An expatriate nurse who has lived and worked in Bali for over two decades, Kim Patra is perhaps best known for her well-informed biweekly column in the Bali Advertiser called "Paradise...In Sickness and in Health." It was through this invaluable column, which I read religiously every issue, where I first contacted her for advice on how to quit smoking.
With great alacrity and acuity, Kim’s email response steered me towards the few vendors of anti-smoking aids on Bali, but it was her personal phone call and her obvious concern over such a comparatively mundane health problem that convinced me that all that I had heard about her were true.
It was not so long ago on Bali that information of any kind was hard to come by, so if there was a health issue, Kim was the one to call. Few long term expatriates have not had cause to call upon her expertise at some time or another. Kim is, in a sense, "our" nurse.
What is less known is Kim’s pivotal involvement in the Bali bombing that took place in the morning of October 13th 2002. She was one of hundreds of medical volunteers and professionals who arrived on that horrific scene during the first traumatic days following the destruction of a busy Kuta nightspot that claimed the lives of hundreds, wounding and maiming many more.
Kim Patra’s recently published book, In The Arms of The Angels, launched in Bali in October of last year, is a poignant account of that horrible event through the eyes of a health professional, an expatriate, a woman and a mother. It is a true story told with empathy, humor and grace as she salutes her colleagues, her peers and her patients.
British born and Australian raised, Kim has spent the best part of her adult years on tropical Bali during which she has gained a deep understanding of the local language, culture and religion. Her unique perspective gives her a vantage point few others possess.
Kim grew up and qualified as a nurse in Australia, and is a registered member of I.B.I., the Association of Indonesian Midwives. In spite of the advances of modern medicine, Bali’s public medical facilities struggle under the weight of a complex beaurocratic system. In order to make progress within this system, one must know where to go, who to approach and how to approach them. The right words have to be spoken to the right people. This is where Kim comes in.
I was curious why her family emigrated from the UK to Australia and how the move went. "My entire extended family left UK for Oz, so it would have been more traumatic for me to stay there than to leave. I always dreamed of tropical shores even as a child. I was 13 when we left and fitting into the new school in Australia was hard. Strangely enough, it was the other British migrant kids who were the really aggressive ones! The Aussies themselves and the other migrant kids were pretty laid back. But I did make a concerted effort to lose my British accent pronto!"
Why did you take up nursing? "I come from a family of health care workers, but to be honest nursing never really appealed to me. I had always wanted to study medicine, but I don't come from a wealthy background and could not afford the study. I married quite young and in those days nursing was on-the-job training and you got paid for it, so nursing it was! Midwifery was almost a standard lead on from general nursing in those days, but I must admit I enjoyed that specialty more than general medical. The patients essentially were not "sick," yet there was still enough adrenaline to keep you on your toes, especially in labor and delivery."
What’s it like nursing on Bali? "The expats expect pretty much the same level of treatment as they would in their own countries, which can be difficult sometimes, although I am always very frank about the island’s limitations. Many of the local people I treat are often quite uninformed about their health, so it can take long explanations sometimes to try and explain to them what is going on. Many are disappointed when I don't give medication or an injection, as their usual doctor always does."
Can you recount any dramatic experiences that have occurred during your employment at the international clinics? What is the most common treatment? "People do some pretty stupid things sometimes. It seems if they are on holiday they think that they are almost invincible. Unfortunately, of course, that is not the case. The most common condition that you see would definitely be the belly bugs."
Why did you start writing your Bali Advertiser column? "I can't remember! I think they asked me to put something together, and they liked it so it became a regular thing. I love writing. My column is also a way of promoting my own practice and bringing some home health truths to the community at large."
Do you ever give wrong advice? I guess being a mere mortal it has happened on occasion. I like to keep all the advice that I give up to date and backed up by current literature, so the risk of ill advising someone is kept to a minimum.
Contact Kim through her health column (email@example.com) or check out her book, In The Arms of The Angels, website:www.inthearmsoftheangels-bali.com.
Copyright@2004 Al Hickey
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