On the death of a good friend

By Joe Hhung

I’ve lost a friend. Dr. Hung Ching-chang (洪慶章) left the world last Wednesday. He was 83.

We were the best of friends. We met 64 years ago at Dormitory No. 7 of National Taiwan University, where we lived together as roommates for two years. The dorm was for students of the College of Arts where I majored in English and the College of Science in whose pre-med department Cheong-ah (章仔) was enrolled. He called me Ao (青), the first letter of my Japanese surname of Aoyama (青山). Incidentally, Aoyama in on’yomi, which the Japanese adopted for Chinese reading of a kanji or Chinese logogram, is Seizan, meaning “the graveyard.”

Another roommate was Jeffrey Tung (董昭輝), my classmate. We called him Teru (輝), which is a part of his renamed Japanese name of Teruo (輝雄). At 83 now, he is still teaching Japanese linguistics at Soochow University in suburban Taipei. Cheong-ah and I were not just roommates. We were bedfellows as well. In the early 1950s, dorm rooms were infested by mosquitoes. Our defense was to put up a mosquito net. So, we put our two cots side by side and put up my larger net to cover both of them to sleep within it to fend off the pests. Cheong-ah and Teru were both straight A students, who often won school speech and essay contests and spent their cash awards for a paupers’ dinner for three in those severely undernourished dorm days. I don’t know why Cheong-ah chose neurosurgery as his specialization. At any rate, he became a pioneer in his field and a professor of neurosurgery at our alma mater. He also served one time as president of the Asian Congress of Neurological Surgeons, one reason being that he was a polyglot. He spoke good Japanese, English and Chinese as well as tolerable German, Spanish and French.

He continued to teach and practice after retirement, though he had cancer of the liver two years ago but recovered. It was early last month when he caught pneumonia. He was sent to an intensive care unit (ICU) at the National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) on Sept. 14, where he suffered septicemia and another infection and failed to survive. Septicemia is also known as blood poisoning. When I was considering a by-pass operation more than 23 years ago, another doctor friend of mine cautioned me against undergoing it at NTUH. At first, Dr. Lien Wen-pin (連文彬), head of the NTUH department of cardiology and archiater, or designated physician, for President Lee Teng-hui, didn’t tell me why I shouldn’t have surgery at the most prestigious hospital in Taiwan. Under my pestering questioning, Dr. Lien had to admit to me that there used to be incidences of post-surgery infection that might kill me. But Cheong-ah urged me to take it at UTUH, because he could persuade Dr. C. J. Hung (洪啟仁), head of its department of surgery who introduced by-pass surgery to Taiwan, to operate on me. C. J. did, while Cheong-ah watched the entire by-pass operation for seven long hours. I didn’t suffer post-surgery infection. I didn’t succumb.