I think I love Sunday’s at Wat Opot most of all. The mornings start off with 8am Art class for our kids and some village kids as well, a quick clean up of the property, time for a little play time before lunch, then of course comes sleep time!
At 2ish the kids all settle down for Yoga classes taught by 3 of our high school kids. Longdy with the older kids and Srey Oun and Srey Lak with the little ones. Today, when I looked in it was one of the most beautiful and peaceful sights to behold my eyes. I would challenge anyplace on the planet to be as calm at that exact moment!
Seriously how many yoga classes can draw in the rambunctious feline, we call Pompous!
I walked into Wayne’s office which had soothing music pouring from his speakers, and no sooner had I commented that this is my favorite part of Sundays, so relaxing, when a motorbike pulled up with a woman bleeding profusely from her head. Her formerly white shirt was now a shade of red as was her skirt. Wayne had them take her to the clinic while I had the kids finish their yoga; although no one could really relax after they had run to the windows to get a glimpse.
With Kate in Phnom Penh, I knew I couldn’t be of much medical use; but I went to the clinic to see if I could offer some moral support to Wayne. I was not prepared for what I saw there. Laid out on the clinic table, the lady was laying in a pool of her blood as Wayne tried to find the source of the bleeding which was difficult as her hair was all matted. To make matters worse, the lady was drunk therefore not content to lay still and let Wayne work on her.
After a bit, Wayne made the decision to have her transported to the local clinic because her wound was large and with her mental condition he wasn’t sure if she had a concussion. This definitely wasn’t our usual in and out stitch-up cases. Since the men who brought her had left; (stating they knew her but she wasn’t family therefore they weren’t going to stick around), I was the only one able to drive her.
I brought the truck out and one of the Wat Opot men offered to go with her to the clinic and two of our teenagers, Longdy and Srey Oun (both interested in persuing the medical field after high school) jumped in too. Wayne had put a small blanket on her head and secured it with gauze and they got her loaded up which wasn’t easy as she was covered in blood and everyone was cautious about getting it on them. She had to ride in the back of the truck so she could lay down and right before leaving two little girls came running up. Word had gotten out and her granddaughters had come to go with us.
The Bati Clinic is about 3 miles away once you get to the main road. The problem is that it is the rainy season so the quarter mile of dirt road leading to the main road is horribly pitted. As I drove I was so conscious of every little bump as I knew her head was laying on the bed of the truck. I went super slow but it doesn’t really help when the pits are huge and the whole truck dips and bounces.
Longdy was in the front with me and any other time we would have carried on conversation; this trip though was silent which I was thankful for since I was pretty emotional. You see, when the lady got in the truck and was told that I would be driving her to the clinic she put her hands in Namaste (prayer position) and thanked me up and down. Drunk or not, she was able to give thanks for people caring enough to help. It was this offer of thanks that started my emotions rolling.
Once we got to the clinic she was laid on the outside covered walkway on a wooden plank bed while the staff looked at her and took their sweet time determining her condition and who would work on her. The lady was in a daze at that point; just kind of lethargic. Her granddaughters (who were probably 6 and 8 yrs) handed her a clean shirt they had brought with them. She was able to take off her bloody one and put on a clean one. That shirt didn’t stay clean long because when she took off the bloody one, she pulled off her head wrap with it and her head promptly started gushing again. Finally, which seemed like 10 minutes had passed; the staff prepared to investigate the wound. Since I had taken a couple photo’s of the yoga session, I still had my camera in my pocket so I snapped a quick photo as discreetly as possible; I blocked out her bloody face for sensitivity.
I will not get to descriptive here as it was not a pretty sight; but the doctor had to cut away her matted hair and then shave the area to be stitched. I was able to watch the whole process (as did`about 25 other people/patients who wandered over). All was going fine until the lady started saying Ow-eee over and over and trying to sit up. Either she was delirious from loss of blood or the alcohol, it was hard to tell, but they had to keep yelling at her to lay down. I then noticed that her granddaughters were watching with strained faces. At that moment I suddenly got nauseous and felt dizzy. I motioned for the little girls to follow me as Srey Oun and I led them to a snack hut so they could pick out something and I needed some cold water or I was going to pass out.
The little girls were so cute as they cautiously looked at all the choices of chips, candy and such. They finally made their decision and pointed to the little cartons of milk. With milk and water in hand we headed back. After downing half of my water, I felt better and watched the end of the stitching process; watched how Longdy helped hold her down since she was thrashing about. The lady finally lay still with a content look on her face. I honestly thought she was dead, but instead I guess she passed out mid stitch. If you recall from my post regarding Wey, there is no anesthesia here – you get stitched cold turkey.
We had planned to drop the lady off at the hospital and then head back to WOCC since her family was notified and on their way, but the doctor told Longdy that we could not leave because we were responsible for her since we brought her. Like some hospitals in the US; they were not going to treat her unless they knew they would get payment, so we waited. She had an IV in and head stitched up when her daughter and son-in-law showed up. There is no ‘care’ here to speak of in a Rural Clinic so it was up to the daughter and granddaughters to clean her up; which again Longdy helped. I really couldn’t have been more proud of this young man than at that moment - his learned sense of compassion shown through. Compassion that is not a huge part of their culture; as depicted by the men who dumped her off with us (for example). Longdy told me that he wanted to walk away because he was feeling sick watching but he couldn’t because he knew that he could help.
Srey Oun watched the whole process too and when I asked her if she still wanted to be a nurse, she said “yes” and I told her she was much stronger than me since I would not choose that profession because I get too nauseous and want to cry all the time. Especially when the lady calmed down a bit, she just kept staring at me…maybe she wasn’t really seeing me but I couldn’t break the eye contact until all of a sudden my eyes filled with tears and I realized people were looking at me. Then I had Longdy relay to the daughter and son-in-law that Wayne had said Wat Opot will take care of the medical expenses (since she may have to be there a couple days). The daughter thanked me in the same Namaste way; I returned the nod and then turned and took a big swig of water and tried to compose myself.
I wasn’t able to control my emotions so I motioned for the little girls to follow me and I took them away from the commotion. At the truck I offered to open their milk but they motioned only to one. The smallest girl held on to hers and motioned that she would keep it with her and then I watched them share one. Does a child have to live in poverty to have that kind of thought process? To save this possibly rare treat so they can have some later…or maybe there were more kids at home they would give it to? Maybe the one girl didn’t like it and I was just looking at the situation with rose colored glasses? In any sense, they took pleasure in looking at the photo’s of themselves in my camera.
We left the lady in the care of the hospital and daughter and drove back with the little girls. Once again, I was emotionally drained and realized that it is a great thing that Wat Opot has a no-alcohol policy…not because you could get drunk and cut your head open, but that the only thing I craved at that moment was a drink!