Friday, October 18

The colour of blood is red


c_pc0017224This has been the best Olympics for Malaysia so far, and not just in terms of medal counts. It has confirmed the belief that we can stand tall in the world competition platform and hold our own. Our young athletes have shown us that.

It has taught us the lesson that hard work pays. Our young athletes have shown us that. But most importantly, it offers a glimpse of what we can be as a nation – united in spite of our diversity. It was so heartening to witness Malaysians of all races, creeds and political affiliations rooting for our boys and girls.

It showed us that we are capable of building a vibrant Malaysia, a passionate Malaysia and a harmonious Malaysia.

At a time when doom and gloom hang over the nation like some malevolent dark clouds the Olympics experience was a ray of hope piercing through the darkness.

The Games united us all, across racial boundaries. We rooted for the boys and girls  who carried in our flags and colours, irrespective of their races. It was that “a moment in time” when we can see the Malaysia we want to be. Even though now the carnival is over, let us not let the spirit fade. Let us not give up the hope of building a Malaysia that we are capable of.

But should inspiration come only once every four years through this world event when in reality, inspiration for harmonious living is here with us every day?

Two years ago, my heart caused me to be a resident of the Specialist Heart Centre in Kota Samarahan, outside Kuching. During my time there, I made friends with people from all walks of life and of all races and creeds.

Frankly, there was not much choice. We had nothing to do but wait for the fateful day when some guys in masks would get at us with their sharp knives. There is nothing that focuses one’s mind better to separate the important thoughts from the facetious ones than the realisation one might meet one’s maker soon. So we – Malays, Chinese, Ibans, Bidayuhs and Lain-lain (my apologies, it’s not meant to be pejorative. It’s just that such is our diversity that I might bust my words limits if I were to list everyone) – became friends, united as we were by our condition.

I left the hospital a happy camper. The Heart Centre holds a special place in my heart (sorry about the cheesy pun). I love to go back there. Ok, that does not sound right. I mean just for a visit only. Not that I have much choice because I have to collect my medicine every two months. I love it there because we don’t care two hoots about our race or religion, and the doctors, nurses, and other caregivers are just plain Malaysians.

I have been a volunteer for the Sarawak Thalassaemia Society for 20 years. For the  uninitiated, Thalassaemia is a medical condition whereby the body is unable to produce sufficient healthy red blood cells, the transporter of the life-sustaining oxygen. When Thalassaemics register with the Society we don’t really need to ask them about their race or religion. We know their needs, their pain, their aspiration are the same, irrespective of their race or religion.

Those with the severe form of Thalassaemia (Thal Major) need to have blood transfusion every month. And we know, and the Thalassaemic children and their parents know more so than anyone else, that there are four main blood groups (types of blood): A, B, AB and O. There is no Type H (Halal) or Type NHL (Non Halal). Our patients accept their blood from the blood bank in good faith and without question.

Talking about blood, this Saturday – August 27 – is blood donation day here. That day we see kind-hearted Malaysians (sic) share a bit of themselves with those who need it. We are grateful that our Blood Bank is always topped up. God (or  whatever name you called your Supreme Being) bless you all.

Let me share with the readers the narrative of a video made by a Thalassaemia body.

It shows a coloured man sitting outside a doctor’s clinic. By and by a white Caucasian family (father, mother and a little girl) came in.

The girl and mother took their seats at the bench beside the coloured man. The father quickly asked them to move aside and planted himself between the coloured man and his family. He continued to stare at the man with suspicion and distrust. Just then a nurse came. “You can come in now. The doctor is ready.”

The family stood up to go in and the nurse continued “you too, sir,” addressing the coloured man.

The man looked very timid, conscious of the intimidating and hostile stare of the father who obviously was thinking “what the #%& is this man doing here?”

“Ah” the doctor greeted the party and turning to the little girl, “how are you, my dear. You are feeling good?’

The little girl smiled sweetly but the father was still scowling at the coloured man.

“Let me introduce to you someone very special,” said the doctor to the little girl.

“This is the man who gave a part of himself to you. He donated his stem cell for the transplantation procedure for your cure. In a sense, he and you are connected.”

The blonde girl smiled sweetly at the coloured man in a gesture of thank you. Bone marrow transplantation is the only definite cure for Thalassaemia major. Perhaps, it is good to remind ourselves. There is only one race – the human race and the colour of our blood is red.