Doktor, Saya Banyak Sedih (I’m Sad, Doctor.)

23 December 2019

Article by: Dr Samuel Ong, cardiologist

Doktor, Saya Banyak Sedih (I’m Sad, Doctor.)

“Doktor, Saya Banyak Sedih.”

(I’m Sad, Doctor.)

By Dr Samuel Ong, cardiologist


P sees me for his cardio check-up once a year. He always comes unaccompanied. In between these annual visits, he does his regular check-ups at a government clinic in his hometown. He is 69 years of age and a big man - tall, with a big tummy and this time quite unshaven. 


“Selamat pagi.”

(Good morning.)


I greeted him as he walked into my clinic room.


“Selamat pagi, Doktor.”

(Good morning, doctor.)


He replied before plonking his huge frame in the patient’s chair next to my table.


I asked him how he was, and he replied that he was well. Then I asked more specific and directed questions and he answered them all in the negative. I proceeded to examine him and then said to him that all was fine except that his blood pressure was a bit high this time. 


“Doktor, saya banyak sedih.” 

(I’m sad, doctor.)


I heard him say as I was recording my findings in his case notes. It came out of the blue. I had never heard him say that before. I stopped writing, looked up at him and asked him why. 


"Isteri saya meninggal dua minggu lepas. Dia baru saja umur lima puluh lapan tahun; masih muda lagi." 

(My wife passed away two weeks ago. She was so young; she was only 58-year-old.)


He tried to say it as a matter-of-fact,  but he could neither disguise his breaking voice nor hide the hint of tears in his eyes. I paused for a moment, then asked him what happened.


He tried to explain as best as he could. Apparently, a lump was discovered in his wife’s abdomen. She had surgery, but then this was complicated by infection, with pus draining out of the wound. Treatment was not improving things, and she was subsequently transferred to another hospital but after a few days she passed away. Unexpected illness. Short illness. Unsuccessful surgical intervention. Death. And no one was prepared for this! The big man was brought low by a “Mike Tyson” blow. Little wonder then that his blood pressure higher than usual, and he was looking a wee bit unkempt.


We then chatted a little bit more. I asked about his marriage and the family. He was twenty-one and she was only fifteen (yes, fifteen) when they tied the nuptial knot according to traditional rites, and their first child was born just two years after that. Wow! Four more children were to follow, the last two being twins. He spoke fondly of her. It was obvious he loved her and was missing her.


When it was time for him to leave, I got up, shook his hand, patted his shoulder and wished him well. His wounds were still raw, but I believe time will heal. Today I dealt with both his hearts - the one that goes "lup-dub" and the other that fuels his being. In doctoring, one has to be prepared always to deal with the whole person, and not just the "little hole" visible to the human eyes.