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, 6 March 2007

In loving memory of Rose

Rose was a cheerful lady. She had delivered her 3rd child when her husband died. It was through normal delivery, and for a month or so she was breastfeeding her baby.

Only after her husband died did she go for a blood test.... and HORRORS! She found out she was HIV positive. "My baby! What about my baby?!" she thought. She had been breastfeeding him for a whole month!

Thank God the baby was spared. Tests after tests had proven that the child was negative. The boy is 10 years old now and living healthily.

One of her husband's colleagues who knew about his HIV status, so happened to be one of their neighbours. During the husband's funeral, there were whispers going around saying that he died of HIV. Within a day, the whole neighbourhood knew he had HIV and suspected she was infected too.

Rose and her children then moved to stay with her mother at the family house, together with her sister and brother-in-law. While some of the family members were understanding enough, some were still feeling awkward about sharing things with her. Her own loving mother, who didn't know what HIV was in the first place, whenever friends and relatives came to visit and asked what Rose's illness was, she'd just tell them innocently, "HIV." Again, the whole neighbourhood knew.

When Rose's mother died a few years later, her family problems worsened. Rose sort of became dependent on her sister's husband for help. Her sister got a bit jealous and said things she shouldn't have said. Most of these HIV infected persons are very sensitive and so Rose really felt hurt with what her sister said. So, with the help of a male friend, she and her children moved back to her late husband's house without telling any of her family members. She even changed her mobile number so they couldn't contact her either. At that time, even the Buddies lost contact with her. Her buddy then was a Chinese guy (I had not joined them yet). Although Rose was okay with him, she was not comfortable enough to share her personal problems with him.

It was only some time later did her family members manage to locate her. They didn't expect her to go back to her late husband's house so they didn't bother to check that place earlier. By this time Rose had already been diagnosed with cancer of the cervix and she had become dependent on the male friend who helped her to move earlier. Ah yes, the male friend, that's another problem!

This male friend actually told the family members he intended to marry Rose. That left the family fuming. They were rather suspicious of him - he knew Rose was HIV positive, so why did he still want to marry her, they wondered.

Well, I understand their suspicion. Only problem was, due to this, Rose's relationship with her family members didn't get any better although at that point of time, she needed as much support as she could get. Rose needed people to depend on while the family members didn't want to help her unless and until she forgets her boyfriend. She was getting weaker, had to go for radiotherapy in addition to her HIV clinic appointments, yet when she asked for help from her own family members, they gave her all sorts of conditions. So, in the end she still sought the help of her boyfriend, who was more willing to help.

When Buddies finally managed to get hold of Rose's latest contact details, a few of us went to her house to visit. We were told by her neighbours that she had to be warded at the General Hospital. We immediately went to the hospital. The Buddies had lost touch with her for some time already, we needed to know her condition. Rose cried when she saw us. She was touched. Other than her boyfriend, nobody else visited her at the hospital. Not even her family members.

From then on, I was assigned to be her new buddy. We hit it off almost immediately. She told me everything about herself from A to Z. As she was rather weak to come to the hospital by herself, whenever free I'd fetch her from home and send her to the hospital and then later send her back home. Initially I used to meet the boyfriend. But as Rose began to get closer and closer to me, I saw less and less of him. Apparently, all Rose needed was someone to depend on, not necessarily a boyfriend or a husband. If only her family members supported her more...

With the boyfriend slowly beginning to get out of the picture, the family began to visit her more often than before (but still not often enough). One time she was warded for 2 weeks and her children stayed with her brother during that period. She told me she missed her children so much because during the 2 weeks, not once did the brother bother to bring the children to visit her at the hospital. What a pity.

Rose was too weak to work and the only income she got was her husband's pension of about RM200 and another RM200 from the Welfare Department. She had 3 schooling children to support. I found out then that her children's school fees and 3 months bus fares had not been paid. RM400 was not enough to cover for her basic needs. Other than groceries and utilities, she needed money for her frequent trips to the hospital (her house was about 50kms away from the hospital).

It was then that I used my TKCOGA networking to get help. Donations came in and I used them to pay for all the necessities so that Rose wouldn't have to worry too much about her children, especially when she's warded.

My fellow buddies told me Rose used to be quite a chubby person. By the time I was introduced to her she had lost so much weight. But she still had that sweet smile of hers. I used to tell her jokes whenever I visit her at the hospital. It was always nice to see a smile on her face.

That was until one day when the doctors told her that her cancer had spread. She called one of her sisters (the one closest to her) and gave her a list of phone numbers for the sister to call in case anything happened to her. I was touched when I found out I was top of the list.

From then on, Rose was always in and out of the hospital. One night I received a call from her at midnight. She needed to go to the hospital the next morning and had been trying to get people to help her. She was too weak to go by bus and it wasn't easy to get a taxi from her place. Besides, she couldn't afford to pay for a taxi. So, as last resort, she asked if I could fetch her. I had to attend a business client's board meeting the next morning and simply couldn't fetch her in the morning. But I told her if she could wait until after the meeting, I would fetch her then. Since she had no other choice, Rose agreed.

When I got to her house the next day, it was already afternoon. Rose was actually too weak to even get up. I had to help her from her mattress (she couldn't afford a bed) to the wheelchair, and then from the wheelchair into my car. It wasn't an easy task for me, especially when Rose was so fragile. The neighbours were sympathetic, but nobody dared help (she had HIV, remember??). Her children (aged 12, 10 and 9) didn't know how to help, but still tried their utmost best to arrange the pillows in my car so Rose would feel comfortable. Well, with God's help, I managed. When I left her in the ward at the hospital, I told her to call me if she needed anything.

That was the last I spoke to her. I went to visit her 2 days later. She was in too much pain she couldn't be bothered with her surroundings. The nurse approached me and asked if I was family. She said Rose had to be transferred to the Palliative Care Unit but none of the family members had been visiting. The only phone number they had was Rose's mobile number. I promised the nurse I'd try to call Rose's brother as that was the only other number I had. I managed to speak to her sister-in-law.

After Rose was transferred to PCU, most of her family members were there, almost every day. But it was too late. Rose was unconscious most of the time and even when she was awake, she didn't have the energy to even talk to anyone... not even her own children. I visited her twice at the PCU, both times she was sleeping.

Then early one Monday morning, I received a call from Rose's sister saying that Rose had passed away at about 6.15 in the morning. I immediately went to the family house where her body was to be brought to from the hospital. I got rather frustrated when the sister told me that by the time Rose's children got to the hospital, the nurses wouldn't let them kiss their mother because they had already poured something (I assume chlorine) all over her body.

Her body was bathed at the hospital, before she was brought back home. The family asked me if it's okay to let the children kiss their mother for one last time. Of course I said it was okay. I mean... COME ON! That's their mother and they wouldn't be able to see her again!

Rose was only 33 when she died. I only knew her during the last two and a half months of her life. But I learnt a lot from Rose during that short period. And for that, I'm thankful.

By the way, Rose's children are now under the care of their paternal grandmother.

3 comments:

LiNaLaNi said...

i think highly of anyone who is doing god's work. i salute u for it. keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pi

Brilliant!!!

Marina told me about your blog -

Ida_Isa said...

Pi,
May Allah bless you with all the good work that you're doing.