Farewell, Karen Chin.

Karen Chin was not known to me personally. She is or rather, was my friend’s sister who passed away early this month. I dedicate this blog post in loving memory of Karen and to Karen’s family. My friend, Lyn wrote a letter with details of their experience at the public hospital with the intention of letting the management know what actually took place prior to her sister’s death. With hope held high that the hospital would investigate and take necessary steps to ensure, the same would not be experienced by other patients. No one deserves to go through such painful experience. My friend also sent a copy to the press, hoping that her letter would be published for people to learn from their experience. I read about Karen’s ordeal during the last few days of her life with huge lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. If I, a stranger can feel that way, imagine how the family members felt then?

I can’t do anything to take away the pain and loss felt by the family, but I’d like to help my friend, Lyn. Then, I thought, the least that I could do is to publish her letter here in my blog. Lyn gave her consent to the idea. Please keep in mind that her intention is purely to allow people to learn from their experience, hopefully others won’t share the same fate as her late sister. They have come to terms with her passing and just want to move on.

(AUTHOR : LYN)

My sister was mentally retarded since she was a few months old as a result of jaundice. Ever since then, she was fully dependent, unable to talk, feed herself or do the basic activities by herself. She had to be attended to round the clock. Additionally, ever since she started menstruating, she would have seizures during such periods. It had become a norm to have seizures accompanying her menstruation, but no other complications associated with it.
 
All these conditions ended with her life when it was snatched away from her on that fateful day on 4th May 2012, while she was in custody of a local public hospital (hereinafter referred to as UH). Following is the events that took place at UH in chronological order, till my sister’s last moments on earth :
 
24th April 2012
9.30pm : Following my sister’s recurrent seizure and fever, my mother sent her to UH Emergency Ward. Her hands were immediately strapped to the bed railing to prevent her from falling off the bed as her body was experiencing wild trashing movement.  Thereafter, attending nurses began to draw blood and urine sample for tests.
 
10.30pm : X-ray taken
 
ISSUE :
1. When the nurses failed to find a suitable vein to insert the needle, they carelessly left a deep huge bruise on my sister’s arm.
2. As untrained as they look, they were seen to continuously poking my sister with the urinary catheter to draw urine, until her urethra bled. As my sister was mute, she could only shudder in great pain.
3. She was subsequently put on an IV drip. Half and hour later, my mother started noticing that the drip was not functioning at all and immediately called the nurse. The IV drip was then re-administered. Imagine if there were no one beside the patient and the attending nurse didn’t do the proper checking before leaving the patient.
4. My mother, an elderly 71-year-old lady was left standing by my sister’s bedside throughout the night worried because my sister was left with minimal attention in the Emergency Ward.
 
 
25th April 2012
5.15am : The doctor from Emergency Ward discharged my sister saying that all test results were normal. However, at that moment, my sister was still experiencing seizure and fever. My mother asked if her condition was due to an ear infection. The doctor then took a brief look at her ears and prescribed a course of antibiotics. She further advised my mother to have a neurologist look at my sister for further investigation on the seizure.
 
My mother then called to make an appointment with the neurologist, as advised by the doctor in the emergency ward. She was refused an immediate appointment despite my sister’s critical condition. Instead, the appointment staff insisted that she should only come on the regular appointment on 16 June 2012, which sadly, she did not live to see the day.
 
ISSUE :
1. Is it the standard practice of the hospital to discharge patients who are still in apparent need for medical attention just because the blood and urine tests have not shown any suspicious signs yet? In this case, my sister was still having seizures and fever.
2. Shouldn’t the attending doctor write a medical report and immediately refer the patient to see the neurologist, without going through the usual queue, based on the critical condition of the patient?
 
28th April 2012
My mother called UH for an appointment again as my sister’s condition didn’t improve even after administering the antibiotics. This time the appointment staff at the neurology clinic told my mother to come in to wait until the neurologist finished with the last patient, as the appointments were full. The clinic was open only on every Tuesday and Friday, and the next available clinical hours would be 4 May, 2012.
 
4th May 2012
3.30pm : My mother brought my sister to the neurology clinic. She was advised by the staff to be there at that time since my sister would be the last patient of the day.
 
When she reported at the reception counter, she was denied medical attention simply because the Professor, whom the staff claimed to speak to, had asked my sister to return in 4 weeks’ time. The staff also commented that it was already 4pm and the clinic was closing. Finally, we managed to persuade the staff to give us a queue number for the day, much to the staff’s reluctance. All this while, my sister was in great pain while on the wheelchair and everyone at the neurology reception including other patients were aware of it.
 
When my sister was finally ushered in to see the neurologist, she was already unconscious. The neurologist was shocked that she was not being seen on urgent basis. The doctor was made to understand that prior appointments were denied by the appointment staffs. She was immediately sent down to the emergency ward.
 
At the Emergency Ward, she was administered IV drip. The doctor ordered for all her daily medications be terminated. I saw that there was blood stained on my sister’s lips and the nurses did not have any knowledge how and when it happened. When my sister’s seizure returned and her eyes were all rolled up nobody attended to her again. I quickly alerted the nurse and the latter gave Valium to calm her down.
 
Half an hour later after the Valium, my sister began to turn pale and another seizure started again with foam forming in her mouth. No medical attendant was nearby and I had to rush to fetch a nurse again. The nurse told me that a suction has to be done and I was told to step aside. The curtain was drawn and that was the last time I saw my sister breathing….
 
When finally the on-call/emergency doctor spoke to me, he was there to deliver the bad news. He said that my sister’s heart had stopped and CPR was performed. They failed to revive my sister after performing the CPR for 51 minutes and therefore, she was pronounced dead.
 
ISSUE :
1. Don’t hospitals consider the condition of a patient when setting appointments for him/her? More critical condition to be given priority?
2. Aren’t nurses trained to look at symptoms of patients as they walked or being wheeled in?
3. A person experiencing continuous seizure is to be left unattended for long intervals?
4. Would my sister be saved if the doctor who first attended to her on 24 April had acted proactively by referring her to the neurologist for immediate attention?
5. Is this the standard of practice of our Public Hospital when attending to critical cases? No sense of urgency?
6. Aren’t the nurses trained well to conduct tests on patients without causing more injury?
 
My sister is no longer with us. We mourn for her death and the way she had to suffer in her last moments at UH. My family hereby seek an explanation from the UH on their conduct during my sister’s stay with them, which ended her life pre-maturely. And, we also hope that other patients would not subject to such treatment in the future and let this be a lesson to all.
(AS CONTRIBUTED BY LYN)

Karen, I’d like to believe that you are now in a special place where there are only good health, happiness and peace exist. I’m sure you’ll be missed by those who love you. My deepest condolences to Lyn and her family. Farewell, Karen Chin…..

~ Alice N.

 


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PEACE

What is PEACE? Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violent conflict. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility, peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the establishment of equality, and a working political order that serves the true interests of all. In international relations, peacetime is not only the absence of war or conflict, but also the presence of cultural and economic understanding.(Wikipedia)

When people pray, all pray for PEACE to the world, I’m sure. No one choose to live in a community where war, crime, violence and abuse lurking just around the corner, every day of their lives. We want PEACE of mind, living PEACEfully in our countries and lands, peacefully carrying out our duties and peaceful streets for our children and family members to walk on.

Is PEACE so difficult to achieve? Please allow me to share with you the following extract of a lecture. It is not about religion but I’d like you to read it as how one looks at PEACE…..

Whether we have global peace or global war is up to us at every moment. The situation is not hopeless and out of our hands. If we don’t do anything, who will? Peace or war is our decision. The fundamental goal of Buddhism is peace, not only peace in this world but peace in all worlds. The Buddha taught that the first step on the path to peace is understanding the causality of peace. When we understand what causes peace, we know where to direct our efforts. No matter how vigorously we stir a boiling pot of soup on a fire, the soup will not cool. When we remove the pot from the fire, it will cool on its own, and our stirring will hasten the process. Stirring causes the soup to cool, but only if we first remove the soup from the fire. In other words, we can take many actions in our quest for peace that may be helpful. But if we do not first address the fundamental issues, all other actions will come to naught.

The Buddha taught that peaceful minds lead to peaceful speech and peaceful actions. If the minds of living beings are at peace, the world will be at peace. Who has a mind at peace, you say? The overwhelming majority of us live in the midst of mental maelstroms that subside only for brief and treasured moments. We could probably count on the fingers of both hands the number of those rare, holy persons whose minds are truly, permanently at peace. If we wait for all beings in the world to become sages, what chance is there of a peaceful world for us? Even if our minds are not completely peaceful, is there any possibility of reducing the levels of violence in the world and of successfully abating the winds of war? (Ron Epstein – Lectures for the Global Peace Studies Program, San Francisco State University, November 7 & 9, 1988)

I’ve highlighted on the fundamentals of obtaining PEACE, in Bold in the above two paragraphs. Let’s now focus more on self-peace than the whole world. To a simple eye and mind, every one of us makes up the whole world, how we run it, how we live it and how we nourish it. One may argue that what he/she does, is not going to affect the community, nation, world. That’s where you are wrong! You see, from one-of-a-kind that grows into a huge group of people, who feel indifference and act irrationally or refuse to act rightfully, this action of the huge group will certainly make an impact to a given situation. One person’s act doesn’t have much impact but when it becomes a pool of persons, you’ll feel the impact! You know it too.

Ahhh Peace, wish we can all embrace that to our lives and live in perfect harmony. We need to reflect what have gone wrong that make peace out of our reach? We need to start making a difference by doing something differently. What and how different speech, act and thought must be? It’s totally up to you to figure it out yourselves.

Everything starts from a small seed. You are the little seed. What would you do for yourself, family, workplace, community, country and the world to achieve peace? Let’s not just chant “Peace To The World” or something in that essence. Let’s do it. Follow your conscience and do what is right.

Some people, in the name of Success, Wealth, Freedom, create a huge mess in the process. Peace is compromised too. We all know that there is no elevator to Success but just stairs. Via the stairs, it is a long, steep uphill climb but the view at the top is so magnificent that once you’re at the top, the aches and exhaustion in your body and mind would instantly disappear, replaced by pure happiness ad freedom.

So, whatever you wish to achieve, remember Peace to be the most important ingredient in your life. With Peace, you can achieve more and long-lasting result. Peace to you and I.

Cheers,
Alice N.

 


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