Sunday, December 23, 2007

Physical wounds and lack of first aid knowledge

I was born in a house by the riverside. It had tall stilts very similar to Malay Kampong house. A detached house, it was home to my great grand father and great grandmother. It was also home to my grandfather and grandmother and a long list of aunts and uncles.

In fact the house would be kept as a great memory in the minds of many of my relatives. To many outsiders, it was the house of the towkay of the Ice Factory.

As a child I thought it was very grand. But by today's standard, it was not very much as it was wooden,with lots of windows. But I remember that it was a very intelligent house. Without any airconditioning or fan, the house was very cool throughout the day. At night when we used our mosquito nets, it was just warm enough to lull us to a very comfortable sleep.

We did not really get bitten by mosquitoes either. And I do remember running about the house a lot. One day I had a very deep cut on my knee from the zinc sheet that kept the vegetable garden from intrusion by animals like goats,dogs and cows. The scar remains with me to this day. I did not have any stitches. My mother just put iodine on the skin and plaster it. I was in pain for many days. But nothing untoward happened.

My mother said that a cut (it was about two inches) which was deep needed only to be kept clean and the wound would just heal itself. She blew on the wound every now and then. I felt very loved and soothed by her. We were not allowed to cry loudly. So I grew up with very little tears actually having been told that a ghost would carry us away at night if we cried .

We learned many years later that when my mother was a child, before the Japanese occupation,there was very little medication around. So the most horrible thing she remembered was the pain and agony children and even adults suffered. They had little knowledge of first aid in the first place. When wounds set in, they did not have cotton wool and any other dressing.

So a wound would just be left unattended, usually for a long time, until it just dried up.

This is lack of medication and lack of medical knowledge caused my mum's deafness in one ear. Her ear was infected for a long time and no treatment was given during the Japanese occupation. How much must she have suffered we would never know. Few can even imagine her pain and agony!!

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