“I’ve never seen an exposed auditory ossicle before,” commented Dr. Grant. For the medically uninitiated like me that translates as the three bones in the middle ear aka the hammer, anvil and stirrup that we learned about in Grade Six health class. A major medical problem at the dump is ears. Many people get infections and they end up with blockages and perforated ear-drums. “And the guy with the eye problems, the drops he was using were for the nose. It is fortunate he didn’t go blind.”
“First of all do no harm,” added Nurse Jane who is the CEO of a hospital on the Gold Coast, “so we have to go back tomorrow and do some follow up. I’m worried about Vichika as she is very sick.”
Such is the debrief of a medical clinic at the Stung Meanchey garbage dump. When the Nurse was here in December she put together a basic medical back-pack. Grant and Jane contributed a stethoscope and various other first aid things so it is now well stocked.
The following day Grant and Jane headed back to the dump with Nick, the Down in the Dumps tuk-tuk driver and translator. The word went out and more people lined up to see them. They bought the needed drugs for the patients they treated and took Vichika to the hospital. “I can’t believe the scan cost $8. In Australia it would have been about $400 to $500.” noted Grant.
Yo, I have no hesitation about exploiting the skills of my medical friends when they come to visit. Most tourists go to the Royal Palace to see the sites; Grant and Jane got to peer down the channel into infected ears.
After a day at the dump they retreated to Raffles – the most up market hotel in the Kingdom – and then met us at the InterContential for an art exhibit opening. Such are the contradiction of life in the Kingdom, from the dump to the high life all in a given day.
Grant glanced at Nick who was initiating his mother and aunt into the world of five-star openings and enjoying the complimentary wine and nibbles. “Do you think Nick’s life has changed since you parachuted in and took over a year ago, MJ?” Grant asked. Hummmm, maybe. The Nurse mentioned that my bossiness was good for him.
After Grant and Jane flew back to Singapore Nick showed up with $100 they had left to take Mon – a 61 year old woman who’d had a stroke – to the hospital. She was paralyzed on one side.
“Why are you giving it to me? I’m not a medical person so there is no point in me going to the hospital. Besides, I don’t speak Khmer so I would be a liability. Can you pick her up at the dump and take her to see the doctor? Figure out your tuk-tuk expenses and time and deduct it.” Okay, okay so I am bossy as charged, but I prefer to think of it as delegating.
A few days later Nick reported in. “The medicine they gave her is working. She can now move around and clean her house.”
Thank you Dr. Grand and Nurse Jane. You made a difference. The next time you visit you might get to see the Royal Palace. And I can ask my friend Princess Soma Norodom – just wrote a piece on her for an American magazine – to give you an insider’s tour.
Tony Pineda – beat poet, musician, and man-about-town – had his brother, Ernesto, and his sister, Anna Maria, come for a visit. They came to the dump with us. Vanna asked DITD to fix her house as one wall is only a blanket she found in the rubbish. Ernesto and Anna Maria quietly gave me some money to cover the repairs. Nick and Vachika are onto it and the repairs should be finished soon, they are just waiting on some more poles. The dump people were in agreement that her place is one of the worst.
Markus slid some Euro into my Paypal account; the United Church Women gave my mother a cheque; Iris overpaid Lina’s school fees. So DITD currently has $416.46.