Friday, 16 November 2012

New Writing

I'm very happy to be publishing some more new writing on this blogsite, work that has arisen from workshops I gave within the School of Health in Social Science (of which Nursing Studies is a part) and also a poem sent to me by Denise Taylor, a nurse and writer based in the Borders. You can find Denise's poem along with a memoir piece by Marion Smith under the 'Writing by Nurses' tag above. 
Strictly speaking, it should read 'Writing by and about Nurses', as Marion's story deals with the patient's perspective, and a nurse you wouldn't choose to encounter.

In a similar vein, but a very different setting, Eliane Du's remarkable true story below, has at its heart our expectations about how healthcare professionals will treat us, and the painful shattering of those illusions.

The Doctor With A Gallon Of Water
By Eliane Du

We generally believe that doctors are meant to save lives within their power and ability, but from my experience that is not always the case.

Several years after the Vietnam War ended, my mother decided to leave the country taking her four children with her. It was a drastic decision, but like many Vietnamese “boat people”, we had to risk everything, including our lives, to find a new life. Our transport was a 19½ feet boat crowded with over 285 refugees.  I was about nine years old and was too young to understand how dangerous the journey was.

The night we left Vietnam, my mother dressed us in two layers of clothes and I was given a canteen of water to carry for the family. When we got on the boat, I was immediately separated from my family and was put to sit at the bow. My older brother and sister were pushed down to the lower deck.  My mother and youngest brother along with other children and mothers could remain on top.  

I was very seasick and the horrible smell from the diesel engine made me vomit. Terrified of moving around, I tried to lie still and go to sleep. I woke up with a terrible fever: I tried to look for my canteen of water but someone must have taken it while I was asleep. Our boat tossed and turned heavily in the strong winds and ferocious waves. A big storm was coming and everyone started to panic.

My mother was worried that I might fall overboard without anyone noticing, so she managed to persuade the people around to help and bring me over to her side. Right next to us sat a doctor and his wife. My mother asked him about my condition as I lay dehydrated. I could not take my eyes off the big gallon of water that was placed beside him. I whispered, “water”.   He looked at me and said that I had a high fever. Poor mother, she tried to beg him for a small cup of water but he refused to offer any. Eventually he poured out a little water using the tiny lid from the gallon and gave it to me to stop her from nagging. I was shocked by the amount of water provided, especially from a doctor whom I thought should be kind and helpful. I looked at him and tears were rolling down my face, but he was not bothered. I forced myself to sleep so that I would not think about the gallon of water.

I dreamed that I was happily playing in the sand with the neighbor kids. Suddenly, a big wave dashed in, knocked me down and carried me out into the ocean. I was waving my hands but no one paid attention. The waves kept pulling me under and I struggled to keep my head above the water.  I opened my eyes and felt terrified. It was only a dream but the thought of drowning made me shiver. Around the boat, dark fins loomed up through the water. My mother said softly, “sharks” and told me to pray hard and I again drifted into unconsciousness.

I was woken by something cold going down my throat. My mother was trying to squeeze some lemon juice into my mouth. Someone had thrown us a few lemons and that was how I survived for the next four days before we were saved by an oil tanker. I remember how much I enjoyed those lemons: every single piece that I could get from the little fruit. There was no sour or bitter taste in them but only juiciness and deliciousness and they were far better than the doctor’s gallon of water.

Photos from the journey:
This was the boat on which we left Vietnam. It was 19 and a half feet long and carried  more than 285 people

The rescue by oil tanker. Passenger had to board by ropes and a net.  I remember my mother was almost crushed between the two boats when trying to climb over. Fortunately, someone saw what happened and helped to lift her up!

Eliane Du is originally from VietNam. She has lived in Malaysia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. She received her BA degree from California State University Northridge and an MSc degree from the London School of Economics. She is currently doing her PhD at University of Edinburgh in the department of Clinical Psychology, School of Health in Social Science. Her research interests are in E-Mental Health and Human-Computer Interaction. Before starting her PhD, she had worked as a Software Quality Assurance Engineer for Autodesk Incorporations: an inventor of AutoCAD application and their 3D visual effects, media and entertainment software were used in Avatar movie

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