It's been 10 years since the disastrous events of my honeymoon and in that time I've told this story plenty of times, but have never actually sat down to write it out. I thought that since it's now 10 years since my diagnosis I would take the time to write out what happened to my wife and me on what was supposed to be a celebration of our new marriage...
So here goes...
Megan and I were married on the 18th March, 2000 having been together since 1994. Megan was 15 when we started going out at The Salvation Army's Music Camp and I was 17. We've been together ever since. The weather on that mid-March Saturday was a scorching 35 degrees. The men in the bridal party had been out playing golf the day before and we all got sunburnt. So I was feeling a little tired as a result, and so the night before the wedding I had gone to bed early. I remember my sister-in-law, Kate, had made the boys lunch - lasagne... yum! But strangely, I didn't eat it all. Anyone who knows me well will realise that "leftovers" is a swear word to me! Nothing get's left on my plate! Still, it was my wedding day... Everything went well. We declared our love for one another, signed the marriage register, exchanged rings and were off for our reception. Again, though, at the reception I didn't eat all of my dinner. A little strange for this to happen twice in one day, but hey it was my wedding day! This was a unique occasion...
The wedding day ended and we were on our honeymoon. We'd booked flights to Bali. It was a trip we were both looking forward to. Megan had been there twice before and convinced me that it was a fantastic place to visit. Little did I know how important it would become that Megan had been there before and established friendships with the Salvationists there. She wasn't wrong about the place. We arrived there on the Monday. About 10 hours earlier my mother came to the airport to take our car.
"Have you lost weight?" "No mum." I quickly replied with my head down, not really wanting to talk to my mother on my honeymoon! She was right though, and I was about to lose a lot more.
Bali was beautiful, and since we arrived at night it was Tuesday before we could get out to start to see the sights and get some serious shopping done... In the morning we set out. I was pretty tired though. It had been a stressful time, as all weddings are I'm sure, and so I figured this was normal. I only made it about 500 metres down the street when I said to my new wife "I think I need to go back - I can't go any further" Maybe it was the humidity, but needless to say, Megan was NOT impressed... Nevertheless, we returned to the hotel and relaxed in the pool. We tried to venture out again later that afternoon, but the same result. About 500 metres down the road, I couldn't go any further... It was so hot here! I was drinking like crazy. So much so that I was rising every couple of hours in the night to get a drink... And then go to the toilet... Probably because I was drinking so much. I was getting through 4 litres of water a day...
On Thursday 23rd March, just 5 days into our marriage, I said to Megan "I need to go to the doctor". Clearly I was not well, and I thought that since we still had 10 days left in Bali that I should nip this in the bud and then we could enjoy the rest of our honeymoon. We had some details of a Medical Centre that was run by Australians and so we went there. We caught a taxi, even though it was just around the corner. I told the doctor all of my symptoms - tiredness, excessive thirst, excessive urination, loss of appetite, etc... (I can hear the groans of medical professionals already!) "You're just dehydrated - drink more Gatorade and take these Berocca" (I still have the medical report from this visit somewhere!) Whatever you say Dr!
I walked away from the Dr feeling pretty good, for a little while at least. I actually sent some postcards home that afternoon saying "been sick, but feeling much better now". The irony of this is that nothing was further from the truth, particularly when my family actually received the postcards just a few days later!
The next night we went out for dinner to a nearby (very nearby!) restaurant. I hadn't eaten much at all in the few days we'd been in Bali, and since it was "only dehydration" I tried to force down a significant meal. From memory, it was some sort of pineapple pancakes and a milkshake. Big mistake! Moments later it all returned, just after I'd made it to the bathroom... Here was the next symptom. Vomiting. Things were not looking good.
On the Sunday it was time to change hotels. Because the hotel we were moving to was owned by a Salvationist Megan knew in Bali, we went to the Sunday meeting at The Salvation Army (Bala Keselamatan) in Denpasar. The building there is a long, two storey complex that has the hall at the front, the Officer's home in the middle, and the girls home at the end. They look after many girls here, some are orphans and some just cannot be cared for by their families. Megan knew some of the girls from her previous visits and was getting reacquainted with them. I was in the Officers house getting acquainted with the toilet...
Anyone who's been to The Salvation Army in Bali will know that their services go for about 2 hours. Well this day was a special occasion and so it went for 3! I missed most of it though because I was either asleep on a bed in the Officer's house, going to the toilet, or vomiting. I was still under the impression that this was just dehydration and so was trying to keep the prescription down... Gatorade! Fortunately, a Dr from Malaysia was at the meeting that day. He happened to have some tablets for vomiting which he gave to me... Looking back, I'm not entirely sure why you would give someone who is consistently vomiting tablets to take??? Nevertheless, I was grateful for him taking the time to have a look at me. From there we went to the new hotel.
By this stage I was really very unwell. I did not leave the room much at all. All I could keep down was some tea and light soup, but even that came back up eventually. By the Monday night I was dry retching. All I remember saying at that point to Megan was "I need help. You've got to take me to the hospital". I was in a terrible state... For anyone who's ever driven in Bali you'll know that it's an experience in itself. Now consider that when you're at high speed in a rush to get to the hospital and violently ill... Not a pleasant mixture.
On arrival at the hospital I began to list off my symptoms again to the medical staff; Tiredness, excessive urination, excessive thirst, vomiting, complete loss of appetite... yet it seemed that all they could see was "Tourist + Sick = Bali Belly". I don't remember how many times I had to tell them that I didn't have diarrhoea. In fact, I hadn't done anything close to a "number 2" for days! In the mean time, Megan was on the phone to both the Travel Insurance company (***Please note the importance of Travel Insurance from this story! The bill for this adventure came to about $30,000!!!) and home to let everyone know what was happening. They were already aware that I was sick, but I don't think even we had a clue as to how serious it was... I said earlier how important it was that Megan had been to Bali before. From that moment until we left that holiday isle we were never left alone. Think about this, 24 hours a day for the next 2 days, someone from The Salvation Army in Bali was by my bedside, supporting Megan, loving and caring for us in a time of absolute desperation. I'll never forget them in our final moments before leaving, standing around my bedside singing "I surrender all" in Indonesian. That was a very significant and moving moment for me. I knew, from their presence, that God was present too.
Back in emergency (the same emergency ward that you may have seen images of when the Bali bomb exploded 2 years later in 2002), after 3 hours of trying to figure out the problem, they called for a Neurologist. This doctor, whilst Indonesian, had trained in the USA. She took one look at me and asked "Have you checked his Blood Sugar levels?" "No" was the reply... After one little test they woke me up to whisper in my ears... "We think you have diabetes" This was Monday, 27th March, 2000 at about 9:30pm. My immediate response was one of relief. "Finally a diagnosis! Now get on with it and fix me."
We didn't really realise the enormity of the situation we were in. We both still felt that there may be something left to salvage of our honeymoon. I don't know what I was thinking, but I still wondered whether we may get a couple of days looking around Bali in... I'm actually thankful to God for that naivety. It protected us, mentally, from the shock of what was really happening.
There were so many "God moments" in all of this, that it still amazes me. The travel insurance company (who were brilliant let me add!) sent a local Dr to look after me. She was a Christian and at one point prayed with me. I've already mentioned the support from the Salvationist friends we had there. I was also placed in what seemed like the presidential suite! It was huge! Not that it mattered when you're sleeping for 23 out of the 24 hours in a day... It was also funny when I became the next "exhibit" in the nurse "training" show. A group of nurses would come by every now and then, someone would say something in Indonesian, point at me and my chart, and then walk out. After a couple of these I waved and tried to make a joke of it. Then there was the offer for "rice gruel" for breakfast! So glad I didn't have any appetite!
One of the lowest moments was when I spent close to an hour with Megan desperately trying to eat and swallow a single piece of bread. Because I was so dehydrated my entire mouth and down my throat was completely dry so I needed to have a mouthful of water in between each tiny piece of bread... I gave up after about half of the slice. I really didn't want to eat but in my mind I knew that I had to have something to survive. After discussions with the Drs and the travel insurance company, and realising that my condition, whilst somewhat stable, was definitely not improving, the decision was made to fly me out of Bali to Darwin. So at midnight on Wed 29th March, an Australian Doctor arrived checked me out (immediately changed my cannula!) and we all hopped into an ambulance to get to the airport as quickly as possible. When we arrived at the gate to the airport, surprisingly, they weren't going to let us through. Just at that time, on the tarmac side of the gate, we could see a small 4WD vehicle speeding over our way. It was another of Megan's friends from The Salvation Army who worked for Singapore Airlines and had an appropriate clearance level. A few words from her and the gates were opened. Thank God! (Remember, this is about 12:30am and these friends of ours were out doing everything they could to assist us, even though they barely knew me). We sped across the tarmac to a small plane, similar to the Royal Flying Doctor's Service. There were two pilots, the doctor who had come to pick us up, a nurse, Megan, me and our luggage (just!). We packed in and took off. Not before delaying several outgoing flights, of course!
|Me in Darwin hospital enjoying my first full meal in about a week. |
(Fri 31st March, 2000)
I've actually come to a point now where I can honestly say that I thank God for this disease. I know that sounds really strange, but I have a permanent and daily reminder of God's grace and support, of the love and care that fellow Christians showed to me (and continue to show to me), and of the sufferings of Christ. When I inject needles (and now replace my insulin pump cannula in my stomach) I use that to remind me of the spear that went into Christ's side. When I prick my fingers, I think of the nails piercing his hands. So I've had literally thousands and thousands of reminders of the love and grace and saving activity of Jesus Christ.
Who wouldn't want that?
"Thanks be to God for his indescribably gift!" (2 Cor 9:15)
My mother had a similar experience when we were visiting the Denpasar Corps in Bali. I had stayed behind in the hotel to do some work and my mother decided to take a one day bus tour. She was in her seventies and diabetic. Apparently, she was suffering from heatstroke on the tour and the ambulance rushed her to Denpasar hospital. Then I was called at the hotel. I immediately left the hotel for the hospital, but before doing so, called my friend Made (the owner of the hotel you refer to and the corps sergeant-major at the time) and he and some other salvationists immediately came to the hospital. From then on the Salvation Army stood by and made sure that my mother was never left alone.
As for the medical knowledge there - they did not seem to have any clue about diabetes. I told the doctor that my mother was diabetic and he simmply said that he did not know anything about diabetes - they were waiting for the specialist. In the meantime, I noticed a nurse bringing my mother a sandwich with sugar on it -which I immediately threw out. I checked my mother's blood sugar to determine that it was extremely high and realized that, in addition to the heat stroke, she was also close to diabetic coma - so I immeidately administered the insulin to her which I had brought with me from the hotel. The Denpasar medical knowledge is not quite what you would expect of a hospital; they really are behind the times.
But, the people from the Salvation Army were wonderful. (Note: I used to teach at the training college in Jakarta)
Ron (Salvationist from Cariboo Hill Temple in Vancouver, Canada)