I found an old diary that’s reminded me of many experiences in Burma. Among the notes, I found pointers to three enduring stories not yet retold in these journals.
Burma Story: Three
I had reason to visit the Rangoon hospital in February 1991. I took the stairs up to see my colleague who was being treated for apparent pulmonary problems.
What I didn’t say when I journaled a Real Life Fantasy several months ago was that I ended up on the wrong floor of the hospital, already 90 years shabby when I visited. I walked into a children’s ward, a floor too early. The ward was open plan, much like the school dormitory called Holy Angels where I shared a room with 120 other schoolchildren for a year.
As miserable as I thought I was aged 13, this ward was misery personified. These children were truly sick, most handicapped and many very malformed. I carried on walking into the ward despite knowing I was in the wrong place. It was February and warm but not monsoon humid. And yet I was immediately aware that there was no air-conditioning. I could see the windows were all open to let in a draft of air and mosquitoes.
A nurse noticed me. Another nurse called out to me. A third nurse shuffled over to me but not before I saw a crib with conjoined siamese twins struggling to catch a glimpse of me.
Their struggle was made all the more poignant by the fact that they were joined at the head. Only one set of eyes could see me at once but both toddlers wanted to smile at this stranger.
I left the floor to the clear relief of the nurses. Their authoritarian looks softened noticeably as I went back to the stairwell. It was if I discovered a secret in a society riven with secrets.
The man I was visiting came, like me, from a different world. His world included options to self-harm and had easily obtainable hypertension tablets that could be used to gain the attention he craved.
Meanwhile, hidden from view, conjoined twins wanted attention too. But life is cruel and the following day, a Lear Jet medevac took the self harmer to Singapore sanctuary, leaving the twins to their fates.