Life sto­ries

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR -

BAR­BARA Yen, was a med­i­cal so­cial worker at Univer­siti Malaya Med­i­cal Cen­tre, Kuala Lumpur for 25 years be­fore re­tir­ing in 2001. In the course of her work, she had met pa­tients with var­i­ous ill­nesses and even in­ter­acted with some per­son­ally. Lend­ing an ear, she had pa­tiently lis­tened to their sto­ries – “some tragic, scary, re­ward­ing, funny and hu­mor­ous”.

“The hos­pi­tal was the first place where many so­cial prob­lems could be found,” said Yen.

She started at UMMC’s Depart­ment of Medicine for four years with spe­cial­ists and at­tended lec­tures and in­for­mal teach­ing dur­ing ward rounds.

She came across pa­tients di­ag­nosed with var­i­ous ill­nesses – di­a­betes, can­cer, heart prob­lems, neu­ro­log­i­cal and re­nal con­di­tions, pul­monary dis­eases, epilepsy, de­pres­sion and oth­ers.

Yen en­coun­tered many in­ci­dents which she shared in her book, Mo­men­t2­Mo­ment: Breath­less In Kuala Lumpur! One such oc­ca­sion was when she re­united a leukaemia pa­tient with his es­tranged sib­lings to ful­fil his last wish of hav­ing them by his death bed. He sur­vived for two weeks, long enough for most fam­ily mem­bers to see him be­fore his pass­ing.

She shed tears of relief and joy that the pa­tient and his fam­ily could rec­on­cile and move on. “The pa­tient could die in peace with no fear, guilt or re­gret,” Yen said of that ex­pe­ri­ence. She also re­called that once this same pa­tient re­fused to let her go home be­cause he feared he would “die alone”.

Yen also never imag­ined play­ing Cupid, of all things. There was a young man­ager who was down­cast when he found out that he needed long term dial­y­sis. To up­lift his spir­its, Yen in­tro­duced him to a girl, who was a pa­tient with suc­cess­ful re­nal trans­plant. Af­ter that fate­ful ex­change of phone num­bers, the two hooked up.

“Six months later, they were mar­ried and brought me a cake,” said Yen.

“Later, the man­ager had a suc­cess­ful trans­plant over­seas and the cou­ple adopted a daugh­ter.”

How­ever, gifts of ap­pre­ci­a­tion have come in strange forms for Yen, par­tic­u­larly an in­ci­dent in which she was amused by her en­counter with an orang asli man.

“His child was ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal and was suf­fer­ing from mal­nu­tri­tion. He brought a gift in a card­board box. It was a live rooster,” Yen re­called.

Yen de­clined the gift and im­plored the man take the rooster home in­stead “as his fam­ily would need it more”.

Thank­fully, he agreed. Majorie Chiew

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