25 January 2019

Undo the Intention to Heal


Adamsah had been crying on her mother’s lap for almost 30 minutes. It took a long time to persuade and invite Adamsah to be examined. Many times Adamsah looked restless in his mother’s arms. There were also many invitations for Adamsah to get out of the Floating Hospital (RSA) Dr. Lie Dharmawan, which was docked at the dock owned by PT Banggai Sentral Sulawesi. Adamsah’s crying intensified when a doctor began to invite her into the examination room.

Adamsah was listed as a major surgery patient during doctorSHARE’s medical service in Batui District, Banggai Regency, Central Sulawesi. Adamsah’s mother heard about the free surgery service from a neighbor who was also one of the patients in the medical service. Hearing the information, the mother rushed to bring Adamsah to the medical service location. The journey from home to the medical service location took 30 minutes by motorized vehicle.

The mother explained that Adamsah often complained of pain in her lower abdomen. The pain became worse when Adamsah was tired after playing or returning from school. Unfortunately, the pain would continue as he refused to undergo surgery. The 12-year-old boy did not want surgery because he was scared. Having failed to persuade Adamsah who continued to whine, the mother finally followed her son’s wishes. Another patient named Yunus had a similar story.

Upon arrival at the dock, Yunus was given an initial examination, which revealed a large lump on his chin covered by a long white beard. The examining doctor agreed to operate on Yunus two days after the initial examination. Yunus looked happy and satisfied when the surgery was scheduled and then rushed home. Yunus returned to RSA Dr. Lie Dharmawan on the appointed day.

The middle-aged man was seen pacing back and forth on the deck of the ship and occasionally looking at the inside of the ship. As if he was impatient, he occasionally entered the consciousness recovery room and the hallway where the patient’s family was waiting. The doctor who managed the patient flow told him to wait outside the ship until his turn came. At around 3:00 pm, he spoke to one of the doctorSHARE volunteers and asked permission to perform the Asr prayer. Yunus walked off the dock and was seen walking out the gate alone.

After this permission, Yunus was no longer seen around the ship until his scheduled operation. After a few hours, Yunus’ son came to the ship and informed him that his father had canceled the surgery. The stories of Adamsah and Yunus are just two of several patients during doctorSHARE’s medical service who canceled their surgery due to fear. The coordinator of doctorSHARE’s medical services in Batui, Panji Arief Sumirat, said that he often encountered similar cases in several areas that doctorSHARE had visited.

“There was a medical service in Morotai, many people were afraid of surgery but did not know why. Once there are relatives or family who have had surgery, they want to come. I’ve heard the same story from other volunteers too,” said Panji. DoctorSHARE medical volunteer, Dr. Andre Bayu Nugroho explained that patients’ fear of treatment can be caused by several factors. The first factor is the fear that bad news will be delivered by the doctor.

Even though it has not been proven to be dangerous, patients often fear the pain they suffer first. Fear of having no money and imagining large medical expenses are the second factors. “When they are facing illness, they think about the cost and are afraid they won’t be able to pay. Finally, they discourage treatment, even though some cases need immediate help and are fatal if ignored,” said Dr. Andre. The third factor is the lack of public education about the disease.

Many think that their illnesses can be cured without the need for medical assistance. Personal understanding and beliefs sometimes make things worse. People take matters into their own hands based on what they understand and believe. “This factor also causes people to be easily instigated and influenced by information of unclear origin,” concluded Dr. Andre who served as Minor Surgery Coordinator during doctorSHARE’s medical service in Batui.