The Saga of my Mummy’s Tummy

Having lived abroad, one of the thing I miss is universal health care. Though when I ceased being a student that doesn’t apply either but that’s another story. So, Indonesia, my wonderful and lovely home country doesn’t yet have a comprehensive health plan like the NL or UK has. If you’re sick you gotta pay. No money, no doctor. Or as the general public would say, “Poor people are not allowed to be sick over here!” Or so the conventional wisdom goes. Well in practice it is not as cold as that, hospitals do help people without money, there is some form of medical help for those without insurance but it is sealed thick with bureaucratic tape etc etc etc. Well, as it turned out, not going to the doctor when sick is not just the poor’s domain, but also lots of other better off people. For example : my mom.

Now, my mom. Ok, we’re not terribly rich but, Alhamdulillah, better off than most people. We have roof over our head, 3 square meals per day, etc. So we could afford a simple doctor’s appointment when needed plus she does have insurance courtesy of my dad’s work. But my mom, she is not one to cry pain at a moments notice so if she felt something is wrong, most of the time she brush it off. When she’s sick and I offered to take her to the gp, she mostly refused. She’d said it’s nothing let’s have lunch instead. Well, most of the time it is nothing, until this time, it is not.

My mom had felt some pain during the week, but as usual brush it off as stomach flu or ate bad food. Come Wednesday she felt really ill so very early morning she went to the ER because of massive stomach pain. We all got called, that dreaded early morning call. After arranging our household affairs, my sister and I were promptly at the ER around 8 am. Then with the three of us there (my brother was the one to take my mom to the ER) the doctor proceed to explain their action plan. Initial tests result from the ER doc requires him to consult the Internist. The Internists suspected they might need to operate, thus he consulted with a surgeon. Due to her age, the surgeon then proceed to order ever more tests just to be sure.

My mom undergoes a series of blood test, USG, x-rays, and finally, CT Scan of the abdomen. She also got checked by a cardio doctor (is that what you called a heart specialist?) and lung doctor. After all the results came in, the team of doctors don’t actually know what was wrong with my mom. They suspect it could be appendicitis, but it could be something else since the tests were inconclusive – it’s just conclusive that something is seriously wrong. The only way to figure out what’s really wrong is surgery.

The surgeon and the internists (there’s 2, abdomen and lung, remember?) came up with a plan, first they are going to do a laparoscopy, it’s minimally invasive and would let them take a peek to find out the problem. If it is appendicitis, it would only take around 30 min to fix. If its something else, they ask permission to do laparotomy or actual cut open surgery which they estimate would take around 2 hours. We agreed, signed the consent form and pray for the best.

Around 6pm, my mom is wheeled into OR. As it turned out, the appendicitis were ok. It was her stomach (I sure hope I got the translation right). It was ruptured/punctured/holey 1cm in diameter and was oozing out puss. Her entire abdomen was covered in it. Before they venture with the laparotomy they asked a member of the family to be present to see it, has to be someone who can stomach blood and gore. Good thing one of my aunt is a dentist, off she goes into the OR to see my mom’s abdomen. It was just as the surgeon described. Filled with puss. It made the organs sticky and that’s what been hurting. He also said that these kind of infection takes time, more like months, not days. As my aunt is a doctor, they offered her to stay for the whole operation process but she declined. Seeing the first part was enough for my aunt. After she left, they proceed to suck out the puss, So clean it up and fix the hole in the stomach. All in all the whole operation took 3 hours.

Later my aunt say, she actually wouldn’t mind looking at the operation, she is a doctor after all so always fascinated with the human organs, but because it was my mom, her sister, she couldn’t. She said it was a good thing they covered my mom’s face otherwise even she probably couldn’t see just the first bit of the procedure.

What caused it? According to the surgeon it is usually due to excessive drinking, partying, drugs, or cancer. Since my mom is not a drinker nor a party-goer, it only left drugs and cancer. To figure out what cause it, they took some tissue samples. Thank God it was not cancerous! Which means… drugs!!! Apparently for some time now my mom has experienced some leg pain and been taking some pills to help ease the pain… which would be fine if she was under doctor supervision. Which of course she was not. I’m not sure what this drug is, apparently it’s some sort of pain-killer? It made the leg pain go away so she can go on with her myriad activities but it’s not supposed to be used long-term because one of the side effect is well.. she just proved it.

Anyway, operation is a success, mom is recovering well and slightly ahead of schedule. Having to lay in the hospital for 2 weeks really makes my mom rethinking her health plan. It now exists! Because she was seen by tons of doctors, she’d like to follow-up with one of them to discuss her asthma and the surgeon recommends some doctors to see about her leg pain. No more self medicating! Proper doctor guidance only from now! The surgeon was amazed at my mom’s high threshold of pain. He said usually people would be crying pain when the stomach wall was scraped. Here it is not only scraped, it’s puncture and ripped to boot! 1 cm diameter is no small thing when it comes to stomach wall.

Now my mom is already discharged from the hospital, safe and sound with the comfort of home. Recovery is slow, she’s not allowed (nor able) to really get up and about yet, but it’s getting there. With patience, she’ll be up and running walking, attending to her work and hobbies as usual.


So remember, if you feel persistent pain, perhaps it is time to visit your gp. If it keeps coming back, do not brush it off, go get second, third, even fourth or fifth opinion if you have to. More importantly, don’t self medicate! We’re lucky to be able to treat my mom in time. Other people may not have the same story.

Stay healthy peeps 🙂


My Mama’s Porch


With a steaming cup of tea or warm chocolate milk, it is the perfect spot to enjoy the rain.

I lost count how many rainy afternoons and nights I spent sitting on this porch. Almost always with my mom next to me. When I was younger she’d make me a cup of chocolate milk, particularly on rainy nights. Now that I am way older I usually make us a pot of tea to enjoy. And it really is bliss. Just sitting there, enjoying the view and the rain.

We moved to this house when I was 11 and couple year later my dad was offered a job abroad which he accepted and off we move. We didn’t sell the house, my older sibs live and took care of it while we were away. As it turned out, our little adventure abroad took just a bit longer than expected. My parents returned a few years earlier than me. Still, I leave the house as an 8th grader, I moved back in permanently after I got my Master. Though we returned there almost every summer holidays I really didn’t spend a lot of years there, particularly since I got married less than I year after I returned.

But one thing that I cherish the most about my parents house is the porch. It is not big, in fact compared to say the Desperate Housewives’s type of house it is positively tiny but it is large enough to hold 3 chairs and a small table. And that’s where my mom and I like to perch with our teas.

Porch conversation ranges from trivia to serious stuff, whatever we feel like talking about at that particular time. Sometimes we don’t talk at all, simply enjoying each other’s company. The rain never last long, even if it did, my mom always have a tons of thing to do. I used to get annoyed. That is until I became a mom myself. Then I cherish whenever we got the chance to have our sit-down time.

We don’t just sit there during the rain of course. We’d sit there even when there’s no rain. Usually on holiday mornings or rare afternoons. We were lounging there when my sister’s then boyfriend suddenly made an appearance and got to be grilled by us before my sister show up. He pass the test just fine. He went on to be my brother-in-law.  Another memorable moment was the time that a total stranger come out of a becak selling his homemade layered cake door-to-door. My mom invited him to the porch, he told us he originally came from Bangka, then he moved to Jakarta and now starting a cake business. He proceed to tell us about his layered cake, how it is made using traditional methods and recipe handed down from his mom’s family. Then he cut a small slice for us to taste. Man it was delicious! My mother instantly knew he was telling the truth. You see my mom used to live in Bangka when she was young and the cake taste of her childhood. She’d come to her friends’ house and their mom would offer her their version of the layered cake.  My mom sign on to became a lifelong customer immediately.

Every year he would come to our house to deliver the cakes for Eid. We witness his business grow from his mode of transport, he started with the humble becak, then bajaj, until finally he has a minivan to transport his goods. His daughter now handles the order but every now and then he would come out himself to deliver our cakes. Our family is such a longtime customer that there are certain cakes that are now off the menu except for us. How can we not love them?

I visit my parents a lot, and I do have dates with my mom, so it’s not like I don’t see them at all. Even so, opportunity to sit at the porch is not as much as it used to be. What better way to preserve the memory then? How about you? Do you have a porch that you love?

Happy Women’s Day

Today we celebrate hari Ibu, which loads of people translate as Mother’s Day. Given the history of this day, I feel that to simply say that today is Mother’s day is not quite correct and it actually reduce what the Women’s Congress was trying to achieve, better life for women in Indonesia – mother or not – simply woman. When I say this in the past, some would argue back that there’s nothing wrong in honouring mothers and that they’re true everyday heroes. Well of course, being a mother myself I do understand, but, honouring mothers is our duty. Every day should be mother’s day!

My main problem is that year after year people would just be busy thanking their mom and describing how tough motherhood is, but rarely do anyone ponders about the quality of life women in Indonesia have, regardless whether they’re a mother or not. This I think is dangerous. We are lulled into thinking today is Mother’s Day just like in any other countries. We’re just busy making poems, write stories about how wonderful our mother is, how big their sacrifice etc etc. But does anyone actually stop and think about the condition of mothers in Indonesia? Has every mother here receive adequate medical care pre and post natal? Does all mothers know that domestic violence is not tolerated and that we have laws against it now? Does all mothers receive the necessary support so they can send their daughters (and sons) to school instead of sending them to work on the street, or worse, having to go abroad to work as domestic workers and face multitude of dangers without clear guidelines where to go for help? If there’s any help at all.

Let’s step back and see, what about condition of girls before they turn into mothers. Have they received the supposedly mandatory 9 years of not-so-free education? Any girls still forced to marry older, wealthier men so they can help their family? (and then hide behind religious laws to twist the condition to make it ok) Any girls still forced by their parents or family to work abroad as ‘dancers’? Any girls still sent to work abroad knowing full well they might return in a body bag if at all?

If the answers to all of the above questions is no, then I have no problem this being a Mother’s Day. Oh yes, glorify mothers all you want. However, if there’s a yes to any of the question, as a mother, I ask you to please think about them as well. Please think of mothers who died during childbirth due to lack of medical care – why aren’re medical care available to them? Just because they live in faraway places no one can see? Please think about these poor young girls that are forced into trafficking. They should really be at school studying so they can be better mothers when the time come. Do they still have motherhood as their future?

You have the rest of your life to think about your mother. Please give your thoughts to these women and these girls just a day, today.