34  Final words

Seriously ill
I was seriously ill and my granddaughter Yennah comforted me
Despite the last line of the previous chapter, my life story would be incomplete without the following. Basically, I never even registered how I ended up in hospital. But it did happen to me and, once again, an angel rested on my shoulders, just like on a few occasions during the Japanese occupation of all of South-East Asia and especially of the former Dutch East Indies. My wife Loes, our son Frank and our granddaughter Chantall told me this story afterwards. For days I had had complaints of abdominal pain. On Wednesday 17 February 2010, at 7.10 pm, just after I had checked the last part of this story, I fell of my chair and for me it was “end of story”! Loes heard a loud bang and saw me lying on the floor, barely able to speak. She called 112 (equivalent of 000/911) and within ten minutes I was on my way in an ambulance from Almere-Buiten to the Flevo hospital in Almere-Stad. I ended up, still completely unconscious, in a hospital bed attached to all sorts of instruments, because the vascular surgeon first wanted to take a scan of my abdomen, on which he noticed a huge black area. By then the close relatives who lived somewhat further away had also arrived and they said their goodbyes and wished me all the best as I went into theatre. My stomach was cut open from top to bottom, as, due to a burst stomach artery, it contained 3 to 4 litres of blood out of the approximately 7 litres humans have in their body. In my case, the aneurysm had developed in the aorta, the main artery. After the three hour operation, the vascular surgeon explained how 7cm of the coronary artery, which had been stretched over a section of 3cm and burst over a length of 4cm, had been replaced by a 7cm artificial artery and how the extremely high-risk operation had gone. The operation itself could have been successful, but with this type of operation, at any age, the risk of the patient dying the same day or shortly after is 75 percent; however, for people my age this is 94 percent. Later on, the surgeon told me I had only had a 6 percent chance of surviving the operation. So generally the conclusion would be: operation succeeded, but unfortunately the patient still died! Clearly it wasn’t my time just yet, as I turned out to be among the maximum of 6 percent who have a chance of survival: during the operation and for the three days after while I was kept asleep artificially (at the Intensive Care), angels must’ve sat on both of my shoulders. A cousin of mine, whom I told what had happened some time later, actually assured me that it couldn’t have been just one angel on each of my shoulders: it must’ve been an entire army of angels! When, after three days, they woke me from the artificial sleep and wheeled me to my hospital room, I had my eyes open according to my relatives. Which may well have been the case, but I was still so drowsy that day, that I never registered being moved into my room.
One thing is certain: from the moment I completely regained consciousness, I really had had enough of life. I had been fed artificially while in Intensive Care; inserting the tube was a drama, my throat got slightly injured, my taste buds no longer functioned at all and automatic urinating via an inserted tube was each time associated with an intense sharp pain.
Everywhere in Indonesia you can see the most wonderful orchids
Four times a day they would take my blood pressure, some blood, give me a pile of tablets to take for all kinds of things and - something I didn’t manage once - I was supposed to eat a certain amount of bread or porridge. My entire life, I’ve always had the bad habit of not having breakfast, or hardly ever, and I only eat when I am hungry or when I really feel like having something. In all fairness I have to admit that the loving and caring nurses in the hospital deserve praise in every way, despite the fact that they often reminded me of ‘slave drivers’ because of all the horrors I had to undergo 24 hours a day as an ‘ungrateful patient’, even though it was for my own good. Try keeping up your spirits when nothing tastes good anymore and when night after night you can hardly go to sleep because of all the pain! As I said: nothing was too much for these dear nurses, helping me day and night, and it was heart-warming to see that some of them confessed to me I was dear to them because they thought I was such a sympathetic person. Afterwards both the surgeon and my general practitioner told me that they too were surprised that I survived the operation!

The following poem was sent to me and I would like to mention it here:

Forever an East Indian abroad I remained.

Born in the beautiful Indies,
I grew old in the Netherlands.
Returning was impossible
as the Indies are no more.

Despite my Dutch passport
My hart remains anchored in the country of my birth
 At the end of my holiday I must leave again,
for being in Indonesia is now being abroad.
I’m East Indian therefore I’m split
I look at things from both sides.
My roots lie in Indonesia
but growing old I do somewhere else.

When I die, the waringin tree won’t cast its shadow on me
I will disappear into the cold soil
Of a country where I spent my life
Sadly not the country of my birth.

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