Sunday, May 29, 2005


Thanks to everyone who has responded to my post about the little girl. Your support is amazing, and has helped me deal with it a bit more. I didn't want to cause so many tears, but she deserves them, even from those thousands of kilometres away.

Monday, May 23, 2005


I'm all for being treated equally. I don't want any special privileges just because I happen to be female, white, and a doctor.

But I really do like being allowed to sit inside the car for a 7 hour four-wheel drive trip.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Early morning sun over one of our clinics. Posted by Hello

Some of the eleven people involved in fixing my toe after the nail tore off! I'll spare you the close-up.  Posted by Hello

Our office (the house is behind). Posted by Hello

Our lovely verandah. Posted by Hello

A typical inpatients department. Posted by Hello

Two colleagues and the bamboo that could take over the world! (At the national park we visited today - gorgeous waterfall for swimming!). Posted by Hello

Hellfire pass - the memorial plaque, at 6:30am. Notice the Thai journalist taking a photo from the other end! Posted by Hello

The old temple in Sangkhla- submerged for most of the year. Posted by Hello

I've got my own internet connection working so can get the much-requested photos onto the blog! It's bug season at the moment - they are everywhere, including in every drink and meal - so to start, here's one killed and arranged specially. I was very grateful that this jumped out of my towel (while I was drying myself) rather than attacking! Posted by Hello

Friday, May 13, 2005

What I'm not talking about

A 5-year old girl died on 31 March 2005.

She was my patient for the last hour of her life. On the way back from the village, we came to the clinic she had been in for the previous day. She looked terrible, and we put her in the truck to take her to the hospital.

She died 10 minutes before we got there.

Some of you will already know about her. For the rest, I’ve been trying to find a way to talk about it:

There’s the medical way –
She had been comatose all day, with tachycardia, convulsions, no urine output, severe hypoglycaemia and a falling haemoglobin. She had been treated for pneumonia but most likely had unrecognised severe malaria.
But this girl is more than her last 24 hours.

The Hollywood way –
Doing CPR in the back of a speeding 4WD ute, the IV swinging off the bamboo pole, being waved through army checkpoints as they realise what is happening…
But she didn’t wake up.

The shocking way –
Feeling her face against mine as for the first time I do actual mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The smell of her vomit. Her pupils which don’t react. Her body lolling limply as I pick her up to return her to her mother. Her bright blue dress which makes her look as she should be running in the street – as she was a few days before.
But this is part of life, and death.

The emotive way –
Watching the sun set in silence as her distraught mother, exhausted from crying, clings to my arm all the way back to Sangkhla.
But as much as this made me weep, it is not my loss to appropriate for my own story.

The bottom line is, a 5 year-old girl died of a disease that we can treat. I am involved because I was there, and my own and others’ actions may have helped, or not. She shouldn’t have died.

She is special, but she is just as special as every one of the millions of children who die of treatable diseases every year. And most of the world couldn’t care less.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Recommended reading

Anyone who wants to know a little more about the people I'm working with, read:

Singing to the Dead
Victoria Armour-Hileman
ISBN 0-8203-2358-6

Hope it will be available in Aussie libraries (or there's always Amazon if you're really keen!). The events are the recent history of my patients, and unfortunately are current for some. The author also says some interesting things about the world of volunteers!


I've gone all patriotic.

After reading the transcription of my grandfather's diary, and some changes of plans that allowed me the time, I managed to make it to Hellfire Pass for the dawn service.

My grandfather spent 8 months (of 3 years POW) working on the "Death Railway". He mentions a few places - Wampoh, Kinsayok, Kamburi, Rin Tin - in his diary, and I have been able to place these. He then talks in miles, and my brief calculations make me think that he was based around Sangkhla. He talks of friends dying, and working 15-hour days in boiling heat with no tools. The grandfather of one of our local staff died making this railway; the Thai, Mon and Burmese people are not often mentioned in our Australian memorials.

So, I stayed overnight in the only available hotel nearby, with busloads of other Aussies on group tours (a cultural shock in itself). We left at 4 for Hellfire Pass.

The site is at the end of the cutting through the rock, and you walk down about 200 stairs to get into the cutting. The path was lined with bamboo lanterns and we were each given a candle at the start.

So, at 5am on a humid Thailand morning, I followed a line of glowing candles into the dark of the cutting. 62 years ago the torches that gave the place its name burned here, and 700 of 1000 prisoners died making this short break in the rock. About 400 of us came to remember, and when the Thai soldiers played the Last Post, I admit that the tears came to my eyes.

So, Grandpa, even though you didn't talk about it and, as a teenager, I didn't get to know you very well, I am trying to understand a little what it must have been like.

If any of the Lowes clan want more details about the places, or can help me piecing things together, please email me.