Tuesday, October 23, 2018

You Never Know How Strong You Are

-          Bob Marley

I have met friends and even strangers who couldn’t imagine what I had gone through. Some even speculated that if they were in my position, they would probably be dead, depressed and etc. Such a bleak picture!

Most of the time, when something bad happens to others, we fear and worry that the same thing would happen to us or to our love ones. I had friends and relatives who quickly check their gas tubes at home and some even switched their normal gas stove to induction cooker after hearing the news of my accident. A few of my friends had even told me that my accident had forced them to reflect on their own lives and the lives of their love ones.

I feel that we should not underestimate our own will to survive in any situation. I did whatever I could to survive. I believe that everyone would do the same too.

When tragedy strikes, some would tend to blame God for any disaster that happened to them. Why me? Is the most common question. Well, why not? If it can happen to others, why can’t it happen to us as well?

We tend to be in our own comfort zone hoping that we do not face sufferings, setbacks in life. However, that is not possible. What makes us more special than the rest of the world’s population? In reality, anything can happen at any time. 

             I have seen people on social media ranting against God. Asking all sorts of questions when tragedy strikes, like why God didn’t save those people? If God is around, why didn’t God prevent the tragedy from happening to them? And when they receive no answers, they question God’s existence and make sarcastic comments to those who believes in God.

 In the first place, why are they blaming God for all the tragedies in the world? As humans, logically we should know that bad things happen all the time. It is up to us whether to complaint or do something about it.

When there is war, people blame God. What does God have to do with war when it is people who started the war? How about natural calamity such as earthquakes, tsunami, flood etc? Well, some are as a result of global warming (also as a result of man’s work) and some are just natural disasters. Whatever it is, shit happens all the time. We need to accept this, do whatever we can and move on.

           I believe that human beings are resilient. Tragedy does help to put things into perspective.  When faced with death, all the unimportant stuff and the petty squabbles will be forgotten. The most important thing left would be how you have lived your live and whether you have spent enough time with your love ones. Live life without regrets.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sitting, Standing and Walking

Have you ever watched a movie where the hero wakes up a few years after a coma, being able to rip his tubes from the machine, immediately get out of bed and started walking? Or perhaps a science fiction movie about a near future where space travel is possible and a person wakes up decades from a deep sleep without aging?

Unfortunately for us, the above scenarios are impossible at this current time.

            After 2 and a half months of being in coma, I couldn’t move at all. Even lifting my hands were so difficult. It took me nearly a month to be able to lift my hand to my nose. I couldn’t even move my body to the side and had to rely on the nurses to move me.  

             Just like a child, I practically had to relearn how to do everything again. Due to muscle atrophy, moving seems to be a herculean task. The feeling of helplessness and dependent on others are fears that I used to have of growing old. However, I didn’t foresee that it would happen to me sooner rather than later in life. 

             With much effort and help from physiotherapy, it took me 6 months after my gas explosion accident to be able to sit. The physiotherapist had to instruct me step by step on how I could use my hand to slowly push myself up from the side of the bed. The first time I tried to maneuver my body, I was out of breath and had to muster all my energy just to sit up.

              Next, was the attempt to stand. Standing for the first time felt like blood was gushing out from my wounds, the pulling on the legs were very painful. My legs instantly became purplish black. The blood couldn’t flow back up after going down. Basically, blood circulation was very bad. It took 3 physiotherapists and a walker to help me to stand. I remember feeling fearful that I might fall, however the physiotherapists were very encouraging and they assured me that I would be alright.  It was very emotional for me at that time. Finally, I was able to stand.

              It took me weeks after that to be able to take small steps. Each step was painful. My legs grew stronger as time passed by but the pain was still there.  I found out later that this condition is quite common for burn survivors who have been burnt on the legs. That it may take years for the legs to recover and heal. Even then, nerve pains could still be felt. In the meantime, it is best to use walking aid for mobility when it gets painful to stand or walk.
              Sometimes I wonder whether I could have been more mobile at a faster speed? Did I take enough steps? However, part of me knows that I needed to give myself time to heal. My injury was not a light one. I needed to be patient with myself.  

               My sister kept on reminding me, “Don’t let the things that you can’t do stop you from doing the things that you can do.” I am indeed grateful to her for her encouragement, support and help at the time when I needed it most.

Monday, October 8, 2018

No Man Is An Island


    Burn Survivors not only have to deal with physical pain but also emotional pain as well. For many survivors, life has changed and will never be the same again.

    During my stay at the burn ward, a Mr. Lim a former patient at the burn ward, came to visit me. Years ago, he suffered 30% burn while burning rubbish using flammable material at his own home.

    Talking to him felt good as he knew what I was going through and the difficulties that I would be facing in the future. He was understanding and gave some good advice.  Seeing that he managed to get back to his life despite his challenges, gave hope and indeed inspired me.

    On the other hand, there was also a burn patient, a Mr. Tan who was burnt a few years before my accident. He had an epileptic fit while burning rubbish and was burnt on his face. He was admitted twice again for infections during my stay at the burn ward.

    I could clearly remember Mr. Tan telling me to exercise, to stand, to eat a vegetarian diet, to do this and that and the list goes on. At that time, I was still immobile, so I couldn’t escape. On his part, he meant well, just that I wasn’t ready to be lectured. However, I am still grateful that he made the effort to talk to me.

     Indeed, they were two different people with different approaches.

    In Malaysia there is no Association for Burn Survivors or any Support Group available. I find this quite strange as the number of people who gets burn yearly is not exactly low.

    One day, my sister came across Phoenix Society which is based in the USA while she was doing her research on burns. 

  “They have a chat at 9pm on every Wednesday”, she said.

    In Malaysian time it is on every Thursday at 9am. 

    Initially, I hesitated and thought that they would only cater for US citizen. My hesitation melted away on my first chat with them. They welcomed all burn survivors. I have been joining the chat group since January 2017, every once a week, whenever possible.

   The people there are so welcoming. It is good to know that I am not alone in facing my problems with regards to my burnt skin. Mostly it is emotional support for the grouses and the problems that burn survivors are facing. I noticed that most of the grievances revolves around people who are not so supportive or are unsympathetic towards burn survivors. They could be family, friends, colleagues and even strangers.  Basically, it boils down to ignorance of society with regards to burns. 

  The Phoenix Society is doing a good job in helping burn survivors and also in helping to create awareness of survivors. They even have annual conferences and burn camps. Hopefully in the future, Malaysia will have such a support system to help burn survivors and also to create awareness on burns.  

    If we can have a Cancer Society and Society for Dementia, why not a society for burn survivors? A place where burn survivors would feel that they belong and have activities together instead of feeling alienated and shunned by others. Assisting burn survivors to integrate back to society.  

  A month ago, the Phoenix Society for the very first time, held free live streaming of the World Burn Convention. Even though I had to stay up very late at night, the sacrifice was worth it.

   With the advancement of the internet, there are online support groups for most type of diseases or medical conditions.  We are not alone in dealing with our problems. Sharing our problems and learning from others is a step forward towards our own healing.