Yan's Corner - In Touch

Friday, March 10, 2006

My Heart Cries Home*

The Borneo Post has chosen the headline –

Oh, why always Sibu?

for its lead story today. I do not quite like it when it “greeted” me this early morn at 6:00 am. I think I would like to re-write it to –

Oh dear! Why ten years later?

I do have very sentimental reasons to think my “Sibu way” today.

I remember telling this “Oh, dear” story to a young inspiring doctor friend who is full of compassion. I reminded him always remember to say “Oh, dear” always. Indulge me. I am going to tell the story again.

A little girl hurt her finger. She ran to her daddy, who was a preacher. The preacher was engaged in studying. She showed her daddy her finger. But the preacher was so engrossed in his studies that he just took a look, and said, “Oh, that will be alright.” He sent the little girl away.

The little girl ran to her mother, weeping and crying. Her mother said, “Oh, dear, does it hurt so much?”

The little girl said, “No, mummy, it’s just that daddy didn’t even say, ‘Oh, dear’”.

That’s sympathizing with her. She just wanted her daddy to say “Oh, dear” with her.

Here ends the story. But, it’s the beginning of another “Oh, dear” story.

The first outbreak of Head, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFM) was in 1997 when it claimed 31 lives of children. Rachel was infected with HFM disease in 1996, a year earlier. Rachel used to be seen by a pediatrician in Sibu Hospital since birth until this pediatrician left for private practice in Kuching. I remember seeing GP one after another. One said, “Oh, she must have overused the shampoo or soap,” after examining her hands and feet. Another said, “Don’t worry. You are being too concerned.” Another remarked, “If you have more children, you won’t be over concerned.”

Finally, I called Rachel’s pediatrician in Kuching. He said, “Oh dear! Send her to the hospital immediately.” True enough, Rachel was warded immediately and aggressive treatment was given together with the monitoring of her heart. There was another case of 2-year-old having the same disease when Rachel was warded.

Such was the efficiency and professionalism of the pediatrician in Sibu hospital 10 years ago. To-date, the same pediatrician is still in the hospital. I salute him. I have not seen him around in my church for quite a few weeks. I guess he and his team of pediatricians must have not stopped working since the outbreak of HFMD.

The Health Minister, Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek was here in Sarawak two days ago. But, he chose Miri to be the place to express his empathy. We are in the age of “remote control”, I think. So, it does not matter where you work.

If Dr Chua had touched down in Sibu and said, “Oh dear” to parents and health care workers here, would it win more votes for his colleagues here in the coming state election? Sibu is the place where the most number of HFM patients are found. The healthcare workers have been working around the clock!

But Dr Chua did not come. He did not say “Oh dear”.

What did he say? I do not wish to quote from The Borneo Post, I am quoting from the national newspaper, NST –


NST Page 8 – Prime News Friday March 10, 2006

Three stories on the same page –

The lead story
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak
Bintulu girl is fifth fatality

2nd story
RM1m for research into disease

3rd story
Brunei closes 181 schools

Back to what Dr Chua said, (taken from the 2nd story)

“A researcher with the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), Dr Jane Cardosa, thinks that it might have something to do with Sungai Rejang in Sarawak, with regard to its water quality or virus content.

“She has been asked to come up with a costing plan for the research, and estimates about RM1 million,” he told reporters after opening the 11th Malaysia-Singapore Nursing Conference today.

“We want to study why this disease has broken out in Sibu and continues to originate from there, as well as its fatal effects.”

Now, hear what Dr George Chan, the Deputy Chief Minister and also the state disaster and relief management committee chairman said, (from the lead story)

“As of noon today, Sibu registered the most cumulative number of cases of HFMD since the outbreak with 1,561, followed by Bintulu (530), Kuching (411), Miri (288) and Sarikei (254).”

On comments by Health Minister that the current and past HTMD outbreaks could be connected to the mighty Sungai Rajang. Dr Chan said the Federal and State Governments had agreed to conduct research on the matter.

“We want to find out why this is so because the HFMD outbreak seems to occur in central Sarawak, from Kapit in the deep interior down to Sarikei at the mouth of Sungai Rajang.” he said.

10 years after? After it claims so many innocent lives?

My heart cries Home!


Sungai Rajang used to be the river of life for the people living along the mighty river, especially the longhouse folks. They made a living from the daily catches there. Today, the river is like a “dead sea”. I remember the clear water where my childhood days were spent. We swam there. We fetched the river water for drinking and cooking. We washed clothes there. That was our river of life! It was not the suspected river of viruses!

What happen to our river? Our river is not only polluted, it’s getting narrower! The logging activities, the extracting of sand and even the filling of the river in order to build their mansion or empire overseeing the river!

Who are the culprits? Everyone in Sarawak knows!

Who suffer? Everyone, perhaps, except the culprits and cronies.

My heart cries Home!

I think I hear someone singing,

There’s a river of life
Flowing out from me
Makes the lame to walk
And the blind to see
Open prison doors
Sets the captive free
There’s a river of life
Flowing out from me.



May we see the mighty flow of the river of God in our lives and, rediscovering its power and its grace and its depth so that there may be healing and fertility and escape from barrenness in our lives. Our hearts may have been broken by this world, but we know there is another Home where there is a mighty, gushing torrent of the rivers of living water – everything begins to live, and life becomes significant and full for us.

The photographs in this post were the lives along Sungai Rajang some 25 years ago when a young girl carried a camera trying to appreciate life and God's creation. Gone are all such "life". Enjoy the crude works of a young girl. Perhaps, you will hear the cries of this mature woman now - for Home!

*The title of this post, “My Heart Cries Home” is the title of a book authored by a friend, Jennifer. Jennifer wrote the book in memory of her husband whom the Lord favours and receives him into heaven early. She wrote in a prayer to God two days before the first anniversary of her husband’s death,

One of the lessons is that You have taught my heart to cry Home, my real Home – Heaven. I think if this earth had not broken my heart the way it did, Heaven would just be a destination where I will go to when I leave this world, rather than longing for it as my real Home.

15 comment(s):

When I read that Sibu is the Ground Zero for the FMD, I immediately thought about little Chris Lau and all the other children around his age. Then the newspaper article says they have 'zoomed in' on the cause: a 600km long river. Oh dear!

By Blogger fishtail, at 11:16 pm  

Thanks, fishtail.

I just realized NST has journalists in Kuching, Miri and KK, BUT NOT SIBU.

So, the Health Minister talked of Sibu HFMD in Miri, and the mighty Rajang River in KK, AND HE WAS COVERED NATION WIDE.

It just crossed my mind this morning. It does make some sense. I am trying to make some sense!

By Blogger Yan, at 10:10 am  

If HFMD is the only disease you crazy people think of, then people of the other diseases and conditions will definitely die. Please don't make this HFMD to be the only issue and the only disease that the world has. The Paediatrician will be so relax if he / she has only HFMD to deal with. It looks like HFMD is so politicalized that George Chan the doctor and politician is yelling his head off day after day after day so that people like you will support him and his Barisan Nasional. And yet many Sarawak Chinese men have HIV according to the newspaper. What is George Chan doing about it ? What is Barisan Nasional doing about it ? What are you doing about it ?

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