By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
You will never realise how things are really like until reality hits you squarely in your face. That is how I felt after undergoing corrective surgery at Tuanku Mizan Hospital in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur. The hospital is located on a 40-acre site in a leafy neighbourhood adjacent to Taman Permata on the road to Zoo Negara in Ampang.
Getting there is an exercise in futility for an outsider not familiar with Kuala Lumpur unless you resort to Waze or Google Maps, online navigational applications or apps popular with tech-savvy people these days. I was fortunate because my daughter-in-law lives in Taman Keramat, a stone’s throw away from the hospital. She knows the area like the back of her hand.
Friends and well-wishers
Incidentally, Tuanku Mizan Hospital is one of five military hospitals in the country. It is named after the 13th Agong and was officially opened in August 2009 for use by military personnel, both serving and retirees and their immediate families. Being limited to just a few, the hospital is rather quiet, especially after office hours. Visiting hours are pretty relaxed although checks by the military police are done occasionally, after 9 pm, to deter stragglers.
My right knee was in pain for several years. I was too casual and had been dismissive preferring to disregard it as merely a torn ligament. Over the years it had aggravated causing so much discomfort until it became almost unbearable. Movements became difficult requiring me to use a walking stick and my wife’s shoulder for support when moving from point to point.
After a lengthy consultation with an orthopaedic specialist at Tuanku Mizan, I was told to undergo a total knee replacement surgery. My right knee cap would be replaced with a titanium implant that can last for a decade at least. Having little or no choice, I acceded much to the delight of my wife who had almost given up on me. She could no longer put up with a “stubborn old man”.
After all the required tests to ascertain my fitness for surgery I was finally given the go-ahead. The operation was done on Thursday morning, November 7. It was performed by one very capable and seasoned surgeon, Lt-Col Rajiv Rampal. Rajiv and his superior, Brig-Gen Dato’ Amiruddin are among the most sought-after surgeons in the country. Both are well known within the medical fraternity. If they go, it will be a great loss to the armed forces. For continuity’s sake, I hope they stay.
Since I was under partial anaesthesia I could hear what was done to my leg. The numbness (waist downwards) and the chilly operation theatre added to my anxiety. The whole operation lasted for almost two hours. And when I was wheeled out of the operation room, my wife was there to greet me. The whole episode was like a dream, a dream which I could have avoided had I been more mindful of my health.
A room in the orthopaedic ward was assigned to me. The attending medical staff monitored my diet and progress closely. I had to walk using a walking frame. On the third day, I was required to attend physiotherapy sessions on another floor of the hospital. It was part and parcel of the rehabilitation process.
The reason why I am highlighting this is simple. it has to do with perception. For years I was under the illusion that the military does not care for its members when they are out in the cold. I was proven wrong. Defence Minister Mohd Sabu has allotted ample funds for veterans. His generosity has benefited people like me.
This little episode has strengthened my belief in the Ministry of Defence’s resolve to assist servicemen regardless of their condition and position. Honestly speaking, I feel blessed. A similar surgery done at a private hospital will cost anything between RM20,000 and RM50,000 a knee. I had it for free. I cannot ask for more. And this privilege extends to my wife, my pillar of strength. She was by my side throughout the ‘ordeal’. You cannot ask for more. I wish to thank my military college mates, former students and friends for visiting me at the hospital, some at very odd hours.
Incidentally, my brother who will undergo the same surgery at Penang General Hospital needs to wait till early next year for the opportunity. I was told only one orthopaedic surgeon is currently available.
All said and done, it is payback time for the sacrifices I had made for the nation.