Saturday, March 16, 2013

" The Only appendicitis epidemic in the whole wide world."

 Methodist Secondary School Sibu. Uncle Mark came from China at 14, and started  learning A B C, he was such a book worm that soon he topped the class. His classmate was Mdm Chew Geok Ling aka Mrs. Wong Bing Sing.  

Uncle Mark was a survivor of "The only appendicitis epidemic in the whole wide world." Students in Methodist school were "dying like flies." 
Here is Uncle Mark with his youngest son Luke at my grandfather Kee Seng's grave. The other side is vacant , made ready for my Step Grandmother Wong Sam Yin. The grave is at Sungei Aup, the Cantonese cemetery. Every year, Uncle Mark, Luke and my brother Henry would go from Kuching to sweep the tomb. As Uncle Mark, and late Grand were Roman Catholics, they bring flowers and white candles.

In the late 1950s or early 60s, Sarawak featured prominently in the British Medical Journal and even the UK newspapers as the only country in the globe to have an appendicitis epidemic. This happened in Sibu an expatriate doctor, under work pressure, began to diagnose many cases of abdominal pain as acute appendicitis. He performed appendicectomies on a few hundred patients in a very short period and the people in Sibu panicked.
The Director of Medical Services, also an expatriate, related that there was a long queue of several hundred patients winding along the shop lots, and past some hotels around the Lau King Howe hospital, holding their hands over the appendix region. They would be diagnosed as acute appendicitis and lined up for operation.
Uncle Mark was a victim. Grandfather Chan said some of his classmates and him were admitted. They were all operated on. The boy next to him was very pampered. He asked his dad for a fizzy drink. Uncle Mark looked at Grandfather Chan, but did not ask because he knew Grandfather Chan had not money. The other boy thirstily guzzled down the fizzy drink. He was in great pain and he died. Both Grandfather and Uncle Mark were so glad they did not get that bottle of fizzy drink. Dr Wong Soon Kai took up his duties at the outpatient department and diagnosed that there was mass hysteria and almost none of them had appendicitis. In a few days the scare died down.

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