And now that I have your attention…
It’s no secret that I adore Ketut. My blogs have been littered with his name since I met him three years ago. Clerks have asked me if he’s my husband. “No,” I say. “My son.” It amazes me that a man 35 years my junior is considered more likely to be my husband than my son. But here, a gaping difference in ages is not uncommon. And it’s not just ancient men with young, nubile women. In Bali, ancient women with hot-bodied young men is just as likely.
But I digress.
At 3:00 that afternoon my phone rang. It was a friend who had arrived a few days earlier and her voice was strained. “Sherry, I’m in the hospital in Denpasar and I’m really scared.” Nightmarish scenes flashed through my mind. A motorbike accident topped the list. But it turned out that a bite she’d gotten while still at home in California was infected. The doc in Ubud referred her to the hospital in Denpasar for surgery.
It’s one thing to go to the hospital in America. There are stringent laws governing everything from the hand sanitizer by the doors to hairnets for the kitchen staff. Not so here. Nowhere is developing country a truer label than as it applies to health care in Bali.
I asked her if she knew whether or not she would be put under for the surgery. She supposed so. That’s all I needed to hear. “Okay, I’m coming,” I said.
“Oh, you don’t have to…”
“Yes, I think I do!”
I located Ketut and told him the problem. He didn’t know that particular hospital but I pulled up the address online and in a matter of minutes we were on our way. At 4:30 we found her in an ice cold room the size of a shoebox. She was hooked to an antibiotic drip and so happy to see us. We were told that surgery was scheduled for 8 p.m. “Ketut, you can go back to Ubud,” I said when I realized that there was a long wait ahead.
“Oh, no. It’s okay,” he said.
“It’s many hours. You should go.”
Inscrutable man. So many times I’ve wished I could peek into his mind and understand what transpires there. The tone indicated it was no use to argue. I scooted onto the back of her bed. Ketut perched on the edge and we chattered and joked until 7:00 when the surgical prep team arrived and rolled her away.
“Should be finished by ten,” one of the white lab coated attendants said as the gurney disappeared behind a pair of double doors that swung shut behind them.
The café in the lobby had an extensive menu and seemed like a good place to pass the time. Service was slow, a fact that I appreciated with hours of waiting looming before us. The food arrived and we dragged out the process of eating as long as possible, then opting to escape the stuffy confines of the hospital, we strolled outside and sat on the curb, sucking in exhaust fumes and watching the guard direct traffic. Fatigue gathered between my shoulder blades. The long bike ride and worry for my friend were taking their toll. “Ketut, let’s see if we can find a comfortable place to sit.”
The open waiting area on the second floor had chairs, but comfort wasn’t the goal when they were designed. Ketut settled himself and didn’t move. I, on the other hand, squirmed, contorted, and flopped around like a fish on land but couldn’t find a position that worked. The hands on the clock crawled. At 10 p.m. bleary-eyed, I approached the women behind the desk and inquired about my friend. She punched a series of numbers into the phone, and rattled off a question in Indonesian then smiled and said, “She just begin surgery now.”
“Oh no!” I groaned which brought Ketut, frowning, to the desk.
“You okay? Problem?” he asked.
“They just started the operation. Still two hours more.” I could feel muscles seizing up in my lower back. A couple more hours in those chairs…but what other option did we have?
I lowered myself back into the cracked plastic covered seat, shifted to the right, the left, hooked a leg up over the sharp wooden arm, lowered it again, kicked off my flip-flops, pulled both legs up with my feet tucked close to my butt, and rested my head on my arms folded over my knees. I hadn’t expected to sleep, but thirty minutes later a sound startled me awake. Ketut, in the chair beside me, was out cold, snoring.
For about the zillionth time in my tenure as an ex-pat in Bali, an intense rush of gratitude careened through me for the man asleep beside me. Spending the night in a hospital in Denpasar is not part of his job description. It’s not even close. But he’s wired Balinese, and while the western mind is all about individuality and independence, the Balinese value community and interdependence. Those beliefs form the foundation for every selfless decision Ketut makes, and I am the direct beneficiary of that.
At midnight we got word that the operasi was finished. At that hour the hospital was shrouded in a tomblike silence. We approached the door to her room and slowly pushed it open. I expected, if not sleeping, at least a groggy face. “Hi Sherry!” she chirped, flashing a huge smile. After two hours in the operating room she looked far fresher than I felt.
“They didn’t put you under, did they?”
“I don’t think so,” she said, and I exhaled a long breath of relief.
“You look great, and, if you don’t mind, I think we’ll go home now!”
We bid her good sleeping and found our way to the parking lot. Sometime during our night vigil it had rained and the helmets hanging on the motorbike were soaked. “Oh good,” said Ketut. “Make head not hot.” Laughter erupted out of me.
“Really, Ketut? Is everything always good news?”
“Ya,” he said, and with that we headed for home.