Sorry for the lack of ideas for the title of this post. But since I've already introduced Yah to you people, I guess the title is apt enough.
I've written about Yah's welfare woes before, and I've written about my visit to her house once. But I've never really written about her background, have I?
Well, when I first got to know Yah, her husband, Azman, was still around.
I got to know Yah and Azman not through the usual HIV clinic duties. We don't have enough volunteers to cover the weekly clinic so we only send our volunteers once every 2 weeks. Yah's and Azman's appointments never coincide with our duties, so they were never introduced to us during clinic.
However, there came a time when Azman had to start medication and at that time, one of the anti-retroviral drugs had to be bought. The cost? About RM200+ for a month's supply. They couldn't afford to buy. So the doctor gave them a recommendation letter for them to bring to an organisation which provided such help to HIV infected persons who couldn't afford to buy the anti-retroviral drugs. [note: now the drugs are given free for first regime]
But Yah and Azmi didn't even know how to get to this place. That was when the staff nurse, gave them my number and told them to try and call me to get the necessary assistance.
So Yah called me up. Since we never met each other before, I told them to wait at the clinic and I'd meet them there. HIV clinic was over by then, so when I got there and saw a man, a woman and a baby, I figured it had to be them. After interviewing them to get some details of their background, I brought them to the center (to apply for aid for Azman's medication).
Azman was initially found to have TB. Further tests confirmed he had HIV. That was when Yah too went for tests and was confirmed to be HIV positive... AND pregnant! Yah's baby was safely delivered in June last year. The baby was 2 months old when I first met them.
Many years ago Azman was involved in an accident and lost one arm. He lost his job. Due to stress maybe, he resorted to drugs. He went in and out of jail a couple of times. Maybe things became too unbearable to him, he got mentally disturbed, to the extent of being rather violent. His own sister called the police, and he was then admitted to Hospital Bahagia Tanjung Rambutan.
By the time I met them, he had already been discharged from TR and he seemed rather stable although he still had to go for follow-ups at the mental hospital. So they had to come down to Ipoh quite often... HIV clinic... TB clinic... mental hospital... and for that they needed money.
Since Azman was no longer in a position to work, Yah then worked as a cleaner at a school near their home. But she had to stop work after she delivered, to take care of her baby AND her husband. Although at that time they were staying at Azman's family's kampong, the family couldn't really be relied on to take care of Azman and the kids when Yah was at work. As a matter of fact, Azman's mother, who had a small sundry shop, actually kept a book (the famous buku 555) to note down all the stuff taken by Yah's children from her shop. She showed the book every month to Yah so that Yah would pay for them. Azman's mother knew Yah was no longer working, she knew they only got RM115 welfare aid each month, and she knew the couple needed money to travel to Ipoh frequently. Yet she still asked Yah to pay for the foodstuff her own grandchildren took from her sundry shop.
Anyway, probably due to his HIV and financial problem, Azman became stressed again. Before long, his mental problem started to show again. Maybe not too violent to hurt his family physically, but Yah had to face mental torture. Nobody could say no to Azman, he always had his way.
After a few months, Yah figured she'd need to work again. She sent her baby to stay at her parent's place and she applied for the same job as a cleaner at the same old school. Azman would have to take care of himself at home. But he seldom stayed home. The people in the kampong already knew of Azman's mental condition, so they'd be reporting to Yah as soon as they found him to be at unnecessary places... like in the padi field... so Yah would rush back to help him home.
One time when Azman needed to come to Ipoh to get his medication and Yah couldn't apply for leave, Yah had to send her 8 year old daughter along to accompany Azman. It was quite a horrifying wait for Yah as they only made it home almost midnight. Wanna know what happened? As soon as they got back to the town near their kampong, Azman actually went to a karaoke - singing (croaking?) away till almost midnight... leaving his daughter outside crying!! That was the last time Yah let her daughter accompany Azman anywhere alone!
Finally Yah had to quit her job again. She needed to take care of Azman and her children, and her in-laws were not offering any help. They even told her to quit her job as it was her duty to take care of her husband! When they found out she also got another RM160 per month for her children under MAC's Paediatric Aids Fund, they actually treated her as though she had loads of money. Yeah, with RM115 welfare and RM160 PAF? The poor woman!!
But Yah was firm. Whenever her in-laws asked her to use the money, she insisted the PAF money was for her children's educational needs. Although I never said anything to her about the PAF, whenever she got cornered, she'd just say, "Tak boleh, kakak tak bagi." Kakak? She meant me. Yah always used my name to counter them. One time Azman insisted he wanted a new t-shirt (by then he was already acting like a child), and since Azman's condition had then deteriorated, and Yah was afraid it could be his last request, she bought him a cheap t-shirt. When her in-laws found out, they cornered her, "Ha, ada duit! Kata tak cukup duit!" Her answer? Standardlah... "Kakak yang bagi." (I never even knew how the t-shirt looked like!)
Her in-laws usually wouldn't say anything further whenever my name got mentioned. They knew I had been visiting the family on a monthly basis to send over groceries and baby's needs, so they didn't want to be in my bad books. They were always nice to me whenever they got to meet me.
After some time, Azman managed to withdraw all his EPF money under permanent disability. And boy, did he know how to spend! He spent his money on unnecessary things! He bought a 29" TV, he installed Astro (and told his wife to pay for the monthly fee!), he bought new furnitures and he repainted his house. Bright yellow some more!! Nobody could do anything, not even his own mother. It's his money he said, so "Aku punya sukalah!"
Within 2 weeks he finished his EPF. I asked Yah if he had kept some of the amount in the bank. Yah said there was only RM10 left in his bank account. Luckily the PAF money was banked into Yah's account, not Azman's.
After he finished his EPF money, Azman's condition worsened. He fell at home, and after that he could no longer control his movements. Yah had to call an ambulance, and they sent him straight to Ipoh GH. For almost a month, Yah had to stay at the hospital with him. Luckily it was school holidays, so the children were all sent to stay with Yah's parents, who were poor people, but not the calculative type.
Due to his inability to control his movements, especially his legs which kept kicking things around him, Azmi had to be tied to his bed. Sometimes when I visited them during the afternoon visiting hours, Yah actually had not eaten since the night before. I always had to persuade her to come and have lunch with me. But she felt uncomfortable about leaving her husband at the ward. After that every time I visited them, I'd just bring along something for Yah to bite. Family members? Never saw them. Not even his sisters who were staying in Ipoh.
Doctors told Yah to be prepared for the worse. Azman was discharged, but was required to come back for some other tests in 2 weeks time. Yah thought it would be troublesome to bring him back to their home and then bring him back to Ipoh after 2 weeks. She thought it would be a better idea to just bring him to his sister's house in Ipoh. The moment his sisters found out, they went to the hospital. They wanted to make sure Yah didn't bring him to their house. They were afraid he might die at their house. Send him back to their mother's house, they said.
Yah had no choice but to bring him home. Only problem was, there was no ambulance available to bring him back to their home. All had been booked. The ones there were on standby; they would only send Azman if his house was anywhere within Ipoh town. Azman's sisters didn't offer any help either. Yah ran out of ideas and sought my help. I simply couldn't say no to the poor woman!
So, yes, I went to the hospital. When his sisters found out I was to bring Yah and Azman in my car, they came up with all sorts of excuses why they couldn't offer their own cars. And since Azman couldn't sit, one of the sisters even suggested that I lowered the front seat and let Azman lie there, and let Yah sit at the back. WHAAAT? Her brother had gone whacko... in addition he couldn't control his movements, and she suggested that Azman sit beside the driver?? No way! No doubt he was not violent, but what if he moved to the driver's seat while I drove?
Anyway, my car may be small, but it's flexible enough. I lowered down the left back seat, pushed the front seat further to the front so there'd be space for Azman to lie down. It was also easy to carry him into the car. They just lifted him together with the bedsheet and carried him into the car through the back door. Yah sat behind the driver's seat, right beside Azman, so it was easier for Yah to take care of him that way instead of having him sit in front!
However, because he couldn't control his movements and Yah didn't have the energy to hold on to him, by the time we got to their home, Azman was already on the floor (in the car!!). We had to get the help of some youths in the kampong to get him out of the car into his mother's house. Boy, that was quite an experience.
Exactly a week later, right after my maghrib prayers, Yah called to tell me that Azman had just passed away.
~ to be continued...