaged me up and gave me a bag full of various ridiculously strong painkillers and antibiotics to take to kill the rest of the bug.

The bag of drugs resulted in me being rather chilled out for the next week (read: off my head) and now I have a tiny scar to remember the experience. All up it cost me about $50 including a car to take me there, minor surgery as they put it and medication so not even worth a travel insurance claim. I’m sure there are massive differences between the public and private systems and had I gone to the local public hospital it may have been a different story but generally speaking I had a pretty positive experience. I actually ended up in hospital in Australia this year (for more major surgery) and despite our hospitals being more modern there really isn’t that much of a difference. I’ve always been one for cultural experiences and this is just another one to add to the list. So now I will always be able to look down at my arm and remember when I was “masih sakit” and how my worst nightmare was not that scary after all.


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