I wasn’t THAT late either. In fact I got to the clinic just in time before SN referred the first case to us – a Chinese guy in his late 30’s who is still an active drug user. I couldn’t really follow whatever was being discussed as the conversation was in Chinese language, so all I did was to jot down this guy’s particulars in our contact report. This guy actually just got discharged from the hospital for various ailments. That was how he got to know about his HIV.
The next case referred to us was another Chinese guy in his 50’s. Again, I was lost as I didn’t understand whatever was discussed. Aiyah! I think I need to take a crash course in Mandarin lah! There wasn’t much detail in this medical file either so there was not much info I could gather from there. So we had to depend on whatever my colleague could gather from their conversation. Meanwhile I just looked through the various types of HIV drugs sample…
Then SN referred a young Malay guy in his 20’s (Ahah! It was then my colleague’s turn to feel lost as his BM is very bad…). You guessed it, drugs. But I was pleased to note that this guy is getting support from his family. In fact, he came to the hospital accompanied by his father. I have seen so many young men infected with HIV due to drug injection being rejected by their family – by their fathers especially! To accompany their infected sons to the hospital would be a big disgrace to the fathers! In fact I remember meeting one HIV+ guy who was then still warded at the hospital due to various ailments, when asked for his address, he couldn’t give any as he wasn’t sure where he could go once discharged from the hospital!
After that, a Malay couple was called into the room. The husband (the infected person) was wheeled into the room by his wife. Why did he need a wheelchair? No, not because he was weak due to his HIV, but because he had lost one leg. He was involved in an accident which occurred a few years ago. And no, it wasn’t a road accident. He actually got electrocuted while carrying out his duty and as a result, his left leg had to be amputated. No doubt he got all the necessary compensation from Socso etc and his employer is paying his medical bills for life, but what’s all that compared to the leg he lost, eh?
There was not much in his file on his background info, especially on how he got infected with HIV. It was only in the course of our conversation that I managed to find out that he was an injecting drug user. His wife seemed to be very supportive despite not being infected. They have 4 teenage children doing quite okay in school and they both don’t want the children to know about their father’s HIV infection. For the moment the children only know that their father has some lung problems. Having teenage children, the couple was afraid the children may rebel if they found out what their father did. This was where I found out that the guy was a drug user. I then asked when he stopped taking drugs. To my surprise, the guy selamba-ly answered, “Mana ada berhenti lagi. Taklah teruk macam dulu, tapi nak berhenti terus tak bolehlah. Lemah satu badan nanti.”
Hmmm… he was lucky his employer never caught him taking drugs. Otherwise I don’t think they’d pay for his medical bills. Given his physical condition, I wonder too how he gets his drug supply. Don’t tell me his wife has got to go out to get the drugs for him! (I didn’t ask…)
Actually at the hospital in the town they stay in, there is a clinic for HIV patients. But since they do know many staff there, they didn’t want to risk having the town folks knowing about this guy’s HIV infection. That’s why they’re willing to come all the way to Ipoh for his appointments. Luckily they do have a car, and the wife can drive. Anyway, in this case, the one who may need moral support more would probably his wife. So I gave her my number in case she needed to talk.
There were no other new cases referred to us after that. After a while, I went over to the doctor’s room to check if there were any more cases to be referred to us. No doubt there were many HIV patients waiting to see the doctor, but only new cases are referred to the Buddies.
When I got to the doctor’s room, I was told by SN that there were no more new cases for the day. Then suddenly the doctor reminded SN to inform me about one case they saw the week before when the Buddies were not on duty.
Apparently there was this one guy in his late 30’s, staying in a small kampong in another town, who was already too weak to come on his own but stays only with his elderly mother. Since there’s nobody else around, his frail mother has to escort him to Ipoh for his appointments. They come from a poor family, and every time they come, they’d need to spend about RM100 or so to travel. So this guy tends to miss his appointments even though he is already on medication.
The problem is, even when they do have money for traveling, given their condition, it would be difficult for them to travel by bus. By taxi? The fares would probably be exorbitant! So the mother tried to get help from their neighbors. But guess what? While they pitied the elderly lady, nobody was willing to let her HIV infected son into their car.
I haven’t met or spoken to this guy or his mother yet; and I am not quite sure yet what I can do for them; but my colleague is for the time being trying to arrange for welfare help for them.
Speaking of welfare, there is good news for Fuzi. Remember she used to get just RM115 monthly welfare aid as Bantuan Am? Well, her application for Bantuan Kanak-kanak has been approved and beginning this year, she’s getting RM400 a month instead. Still nothing to shout about, but it’s at least something! I hope there will also be good news coming in the form of a legalized marriage cert to enable her children to apply for their MyKad. But her case will only be heard in early April, so I guess we will just have to wait.