Postcard Memories

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Splat!!

Currently l am being bitten alive by everything and anything that flies. Mosquitoes are my Public Enemy No 1. My friend Dodge says l should drink more Gin and Tonic which is only ideal if you happen to like gin or tonic, sadly l dislike both. If l don’t have enough to deal with, l am having to contend with my dilemna of slowly being eaten by cannibals! But this reminded me of something from a time ago, and that period is Malaysia in 1969 especially.

Someone recently said that l must have had a really great time as a youngster growing up there, and l did, but life isn’t always about goodies, sometimes there are baddies too.  Malaysia was no different. There was the constant threat in the late sixties whilst we were there of perhaps getting bitten by a mosquito and having malaria and dying. There was a much higher chance of catching something, being bitten by something or drowning, there is still a story to come in this collection about falling into a very deep hole and being swept out to sea, equally as there is a tale of being stung by a sunken puffer fish in the surf and nearly becoming paralysed, there are plenty of things that l will in due course write about.

I mean l could of caught any amount of infections whilst in the monny drains looking for frogs and the such lik … oh wait a minute that is exactly what happened and THAT is what this tale is about! 

Infections – because that is what this story ‘boils’ down to – literally!

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In 1969, when l was six, l went through a horrible phase of about six months of suffering from the most horrendous ‘boils!!’ They were everywhere, all over my body. I remember very clearly having them, how itchy they were, how painful they were and how l tried so very hard to not tell my parents that l had them, but after a while it was becoming very hard to hide them from my parents and especially my Mother!

In all, l had a total of 15 boils that never seemed to go away, which is why it took so damn long for them to clear up and recover from.  I know what you are thinking, how at six did that not get noticed?

Simple, initially l only had one boil come up on my arm, which was spotted by Choy, who must have recognised it in the early stages and simply cleaned it up before it festered into anything terrible. I recall, that she popped it with a needle and then applied some ‘Choy’ ointment and within almost a day it had gone. I would imagine that it was quite possibly some kind of alternative medicine, as Choy was a herbalist of sorts.

However, it would be a few weeks before 1] It was identified as being the monsoon drains which were causing the problems potentially and 2] That tragically when they struck, they all decided to strike at once almost overnight! One day l had nothing, the next day l had all these small pimples appear on my body. They were small, so l figured  when at school, that when l got back l would talk to Choy, however the heat from that day at school, got the better of me, and they started to all itch at once and l was sent home rather quickly – well in those days being sent home was a bit more complex than now.

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Because l schooled in Georgetown in Penang, and l arrived by ferry and school bus, it meant that l had to await the arrival of one of my Father’s military jeeps, so in the interim l had to wait in the school nurse’s office and she became panicked by the presence of these very red and heated spots on my body. She was all ready to have me quaranteed off in the airbase hospital in Butterworth as she was convinced l had contracted some fatal disease!

I tried to tell her that my amah Choy would know what to do, however sadly at the time alternative local medicine was not considered conventional medicine. Strange here we are nearly fifty years later and still doctors don’t trust ‘alternative’ medicines preferring to just pump us with deadly chemicals because that makes sense ……..??

The driver for my Father arrived who happened to be an MP and he drove me all the way to Butterworth airbase in an open top jeep which was pretty hard going as the heat was pretty intense, but was great fun, because you just looked important! All the way across the bay to the other ferry terminal, l was in a lot of discomfort, a lot, you see l had boils everywhere and sitting was particularly uncomfortable! I didn’t tell the nurse where they all were, if you catch my drift.

When we got to the base, my Father told the driver he would follow behind and to drive me to house! Once there, my Mother and Father were just looking at me and shaking their heads a lot and wondering how it came into being? I suggested we call for Choy, but my Mother was very much against amahs in the first place, and certainly had no time for ‘silly alternative medicines’, which thinking back on it is strange cosidering the voodoo doll she had in her possession, but hey hey, that was my Mother.

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By that time in the day which was around midday, these little spots had metastasized into a really big problem, as in they were everywhere and looked really angry, they were huge for starters, painful to the very touch, puss filled and just plain horrible.

My Mother was convinced that it was all Choy’s fault, that whatever she had treated me with had for the first one had infected my entire body and demanded that she come up and explain herself, in the meanwhile my Father demanded to know what l had done to get these and forgot that l was his Son and had swung into typical policeman mode and started interrogating me and shoved me down into a chair when suddenly the very boil l was too embarassed to discuss with anyone BURST! I think it was the biggest one!

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I don’t remember anything after that, l passed out, the infection had become so bad within a space of almost an hour that l was running a high fever that no one had actually noticed whilst l was standing in the house, sweat was dripping off me and puddling on the floor!

When l came to briefly, l was in the big wash tub downstairs in the amah’s quarters, and there was ice everywhere where  l slipped into unconsciousness again ..

The next time l awoke, which was three days later l was in a hospital bed at the airbase with both my parents sitting beside me and one of the RAAF Doctor’s looking at me.

No one ever knew what the problem was, no one could ever really truly identify the specific infection, although it was suggested that my days of hunting frogs in the monny drains had to stop as that probably didn’t help the situation.

I had to attend ‘lancing sessions’ three times a week for almost a month after my stay in hospital, and l still have a very small scar behind my left knee where l pannicked once when Drs. Savage and Killah [Yes Actual names] were seeing to the boils with scalpels  and l lashed out, the blade cut into my knee missing the boil at the same time that they cut my thumb – so suddenly there was blood everywhere and they thought they had cut a prime artery.

For three months l was subjected to a host of chemicals that didn’t do the job, they didn’t even touch base with the problem, and the infection and the boils constantly returned – the medical profession was adamant that l must have strange blood or that l was deliberately doing something to make it happen and l went through a lot of unpleasantness, until good ol’ Choy came to my rescue and pleaded with ‘Maam’ to let her use her family recipe.

Within a week of the treatment from Choy, everything cleared up, and my Mother suddenly had a renewed respect for alternative medicines, and l never had a problem with a boil ever again! In fact my Mother who was taking valium as prescribed to her by the RAAF doctors stopped using it and also started taking Choy’s herbal alternatives for stress.

There is a LOT more to alternative medicines if people give it the time and understanding. But you see, it all boils down to personal belief doesn’t it?

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