She's been working there for about ten years. Perhaps more, a single woman in the age of 50 with hardly a friend beside her colleagues, she's a hell of devoted worker, the employer's mighty right hand. Simply said, she's the one who's running the office while the employer deals with businesses in hand. There were others, but none work as hard or as efficient as her.
Her image shows a woman with bones wrapped by skin only with very little flesh to spare in an oversize jacket with frizzy hair tied tightly and low just resting on top of the jacket. She couldn't possibly weight more than 90 pounds with her petite frame.
Being diabetic, she has to control her sugar consumption. She has a strict diet, conducted by her very own impossible stubborn brain. To her, everything is unhealthy. I wonder what exactly she eats? Everything is either too sweet, too salty, nor reach her level of hygienic food, not suitable. In one word, inedible. Even fruits, she complained its too sweet and contains a high level of sugar and shouldn't eat it. For goodness sake, fruits produced natural sugar that's not harmful to the body system and happens to be something she should eat concerning her diabetic self!!! But nonetheless, she never listens. I couldn't understand how on earth someone perfectly normal doesn't enjoy food.? After all, eating is such an enjoying thing.
Then, she got sick. Really sick. She refused to look for medical help. The furthest she'd go was continuing her normal diabetes medication where medicines are brought by her sister who's a clinic nurse.
She started to lose weight. Can you imagine someone below 90 pounds can still go lower down the scale? Upon having her bones even more visible underneath those thin almost transparent skin, her stomach and foot was getting bigger everyday. Swollen to a very abnormal ratio compared to the rest of her body. What's happening.? I do not know how her sister managed to get her to the clinic. It was confirmed, she's diagnosed with Tuberculosis (TB). Which level, I do not know. What I do know is she's in a critical state. She was admitted to the local hospital hoping for further medical treatment but it was no help at all. In fact, its even worse than the clinic who couldn't even gave her a clear diagnostic. Few days later, she was dismissed.
Her condition deteriorates. She wasn't improving. She couldn't walk. She could hardly sit up. Next thing, she's on her way to KK. To seek treatment in SMC. Strongly insisted by the employer who's willing to cover the cost. She was reluctant but couldn't refuse any longer. She was dying.
Mom was waiting for her in SMC's Emergency Room. She was arriving after a 5 hours road trip driven by her second brother in law. She was suffering from an infectious disease and couldn't come by air for its forbidden to board the plane. Just like SARS.
When she arrived, she was attended immediately by two young residents doctors and few nurses. Her condition had worsen by then. She was horridly thin, impossibly weak. According to Mom, she didn't look pleasant. Not at all due to diabetes, it causes some body parts to be in extreme bad condition. Can I say some part of the skin was starting to rot.? I do not know. I didn't saw it. Mom did. The two young doctors seems not too pleased with the patient's appearance and actually showed a disgusted expression. I believe Mom did complain to the doctor treating her later, an internal organ specialist. The doctor was a friend of my parents and we've all been treated by him before.
When the doctor attended her, he was surprised. He told mom that of all those years he spend in medical field, he never treated nor saw anyone that was so unbelievably thin. He said she was even thinner than starving African kids infected with HIV. She was so fragile. He couldn't believe how a sane women who's half a century old can actually starve herself to this state.?
Mom went to see her everyday to understand her situation with the doctor. It was quite a few days later when I heard mom said she's finally in a stable condition. Apparently the Tuberculosis had gone pretty bad. The swollen belly and foot was cause by urine accumulation. Yes, she couldn't pee due to her kidney was hardly working with the bad tuberculosis infections. The doctor said if she was any later, she's already gone.....
Two of her sisters were taking turns to take care of her in the ward. Being the eldest daughter in the family, they were afraid of her. Her usual demanding and stubborn self. They couldn't do anything if she refused to eat. But, she was afraid of Mom. She dare not left her plate untouched if Mom's there. Mom was practically there to make sure she DOES eat. How pathetic, a woman who almost died, still reluctant to eat. She even still managed to complain that the hospital's food is unhealthy just because they serve her corn soup once. Why.? Because its canned food.
I couldn't recall how long was she admitted. It was STPM time and Mom insisted that I was not to visit her during the exam in case I got infected. TB is easily transferred to people with weak antibody. And since I was in a battle, visiting her wasn't a very fancy idea. But I wonder what was Mom thinking, she visits her everyday due to her responsibility.
I did visit her once though, after the exam. Together with her employer, my uncle (my Mom's brother) who was on a business trip in KK. Her ward was nonetheless an isolated one. Anyone who enter the room is required to wear a mask. By then, she looks better. Though she's still extremely underweight. Mom was wondering if she weights more than 30 kilos with her tiny frame. She was recovering and still has the energy to scold and boss her sisters around. Guess old habits die hard...
When dismissed from SMC, she did not went back to Sandakan right away. She could barely walk and needed full time assistance in every aspects. Doctor said the fastest for her to return to a normal state would be 6 months. She stayed quite a while in KK with her other sister here. Only returning to Sandakan when she's stronger.
It's been four months now, according to my uncle, she's improving. Started to walk with the help of walking equipment. And started to work too, with the computer of course. She just lived two levels above the office with her elder brother who's single too. I sincerely hope she's getting better everyday.
I should pay her a visit the next time I'm in Sandakan...
Miss Chang had left us in the November 2006, may her soul rest in peace. Amen.