Friday, 28 December 2007

Boys, Guys, Men: You There?...



Today I wanted to share two experiences in the hospital which I was a part of...




First Case:-


The first one was when I was called up by one the pediatrician's and told about a boy about the age of 17, who was suffering from depression...



Dr *Susan stopped me one day on my way to Chee Keong's bed and asked if I was willing to work with a teenager, instead of a child...She said she understood if I said no, and I wasn't obliged to take up the case...


I said I was willing to hear her out...



Dr Susan told me about this 17 year-old boy, who was very depressed and who frequently entertained suicidal thoughts...He has even attempted to take his own life before...

Dr Susan said that despite her and the other doctors' attempts at breaking the ice with him, and reaching out to him, they have all failed...



She asked if I was willing to try and work my so-called 'magic', since I have suceeded in bonding with Chee Keong...



Dr Susan also told me that this 17 year-old boy was very clingy by nature, and that he was prone to become very dependent on a person, should he like the person and trust him/her



Dr Susan said to me: "You have to tell him that you set the rules of the meetings with him, and that he is to know that in any time you feel uncomfortable, or you feel there might be any damage to any side, you have the right to terminate the relationship. And most importantly, don't give him your contact number, and don't let him blackmail you into staying with him or doing things for him."...


She added: "All meetings will be official and documented, and you will meet in the Counselling Room in the Pediatric Ward. We will be near by so you can always call if you need help"...




I asked for some time to think about it, and came home to discuss it with my mother, and later with my 'boss' at the Medical Social Work Department, Mrs D...

After some thinking, I turned Dr Susan down...



I felt bad, but I realised I needed to take this step (to which both my mum and Mrs D agreed)...


You see, I was about 20 years old, and most obviously a girl (although yes, I don't always behave or look like one!)...

I was worried what might happen if this boy actually trusted me enough to confide in me...There was the problem that Dr Susan herself said might happen, and that he might actually become dependent on me...



I also was worried he might mistake my concern and care as love...After all, he was a depressed young man...If a young lady about the same age as him suddenly starts paying him all the attention he has not got, won't it be easy to mistake the concern as 'she likes me'? Or worse, what if he transfers his needs and clingy-ness into an 'I like her'?




That was when the emotional blackmail would come in...And I didn't think I could deal with that, on top of a baby whose daily needs had to be seen to!


Dr Susan respected my decision, and she thanked me for considering her request, which I was most grateful for...I was, of course, most grateful she even thought about me in trying to reach out to this boy...



*Note: Name has been changed...


***



Case Two:-


I was called by Mrs D one day, and she told me of CW, this 15 year-old boy in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) who was suffering from Osteosarcoma of the Sternum...Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer...


CW's mother had just come down to her office and cried, lamenting about how lonely and sad CW was...


Mrs D asked if I could keep CW company, as he was lonely, and very down...




CW, was from a Chinese School in Ipoh, and he was due to sit for his PMR later in the year...Although he was undergoing chemotherapy and had just had a part of the bone in his rib cage removed, he was determined to sit for his PMR, something which I really admire...

I suppose that was one part of his life which he had control of, and he wanted to have as much normalcy in his life as possible....



As he was very prone to infection, I had to wear a gown and a mask just to be able to see him (he was in the Isolation Room in the PICU)...


He was, unfortunately, very shy...He refused to talk much, refused to look me in the eye and even had problem calling me by name...Finally, I asked if he would like to call me Jie-Jie, and he nodded...

It was kinda weird, cos, well, I was only about 4-5 years older than him!




I was sent to keep CW company, and to be his friend...I think, at the end of the day, I made friends with his parents instead...


They kept saying thank you for coming to see their son, and told me the whole story of his (and their family's) journey through cancer, and what the doctors now had in mind for CW...They also told me CW was very shy around girls...



I could not do much for him or his family, because it turned out that CW was to be transfered to University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) the next day for further treatment...


I did what I could for that day, like helping them buy lunch, helped CW with some of his homework, stuff like that...The thing I did most was listen as they talked...And I think that was what they needed most...



The sad thing is, although I remember the details of that day very well, honestly, I cannot remember CW's actual name...I guess I meet so many children, that is is impossible to remember each and every one (although that should not be an excuse)...



***



The reason why I share these two stories is because I wanted to highlight one thing...


Although you mean well, sometimes the very simple basis of your sex stands in the way...You want to do certain things, but you can't risk the new friend you just met feel uncomfortable...




This is one of the reasons why I moved away from working in the Palliative Ward (Terminal Cancer)...



First of all, it is very depressing, and I used to come home every day very down and sad, because the new friend I just met, was in pain, and was going to die soon...

Secondly, it was very limiting in the sense that I could not work with male patients...At first, I was a little segan myself, but after a while, I got used to it...


Nevertheless, the male patients were still embarrassed...



Working in the Palliative Ward requires you to do the same thing for most patients...Encourage them to eat (sometimes, feed them), keep them company, talk and listen to them, give them gentle massages, help out with everyday 'chores' like cutting their nails, combing their hair etc, and also clean and bathe them...



I could not exactly bathe, clean and massage the male patients, could I?


So, I moved, to the babies and children's ward!



But, with (male) teenagers, I had my limitations, because they already know how to feel segan...



Which is why, we need a balance of female as well as male volunteers...Which is why I am hoping that people reading this might consider reaching out too!



24 comments:

Puteri said...

Daphne,

I guess it takes a very special man to want to work with children, and teenagers. A man who is tender hearted, a man who is a good listener, a man who thinks of others more than himself. Well, I guess a man with all the qualities that you have! :-)

Also I think a man who wants to be a counselor will want to do such volunteer work.

I think also that kids who are exposed to people who are more needful than themselves, or kids less fortunate than themselves, from an early age might want to do something about helping others.

That is an observation I have made seeing teenagers and adults who involve themselves in charity and volunteer work. They were exposed at a younger age, so they have developed the compassion and the need to do something.

How did you get started with volunteerism?

Anonymous said...

I doubt guys or man can do this job. It is too weird for a guy to hold people's hand and hug them. Not macho at all.

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kak Puteri,

Actually (I think), there are many men who would make great volunteers...The only thing they need to do is to openly display the fact that they are human beings with feelings too, and not be ashamed of it...

As for me, well, this whole volunteerism thingy was accidental...After SPM, I was bored out of my wits, and I liked animals, so my parents (I suspect in a bid to get me outta their hair ;), suggested I work at the animal shelter...

So I did...And when I got bored (of just looking at animals), I branched out to other different areas for variety...

The rest, as they say, is history...=)

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Anon 23.00,

You know, I have to disagree with you here, although I thank you for the comment =)

Our 'modern' men, there are many who are in-tune with their 'feminine, more sensitive' side...That would include holding a hand, helping to clean etc...

Just look at all those men who become little doves when it comes to their girlfriend! Now if only they could offer that to a sick person...=)

I don't think it is 'un-macho' to be kind...In fact, I admire a man who comes forth and shows his 'sensitive' side...That to me, is a real man, and would score many points in my book...=)

kl_gal said...

Daph,
You did the right thing with case #1. Unfortunately in Malaysia, depression is often misdiagnosed and people are asked to either "get over it" or "talk to a friend, relative, etc" ( this is from my personal experience, a close friend + relative of mine has been thru hell and back.She is bipolar).
This boy was already clingy & dependant ( from your description) and add to that the hormones raging in him during his teenage years..it could spell disaster for him + the female "volunteers". I feel that a trained therapist/psychologist would be the way to go in his case.
Agree with you about needing more male volunteers.

Dhahran Sea said...

Hi Daphne,
The world would definitely be a better place if we can have more people like you! At times I do feel like contributing my part to be with the unfortunate ones, though I know I would be crying most of the time pitying them... anyway, keep the good work and may God bless you always!

Mat Salo said...

Not to worry Daph, all these Boyz to Men and Miang Tua Keladis are lurking around... ready to pounce. Haha.

On a serious note, I am sad that in your work as a caregiver, your sex does stand in the way. That's the reality of it. But I know how it must feel for you because you are so willing to give, and why it needs to be controlled and channeled. Aiyah, you're doing a great job already as I'm sure legions under your care are ready to attest.

But I suppose your supervisor is right. It's very easy for an depressed person can use you as an emotional crutch. I think Pi also has these issues. That's why I admire you gals so much having to deal all this in the course of 'work'.

Take care, my fave Bahai-ist.Keep up the great work and may 2008 will be a good year for you and me Daph. YEah!

Daphne Ling said...

Hi KL_Gal,

You know, you brought up a very good point: There is such a serious lack of professional therapists, counsellors and psychologists in Malaysian hospitals...

I wasn't asked to counsel the boy...Merely asked to make friends with him, and hope that he will tell me things which would help the professionals (doctors and nurses) treat and help him...

I guess every little bit will help huh? =)

And yes, agree with you too that depression is not properly addressed...Stereotype? Prejudice? A little of everything, I guess...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Dhahran Sea,

Thanks for coming by, and thanks for the comment...You think I don't cry ah? I do...

You should have seen me when I was working at the animal shelter! Every time an animal dies (which is almost every week, cos there'r lotsa newborn puppies and kitties), I would be sobbing away...

Until my parents had to suggest I volunteer elsewhere for fear of my emotional state! Seriously...

But you know what? I think it makes you a slightly stronger person...I really think it does...

If you have the time, why not give it a try? Your heart is already there =)...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Abang Mat,

There are many things which 'hinder' us from doing our best...And one of it is something very simple: Strength...

When working in the Palliative Wards, I always wished I had the strength of a guy...Seriously...

It sure comes in handy when I am say, helping an old lady to bathe...We have to hold her up!

Even the very simple task of fluffing pillows is difficult when you don't have the strength to hold your friend up (her whole weight is supported by you)...

The guys do it so easily...=)

There are many other areas, of course, but to highlight them all will take forever! Heh...

Happy New Year to you too!

Akmal said...

Daphne,
Well, to me nothing wrong with what you did. Gender issue may go misguided although we are sincere; I know how the situation is. But you did it great already. Even been in alliphatic ward and animal shelter, I admire you Daph. I just started with voluntary service here, hahaha. But hey this service sure made my day.
Talked to a doctor in Serdang Hospital yesterday, and he told me we are in need of more counsellor in hospitals. Well, after reading what you wrote, I got the clearer idea why.
You keep well, Happy New Year(",).

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

sorry daph, i'm with anon2300.

its better for women volunteers. they're a natural when it comes to giving extra care and concern with a tender touch. we men just dont have what it takes to commit ourselves. sure we can be kind, some even kinder than female nurses what about from the patients themselves? nothing sexual but when i was warded, i'd rather have the female nurses to do CISC for me than a male doc.

straycat's strut said...

Daphne,

Whatever it is that you decided, I am quite envious of what you are doing.

Attachments could go both ways too. You are worried about the probability of his attachment to you and I would be worried about yours to him... Happens all the time even outside the psychiatric wards kan. People got attached to the wrong person for the wrong reason at the wrong time...

Men as a nurse? Study shows that men thinks about sex most of the time. If I am a patient and I have a male nurse attending me, well, I would be wondering what is in his mind when he said open up and say aaahhh...

Pi Bani said...

Daph,
As I mentioned before in my blog, we need to know where and when to draw the line. Keep up your good work, but remember to be careful too, ok?

Happy new year to you and do convey my same wish to your wonderful parents.

david santos said...

Happy new year, Daph!!

Dhahran Sea said...

Thanks Daphne for the encouraging words, one day... God-willing. You take care & here's wishing you a good & prosperous (& less tears) new year!

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Akmal,

Yeap, it is sad how things can be misconstrued even when you mean well...Don't talk about actions, even words are easily misconstrued! You say one thing, people interpret it as something else!

And yes, we definitely need more counsellors and therapists (the whole works!) in this country...

I actually asked a doctor friend once: "If I am depressed, who will you send me to?"

She said: "Erm"...

Daphne Ling said...

Hey Kerp,

Actually, sometimes, it's got nothing to do with the touching! Sometimes, like in the first case, a male person would most definitely be better, because of certain attachment (and misunderstanding) issues...

But of course, nurses are another issue...=) I think both guys and girls prefer female nurses, in a way!

Daphne Ling said...

Hey Straycat's Strut,

"People got attached to the wrong person for the wrong reason at the wrong time"...

Whoa...That is one statement I can most definitely agree with! Oh yes...

As for male nurses, oh well...

I heard from one of my friends in the hospital that in the ICU, there are actually like, 5 male nurses...And as we all know, nurses in the ICU do a lot of changing of diapers and cleaning of well, body parts...

While I applaud the men who go into nursing, and I think we do need male nurses, I also shudder to think if I had a male nurse watch over me...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kak Pi,

Yes, you of all people I am sure will know what I am talking about! I try to be careful, but even then, as an amateur and a kid, sure got slip up here and there...Which is why it is great for me to have mentors!

Happy New Year to you and your mum too! =)

Daphne Ling said...

Hi David,

Hi Sir...Thank you, and A very Happy New Year to you too!

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Dhahran Sea,

You are most welcome...And thank you for the greetings...Here's wishing you a wonderful and prosperous New Year too!

tokasid said...

Dear Daph:

It takes a lot of patience and understanding to be involve with this line of help.

First, one must understand what one is getting into.What is it like doing this, can one cope with the stress that comes along with it.
If one can understand what it takes, than think whether one have the kind of patience needed?

That is why, many volunteers are women I think coz in this sense the guys are less patient. Guys tend to want everything happening like planned and fast.

But, my hats off to those who are willing to do these services. The numerations might not be fat and on top of that you have special perks like getting sad or a silent cry when things don't get right with your patients.

Anyone who is willing to work with the under privilege deserves a pat on their back.

jun said...

I have been reading ur blog for a while and ur action really inspired me. Actually, I also have thought about volunteering. But the problem is I don't know how to get started. Is it jz go to the hospital and tell them I want to be volunteer? I'm now a student studying at tarc, KL.

p/s: I'm male. :P