Our Christmas Scare

Posted by Marcus Hammarberg on December 28, 2014
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This will not be an ordinary post. Just a write up of something horrible that happened to us during Christmas. It ends well, but was a horrible time in our lives.

During the Christmas our family experienced the worst scare and troubled time yet. In Indonesia but also in our lives. It all looks like it will play out alright but many people have asked me to share the story, so i will do that here. If I find the strange I’ll write a follow up post with some lean-learnings that this could teach us, but not now.

The accident

We were going for carolling on the Christmas eve. This is an old tradition from the band I grew up in and something that we have done in my family to. Today it failed: not only was people not at home, but also…

When we got to the Commissioners house, we rang the bell and Albert jumped down one step, ca 15 cm step, to “hid and surprise them as Santa”. He slipped in a puddle of mud and fell. He started to scream, but not horrible. We actually thought he was faking it. I played the song and we then tended to him.

Trying to get him to stand up was just unbearable pain for him. We still thought he just hit his knee or something. I carried him into the house and put him on a sofa. There we saw that the left leg was ca 5 cm shorter than the right one. This was for real!

The clock was ca 10 am, Christmas eve.

The journey to ER

We immediately realized that he had to go to the hospital, thinking his hip was dislocated. I jumped into a car, carrying a screaming Albert in my arms. The journey took ca 30 min dues to heavy heavy traffic. Every bump in the road made Albert scream out with pain.

We were shown an entrance to the hospital that was the wrong one. I ended up running through the hospital with Albert in my arm, screaming for help. Him screaming with pain for every step I took.

At the ER I simply stated: dislocated hip and a doctor that spoke English (thank God) came to our assistance. A quick infuse and pain-killers was administrated. We were then rushed to X-ray.

They didn’t allow me in the room, but once I was allowed in again I could see in their faces that something was wrong. We went back to ER and saw the picture - it made all the staff draw after their breath. I also could see why:

The bone in Alberts thigh, above the knee, was straight off. Just like you would draw it if you were 5 years old. I sank to my knees sobbing - thinking about the pain.

More painkillers and I was soon to meet a surgeon. He gave us two options: cast the leg and then 1-3 months in cast, without being able to move (NOT for Albert) and secondly insert spikes in the leg. We went for the second options.

Things going wrong - things going right

This is where the problems started - because there was a 3 days waiting time to get these spikes to our, very good, hospital. 3 days of pain for Albert.

At the same time I called our insurance company and after an initial painstaking slow registration process (burned about 150.000 Rp of my cash card) they have been nothing less than excellent.

We went up to a ward with Albert, and Elin and the boys came there for a short, and very different Christmas eve celebration. We will never forget it but it felt very sad and wrong to be there.

In the middle of that celebration the insurance company called us back and said that their medical experts we should not wait that long. They wanted to fly us to Singapore and get him operated as soon as possible.

That would be very simple unless … our passports was held by immigrations (since 7 months) for renewal of our Indonesian identity cards. In order to still travel the insurance company contacted the Swedish embassy (that also was EXCELLENT throughout the process). Sure, we could get the emergency passports. Just have to pop down to Jakarta.

Also I needed signed papers from me and Elin that it was ok by Elin that I went to Singapore with Albert. This causes a couple of practical problems and with the help of our friends it was sorted during the evening.

While this was happening it was Christmas Eve night and Albert and I didn’t sleep one single minute. Apparently when the body goes through trauma like this the muscles “remembers” that. In Alberts case it meant that his whole body twitches violently 1 min after he fell asleep, causing his leg to jump and him to scream out in pain. It was quite a horrible night.

The hospital tried to relief his pain by putting him in traction to keep the leg still, but with the twitching that made it worse. The pain killers didn’t help him.

Christmas day

In the morning Christmas day the insurance company called me and asked me to go to Jakarta, to get my emergency passports from the embassy. Because the insurance company didn’t want Albert to travel to Jakarta in ambulance, which is wise.

Going to Jakarta is a 120 km drive single way… but people in Jakarta goes to Bandung on weekends to get away from the horrible climate. And the traffic in Jakarta is nothing less than ridiculous.

After a few calls I got hold a very nice man that could drive me. 30 minutes later we where on our way. Going to Jakarta took only 2 hours - close to the record time for me.

We met Lina of the Swedish Embassy and got the papers signed and our passport in hand. She also brought Swedish candy and Lusse-buns (special Christmas cake) for us. Very nice touch in our hard time.

I was now very very tired and just speaking to another Swede had me in tears.

The whole thing took only 5 minutes and then we turned back. Very soon we realized that this would be problems. Getting up on the freeway again (took 10 mins off) took about 45 minutes. The first 30 km took 2,5 h. At the same time the Insurance Company called me and told me that the last take-off time from Bandung airport was 1900. Our clock showed 14 and we had traveled 30 out of 120 km in 2,5 hours…

The traffic on the right was all I could look on for 4 hours during this day. This looked bleak. I was very very frustrated.

Another 10 km in ca 40 minutes and we started to make new plans. Maybe I could rent a driver on a motorbike to go on the small roads to go back the last way. Right at this point the traffic cleared. Right between these two tweets from me:

So we got 40 km more in ca 30-45 minutes which was amazing! Now we could actually make it. Quick call to the insurance company and set the whole thing in motion.

The lift off

I reached the airport around 16.30, 1,5 h before the time when the airplane should arrive. I ate (and PEEEEEEED since we didn’t wanna risk stopping on our way up…) and felt a little bit better.

The reports from Elin were that Albert was still in pain and haven’t slept either due to the pain. Also the ward hadn’t heard from the doctor and was not ready to release Albert. Very strange since the insurance company had talked to the doctor a number of times…

Then I saw an ambulance and asked them if they were waiting for an air ambulance and was supposed pick Albert up. They were so I decided to go with them.

As I stood there a man approached me that was supposed to handled the ambulance plane take off. He asked me if I had my passport with me. I explained to him the situation and he just went: “Uh-oh - follow me!”

Off the to the immigrations office we went. I explained the situation, I showed the emergency passport and the diplomatic letters both me and Albert had, verifying the authenticity of the emergency passport. The response from the immigrations officer was just: “You’re not going on these papers. No more discussions! And where is your Indonesian Id?”

At that point I realized that it was fruitless maybe even dangerous to get mad at him, since I might end up in jail. But it was really stupid; the immigrations office had our passport, and the immigrations denied me to travel on the official papers issued since I didn’t have a passport.

Lesson:

NEVER let go of your passport! Not for one second!

In the midst of this frustration the plane arrived and we jumped into the ambulance. I called the people at my office that handled the id-stuff and they went to the airport to explain. In the meantime we went to the hospital to pick up Albert, still in pain. 30 h and counting.

Once there the ward had still not heard from the doctor. Now, the excellent air doctor and nurse (how cool they where - Thanks Jing-Jing for excellent service!) started to make arrangement to move. Once Albert was on the stretcher, severe pains - the case was handled with the insurance company and we were on our way to the air port.

On the way Albert had effects of stronger pain killers and for the first time he was out of pain for ca 1 hour. I also come to realize that it could still be trouble with our passport, but actually with Albert being loaded into the plan and me having all documents from the hospital it flowed along smoothly.

Elin went back home to the twins, exhausted after caring for Albert in pain during the entire day.

At ca 20:30 we took off for Singapore, in the smallest plane I ever rode in. It fitted 2 pilots, 1 stretcher with Albert, the doctor and the nurse. And me.

Singapore

We went through immigrations in Singapore very smoothly, through a backdoor of the air port. From there, directly to the K.K. Hospital.

In the E.R. there I was for the first time very scared. They acted very calm and professional but they were very troubled about the potential damages to Alberts thigh, muscles and nerves. Emergency surgery was considered a number of times.

It was quite a complicated spiral fracture that would require spikes all through the thigh-bone

Also I got a strange question in the midst of this; one of the doctors asked me what did for a living. Social worker, was my answer. He drew for his breath just went: “You got insurance right? This will be costly…” Luckily we did - and this is the things that they are supposed to be used for. It worked out fine.

Being ushered to an check-in counter and get to chose the class of room for my son while he’s screaming in pain is very very strange and something I never can understand. But we did that too.

Around 0230 we came to our nice room. They put Albert in traction again and he was still in pain. No painkillers could help him it seemed. Operation had been decided to around 1200 the day after

We were both so tired at this stage. The night consisted of 2 min sleep for Albert before a new twitch had him screaming of pain and fear, me praying, crying standing in front of the clock begging it to move faster.

We didn’t sleep this night either.

The operation

The morning and pre-lunch was just an awful long wait to go to the operation and finally get him fixed and most of all; out of the pain. He even said himself that he just wanted to be operated as soon as possible; “I long for the operation, Dad”.

Once there everything went very smoothly and quietly. I left him sleeping in very capable hands. On the way back to my room I fell asleep standing up in the elevator. To my account it was 50-55 hours without sleep more than maybe 1 hour in total. And I wasn’t the one in pain, so that was still better for me than for poor Albert.

The operation was scheduled to take 90 minutes but was ca 3,5 hours. Which was pretty good for me, since I could get some sleep. There was no explanation as to why it took longer, but they were happy with the result.

Back at the room Albert slept and I got visitors from our friends Bo and Christina Jeppsson, with their daughters. They are serving the Salvation Army in Myanmar and was here on vacation. Call it luck if you want. In the embrace and comfort I found in their presence I call it God’s care.

From this point on I felt that it would be better and better.

The final parts

Is yet to be written…

Albert and I have spent 2 days after the operation at the great K.K. hospital. The care is great. We are, as you are in hospitals, bored but try to make the most of it.

Albert is in pain and scared when we move him but he’s improving on that too. He will probably go home in a wheelchair since the don’t think he’ll manage the crotches.

The Jeppsson has helped us to handle some practical matters like washing and adapters. But mainly being here and just talking to us, mostly me - has been invaluable. Thank you!

It looks like we will go home in a day or two from now. There’s some matters to be cleared about how we’re actually going to travel etc.

The thank you’s

There might be more to this story - but this is as far as we have come now. Albert is alright - he’s out of pain and the leg is fixed.

There’s SO many people involved in an operation like this. Planning it in advanced would be a nightmare. There’s no way you could pull that off.

What it instead comes down to are peoples good will and sacrifice when the need is great. For this I have no words of gratitude that is enough to all of you that helped us. Thank you is all I can say. From the bottom of our hearts. Thank you!

Another big Thank you for everyone that read, answer, prayed and cheered us up as we tweeted more and more desperate tweets and posts on Facebook. To me this was valve to ventilate my frustrations and fear. Thank you all for listening!

And all the prayers, good thoughts or whatever you do that went up these days. Looking back, through all the horrors and events that happened, it’s not hard to see that things could have been worse. Much much worse. I still felt carried by Jesus through this. I still felt him being there with us, crying with us, helping us, moving us forward.

Throughout the days I kept humming on a song, and I’ll leave you with that:

Jesus, Jesus - how I love him
How I've tried him over and over
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus
Oh, for grace to trust him more


Published by Marcus Hammarberg on Last updated