Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (62)

From the moment ’Pak Bambang learned of the dire events outside Sate Blora, he knew that Ramani would be making the journey from her village to the dust bowl that was Jakarta. For the beating drums of the city’s kampungs would convey their news with urgency, from Bekasi to Tanggerang and then out into the countryside beyond. It would not be long, then, before their hypnotic lure would reach the desa. But it had taken the old man by surprise to learn from his loyal servant there that the mother of his grandson was boarding the two o’clock bus to the capital. Two o’clock? How had she heard so quickly? Even the raging winds of gossip were not enough to explain. ’Pak Bambang found himself marvelling at what was either Ramani’s extensive network of connections, or else her powerful intuition. Whichever, hers was a startlingly fast reaction to the situation that had arisen.

Reflecting now upon how much water had flowed under the bridge since the indiscretion that had reshaped so many lives, he let out a long sigh. My poor boy, he mulled. Denied the pleasure of watching his only son grow up. Forcibly separated from the love of his life. Slowly, a sense of guilt was beginning to creep up on the old man. His thoughts now turned to his grandson, lying in hospital. Denied the right to a father. A kid who, despite the absence of the man who would have been his role model, had grown into someone of whom they could all justifiably be proud. And now the innocent victim of a stray bullet. Everything that had happened of late seemed to ’Pak Bambang like a form of divine retribution – punishment, perhaps, for his stubborn insistence all those years ago that his son should be sent away. Suddenly hacking up a cough, he winced at the accompanying pain. And it was in that moment that it crystallised, and he saw with uncommon clarity that he had been wrong. Wrong to intervene in something that nature, and hence God, had ordained. Spitting the bloody phlegm into a handkerchief, he accepted his guilt with doleful resignation, vowing in the same instant to make amends, to do whatever he could to reverse the suffering he had caused, while he still had time…

Back inside the hospital, matters were becoming critical. It was apparent to the doctor that Anath was now barely clinging to the last threads of his life. The guy from the kampung was right, he reflected. In order to establish the boy’s blood type, he had been forced to take even more from his weak and ashen body. But the result that a helpful porter had subsequently sprinted back from the lab had only added to his problems. Type B negative. Masy’allah! he had cursed in disbelief, his eyes raised skyward. For the doctor knew that less than one percent of the local population had this type of blood coursing through their veins. It was so rare, in fact, that he was certain they did not have a supply in the hospital blood bank. Moving fast, he now began to prove his mettle. Stabilising his patient in a last-ditch attempt to save his life, he began by giving the boy a transfusion of type O negative uncross-matched blood. And although he knew this procedure would likely cause an adverse reaction, he had no choice but to gamble. Now fully committed to the cause, the doctor prayed that his patient would suffer only the mildest form – a short, if severe, fever. Paging the receptionist, he next instructed her to broadcast an urgent message over the hospital tannoy system. It was only moments before he gratefully overheard her announcement echoing around the corridors:

“Bapak-Bapak dan Ibu-Ibu yang terhormat. Respected ladies and gentlemen. Your attention, please. We have a serious trauma case in the Casualty Department that requires the transfusion of type B negative blood. Repeat, type B negative. Would anyone who has this blood type kindly make themselves known to the nearest Casualty Department staff member. Terima kasih. Thank you. Bapak-Bapak dan…”

But although the message was repeated two or three times over the course of the next few minutes there were, as expected, no volunteers. In the meantime, however, the doctor was able to record the return of a modest amount of pressure within his patient’s circulatory system, lifting his expectations. He’s going to pull through after all, he encouraged himself. But there was still the need to locate a supply of the right blood type, and the clock was ticking. Knowing that one or other – perhaps both – of the young man’s parents must also be carrying B negative, the doctor then studied the admission form. No surname, and no contact details for either parent, he thought to himself, angrily. Why not? With the boy now regaining some stability, he called over a nurse, barking a series of instructions before hurrying back to the room behind the reception area. Shuddering momentarily at the recollection of his recent roughing-up, he grabbed the telephone on his desk to dial around to his contacts at other, nearby hospitals. Surely someone’s got B negative?

Just then, the receptionist entered the room. Irritated, the doctor gestured to her with the admission form. “There’s no information here. What am I expected to do?” His tone was overly harsh – it seemed for a moment that hostilities were about to be resumed. But the weary look on her face made him soften his approach. “Look, I know you were under pressure when the boy was brought in, but it’s vital that we find his parents. He’s of a rare blood type, and one of them must be, too. I really need them to get here as quick as they can, so they can give me some blood,” he explained. “OK, ’Pak Doctor,” replied the woman, showing him an appropriate amount of respect. “But as far as I know, the people who brought him here don’t even know his family name. Anyway, I’ll see what I can do.” Taking the form she pushed through the swinging door to return to her station where, standing on tiptoe, she peered around the room to see if any of the group remained. Suddenly spotting two of them among the throng that was milling about the busy lobby, she moved quickly across to ascertain what they knew of the young man’s background.

“He’s a pleasant kid,” said one. “Came to the city from out of town what – three or four years back? Been running the newspaper stand ever since.” “I heard he’s an orphan,” said the other. “No Mum or Dad,” he added, a little dimly. “How is he, anyway? Is he gonna… you know… make it, like?” “I see. Thank you,” replied the receptionist, ignoring the man’s last comment. “Thanks for your help.” She walked off, once more clutching the admission form to her chest, a look of consternation on her face as she wondered whether there was anything more she could be doing for the young man.

posted by Kirk at 11:58 pm  

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