The Jakarta Post
In July 2015, I had a health scare when the result of my prostate test at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore, showed a very high level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a cancer marker for the prostate. Dr. Gerald Tan did a biopsy on me and gave me antibiotics for 30 days. After the 30 days had passed, my initial scare turned out to be a false alarm. Dr. Tan informed me that the rise of the PSA level had been caused by an infection and was not an indication of cancer. My PSA had come down to three.
About five years ago, I did a checkup of my heart with Dr. Oon Chong Hau, also at the above hospital. The result showed that I had a 50-percent blockage of the big artery and that I had to closely observe my heart's condition. Years have passed since and I continue my daily routine, including tennis.
The opportunity to go to the US offered itself when Vice President Jusuf Kalla invited me to join his delegation to attend the UN General Assembly in September. In between two programs, I had the chance to go to the Mayo Clinic for a checkup on my prostate and another on my heart. According to Dr. Matthew Gettman of the clinic, my prostate's condition was back to normal as my PSA was 2.7. I was so relieved.
However, my relief turned out to be very brief when the chief cardiologist, Dr. George Gura, told me the results of the tests. The stress test on the treadmill run and angiogram showed that the heart blockage, which was only 50 percent five years ago, had meanwhile worsened to 90 percent and could be life threatening. That was my second health scare.
The team of Dr. Gura, Dr. Thomas Behrenbeck, who now practices at Eka Hospital, BSD City, Tangerang, and Dr. Djamin, an Indonesian cardiologist, who was in Kalla's medical team, proposed that I urgently undergo a heart bypass operation.
Dr. Behrenbeck explained the condition of my heart so convincingly that, all things considered, I concurred. After the meeting at 12 p.m. I was admitted to the hospital for surgery at 2 p.m. and at 3 p.m. the operation began. Luckily, my brother Sofjan and his wife Riantini were also at the clinic for their respective checkups. They helped me contact my family about my surgery, before the arrival of my two sons two days later.
It was a very successful operation with four bypasses and it was done within one hour by Dr. Kevin Grayson, the heart surgeon, who was called upon to do the surgery on his day off. The operation was done incredibly and intentionally fast to limit the impact of anesthesia on the brain and on the memory. That evening I was put up at the ICU, but the next day I was sent to a regular room at St. Mary's Hospital. The teamwork and system established around the last five years made is so different from before, especially relating to the duration of the operation and the pain the patient has to endure. I did not suffer any pain thanks to this new system.
My problems were two: Number one was the boredom during the five days in hospital, with Rochester TV being unentertaining; number two was the tasteless food. Overall, my stay was good and, most importantly, it was painless. The crowning joy was the visit of Pak Kalla and his family.
The Mayo Clinic is one of the world's best hospitals and may be the best for particular diseases. It is visited by around 500,000 patients a year from different parts of the globe. Patients come from all the 50 states in the US and nearly 150 countries in the last century or more for hope, healing and answers. The teamwork among the 3,700 doctors and scientists seems to be fantastic. The Mayo Clinic is also well known for its research and medical training. At the outset, the Mayo family, a co-founder of the clinic, emphasized that its basic tenet was to support health and health care through philanthropic activities. Two brothers, William and Charlie, lived on half of their income and invested the other half in funds for medical education and research, following their father's example about giving back to others. Twenty-five years thereafter, this fund was used to establish the Mayo Clinic as a non-profit institution.
The Mayo Clinic is the best institution we should learn from, especially on coordination, teamwork and the inter-disciplinary approach to solving problems. It is good that an expert like Dr. Behrenbeck is assisting the Eka Hospitals in Indonesia, especially in cancer and heart diseases. Indonesia already has modern, good hospitals, such as Medistra, and newer ones also include the Mayapada and the Eka Hospitals.
Ever since he was mayor of Surakarta, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo has put a lot of effort into promoting health care. He knows that health and education, without which there is no way of having a more equitable society, are critically important for Indonesia. Prosperity and democracy will flourish only when we have healthy and well-educated people.
For that purpose, efforts of regional and international cooperation are imperative and should not subjected to myopic considerations in the name of narrow national interests.
The writer is vice chair of the Board of Trustees of the CSIS Foundation.
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