So yesterday I sent her a text message; asking if she’d be home today. I didn’t receive any reply, so I thought she was at work. Later last night, a call from an unfamiliar number came in on my hand phone. The call came from Zaki, Zainab’s husband, who called from a public phone. Apparently Zainab ran out of credit for her hand phone and was unable to reply my message. Zaki told me Zainab would be in today so I promised I’d drop by.
My initial plan was to visit them later in the afternoon after going shopping to buy some tidbits for the children. But when I was in my office this morning, I received a text message from Lin…
“Kak… saya kat hospital. Saya tak tahan nak nangis ni. Saya tengok orang2 kat sini yang sakit dah teruk kulit dia. Saya terbayangkan saya pun macam tu satu hari nanti. Dah nak menitis airmata dah ni.”
Oh dear, she must have freaked out seeing some of the PLWHAs with skin diseases. You know, like the ones shown in some of our TV dramas… giving the impression that all PLWHAs will end up looking like that.
Today was not the first time Lin went for her appointment, but I guess it just so happened that today there were quite a number of those with terrible-looking skin diseases. Lin got scared she may look like that one day.
I called Lin. She answered after just one ring. I could sense she was trying to hold back her tears. I couldn’t simply leave my office to go meet her, so I told her to call me after her appointment with the doctor was over. I decided to change my initial plans. I thought it would be good to bring her along in my house visit to Zainab’s house so she could meet Zainab.
About 12.45 pm, Lin called to tell me she’s done at the hospital. Nice timing. Off I went to fetch her. The moment she got into my car, I could see tears in her eyes. I brought her out for lunch first. We needed to talk privately before I could bring her to meet Zainab.
Lin’s CD4 count has dropped to 380 from 400+ previously. She is not yet on HIV medication. What worried me was that her BP shot up to 180/95. Apparently, Lin has been on medication for quite some time for her hypertension, with her normal BP being 140/80, which is already quite high for her age. My guess is that she has so many worries on her mind – what with her HIV, her children, her ex-hubby etc. Although most of her children are doing okay academically, her 4th who is also her eldest son seem to be having problems in school. He had been caught with cigarettes in his school bag before (he’s in form 5 this year), he loves to lepak around with friends after school and recently he was suspended from school for a week for allegedly painting the walls of his school building with his friends. He claimed he didn’t do it, and that his friends were the ones who did it, but even if that was true, he was there with them.
Lin already has enough worries in her mind. After the scene at the HIV clinic today, she got even more worried. She freaked out!
During lunch, I told Lin to say out whatever was in her mind. There was no one at home she could talk to about this. Her 2 older children whom she could confide to as friends are away from home (one in KL and the other one overseas) and so Lin has been keeping everything inside her. If she didn’t talk to anyone about this, she could possibly one day simply break down. Talking things over with her ex-hubby is out of the question as all he’s interested in is having sex!
Lin told me of late she feels “dirty”, she feels unwanted (except by her gatal ex-hubby), she feels like nobody wants to sit anywhere near her (and it wasn’t even her fault she got infected with HIV!). Every time anyone looks at her, she thinks it’s because they look down on her. That was what happened at the HIV clinic today. She felt as though the people there were staring at her. Well, with her looking scared and almost at the verge of tears, I’m not surprised if people stared. I would probably do the same too, although I wouldn’t be making it too obvious.
Even sitting outside the HIV clinic, Lin felt as though those at the other end of the corridor (waiting to see other doctors for other ailments) were looking down on her in shame for being infected with HIV.
I told Lin it was just her feeling. Whenever I’m on clinic duty and I see any of my clients outside waiting to see the doctor, I would selamba-ly sit outside with them amongst the PLWHAs without feeling the slightest shame, without fear of what others may think if they see me there. I never felt as though anyone was staring at me.
Of course, it is much easier for me. I am not infected and so I couldn’t care less what others may think. When you are infected, you’d think people are thinking of things they are not even thinking of!
I told Lin there was nothing for her to be ashamed of. She was just a victim. I told her if she keeps on thinking negatively, her condition will deteriorate faster. She needs to be strong and she needs to think positively. I told her I was there for her and I’m willing to stand and sit by her without fear.
I know, I know… not easy for her but what else was I supposed to tell her? I wanted to hug her there and then but that would probably create more stares from the people around us!
After our lunch, we headed to Zainab’s house. Since I didn’t have the time to buy any tidbits for the kids, I tapau-ed some food for them from the stall where Lin and I had our lunch.
Zainab, who was expecting my visit, came out to greet us, with bedak sejuk all over her face. Zaki was not home as he went out to buy his cigarettes.
Kakak and adik (Zainab’s kids) were about to have lunch when we got there. Kakak looked much better. I introduced Lin and Zainab to each other. While Zainab did talk quite a bit, Lin on the other hand was rather quiet; unlike when she was alone with me. I guess she still did not quite trust others enough although by right she should feel more relaxed with Zainab who is a fellow PLWHA.
Anyway, Zainab related how she too felt depressed during the initial stages and that she managed to get over things and accepted the facts after thinking that she needed to be strong for her kids. I honestly hope that would at least give Lin some sort of motivation.
While on the way to send Lin back to the bus station, I asked Lin if her ex-hubby, Mr. DD, was still trying to tackle her. Well, this Romeo doesn’t seem to give up despite the “tiada harapan” answer he got during their earlier meet. Every time Lin tries to contact him to talk about the children, he’d call her sayang and the likes (nope, no darling with Lin… only with Yah) and would ask her if she’d like to go out with him. Usually when something crops up regarding the children, Lin would just give him a missed call and Mr. DD would immediately call back if the missed call came from Lin. But every time he calls, according to Lin he'd always try to menggatal.
Mr. DD did ask Lin for another favor. Whenever Lin needed to come for appointments in Ipoh GH, he asked her to tell SN that he and Lin are back together. Huh? What the *#@& for??!! You see, he was hoping someone at the HIV clinic would pass the story to Yah and hopefully after that Yah would stop calling him.
Oh for crying out loud! Couldn’t he himself tell Yah straight in the face that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with Yah again?
Hmmm… come to think of it, maybe I’d just tell Yah that I heard Mr D wants to remarry his ex-wife. I wouldn’t be lying. Mr D really does in fact want to remarry his ex-wife. I don’t have to tell Yah the part about his ex-wife not wanting him back, kan?