November 25, 2009

Dr. Din / Annie Siu-kwan Lau

I feel obliged to consult advice from a doctor in the light of the possible outbreak of swine flu, as I am seemingly healthy but actually vulnerable to many kinds of illness including the common flu. The idea of 'consulting a doctor' inspires me to interview local doctors about their memory of Hong Kong: Were all of them 'brave' and 'determined' to flight against the SARS epidemic in 2003, only aiming at 'curing patients' and not afraid of being infect or of dying, like what television portrayed? I know I shall not turn to the 'common group' since my aim is not to question or to challenge their occupation moral. My aim is to hear a story of Hong Kong from the perspective of a local doctor. I realize there was a group of people who was not in the limelight during the SARS outbreak, but I believe they should have their voices to be heard. This group of people is the traditional Chinese medicine practitioner.
Working as a practitioner in a Chinese medicine cooperation in my neighborhood, Dr. Din, aged 73, recalled government's lack of support, "I'm not referring only to the SARS outbreak period. Even these days, the Hong Kong government does not fully recognize our qualifications. I'm fortunate enough to be qualified to issue sick leave certificates, but there are still many counterparts who have not yet satisfied the qualification as a registered Chinese medicine practitioner. There's little welfare and training for us." Recalling the SARS outbreak, Dr. Din realized that her connection with patients is even closer than with the 'hospital group.' "Patients generally did not dare to visit hospital since they were afraid getting infected there. Therefore, they came to see me and got prescriptions. Some visitors were family members of infected patients. They preferred Chinese medicine treatment because they were afraid of  potential side effects after taking the prescription." Since then, Dr. Din became a 'family doctor' for many of her patients, while at the same time being a good listener for some visitors who shared their sorrow and worries with her.

"For sure I was afraid of being infected, but I had the responsibility to continue my work. People need me." In spite of worry, Dr. Din realized there was a more important task for her: She was not curing the bodies of her patients; she was curing their hearts. In the eyes of Dr. Din, Hong Kong is like a little child, "Even you receive little concern from it, you cannot abandon it, because you love it."

I was allowed to observe Dr. Din's work, including her interactions with patients. I would say, Chinese medicine, in memory of many people, seems less scientific and more old fashioned compared to the advanced technology used in renowned hospitals. But as what Dr. Din shared with me, the little child (Hong Kong) would turn to her whenever it faces stiff questions. The old fashion way is still trust worthy. The stories of the patients and their relatives were closely linked to the practitioners, having their own and inter-related history. Although their stories were not nobly recorded in Hong Kong history, they are an important memory of certain groups.

Creative work
Dr. Din shared her experience on attending a funeral. One of her patients invited Dr. Din to the funeral of her son, was was died of SARS. Although Dr. Din did not go deep into the details about the family's background, I believe I can feel the mother's pain and helplessness. Therefore, with the help of Chinese medicine terms, I would like to compose a poem to portray a very personal history of Hong Kong.


夏枯草  地骨皮
白芷  土茯苓
木香  九里明  天香爐  千層紙
知母  當歸
苦參  獨活  大棗  半夏  生薑
杞子  丹心  麻仁
北芪  黨參  防風
金銀花  板藍根
甘草  茴香  百合

On the surface, the above are twenty-six items in a prescription. But, by holding the key words, I like to tell a story of Hong Kong in times of the SARS outbreak from the perspective of the dead in the funeral, with blessing to the future of the living.

夏,草枯[1]; 地,骨皮;


English interpretation:
It is only summer but all glass are rotten. Dead bodies are under the ground.
Hundres of children are sleeping under the ground peacefully.
You can smell the odor of the wooden coffins in the distance. There are ashes and paper items for the dead.
The son says, "Mum, I know you have to go;
Live for the rest of your however tough it should be,
I am worried about you,
But what I can do is to pay for you, hoping you not to suffer from the deadling flu.
Pease spend all your money on medicine for precaution.
And return to our home and may all families reunite."

[1] 本為中藥「夏枯草」,此為倒置句。
[2] 「丹心」讀作「擔心」。
[3] 麻仁, 此為「母親大人」的意思。
[4] 全名為「板藍根」, 有預防感冒的作用。
[5] 解作「早日」。
[6] 解作「相聚」的意思。

Annie Siu-kwan Lau is a student from CLIT2065 Hong Kong Culture 2008-2009 second semester.

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