In the lead up to celebration of Willie Kee's 80th birthday, we will share a series of "This is your life" stories, written by us for him and maybe even some written by him.
Written by: Willie Kee
It was around February 2005 when I woke up in the morning with an acute pain in my chest and sweating a lot. I had dinner late the night before and thought it was indigestion so I asked my wife to get me some Quik-Eze.
However, the pain persisted and finally I consented to visit the doctor later that afternoon.
After a brief check-up, the doctor announced that I had had a heart attack! He proceeded to call a ambulance to take me to the hospital which was only 500 metres away.
A heart attack I thought - aren’t you supposed to keel over right away? Anyway I was 64 and didn’t smoke and always played sports so how could this happen?
There I was lying in Sunnybank Private Hospital with a pill stuck under my tongue to “help me breathe better” they said. After an overnight stay I was transferred to Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital due to something about my insurance.
There I was put through a test which involved pumping coloured dye into my veins and they could tell where the blockages were. Sometimes, if the arteries are not too blocked, a thing called a STENT can be inserted and this opens the vein up. But, mine were far gone so only a by-pass operation would work. An operation scheduled for about a couple of months later and I was sent home.
I remember it was Chinese New Year and I was helping out together with my son Darren, doing the rounds of the Lion Dance. We would pass the PA Hospital at night and I was dreading going there for the operation. I mentioned to the sifu (Master of Kungfu) about what was happening to me and he said "You are fit so don't worry you will be ok."
Luckily about a fortnight went by and I received a phone call to say a vacancy had come up and I could be operated on earlier. Before the operation I had to talk to the doctor about what they would do and he pulled no punches. He said they would cut the rib cage apart and the possibility I could die!
Operation day and Mie Mie dropped me off and after registering I was told to go to the pre-op room. There I was given a green hospital gown to wear and sat all alone waiting for someone to come. When you are in that room many thoughts run through your heard and suddenly you are in a wheelchair being gathered around a table. I think I found it amusing to see the face masks and gloves looking at me and then remember counting to ten (or trying to).
I told Mie Mie not to come to the hospital next day but when I woke, there she was with at least one of the kids. I was in ICU with a rod stuck down my throat and some things stuck in my stomach so not a pretty sight.
Not long after I was moved into a room with three other patients who had been operated on too. I was told I had a quadruple operation and a vein taken from my right leg to do this. I think they asked me before the operation which leg I wanted to get the vein from. A funny thing was the person who did the surgery on my leg, took great delight in bringing other nurses etc to take a look at how neat and straight the cut was healing!
The rod thing was taken out the next day I think and I was given a device that looked like a pipe with three small balls attached to it (like ping pong balls). The idea is to blow the pipe until you can get all three balls to jump up at once. Of course, to exercise your lungs because once your heart has been interfered with, a lot of phlegm builds up in your lungs. I remember the man next to me and we would be urging each other to do the exercise. The woman opposite us would just be reading a book and we kept asking her to join us to do the blowing but she said "later". Anyway, when the doctors came around to test us, the woman could not get one ball to and would start crying while she saw our three balls jumping up!
After two days, the stomach attachments were removed as well and they made us get out of bed and helped us walk to the toilet and have a shower. Then we had to walk up a steep flight of stairs. If we could walk up those stairs unassisted we could go home. It must have been on the fourth day I did it and was allowed to leave.
The main memory I had of being in the hospital was during the night, A nurse would come around with a torch light on her head and either gave me an injection or take my temperature. Then I would hear the clatter of high heel shoes walking away! I will always remember saying to myself, "why do they allow nurses to wear high heel shoes?"
It was a natural thing to be depressed after the operation and I did break down in tears one night while looking out the window. The night nurse who I suppose was used to this, embraced me for a while and told me I was ok.
I think the memory of the night nurses coming around and how such a great job they did was, the underlying reason I wanted to be a volunteer at the hospitals.
After going home I had to go for longs walks to get my lungs working. Month or two later I also had to attend physiology at the hospital where we did circuit training at their gym.
A couple of my sisters came up from Sydney to see if they could help out Mie Mie at the house so I am grateful to them while Mie Mie was so strong through out the whole ordeal.
When you get better, you think how long will I last now that I've been opened up as I read where some people needed another operation just two years later. Luckily I am still here 16 years later. I've travelled overseas on golf trips and played regularly after my operation and have been a volunteer at the PA Hospital for 5 years.
I took an interest in playing the Ukulele and perform sometimes at concerts and at the hospital and find it a relaxing thing to do.
So with my 80th birthday looming what do I think about?
Mostly, that my children and grandchildren have a wonderful life as I believe I have had. That my wife continues to put up with a cantankerous person who she met long ago and still give her love to.
I think about my brothers and sisters who have reached their eighties as well. Also, the ones who are younger and the brother who was taken from us much too young.
In an age of non-technology, the things we enjoyed as kids, the children of today will never have or do. Hopefully what they have now brings just as much joy.
I look back at decisions I made years ago when I decided to travel. Going to live in New Zealand, then leaving Sydney to go to Cairns but ended up in Darwin.
A 'snap' decision to get married and so lucky to have three wonderful children who care for me. To have three grandchildren to watch grow in to fine adults.
I have been to countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand and encourage the young ones to spread their wings and some day travel the world.
I have met some good people and many bad ones but that is life and you have to work them out and you will find who your real friends are.
I expect to go on for a few more years and hope to travel overseas with family or to another golf trip. The plan is to keep healthy and have faith that Covid-19 will be overcome sooner than later.
Some advice my mother always said, " always take a jacket or pullover with you when you go out and always carry some money in your pocket."
Another one was "keep active as long as you are mobile - don't just sit around in your old age,"
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO EVERYONE"
We are a family of shopkeepers. We share our journey with the world, right from where we are. If we were to plot on a map where our family hails from, of course, the majority are from China and Indonesia, and now Australia, however we are still discovering the facts of our heritage so much is still unknown. We were raised in Darwin, Northern Territory, and when our ancestors arrived to Darwin, unfortunately, after the tropical cyclones Darwin is renowned for, a lot of our records disappeared. This journey we share is about documenting our lives now, for our next generations and also for providing the difference we want to make right now.