Mae mai sabai
"Well what the hell am I supposed to do about it Waan," I snapped. "Call Lert," I continued, "and tell him to get off his arse and take Mae to the hospital."
Kut Chap hospital is open twenty four seven and the middle of the night is the best time to visit. Though often that leads to needing a Doctor who won't show his face until nine a.m. but pretty much there is no point telling me when I'm seven thousand miles away.
I managed to finish what I needed to do on the PC so I can pay the bills and send more money to Thailand and then asked what Mae had done to her foot. She tread on something in the new gardan I'm told and knowing that was highly unlikely not least because the swelling is on the top of her foot not the sole but I thought nothing more of it for the next two days. Just two days had passed when Waan's sister Waen called and told Waan that the hospital think Mae's foot will have to be amputated. In Thailand this is what happens when you do not seek medical treatment. Things turn ugly very quickly. Twenty four hours later and Waan gets another phone call from her sister Anne telling us that Mae may die. I didn't take it seriously as all the sisters are prone to getting carried away. I wouldn't accuse them of exaggerating but they always consider worst case scenario and that becomes the expectation. She isn't going to die or lose her foot from treading on something in the garden. Even in Thailand that doesn't happen. Or so I thought.
Looking back I'm sure what she had done was get bitten by a snake. It is difficult to surmise what type as the common Garter and black Mamba's which are usually found in our area are both lethal so it wasn't one of either of those and though Cobra's are common and do cause injuries rather than deaths they stand up and spit. They let you know they are there. That only leaves smaller snakes like the green tree snake but they are found in jungles not villages on account of tree availability. It was a mystery but hardly on a scoobie doo scale with the exception of why she will not go to hospitals..
I gave in to the demands of sisters telling Waan she has to come to Thailand and say goodbye to Mae and sorted a ticket online. Two days later she was on her way. And as I expected completely unnecessarily as Mae did over several weeks begin to recover. Whilst that is irritating (Waan going on a wasted journey that is and not that Mae recovered) it did give me the excuse to go back to Thailand once more and meet Waan a few weeks before she came home.
But what I was presented with on arrival was daily trips to the hospital with Mae. I know why they always send me with her. They being the family and her being Mae. It isn't because I'm a soft touch, it is because when the hospital staff see a falang they are quick to send porters to put her in a wheelchair, and quick to get her into the ward and to a Doctor. Within twenty minutes she will be treated and with fresh dressing and on her way home again. While she was in the ward I inspected her wounded foot out of morbid curiosity and I was shocked. The smell of rotting flesh and such a large trauma was unsettling.
The skin from her toes to half way up her shin was dead. The top of her foot had no skin at all. The Doctor said her foot was dying but they had managed to stop it getting worse. I tentatively suggested a skin graft and thought it had been discounted purely on cost. Mae was on large doses of Morphine for the pain in her foot and I hated seeing her in so much discomfort. I wanted to fix this for her but the Doctor said it would have to come from long term treatment and all they could do was keep her on the antibiotics and keep the wound clean. That was when the Doctor explained they had cut away the decay to save her foot. I could have cried and wondered how her daughters must have felt. It was sad after losing their father and I wondered if Mae didn't care anymore.
Things like sharing sea bass and sticky rice usually made Mae happy but her face was bland. The pain was tiring her out and she slept most of the time. Even on Father's Day she didn't want to join in the festivities or the district village games. Then again neither did I and I was in high spirits. I went to the Kut Chap Amphur to watch for a bit. Mainly because Waen was one of the contestants and I thought it'd be good to see how well our village could do. We were crap. Meanwhile Mae didn't want to do anything and kept complaining she had a headache. I thought maybe it was because of the pills she was prescribed. There was a lot of medication most of which was in English and recognisable like Ampicillin and Oramorph but I'm no care worker so there was little I could do. I had heard Jon's plaque was in place so I took a walk up to the old temple gates to take a look. Some ashes and bone of him had been placed in a tiny urn and buried in the wall and I longed to see what they had done with the cover plate.
It wasn't finished yet and needed the whitewash cleaning off it but I was pleased with it.
It reads as you'd expect: Nie Jon Ladsa-Ard, Born 6th June 1946, Died 8th September 2011, Age 65 Years.
In rural Thailand that is considered a good age.
Over the next few days there was a lot of coming and going. Of sorting out legal stuff for building works and changing of minds about what sort of house to build. Should it be traditional redwood on stilts, which I have no objection but will be expensive with air con because they are like ovens, or should it be precast to keep the walls cool. I don't know why we can't just build a brick bungalow as Jon would have done. I'm not even bothered about glass in the windows. Mae's house has shutters and they are fine for me. Waan says they make you look poor.
Issan folk do not understand that I do not care what I look like. It doesn't change what I am. People also kept appearing, though I am slightly used to that, but there was no mistaking who the younger sister was when she came to see if Mae was ok. Couldn't say the same about the chap who just decided to sit out the front of our house and start weaving bamboo baskets though. I'd seen him before but didn't know who he was but he seemed perfectly happy to work on our La Biang so like a true English Gentleman I ignored it.
Then there was an old lady who Waan got all excited about telling me she was the oldest lady in the world. Complete nonsense of course and Thai's claim the biggest, loudest, smallest, cleverest, bestest of everything so take no notice when you know no-one in Issan has lived past a hundred but this old dear certainly looked old for an Issan lady. It may seem odd that being so old is so important but all Thai's associate age with wisdom. To them someone being old should be revered for its value to knowledge though not the person its self even though she merits a high wai. It looked for all the world like Mae was picking up. She was marginally cheerful at seeing so many people who all meant something in her life lived. Better still this would help her recover I was sure.
Over the next few days things returned to normal of a sorts. Waan had to go to the temple with some of her sisters on her mum's behalf because Mae couldn't possibly walk across the temple floor with a bandage on her foot. It's bare feet only. While Waan went for morning chanting Mae and I enjoyed a fish and rice breakfast, for a change, and though she was only picking at it at least she was trying. It looked safe for Waan and I to go home once again anyway and not least because our daughter was calling me almost daily wanting help with her college work. It felt unfair to leave Kanda alone in the UK.
The next morning we said our goodbyes to Issan once again via a couple of roofers that Waan wanted to introduce me to and ask them if they will do the roof on our house. I thought it a bit odd when we got there as they were Waan's uncle married to Mae's sister and her brother-in-law married to her older sister. Presumably Waan doesn't expect me to remember them all as there is so bloody many.
But best of all, Mae's foot had healed...