The Art of Visiting the Sick in Brunei by Pollyanna

I'm sure you've visited people in the hospital before. And I'm sure you have your own etiquettes while visiting the ill. Being around a hospital environment this last week made me see that us Bruneians sometimes have our own rules of visiting the sick.

Rule #1. Visiting as soon as you have heard a loved one or friend has been admitted

Us Bruneians tend to spread the news by word of mouth. I once learned that my second cousin was getting married from an office colleague whom I had just met a couple of weeks. And because of this most effective form of communication, patients have yet to warm their bed when before they know it they already have visitors.

This just goes to show how caring our society is. It probably also stems from the belief that everyone will have their turn to get sick so it's best to visit those that are sick before you yourself need to be visited.

Rule #2. Bringing giftbaskets or 'buah tangan'

Sometimes us Bruneians are just so generous that we would buy anything to make the patient feel more at home and more comfortable. I suppose the most popular among hospital gift baskets are food items.

Now, on a personal note my Dad is a diabetic – a severe one – and during some of his stints in the hospital I have caught more than one well-intentioned visitor bringing my Dad chocolates or biscuits with sugar content that could up his sugar level through the roof.

But be that as it may, we love to bring little things to patients because it's just in our nature, isn't it? But it's not just us, some of my foreign friends also like to bring little souvenirs when they visit people in the hospital but they usually range from gifts of flowers to fruit baskets to little 'get-well' cards.

Last night my best friend bumped into this couple who had intended to visit someone at the hospital only to find out that that patient had already been discharged. So they gave this friend of mine a whole tin of Jacobs crackers which was initially intended for their sick relative/friend. You know the kind – the ones in the big tin!! Now that is what you call 'rezeki' or blessing, no?

We are a generous and caring bunch, are we not?

Rule #3. Staying as long as possible while visiting the sick

I'm not sure how to justify this. Perhaps visitors feel that they need to visit for the length of time equivalent to the length of time it took them to find a parking space. Now that would make sense for a certain public hospital where parking spaces are very scarce, but what of a certain private medical facility in Jerudong?

There's ample parking there most times I go there so it would make sense that visitors did not have to go round and round the parking lot for hours just to secure one parking spot. Still I see visitors staying by the patient's side for the full 4 hours of visiting time allocated during the evening.

I suppose that's what you'd call loyalty, although a bit overdone. But still loyalty.

Now some people would equate not visiting as a disrespect. I always hear "eh si anu balum melawat ah? / Has So-and-so visited?" or "Si anu seminggu sudah inda melawat ah? / So-and-so hasn't visited in a week, has he/she?"

So I think visiting and showing up to the sick patient is a way of earning points with the elders.

I know I heard one person say, "I've been here since 2pm and now it's 6:30 pm already. What time did 'you' get here?"

So what exactly is the real intention of visiting, do you think?

At this private hospital we all know, an announcement goes off every time it is time for visitors to leave and at the end of the announcement it always ends with:

"Pesakit perlu berehat / Our patients need to rest"

My sidekick has come up with some interesting alternatives in making the announcement more effective – albeit some of his alternatives are a bit on the rude side. Maybe one day he'll demonstrate for you if he's in the mood. Or not.

I think the announcements are very useful.

Sometimes people respond well to a faceless voice giving them instructions – then they can't identify the person to give them the evil look. Neither can they reprimand them for being disrespectful to people who have made the effort to come all the way, risk their cars trying to squeeze into illegal parking spots and visit their friend / relative / colleague / insert anything here. And also the next time they see the the announcer they won't be able to get revenge for having the gall to 'kick them out of the hospital'.

It works everytime at this private hospital. I wonder if the same were to occur in the public hospitals. Or perhaps the noise would just drown out the announcement. Please see Point #6 below.

But at times, when I see the patient literally dozing off from sheer tiredness (boredom??) while the visitors are talking away about worldly events I wonder whether the one needing company is the really the patient or in fact the visitor.

Note to self: If I get lonely, must go to hospital and pay visit to any sick relative/friend I know and stay there til I no longer feel lonely.

Rule #4. Visiting at all hours

Have a look at the person standing/sitting right next to you. Do they have a watch? If they don't there's a high probability that that person would visit a sick person at 11pm in the evening. Because they wouldn't know that it was already 11pm and it was time for their sick friend/relative to rest and sleep.

But what if these people who visit the hospital late at night do own watches. Some mighty expensive watches I might add?

Yes, I've heard of many stories about how visitors just keep piling in to the wards even as late as 11:30pm at night. I can imagine how long it took them to find parking if they could only get in by half past eleven. So now, think of how long they would need to stay just to make the long parking search worth while. Hmm. You get my point?

Rule #5. Having a peek at every person in every bed in the ward

This is one of my personal favourites. Not because I do it but because it so amazes me why quite a number of people actually feel the need to see everyone accommodating every bed in the ward. Maybe if I looked closer, I'd probably see an attendance sheet in their hands. Yes, perhaps they're the wardens of hospital wards. Silly me for making such a big deal over this matter.

One time one of my close relatives needed to be in a separate room, closed off with only a sliding door with a very big window to separate him from the other patients.

And while I was there, quite often I would see these unfamiliar faces through the sliding door gazing at my relative with such an intensity that one time I actually came out and asked the person if they knew my relative and if they wanted to come in and pay a visit.

Needless to say the person went red, looked at his shoes and mumbled something like, "eh nda payah eh, kan meliat saja. / Er, no need.. I was just having a look."

I don't know. Maybe he knew my relative but was afraid he wouldn't be recognized. Or maybe he was just shy. Yes, Bruneians can get very shy at times.

Note: All sarcasm aside, (yes, didn't you notice I was being a little sarcastic?), I suppose what I did was a little wrong but I just don't get what's so interesting at looking at another sick person who has no relation to you at all.

Rule #6. Talking (really) Loudly with the Patient

Oh, this is another one of my favourites. You can learn a lot at the hospital. Not just about illnesses, but also about what someone's neighbour just bought for their new house. Or how many A's someone's cousin's son got for the latest PSR exams. And I don't even know these people, but somehow I've become quite close to them.

I always wonder if we just like to talk loudly, or we feel a kindred spirit to all those around us. So much so that we don't mind sharing such intimate stories in a room full of other strangers.

Perhaps every hospital ward should set up a stage and have visitors take turns going up on stage to unload the latest piece of personal gossip they have up their sleeve.

Doesn't everyone just love a hot piece of gossip? Come on now, admit it. You do!

Oh and don't mind the nurses every time they tell you to pipe down. I mean, it's not as if there are other patients in the ward who need silence to rest and try to heal, right? No, of course not. Mi casa, su casa.

'Put up your feet - Make yourselves at home'… should be the logo for every hospital.

Rule #7. Bring Your Own Children (BYOC)

Yes, children. Those adorable lil poppets that you just can't leave at home. Yes, even while visiting someone who's got a very contagious disease.

Yes, I do suppose that perhaps some couples don't have anyone to look after their children while they go out. I mean, not all Bruneians are lucky enough to have live-in housekeepers.

So rather than leaving your child at home unattended where there could be so many things that could go wrong, what's more safer than bringing your kids to see a patient who has a disease? I mean, if you can't see the disease, then it must still be safe enough to bring your 3-year-old daughter, right?

Oh and don't forget to shake the patient's hand before and after visiting. You must always teach your children good manners.

Then there are those who still bring their children but have enough sense to leave them in the outside halls rather than bringing them in to see the sick. Yes that's much better because then the kids will have the freedom to test their physical abilities by running around up and down the corridor, coupled with demonstrating how loud their vocal chords are to patients who's beds are fortunate enough to be right next to the hallways.

My, did you ever notice how kids just love to scream their hearts out? It is just so endearing. I want one of my own right now, just so I can take them to the hospital and show off their screaming skills. It's what every parents dream is.

So those are just some of the things I love about going to the hospital and the things I've picked up while observing other people. If you want to see some great examples being demonstrated, just go on and head over to the nearest hospital. You won't regret it. Oh and if you see a girl hunched over in a corner, writing little notes in her notepad, be sure to say hi! If you're lucky, you might get written about somewhere sometime.
Today's tongue-in-cheek but very insightful entry is written by someone who prefers to refer to herself as Pollyanna. She is a regular hospital goer (not by choice) and just wanted to bring to light some of the habits of other hospital visitors and whether people realised the impact of their actions on other patients and hospital visitors.


anakbrunei said…
Well written Pollyanna! You've captured it so accurately! I've had the pleasure of being warded in the public wards quite a number of times and everytime, it never fails to amuse me the antics of all these visitors. Pikir durang pasar malam kali wad hospital ani??
p o t a t o said…
heehee. I enjoyed reading that post!

I actually thought she was for real and said to myself, "eh, always look at things in positive light" until I read the 'didnt you notice the sarcasm' bit. XD

A really good post! Thanks Pollyanna.
Anonymous said…
bringing AYAMKU as "buah tangan" should be in the list. hahahaha. I dont think someone who's bed ridden after having four wisdom tooth extracted would appreciate it as much. hahahahaha. And it happened to me :(
Anonymous said… forgot to mention the picnic around the patient's bed..hehe

I just hate hospitals. Even visiting someone there makes me cringe. Its the best place to catch any diseases and I always make sure I have wet wipes with me so I can clean my hands after touching anything..and I just can't imagine why any parents would bring their young children there.
Anonymous said…
In our religion, it is customary to visit the sick. It's not actually supposed to be just a Bruneian thing. If I'm not mistaken, it is to panjangkan umur the visitor.
Anonymous said…
Assalamualaikum all,

Glad to have openminded readers. Yes, well, you can see all kinds behaviours when you go to the hospital. No doubt there are those that are helpful and caring, but then there are the exceptions.

Hopefully, we can see more of the helpful and caring ones in the future.

Yes, it is instilled in our religion to visit the sick. A hadith from Prophet Muhammad SAW goes:

“The rights of one Muslim over another Muslim are six.” Someone asked, “What are they?” The Holy Prophet replied, “When you meet him you greet him with salaam (peace), when he invites you, you accept his invitation, when he consults you in a matter, you give him sincere advice. When he sneezes and praises Allah, you ask Allah to have mercy on him. When he is sick, you visit him and when he passes away you accompany him i.e. you join in his janazah (funeral).”

So visiting the sick is our obligation as a Muslim. But with this obligation comes certain etiquettes we must observe.

Thank you Mr BR for the opportunity to blog on your site.
Anonymous said…
Our religion encourages us to visit whoever get sick or pay our last respect once we heard that somebody we knew passed away be it in hospitals or houses. Its just to remind us that we are not that 'immortal'and one day we will follow them... As to what we should do or bring while visiting them, in fact our religion did teach us the proper way BUT the problem with us is that we didn't follow. It goes without saying that hospitals (public/private) did have proper guidelines for public to visit patients like timing for example. But, did most of us follow? If I am not mistaken its also stated that children under 12 years old are not allowed in! May be its timely we put security guards to make sure that public will follow the notices! OR may be we want to stick as 'friendly hospitals/ environment/nurses' where public can come as and when they like it!
Anonymous said…
And I thought we're suppose to let patients rest, so why visit them and stayed for 4hrs and call it caring?

Hehe. I can't tahan the awkward-ness having the nurse giving me a jab or helping me to pee while my friend/relative waiting outside listening to what's happening behind the curtains if I kana tahan in hospital..
Anonymous said…
my grandma was hospitalised for a couple of weeks, and it somehow became a competition among my relatives to see who could "last" the longest during visiting hours or who brought the biggest fruit basket. i guess i can't blame my grandma for suddenly developing a phobia for hospital.
Anonymous said…
I am one of those who work in the hospital. I agree that having visitors are good, like they said the more the merrier.BUT they should visit according to visiting time given. The time limit has been IGNORED in such a way that some visitors think they have the right to visit any time they like without thinking the welfare of the sick. Some visitors feel OFFENDED if they are told that the visiting hours are over OR it is not the visiting hours yet. Even in places like MICU & SICU (places for the intensive care), some visitors are reluctant to obey the rule of visiting...
Anonymous said…
We all know the 'things' people do - specifically Bruneian visitors, when they visit the sick and frail in the hospital. I noticed no one denied that this happens... and more sadder is that people take the author's sacarsm in a funny light, thinking its a funny piece instead of an educational piece and/or an insult piece with an intention to open minds and hearts of readers to change!!!

As a hospital staff (NOT NURSE), i had advised numerous people not to visit too long or too many at a time, and everytime this advice had been heeded temporarily! As soon as i was out of sight or earshot, they start all over again..

So hear my plea... the hospital administration had tried to instill the visiting laws and hours, but yet again, it has not been heeded...

why don't we all, brainstorm for solutions/ideas to keep this negative behaviour at bay, instead of constantly attacking the issues from different lights/views. We need the support and co operation of all to make a difference...

Lets work together and make a difference... that should be our attitude... and... When you are in the hospital admitted... or your family members are admitted... you can make a difference by telling them to hush down, or remind them of the visitng hours or encourage limitation of visitors per bed and most importantly the importance of privacy...

WE ALL CAN MAKE A DIFFERNECE... Think about it... it strats from us... and it stops from us!

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