‘Every night I had nightmares’
|Thursday, 26 July 2007 09:04am|
©The Sun (Used by permission)
I WAS on morning duty at the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital (KLGH) orthopaedic ward on May 13, 1969.
My husband and I had planned to take my mother-in-law and my one-year-old son to watch a Chinese movie at Coliseum entitled Fu Xin De Ren in the evening.However,a neighbour came over to our house in Kampung Tunku in Petaling Jaya after dinner and chatted with my mother-in-law for so long that we missed the show.
Actually, I believe God sent the neighbour over or we would have been caught in the violence that took place that night in Batu Road where the cinema was.
We knew there was some trouble in Kuala Lumpur, but we only had a radio and no TV, so we were unaware of how serious the situation was.
A curfew was declared that night but I thought since I was a nurse, I had to go to work. So the next morning, I put on my full nurse’s uniform, with cap, got into my Volkswagen and drove to work.
The Federal Highway was deserted but I saw some army trucks. The soldiers ignored me and I ignored them. I became afraid only when I reached Bangsar and saw the smouldering remains of some cars.
But I didn’t turn back because I was too frightened to do anything except keep driving. That’s when I saw two buses coming out from the nurses’ hostel in Bangsar – I presumed they were taking the student nurses to the GH. I quickly manoeuvred my car in between the two buses for some measure of protection, and drove all the way to the hospital.
When I arrived at around 7am, there were several St John’s ambulances parked in the hospital grounds. That was unusual because we had our own ambulances.
I drove to Ward 17, the orthopaedic ward. The night nurse was very thankful – she thought no one would come to relieve her. In fact, no one else came to work that day even though every shift normally had between six and seven nurses, including student nurses. There were no attendants either that day.
Because I was the only nurse caring for between 60 and 70 patients that morning, I made the more able ones sweep the floor and help with other tasks. The one doctor on duty, Dr George, looked very tired so I gave him my Tupperware container of Milo, which was to have been my snack before returning home where I would usually eat lunch.
At the hospital, a supplier would bring food and vegetables every morning for the cooks to prepare the patients’ meals. That morning, the supplier did not turn up. So that day, a nursing tutor who stayed at the GH hostel made fried rice with only garlic for everyone. Plain fried rice never tasted so good!
I worked for more than 24-hours until 8am the next day. Casualties kept coming in, some with gunshot wounds. There was no casualty ward then so after administering treatment and first aid, those who needed to be admitted were sent to the orthopaedic ward.
I was kept busy taking the patients’ blood samples for cross-matching, getting them to sign consent forms, and preparing them for the operating theatre.
The next morning, someone from the nurses’ hostel at GH came to relieve me. I was too tired and scared to drive home so I left my car at the hospital and got into an empty ambulance with several other nurses for the ambulance driver to take us home.
I didn’t go back to work for a few days. Every night, I had nightmares and my husband would wake me up because of my shouts. But I couldn’t remember the dream once I woke up.
I returned to work only after hearing a radio announcement appealing for medical personnel to report back to work. On my first day back, there were so many anxious people looking for their loved ones. We found some of them – some had been admitted and some were dead, but there were no records of others.
That day, Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak came to visit the casualties. I was one of those who accompanied him and the doctors as they did their rounds. Tun Razak looked very grim and sad.
Once, when I went to Ward 18 to visit a patient, I saw trucks carrying bodies to the morgue.
I continued to only report for morning duty and refused to do the afternoon shift throughout the curfew because I was so traumatised by the patients I saw and the stories I heard from them about May 13.
I hope it never happens again.
Wong was a 28-year-old staff nurse when the May 13, 1969 clashes took place.
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