Crucial cleanup keeps young hopes alive

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 December, 1993, 12:00am

YUE Mei-yuk had no idea when she accepted a job at the Prince of Wales Hospital, just how crucial her contribution would be to the lives of desperately sick children.

Yuk Tse, or Aunty Yuk as she is known around the hospital, keeps the children alive - literally.

As ward attendant in the Hong Kong Paediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, her major responsibility is keeping sterile the ''bubbles'' which keep the children germ-free.

Tucked away in a corner of Ward 7B is a room with two separate units. Each has a bed, life support systems and a television set. The most prominent feature of each unit is the plastic sheet stretched across it.

This is where children are confined while they wait for, and after they receive, bone marrow transplants.

Yuk Tse's job is to keep the entire room, inside and outside the bubbles sterile.

''I have to sterilise everything in the room, including the floor, the ceiling, the walls, the beds and everything the children use, to make sure they are germ-free,'' she said.

Dr Patrick Yuen Man-pan, Reader in Paediatrics at the Chinese University and founder of the unit, is lavish in his praise.

''She is a very important member of the team because if she does not do her job right, all the efforts of every one else would come to nothing. All it takes is for a child in a weakened condition to get an infection and that will be it.

''My point is this. In a team like ours, there are no 'lesser important' members. Yuk Tse has to mop the floor, wipe the ceiling and walls and do a lot of other things every day. Although her job is routine and tedious, it is very important.

''We are working as a team here in this unit, and everybody has a role to play and no one is more important than other people,'' Dr Yuen said.

Yuk Tse, 30, said that when she first started at the Prince of Wales three years ago she was extremely nervous. She was constantly haunted by the thought of the children becoming infected.

''But I am no longer nervous. I think positive. I tell myself if I do a good job of keeping the room clean, the children can get well and leave the hospital sooner,'' she said.

While cleaning the room, Yuk Tse talks to the children.

''I tell them to believe they are very healthy and don't need to worry about their illness. When they refuse to take their medicine, I'll coax them and convince them it really is good for them,'' she said.

More than 30 children have received bone marrow transplants at the hospital.

''I treat them like my own children. Sometimes I don't like seeing them leaving the hospital, but at the same time I'm very happy to see them getting well and going.'' Yuk Tse said her job had taught her a very important lesson. Every time she sees the children in the isolation bubbles, she realises how lucky she is to have a healthy six-year-old son. She said he was still too young to understand how lucky he was.