VIP – this acronym had me feeling like one indeed as batches of nurses sashayed in and out of my room. Changes in shifts, apparently, required them to do a proper handover, which meant entering my room and introducing themselves. That is, if there was one who could speak – would dare to speak – in English (there’s a lot to be desired for my fluency in Bahasa Indonesia).  If not, smiles and a hasty retreat sufficed.  Naturally, changing the IV bags and making sure my meds were taken on time required them entering at all hours. The room service crew, on the other hand, were less intrusive. Erdhita – the leader I assumed – had a knack for arriving at a time I was ready to be asked about my meal orders. Presenting the list fastened to a clip board, all I had to do was tick my choices: toasted wheat bread, strawberry jam and butter, orange juice and milk for breakfast; Western meal of mashed potatoes, cod teriyaki and soup for lunch and dinner.

My personal doctor always came in the morning – at 10ish – and he turned out to be quite amiable but a man of a few words. He would, on hindsight, make for a good Santa Claus – albeit a light brown- complected St. Nick – during Christmas parties. Doc’s routine started with asking how I was feeling followed by a routinely check up with his good old stethoscope, and he was off to continue with his rounds.

My accessories at the hospital

VIP also meant that I had the room to myself, which was divine because I disliked being in a room with strangers and their throng of visitors. The VIP 1 category was reminiscent of modern hotel rooms. With some minor refurbishing – replace the hospital bed with a Marriott king-size bed fitted with Marriott bed linen (from mattress toppers, duvet covers to Euro-shams); take out the curtains around the bed and table-with-wheels; and add in some softer lights and reading lights, mini-bar, writing desk and cappuccino-maker – and voila! You’re in a hotel 35 stories high up with a picturesque view of Jakarta’s skyline (the Semanggi area to be exact) anytime of the day. [Aside: A panel of floor-to-ceiling windows would have actually made the view more dramatic.]

But the feeling was far less of a VIP rock star on vacation than as a convalescing vertigo-stricken despondent Scorpion hooked to an IV drip, and with a puffed-up left hand. The consolation was the earth’s movement from under me had come to almost a standstill. I’d take that anytime over the emergency room comedic-soap opera of errors where an observer would be gaping in astonishment at the lack of comprehension of the line, “Careful, she’s suffering from vertigo.” Perhaps it had to do with language – shifting gears from English to Indonesian required a few seconds delay in relaying the message, which, by then would have been too late. The attendants would have knocked against the bed and vertigo would have had set in, and I would have been hurling into a kidney pan again while the attendants, with sheepish grins, waited for the spell to come to an end.

Is there anything worse than a severely dehydrated vertiginous patient lying on a bed bumped every so often? Apparently, hooking me up to an ECG machine, narrated my friend hours later. It was à propos to a black comedy. Confounded by the lack of a read out from the machine, the nurse kept pressing the “on” button, hoping that each press would magically set the reading going.

“Salah, Miss,” said my friend-nurse, pointing casually to the emergency nurse her mismatched wires. The all fingers and thumbs nurse got her bearings in seconds and was finally able to get a proper read out.

Then came the drawing of blood, which should really be easy-peasy for those in the medical profession. It’s one of the basic chores done repeatedly until perfection during medical internships so a great consternation would naturally descend upon those watching the one drawing blood laboriously from the arm of a gravely dehydrated patient. One wondered when common sense would kick in and spare the patient pain. My blood-taker, however, salvaged his reputation with a perfect rejoinder when questioned about his nugatory efforts earlier on: “I didn’t want to make two holes on her,” he said with a meek grin after he finally drew blood from the other arm.

Safely ensconced in the hospital-hotel room with its earthy colour walls, dark brown-hued sofa bed and Samsung plasma screen TV, I was still wishing that I was floating on the VIP rock star vibe rather than on the quarantined dizzy and retching chicken. But the VIP vibe did kick in through the slow drip of cedantron, cetazum and neurobion meandering through my puffy left hand and the pills (stugerone, merislon, and vitamins) taken like clockwork.

As a bona fide VIP patient of Rm3510, a staffer would administer a bed bath towards the end of the day – a bit uncomfortable for someone used to bathing themselves but a recuperating patient does need help in putting on those fresh blue pin-striped pyjamas. The room-service crew come in with the meals – breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and snack – and with a press of the call button of my Hill-Rom 1000 bed staffers would quickly respond to fix my IV tube because it had turned red. I also badgered (politely) the hospital staff with requests for the toiletries missing from the bathroom, which they finally got right after about four or five requests. Then the visitors came strolling in bearing sweet stuff and well-wishes cranking the VIP ambience three notches up. Who would have thought that a visitation from the gods was part of the universe’s plan for my alternative staycation? Then thoughts of what-ifs of my hospital stay set in after the elation of the previous event abated. What if I just packed my own lunch and didn’t eat at the cafeteria? What if I just ordered pizza from Domino’s instead of eating at the cafeteria? What if I ordered from another stall instead? What if I knew of the long weekend holiday in advance and booked a flight to anywhere?

I had wished for a staycation, which came true with the long weekend holiday because the Ascension Day of Jesus Christ public holiday fell on a Thursday, sandwiching Friday between a holiday and the weekend egging the government to declare Friday a non-working day in the whole archipelago. Now the VIP vibe could have been more rock star-ish if I had been more specific with my wish that I sent to the universe. I suppose I should have wished clearly for a staycation sans vertigo and acute dehydration or, better yet, just simply said “a luxurious VIP vacation in Thailand at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa for sand, sea, surf, spa and yoga.”


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