Movement Control Order From The View Of A Burn Survivor

When the government announced a 14-day Movement Control Order (MCO) throughout Malaysia because of the coronavirus, chaos and panic happened at the supermarkets, despite the government’s assurance of enough food and daily necessities. 

           The government thought that the message was clear, everyone to stay home, social distancing from one another.

However, on the 1st day itself, some defied the MCO and continued with their merry ways, not taking this pandemic seriously. Now, day 14th has passed, and the government has extended the MCO until the 14th of April as the numbers of those infected within the country become higher.  

         This is not the first time I am being confined to a place, like a bridge between two stories, I can’t help but to compare and connect it to my post-burn care experience. 

The feeling of isolation, uncertainty for the future, unpredictability, anxiety, hopelessness, not being in control, fear, confusion regarding the situation and most of all, not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. These are the emotions that most normal Malaysians must have been having when they were suddenly being restricted to their own homes.

I remember being in physical discomfort and pain nearly every day after getting out from a medically-induced coma. The pain was unbearable during dressing change. The first time I consciously experienced this, it was over two and a half months after the explosion. An unforgettable morning, 10 to 12 hospital staff, including doctors and nurses suddenly barged into the room. I was confused and partly delirious. Covered from head to toe with bandages, I didn’t know what was going on. They positioned themselves on every corner of my bed, talking among themselves. Then suddenly, they removed my bandages on every part of my body. It felt like they ripped my skin off. I felt the pain three times: during removal of primary dressing, cleaning of wound and finally during the application of medicine.  I heard a petite middle-aged lady giving orders to the other doctors and nurses to do it efficiently and as fast as possible. I was crying in agony. 

A male doctor was removing the bandage on my head, “we need to keep the donor area clean”. He was talking about my head.

I was shocked, donor area? What did they take from my head? My hair?

I tried to protest but the words couldn’t come out from my mouth, they couldn’t understand me. Confusion overwhelmed me. They could only see my tears and hear some inaudible noises. They had punctured a hole in my throat to put a tracheal tube so a machine (or ventilator) could breathe for me whenever needed. At that moment in time, I didn’t know I had 80% burns to my body. They had taken the skin from my scalp for grafting and transferred this skin to my hands.

Instead of viruses, most burn survivors worry about bacteria. The burn area, unprotected by skin, has a high risk of being infected. A hospital can be a breeding ground for bacterial infection. During my stay at the ICU, I became infected with CRE, a type of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Dying of blood sepsis can happen in an ICU. In the burn ward, I was treated for MRSA up to 4 times. There were a few instances, the doctors thought I wouldn’t survive.

Looking back, there were times I felt the pain and suffering would be never ending.  Doomed to be like a ghost experiencing the same painful incident just before death over and over again. Some days were overwhelming, it felt like I taking one step forward, and the next day, two steps back.

In moments of difficulties, a friend reminded me to be grateful, to appreciate my family and the people around me, to accept my condition and surrender whatever I couldn’t control to others. Concentrating on what I could do instead of what I couldn’t was probably the most difficult thing I had to do. My mind was the only thing I had, not my physical body. Being immobile, even my fingers were stiff and painful to the touch. To survive, I had to concentrate on being positive. Convincing myself that even though I was in pain, I was getting the help I needed. Constant reminders came from my sister; I was getting better every day, even though I was not feeling it. 

A burn survivor faces his/her pain alone or with his/her own family members or community, whereas coronavirus (Covid-19) effects everyone.  During this hardship, we need to strengthen our minds. If we are not clear headed enough or calm enough, we will fall into a black hole of darkness which threatens to swallow us whole.

         Instead of complaining, living in fear and viewing things negatively, concentrate on what we can do at home, be creative. If we have been procrastinating on certain projects with an excuse of not having the time to do so, this is the time to complete it. Even with the restriction in movement, we can always be thankful for what we have, for there are others who have less. 

        During this period, we can see the best and the worst in people.  On one side of the coin, hardship and suffering can make a person become bitter, losing hope, blaming others for their misery, resorting to crime, etc. However, on the other side, there are people who remain caring, compassionate and helpful despite experiencing the same situation.

We are not facing this problem alone. It is a pandemic that is affecting the entire world. It is time for everyone to help each other. Unlike humans, the COVID-19 does not discriminate.  The world needs to cast aside any differences in race, religion, gender, social and economic status; this is a fight for humanity. 
Our good values are the foundation of what makes us decent and rational human beings. If we disregard our values during this time of crisis, in the process of slaying this invisible beast, we might end up becoming a beast ourselves.


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