January 14, 2015

#prayforeastcoast (It Was a Humbling Experience)

I am perhaps not the best person to tell the tale of our short journey to Kuala Krai. But I hope it will paint a little picture of what we've seen with our own eyes of what the people there had to go through and are still going through even until today.

It started of with an intention (niat) to lend a little hand to those in Kelantan. Past years, we travelled as medical students, now we pray we can contribute a little more.
December 28th, 2014: Initially I intended to join IMARET on a later dates, as I still had a couple of oncall earlier in the month (January), and a CME presentation. But Allah has made an easy path for me to join the HPJ Flood Aid Team 1 in Kuala Krai (even though we were initially put under Team 2).

On Monday the 29th, at noon Shahril and I got a phone call from CPRC, instructing us to get ready to board a helicopter straight to Kuala Krai.

At 5.20 pm, we reached Kuala Krai, the heli dropped us off at an area near the Pejabat Tanah and we were picked up by an ambulance to the hospital. With us was an Anaest from KB, joining the hospital aid. That evening, were reported to the Hospital and subsequently to Team 1 commandant, Dr Norliza, ED Physician. We joined the campsite that Team 1 had set up in the cafeteria area; since the electricity was still gone, during night we were accompanied by the light from the generator.

Team 1 which consist of MOs, Staff Nurses, Male nurses, Medical Assistants and drivers, had been further divided into 3 sub-teams; each would rotate for different tasks each day. That night was the start of my official job in HKK. Shahril and I were then placed under the HPJ team- we covered both Outpatient Department (OPD, a la Green Zone in ED) and mobile team during the day and we mended the Green Zone at night until 12 a.m. Team 1 also brought along with them portable gas stove, generator, tents, food/water, medical equipments and medicines.

December 29th 2014; we lived with water from the rain, electricity from the generator and one wondered how tomorrow was going to be.

Initially we sent out 1 mobile team and the rest of two teams to mend the OPD. We reported to Pejabat Tanah the next day; since there are also mobile teams under Health side/PKD and NGOs, we were given a list of areas to cover in the hope that all teams are fully optimized to cover all possible areas affected. We were informed, that day was the first day that many roads were finally accessible. Our coverage areas were until Laloh (read: Lak-loh) and pit stops were mainly the Flood Relief Centres at different villages. We couldn't go to Kg. Pemberian on that day, was informed by the villagers that even by boat, the current was still too strong and we had no life jackets. We managed to go as far as Lata Rek, but had to go back to HKK to bring a patient back to ED due to right heart failure symptoms.

The next day I was in OPD, while the other team continued the mobile clinic and few members including Boss went to KK Mengkebang (read: Me-ke-be). With new information and new arrangement, we were able to send out 2 mobile teams out from that day onwards. Subsequently the mobile team was also able to cover Kg. Pemberian, their journey included walking in the mud and riding the boat to reach the affected area. I will let the pictures tell instead...

Only Celcom line (and occassionally Digi) worked during first week we were there. So when RTM came with satelite to cover the news of PM's visit in HKK, I called Dad to update of our status there. The next day, our Datuk Pengarah HPJ arrived bringing in more food and water supply. We still need to ration our water used since there was limited clean water supply. By 1st January, electricity has been restored in the main building.

On Day 5, while were were out on mobile clinic in Slow Mengkuang, we had to turn back to KK Manik Urai to ask them to send a 4 month old baby with tachypnoea and ronchi as we were planning to continue with our task. Thankfully we found the Army Field Hospital instead and I was overwhelmed at the scale of aid that was provided in the field. Before, during medical school, we learned and had disaster stimulation with field hospital, today, I was seeing one in front of my eyes; it was just amazing, the services they provided!

Throughout the mobile clinic journey, on our left and right we saw more and more teams, NGOs and individuals bringing aid- food, water, clothes, blankets, you named it. This might be my first on-the-field mission but scale of aid that come was just overwhelming, the sincerity was palpable...

Most of the cases we've seen during mobile clinic included URTI, cough and cold, skin and fungal infections, musculoskeletal pain and those whose medicines ran out or was gone in the flood. In OPD, there were more serious cases of cellulitis, infected would, alleged nail prick and those who ran out of medicine as well. One night, one whole family came after almost a week of different complaints due to the fact that they were unable to seek out medical treatments.
Having left ED posting a year ago, I am most thankful to Aswad and Faisal for patiently entertaining my questions in cases that I was unsure of. I am most thankful to those MAs and nurses from HKL who came to cover Green Zone at night for their efficiency in helping us seeing patients smoothly. They were not just another staffs, they were our companions, exchanging experiences and stories during the time when there were no patients around (which was scarce, I tell you). HKK staff were also most helpful in aiding us referring cases and in various procedures. I saw the same MOs working day and night and continued on the next day as though there was nothing going on. I am most amazed by their work ethic, despite the fact that fatigue started showing on their faces. We also started to see some of our staffs having cough and cold and yet keep on putting cheerful expression and good motivation to go on.

So imagine, if we who have just arrived for a few days started to feel the effect of the disaster, what more of those who have been there for days longer than us, and those who are still out there mending their homes.
Despite that, while were were on mobile clinic, the villagers still invited us for some food and offered us ride to waterfall in Lata Berangin.

January 4th 2015: We were given clearance to go back after 9 days (7 for me and Shahril). There were a few SOPs that was needed prior to head back. As we said goodbye to the remaining staff, I kept on thinking, the little hands that we lend, perhaps didn't bring much impact... But we pray that at least we shared a little of their burden. Some of us might be glad that we were going home soon, we missed our family (and perhaps our comfort zone), but to be honest, I felt sad leaving the people of Kuala Krai; there are still more to be done, physically and emotionally...

Now is the time where as much help is needed for them to rebuild their home and their lives. Some of them left with only 'sehelai sepinggang', houses, everything all gone. With the upcoming school session starting, there are still so much to be done. Recovery phase will take months or perhaps years. Aid will still be needed from every aspect.

What I've seen was only a glimpse of the whole picture. The chance that I had, I know many would want to join in the field as well. It doesn't matter which team you join- be it under KKM, Army, political clubs, NGOs or indiviuals; it doesn't matter how small your contributions are- be it medical aid, transportation aid, food/necessity aid, water supply/cleaning aid, money etc. it still matters.
It's okay if we were not physically present in Kelantan, or Terengganu, or Pahang.
It's okay if you are financially constraint and you can only send in little amount, it still matters.

And if you feel that you want to help and yet you have no means to do so, there is still one thing you can do:

Pray for the people affected to have strength, pray for those who are giving aid to be strong, both physically and mentally... pray for their safety at all time.

Before our bus departed, Matron came and thanked me. As we hugged, she shed tears, asking for us to pray to give them strength...
We who came for a short while was going home, but them, that was their home, their land...

//Safely arrived home & short debriefing session//

I probably don’t have that kind of strength. At this point, every time I think about it, I feel helpless. And every time, I need to remind myself that He knows best and there will surely be hikmah behind all this. Every time, I had to remind myself of this ayah, Al-Baqarah (2: 286): God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear: in his favour shall be whatever good he does, and against him whatever evil he does.

So let us not speculate on why the flood happen, or whose fault it was... when He said, Kun Fayakun, even the 'biggest' power/authority on Earth couldn't stop it. What we can do now is help the affected people to rebuild their home and prepare for the future should it happen again. This is where unity should happen instead of the blame-game, Allahulam...

This short journey, I can only sum it all up in one sentence:


-HPJ Flood Aid Team 1

Photo collage done with Fotor and Picture Collage