Thursday, May 18, 2006

neat little boxes

does anyone remember hanson? that group made up of brothers taylor, isaac and zach? don't pretend you don't know had a crush on taylor. admit it.

anyway, they released a song called "strange" several years ago. it's one of my favourite hanson songs (yes, i was a fan), simply because it contains the words "when you live in a cookie-cutter world being different is a sin".

at the time, the lyrics were relevant to me. i had just started form 1 and, being in a so-called "not-so-good" class, i felt as if people were judging me all the time. i always felt not pretty enough, not smart enough, not worthy of anyone's attention simply because i looked frumpy in my prefects' uniform and the cool girls were in the classes at the other end of the corridor. it certainly felt like i was living in a cookie-cutter world where each mould is of something beautiful and i simply did not make the cut.

8 years have passed and i can no longer relate to the insecure tween i once was. now i know the world isn't made up of pigeon holes where you can put neat labels in large type on the contents of each box. in fact, the more i see of life, it seems like there are more grey areas than there are black and white. it confuses things and it makes me have to think just that little bit harder when forming a stand, but it is kind of a relief to know that no one can really shove me into a category anymore and look at me as a one-dimensional figure.

after spending 2 days at seremban hospital for nursing week though, i have to rethink that.

if you have been to a hospital, you would know that there are lots of different departments that handle different...disciplines? is that the right word? disciplines of health?

it's no different for the wards where the patients are, erm, warded for their various inflictions. some of the wards are multidisciplinary (?) and house patients suffering from all sorts of ailments - from broken bones to hernias to deep lacerations. others are more specific and are special areas for people who have communicable diseases, really serious orthopaedic injuries and so on.

in each ward, the men are separated from the women, the second class patients are separated from the third, the patients being prepped for surgery are in different cubicles from those who do not require surgery, and the cancer patients are set apart from their "healthier" counterparts. besides that, the histories of the patients are filed in colour-coded files. the patients' names turn into bed numbers and their identities are replaced by the drugs they are taking and the treatments they are subjected to.

every person is placed into a specific category, which is under another huge category, and yet another big division...and all these divisions come under the large heading of "patient". someone who is ill. someone who needs help.

i know it's for the convenience of the staff at the hospital. the nurses work very hard, as do the doctors, and it would be a nightmare if they were forced to remember names and be very personal with each patient. plus let's not forget that the progress of every warded patient must be monitored closely in order to ensure that all goes well or, in the unfortunate event that something goes wrong, investigations into mishaps can be conducted as efficiently as possible. having a good system of classifying patients is essential in making sure the right treatment is administered in the right way to the right person.

but the thought of being shoved into a neat little box the moment you enter a hospital, a place where people go to to seek relief from their ailments, made me feel rather sad.

i remember being ill in singapore once. i had a high fever and it was during the sars panic period (sidetrack: a professor in imu said that sars really stands for singaporeans are really scared. haha). i knew it was because i had a bad sore throat and that all i needed was some antibiotics, but i had to go see the doctor anyway because the hostel had to report all cases of fever. the moment i got to the clinic and had my temperature taken, the nurse gave me a mask to wear (although the sars scare was wearing off by then) and sent me to a consultation room at the end of the clinic.

the door scared me to bits. there was a red sign on it that said "acute clinic" and, not knowing the actual meaning of acute at the time, i felt rather frightened. the nurse opened the door and declared to the doctor inside that there is an "acute patient" waiting for him outside.

i was suddenly reduced to nothing more than a masked figure with a sign on my forehead saying "acute patient", and i felt like how i used to feel in school - shoved into a compartment, labelled and ready for someone to deal with me.

i had a fever. i had chills. i had a burning throat and a headache and i was just neatly classified by a nurse as something red. it was the last place i wanted to be, but it was the only way i could get the antibiotics i needed to get well. it felt horrible though. and that was just a fever.

i don't like the fact that the moment a patient enters the hospital, he or she ceases to be a person and becomes a number, a colour or a concoction of drugs. it makes me all the more determined to never get ill and to do my best to make someone feel like a person everytime i meet them.

it's just so awful that we spend our lives trying to live out of the box and prevent ourselves from being a nameless face, but when we reach the twilight of our lives and find ourselves in the unwilling role of residence of illness, we become the illness, get a big label slapped on our foreheads and live out the toughest days of our lives in a neat little box.

lishun at 4:22 PM