My 2nd Appendectomy or the reason why I
would not let a Singaporean doctor cut hair.
In February 1982 I was living in Singapore. I had
been living there for about 1 year. I had just returned from a field
assignment in Bangladesh. After being back for about one week, I started
having stomach pains and went to the doctor in Singapore. The doctor
took some x-rays, and I was told that I had appendices and would have to
be operated on immediately. Being new to Singapore, I was a assured that
the health care was excellent it was under that assumption that I went
to the hospital.
The surgeon Dr. Y.C. Lee assured me that the
operation would be simple and quick. He advised me that a small number
of patients had an adverse reaction to the anesthetic, but he did not
think it would be a problem in my case (I should have taken this as a
warning). The operation went smoothly, I was released from the hospital
after 3 days, just in time to start my cementing class at Halliburton,
my employer at the time. All was well, or so I thought.
In March 1984, my job with Halliburton was
finished and I had moved back to Jakarta. I awoke on a Monday morning
with a cramp in my stomach. The pain was excruciating, getting worse. A
local doctor came over to my residence and gave me some Biscopan, a drug
which is suppose to relieve stomach cramps, and I promptly vomited. The
doctor said I need to get to the hospital now. So my good friend Alex
assured me that all would be well, and drove me from Kebyoran Lama to
the Pertamina Hospital about 10 km from my residence.
The doctors that examined me an internist,
surgeon, and urologist where mystified as to what the problem could be.
They could clearly see the scar on my abdomen showing that my appendix
had been removed. I always thought that if the pain became bad enough I
would pass out. I was wrong. After 3 amples of Morphine every spot on
body was in excruciating pain. If someone touch my ears waves of pain
would wash over me.
I had a temperature of 105oF, and a
very high white blood cell count showing infection, the pain was so bad
I was given an anesthetic. I could not respond, I could here the doctors
but could not speak. I was dying and I knew it, I had a feeling of
impending doom. The doctors had taken x-rays but could not see what
exactly was wrong. They deiced it had to be something with my intestines
but they where not sure what it was. I was given a 40% chance of
I was dying, in my mind I was a hanging over a pit
of oblivion by my feet and hands with nothing underneath, if I let go I
would die. I was angry, I did not feel that it was fair for me to die in
this much pain. It was so bad that I would have let the doctors operate
with any anesthetic.
I was wheeled in to the operating room 12 hours
after arriving into the hospital. The operation took 4 hours. I was told
that the doctor in Singapore had left 3 cm of my appendix in me. That 3
cm became infected and broke. I had Peritonitis, there was a massive
infection in my abdomen. My intestines were removed cleaned up and
replace. I was still in a great deal of pain for the next 24 hours. I
was given several I.V. bottles of antibiotics to bring the infection under
It took about 5 days to recover. My bill for those
5 days, including all medicine, operation, room and care was US$1,100.
After I recovered I made a trip to Singapore to
show Dr. Y.C. Lee my new scar. He said, "That does not look like my
wound." I told him it wasn't and explained what had happened. He then
said, "Legally, I did not even have to operate, I could have just
inserted a drain instead. Besides, your not the first person to accuse
me of taking out a wrong organ!"
At this point I left his office, I was speechless.
I was going to sue, but I found out the its impossible to sue a doctor
in Singapore, for no doctor would ever testify against another doctor.
So I had to let it go. I later found out that the average size of an
Asian appendix is 6 cm. Apparently because I am 195 cm tall, my appendix
is a little longer, about 3 cm. So as far as I could find out, they took
out only 6 cm and left the other 3 cm. Who knew why? But that 3 cm very
nearly killed me.
But since that time I have vowed never to go to a
Singapore doctor for anything. It is interesting to note that over the
years, nearly every single person that I have met has either, came down
with a serious illness or died as I direct result of obtaining medical
care in Singapore. Whenever I start a new job, I make it very clear that
if I need medical care and can't speak, I am NOT to be brought to
Singapore under any circumstances. I will either stay in Jakarta or go
to Thailand, but never to Singapore.
If you are in Southeast Asia and need medical care
your better off going anywhere but Singapore.
What four angry Indonesians can do with meat
I had just returned 3 days earlier from a working
in Vietnam to the office at 75 Jl. Widjaya. At the time I was working
with John Brown who shared this house/office with Jim Swansen and Don
Barnsdroff. We sometime worked on projects together, or sometimes
separately but at least had a spot were (In the era before cell phones)
we could be located.
On June 3rd 1988 after discussing my trip into
Vietnam and a couple of other projects we had in the works, I thought
instead of lunch, I would go down to the Hilton and get some exercise at
Clark Hatch, as was my habit in those days. As it was 12:00 pm (Noon) I
took my briefcase and went out to my car SUV Chevy Luv which was parked
in its usual spot in front of the house/office.
I had no idea the anything unusual was going to
happen has I put the key into the lock and opened the door. As I sat
down in the drivers side holding the black Halliburton brief case in my
lap, an Indonesian rushed forward pull the door open and swung
hard in a downward stroke cutting the bone in my right forearm in two.
The second blow struck across the back knuckles on my left hand locking
my index and middle finger in the forward position. At this point both
my right and left hands were rendered unusable.
I thought I have to get out of the car NOW! Before
I get killed, just sitting in the drivers seat. Using my left foot, I
kicked the drivers side door open pushing one Indonesian away, when a
second man with another meat cleaver swung directly at my head. I
blocked the blow with my left arm and got myself into the open roadway.
This was the first time I notice that there were 4 Indonesians in all
and 3 had very sharp meat cleavers 1 had a machete and using two
motorcycles as transportation.
At that point it was ON! People trying to kill me
really pisses me off. Since my hands were useless, I could only use my
arms to block. So I was placing some good kicks on to my opponents. But
the Indonesians kept there motorcycle helmets on, so any kick I made to
the head, only temporarily stunned them.
Instead of running has they expected I chase after
them. I received additional blows across my arms and right leg and I was
amazed to discover there was no pain, only a numb feeling with each
blow. One of the attackers as he was backing up kept yelling "Awas ada
ilmu!" He knows magic!
While this was going on the servant from Mr. Jim's
house locked the gate so that the attackers could not reach the office.
However, this also cut off my only means of escape, forcing me to fight
or die trying. This probably a good time to mention that there were 20
cars stopped in the road watching the fight from the safety of there
It was unfortunate that I could not use my hands,
I kick one of the attackers in the chest hard enough to break ribs,
causing him to drop the machete. Had I been able to pick up the weapon
the tables would have turned quickly to my favor. As it was, I was
holding my own. They were quickly tiring of the fact that I was not
about to lay down and die. I was concentrating so hard on where the
blows were landing that I was unable to speak. Unlike a movie were the
attackers wait there turn, these guys were attacking from all 4
directions at the same time.
After 5 minutes (Seemed like 2 hours) they got on
the motorcycles to escape. I chased one motorcycle for 50 meters
actually had my hand on the back of his shirt intending to pull him off
the back of his motorcycle to break his neck. Unfortunately I discovered
that despite what you see in films, it is not possible to close your
fist when the bone is broken in your forearm. They took off escaping
into the daylight.
One of the Indonesians watching the show asked if
he could help. I would have preferred his help 10 minutes earlier when I
was fighting for my life, but in the end I took him up on his offer and
accepted a ride to the closest hospital which was Pertamina.
After leaving a liter of blood on the floor and
back seat of the good Samaritan's car I walked under my own power in the
emergency room at Pertamina hospital. They immediately laid me down on a
gurney and brought me into the emergency operating room and proceeded to
clamp off my arteries without the benefit of anesthetic. This was mainly
because my blood pressure was 60 over 50, and the leaks had to be
Unlike the initial injuries, the clamping of the
blood vessels and arteries was very painful. In order to check my red
blood cell count, a sample was taken from my groin as there was to
much damage to get a sample from my arms. They needed to see if I
required whole blood. That was very painful. In fact the nurse came back
1 hour later saying, "We did not get the sample to the lab in time, we
will have to take another sample." My reply was "Forget It! If I die so
be it, but there is no way that anyone with a needle is going near my
groin again! So as I am still here I guess I did not need whole blood.
I was in the hospital for 5 days. The doctors
decided to leave my right arm broken for 2 weeks while they waited to
see if there was any bone infection. Unfortunately the bone in my right
forearm was cut to a sharp point like a chicken bone, and was very
painful. Fortunately, the doctors were very generous with morphine which
kept me out of pain enough so I could sleep.
While I was in the hospital I received a call from
the American Embassy Security, asking if there was anything they could
do. They asked me to come down for a visit. After I was out of the
hospital, I went to the US Embassy and met with the head of Security. He
wanted to know if I thought the attack was political. I told them I did
not know anything yet as I just got out of the hospital. I asked if I
could see the US Embassy doctor just so I could ask if he thought I was
getting the right medical treatment. The doctor refused because I did
not work for the US Embassy. I said, "All I want is a little advice." He
replied NO the doctor is afraid that you will sue him.
So realizing that the US Embassy wanted to know if
they were in immediate danger, and I was not about to get any useful
help, I left. When I asked the Consul General why I could not get some
assistance I was told; "The US Embassy is here to explain US foreign
policy to the Indonesian government, we are not here for the
benefit of American citizens." When ever I get in trouble in a foreign
country, I always remember what I was told.
Interestingly I received visits to my home from
Vietnamese Intelligence, Russian KGB, BAKIN Indonesian Intelligence both
offering sympathy traditional medicine from Vietnamese (Used by Ho Chi
Minh) and an offer to be examined by a Soviet doctor. All 3
organizations swear they had nothing to do with the attack. However, I
did not even get a get well card from the US Embassy let alone a
It was 3 weeks before I could use my hands to eat
and not be spoon fed. I healed quickly after a titanium plate was placed
in my right arm. The operation was done with use of a local anesthetic
so I could watch the operation. Again after about 2 years I had the
plate removed and watch the entire operation using only a local
anesthetic. This was good because the doctor wanted to graft a tendon
and because I was watching what was going on I was able to make a
decision at the time preventing a 3rd operation.
We found out much later that the attack was
intended for Don Barnsdorff. Who said, he was working for the CIA. The
killers (These aren't rocket scientist) were told to get the tall white
guy when he comes out. I just happen to come out first. I don't think
Don worked for the CIA. I believe he was just a belligerent drunk that
pissed someone off to the point of killing him. He left Indonesia in
I am now left with scars on my left and right
hands as well as my right leg, that hurt when it rains. I guess all in
all it could have been worse. In America I probably would have been
jumping out of an airplane is never a good idea.
I am not sure why I listen to Mike Newton ranting
about skydiving in 1985? But it was one of those things that seemed like
a good idea at the time.
Mike belonged to a Expat skydiving club that jumped out
of perfectly good aircraft at an old air field in Serpong West Java,
about 4 hours from Jakarta. The
first time I tried skydiving, was on a tandem jump. At 5' 4" the dive
master, was a good foot shorter then myself. We got into the plane,
which took off down the grass runway and lifted up into the sky.
At 10,000 ft people started jumping out of the
plane. As I was wondering what in the hell am I doing up here, I made my
way to the door with the dive master and myself hanging half way up out
the door. As I lifted my hands from the floor of the plane saying "I
think I have changed my mind." Since he pushed off at the same time I am
sure it sounded like I said; "I think I have changed myy
miiiiinnnnnndddd!" as I went hurtling toward the earth.
I think what I noticed the most was that after
about 1,000 ft, you loose the sensation of falling as you reach
terminal velocity 120 miles per hour. At 3,000 ft. the chute opened and
we glided safely back to the ground. Since I was taller than the dive
master I had to lift my legs up so that we would impact the ground at
the same time.
I must admit it was different and kind of fun.
Mike was telling me if you like that, you have to try AFF (Accelerated
Free Fall). With this program, you get a couple of hours of ground
training the shoved out of the plane at 10,000 ft, free fall with 2 dive
masters and then you pull your own chute, and come back safely to earth.
Well even though I did not pay attention to the
ground school as I should have. In my defense I was distracted by this
cute Indonesian girl. We went up the following weekend.
I put the jumpsuit and parachute on and we took
off and got up to 12,000 ft. Mike, myself and another dive master jumped
together out of the aircraft and plummeted to the earth. After 1,000 ft,
we reach terminal velocity and lost the sensation of falling. As you are
falling at 120 miles per hour, there is no doubt whatsoever that if the
parachute fails you are going to die when you hit the ground. We free
fell for about 45 seconds, I had enough time to look out at the
landscape and setting sun. It was quite beautiful. At 3,000 ft, I pulled
my rip cord and counted to 10. The chute opened with no problem and I
was gliding safely back to the earth.
The wind was against me and the landing site, so I
thought I would rather land away from the landing zone, then try to get
closer and inadvertently end up in the 6,000 volt power lines.
This is why its important to pay attention when
someone is giving you instruction, on which your life depends.
As I was coming down, I tried to flare the chute
to soften my landing. At about the top of a telephone pole, I collapsed
the chute. I went back in free fall for the last 40' ft. I stupidly
stuck my left hand out to break my fall, I slammed into the ground. As I
was laying on the ground I was thinking I must have broken something, I
was I thinking my arm. I tried to move but since everything hurt, I felt
it best just to lay on the ground a while longer.
After the other skydivers seeing me laying on the
ground and not getting up, they ran the 500 ft to where I was laying on
the ground and help me turn over. It was at this point I realized I had
dislocated my left arm. It was very painful, my elbow moved 4" into my
upper arm. Mike and another skydiver offered to take me to the hospital.
In 1985 the toll road between Serpong and Jakarta
was not yet built. So we went to the nearest hospital which was Pertamina in
South Jakarta 4 hours away. By the time we arrived at the hospital that
Saturday evening, the adrenaline had long since worn off and shock had
start to set in. I walk into the emergency room and the nurse was
called. She looked at my arm, then spoke into a phone. She came over and
said, "The orthopedic doctor is out and won't be back until Tuesday. You
will have to come back on Tuesday." I said, "Look I cannot wait 3 days,
so about if I dislocate your arm and you come back on Tuesday!" She left
sensing I was not in a good mood and came back with a syringe.
She said, "I am going to give you a shot of
Morphine, you can go to the clinic on Jl. Kebon Siri in Central
Jakarta and they can take care of you immediately." Mike kept asking me
"Is it working yet?" My reply was "NO!" Again, "Is it working yet?"
"NO!" After about 7 minutes, "Is it working yet?" I smiled and said,
We got back into the car and went to the clinic.
On the way to the clinic I suggested we stop off at the disco, but we
decided that the Morphine may wear off if we took any detours we went
straight to the clinic. After about 20 minutes the doctor showed up with
another man built like a weight lifter. He told Mike you may want to
leave for awhile you are not going to like what we are going to do to
So Mike went to go get some fried rice (We had not
eaten since morning). The doctor tells me we are going to relocate your
arm. I told him "Not conscious your not." He said, "No, we will be using
valium, this will put you to sleep and relax your muscles."
So I was given an injection of valium and to sleep
I went. Well not quite, from my point of view, I could see only a bright
white light. I felt my clothes being pulled quickly off my upper body at
Then I could hear someone screaming, only I could not tell were the
screaming was coming from.
It turns out the screaming was coming from me.
Thinking I was in pain (I probably was, but not aware of it from my
point of view) the doctor gave me another injection of valium. It took a
good hour for me to come too.
Mike and friend having finished his meal, came to
get me out of hock. Paid the bill so we could go home. We got back at
the staff house around 11:00 pm. The next day when I woke up my whole
left forearm was black and blue. Maria this girl I had just met, would
help me on the road to recovery over the next month.
I never jumped out of a perfectly good airplane
again. Nearly a year later Mike Newton and 10 friends was killed, when a
plane they are going to skydive out of crashed.