THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Visiting the children again

I was on clinic duty again today. Yesterday I was on duty in HRPB Ipoh. Today I was on duty in Taiping Hospital. But when I met the staff nurse at the ID clinic, I was told there were no new cases to be referred to me today.

So why should waste any more time at the hospital, huh? I might as well go visit the family I’ve been visiting regularly for the past few months… the family of Dahlia. I had already informed Dahlia earlier that I’d be visiting them after my clinic duty to deliver a used baby’s dining chair donated by a friend of mine.

The moment I got to the house, I heard loud cries from a baby. That had to be Dahlia’s grandchild, of course. (For those who may not have followed my blog earlier, Dahlia’s daughter Dilla was raped when she was 15, became pregnant and gave birth to this baby girl late last year.) Dahlia told me earlier that the baby is usually not so friendly with strangers, but when I got in the house, I took the little girl in my arms and she stopped crying. Ahh… she just wanted some attention.

I didn’t expect to see Dilla at home though. I thought her off-days (from the culinary college she goes to) are Wednesdays, but today is only Tuesday. Apparently she took MC for today to bring her baby for her regular appointment at the Klinik Kesihatan. Usually Dahlia would bring the baby for appointments, but today she wasn’t feeling too well and so she asked Dilla to tag along.

Dahlia’s 14 year old son was also home today. He leaves home about 11.20 am to go to school for the afternoon session. A bicycle was bought for him earlier, making it easier for him to go to school and to attend co-curricular activities in which he is very active, however his bicycle had been stolen at school and so now he has to go to school by bus. When he has activities to attend, he walks to/from school. His bicycle wasn’t the only one stolen. It seems because too many students go to school by their own vehicles (bicycles, motorcycles and even cars for some form 6 students), the school doesn’t allow the students to park their vehicles within the school compound. Not even the bicycles. And while the students do lock their bicycles, the locks are not attached to any fixed poles, and so while thieves aren’t able to ride the bicycles, they can carry the bikes onto a pickup/lorry and drive off. That was what possibly happened because quite a number of bicycles were stolen that day.

Anyway, Dahlia’s 2 younger children aged 2 and 3 were seeking extra attention today. They were climbing all over me while I was chatting with their mother. The boy was showing off the children’s books that I brought for them last month, while the girl happily landed on my laps and with that sweet smile of hers kept staring at my face. (hmmm… wonder if I looked funny to her…)

The children are already excited about the coming Family Day to be held at Lost World of Tambun. I hope it won’t be too difficult to drag them home after the event is over.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Today’s new and old cases at the clinic

It has been quite a while since my clinic duty ended later than noon. Of late, there’d usually only be only one new case, maximum 2, or the case that’s supposed to be referred didn’t turn up at all.

Today however was an exception. There were 2 new cases and one old case referred, with one more case which was supposed to be referred but by the time the nurse wanted to refer the guy to us, the guy had already taken his medication and gone back. I ended up getting home only at 2pm.

The first case referred was that of an Indonesian lady married to a Malaysian. She had previously started her medication when she was in another state, when she followed her husband who initially worked in Perak, but went back to his hometown last year after he fell ill and was diagnosed HIV+. He was so weak back then that his sister decided to take him home.

Halfway through the session, the lady mentioned her husband’s name and suddenly I realised… hey, I know this guy!! Yep, I remember when his case was referred to us last year, this couple was not married yet but had been staying together for quite some time. And I remember after this guy was brought back to his hometown, his sister called me up to seek help for this Indonesian lady. You see, without a valid marriage cert, while she can get treatment from our government hospitals, she’d have to pay for the medication.

It was only then that they decided to legalise their marriage. With proof that she is married to a Malaysian, she could get free treatment just like her husband. According to her, her husband is doing much better now and has started doing odd jobs to earn an income for the family. This lady herself, who once only weighed 37kg when she first started treatment, now already weighs 52kg. So yep, it looks like things are getting better for this couple.

We had to wait a while before the next case was referred. The next case referred was actually an old case, a client of mine, Azi, whom I had lost contact with after she lost her hand phone. The nurses decided to refer her case again, because the girl has since married and is now pregnant. Her husband has so far been tested negative. They are staying together with Azi’s mother-in-law, who is excited about the prospect of getting a grandchild. The MIL however, doesn’t know that Azi has HIV, and chances are she’d want Azi to breastfeed the baby. Azi and her husband better be prepared to deal with all the questions.

There were supposed to be 2 more cases referred to us after Azi’s, which resulted in us having to wait. However, one had left after he got his supply of medication, while the other only came to see us at 1 pm. By then, another client of mine, Aini, who was warded recently, gave me a call, trying her luck to see if I was at the hospital. You see, she had an appointment at the hospital for her kidney problems, and if I was at the hospital, she wanted to see me to seek some help.

Thank goodness the last case referred to us didn’t take long as the guy has family support and didn’t really need our support services.

As I got out of the support service room, Aini and her 18 year old son were already waiting for me. Usually Aini would be accompanied by her eldest daughter Erin, but Erin is currently in her final semester at a polytechnic.

Aini wanted to seek my help as she can’t afford to settle her hospital bills. With the many procedures that she had to go through when she was warded recently, including all sorts of tests and a minor surgery, the bill came up to a subsidized amount of RM500. Previously she didn’t have any problems with hospital bills because as a recipient of monthly financial aid from the Welfare Department, all she had to do was show her welfare card and she’d be exempted from paying.

However, ever since she became weaker, Aini, together with her children, moved to her parents house. When her case got reviewed by the welfare department, her father’s pension was included as part of the household income for Aini, resulting in the monthly financial assistance for her being discontinued. Other than the monthly educational assistance she’s getting from us for her youngest son’s schooling expenses, Aini has no other source of income. Since then her father had to support them with his pension.

Thank goodness we have our Clients Welfare Fund, basically to be used for one-off payments like this one.

Anyway, Aini’s son today expressed his interest to become a volunteer. Wow! Before this his sister Erin had expressed the same to me, and now him? I am so pleased and proud of course that I managed to inspire them to do voluntary work, but today, I told him to volunteer to take good care of his mother first. It is good that he wants to be a volunteer, but a mother must always get top priority.

One fine day, when the situation is better, I can take both sister and brother under my wings and train them to become volunteers.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Visiting the HIV+ child

When Mar first called me about 2 years ago, seeking help, she had just found out of her HIV infection. Her husband, with CD4 of only 2, was very weak and the family really needed help financially. Since it was rather difficult to assess their situation via phone call, I decided to visit them at home.

Since their house was not that easy to find based on address alone (just like the kampong where I’m staying in now), I told Mar I’d call her once I reached a certain kindergarten at the foothill. Mar then sent her 19 year old daughter down on a motorbike to meet me and then show me the way to their house. Other than this daughter, the couple had 2 other daughters, one teenager, while the youngest one was only 2 years old then.

The youngest girl? During that first visit, she had already been tested but the results of her blood test was not known yet. About 2 weeks after that visit, I called Mar. My fears came true. The girl was confirmed HIV+.

I had not visited this family after that first visit. Yes, we still keep in touch via phone calls and from time to time I do meet Mar when she comes to Ipoh for her hospital appointments. Her eldest daughter is now married and stays elsewhere.

Last week Mar called. Her second daughter, who had completed her matriculation, was offered a place at a local university. Her only source of income is by selling nasi lemak in the mornings, so she is concerned about having to pay the over RM2K registration fee. I advised her to apply for assistance from Yayasan Perak and Baitulmal, however for both, even if approved, she won’t be getting the money immediately. She’d have to pay a certain amount first to the university before they will consider releasing the money. I guess this is to ensure that the students will indeed register, and by paying at least a minimal amount, there is commitment on the part of the family.

While I did suggest to Mar to apply for help from those agencies, I also sought help from my friends on FB. Within hours a few friends committed to donate some money for Mar’s daughter. Enough to ease Mar off her worries. And since I had not visited this family at home ever since that first visit, I figured I might as well visit them to hand over the money instead of banking the money into Mar’s account.

And so, yesterday off I went to visit Mar and her family. Since during the last visit, I simply followed Mar’s daughter to get to their house without paying attention to the left or the right, I wasn’t fully confident I’d be able to remember the way to their house. And since Mar sells nasi lemak near the kindergarten where her daughter came down to fetch me the last time, I told Mar I’d either meet her there, or if she had already gone home by then, I’d call her from there.

It so happened I reached the kindergarten just on time. Mar and her husband had just finished packing up and was just about to go home. I just followed them home, this time paying more attention to landmarks to remember so that next time I don’t need them to show me the way.

I remember the first time I visited, Mar actually asked me if I was “brave” enough to drive to her house. Apparently some people don’t dare drive down the very steep hill to get to her house. “Kalau akak jenis brutal, boleh la,” she said. Well, this time, she didn’t bother to ask again. I guess I made it to her “brutal” list… hehehe…

2 years since my last visit. The house looks the same. But her husband who was bed-ridden during my first visit, can now help out at the nasi lemak stall. His CD4 has gone up from just 2 to over 100 now. Her then 2 year old HIV+ daughter, is now an active 4 year old. According to Mar, the girl doesn’t have problems taking her medication but she’d insist on Mar giving the medication personally to her, not from anybody else. The girl does ask from time to time why she needed to take her medication every single day without fail, and so far Mar had been telling her that the medication is to kill worms in her tummy. Am not sure how long that excuse will work on the girl.

Mar’s main concern is on the future of the little HIV+ girl. Will the girl have a future like any normal child? Will she make it to adulthood?

I told Mar of a few other cases where children who were born HIV+ have grown up. I can’t really promise Mar there will be no problem at all for the girl, but at least she knows the girl is not the only one having to go through this. With the support she’s getting, at least she can learn from what the other HIV+ children have gone through.

Anyway, Mar’s second daughter, who will register at the university early next month, was not home when I visited. The girl works temporarily at a cafeteria, washing dishes, to get some pocket money for herself before she goes off to university. Good for her. She is responsible enough not to depend too much on her parents financially, knowing the hardship her family has to go through.

I do hope she will succeed in her studies and that one day she will be able to help her family lead a better life.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Family Day Preparations & More Home Visits

Last Tuesday we finally had our first Family Day meeting for this year. While we had already decided during our last Board Meeting that this year’s Family Day will be at Lost World of Tambun (again!), this recent meeting was more to finalise the statistics and logistics.

We had our Family Day in LWOT a few times before this, and each time it’s held in LWOT, the turnout would usually be very high. The children simply loved it there. Our previous record was 112 pax (including volunteers). And it looks like this year we will break that record. So far we have 140 pax confirmed (NOT inclusive of volunteers), 82 of them from among my clients alone, including a few first timers.  It’s good to note that many of my clients who previously needed me to fetch them at the bus station, this time said they will go on their own to LWOT. Makes life easier for me, I don’t need to arrange for that many volunteers to help fetch the clients.

On Wednesday I went to visit Fuzi at her home. Even Fuzi said she and 3 of her kids will be going on their own by 2 motorbikes for the Family Day. 2 of her children won’t be joining. Her 2nd daughter who is in form 6 this year, said she wanted to stay home and study, while her son Hafiz, is now staying elsewhere with his friends. Joining the event will be her 2 youngest sons, and her eldest daughter Wina who is still on semester holidays. She will have to go back to university immediately after the Family Day.

Anyway, I brought along a box of children’s jeans (used) which I got from a donor earlier this month. The 2 boys got excited when they heard about it. They even offered to help carry the box from my car. Their old jeans are mostly already torn, or they have already outgrown them. The youngest boy managed to get 3 pairs while his older brother got one pair for himself. At least now they have new pairs of jeans (ok, so the jeans are used jeans, but at least they’re new to the boys) to wear for the upcoming Family Day.

Yesterday I got a call from another client, Mar. Her 2nd daughter, who completed her matriculation, has been offered a place at a local university. Mar is worried about the fee she needs to pay when her daughter registers at the university early next month. Her only source of income is from selling nasi lemak every morning at a makeshift stall by the roadside. No doubt she can apply for PTPTN, but that will take time. What she needs now is some cash to pay for the initial registration fee. And I’m sure the daughter will also need to buy some other stuff once she registers. I told Mar to try applying from Yayasan Perak for the initial registration fee while I would try to get some help for her as well.

And get help I did. All I needed to do was to update my FB status and within less than half a day, some friends, who obviously already know the kind of voluntary work I’m involved in, agreed to donate some money for this girl. I plan to visit them next week to hand over the money.

And oh, Mar also has a 4 year old girl who is also HIV+. Maybe I can get her to try out the jeans too… hopefully there is at least one that fits her.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A Training Session & A Hospital Visit

When the Buddies board decided to hold a training session for our volunteers on the topic “What To Do & Not To Do As A Volunteer”, and asked me to be the speaker/trainer, I decided to make it a very informal chit chat session with the volunteers, discussing the topic based on our past experiences with our clients. Oh okay, I was actually too lazy to prepare something more detailed…

But yes, the session last night was more of a discussion session. Thank God for that, because earlier during the day, I had an emergency and had to drive to Shah Alam to attend my aunt’s funeral. If I was just one of the volunteers attending the session as a participant, I could have probably given the training session a miss. But I was the trainer, and so I had no choice but to attend. Which was why I drove back to Ipoh immediately after the funeral.

It had been quite a while since we last did a training session for the volunteers. In fact it had been very difficult to get the volunteers to gather. Even for our AGM we usually get just enough quorum. And so I was quite happy this time 20 people (including myself) attended the session.

I may not be the best person to conduct the training, but I think I made the right decision to make it an informal session.

Anyway, yesterday morning I received a message from Erin, informing me that her mother, Aini, had to be hospitalised again. When she sent the message, they were still at the emergency dept, because there were no vacant beds available in the wards. This morning when I checked again with Erin, I was told that Aini was already in the ward, waiting to undergo a minor operation.

So after my asr prayer today, I decided to visit them at the hospital. The moment I got into the ward, I saw Erin waving to me. Saved me the trouble of having to go around from bed to bed to look for Aini. Aini’s mother was also by her bedside. Aini herself looked so skinny. She definitely had lost a lot of weight. For someone who is my age, she certainly looked a lot older, not because I am the awet muda type (THAT I am definitely not), but because of all her ailments. Other than HIV, she had also been struggling with kidney problems, and of late there had been so many other complications as well.

Aini’s daughter Erin had been with Aini the whole time since she was brought to the emergency dept, right to more than 24 hours later. She hadn’t even had the opportunity to get a proper meal for herself. Since it was visiting hours and there were a few of us there, I told Erin to go down and get something to eat. The poor girl, who is in her final semester at a polytechnic, had already missed 3 days of classes and will probably miss classes until the end of the week to accompany her mother at the hospital.

I know Erin is tough & strong emotionally, but I could also see from her face that she was also quite stressed out. I do hope her studies will not be affected by her mother’s health condition.

I will need to follow up with not just Aini, but also with Erin as well. She sure needs some moral support.