I was outside my house early this morning - sweating it out trying to chop down a small tree... kapak kata golok tajam... golok kata kapak tajam... :) when suddenly the sky darkened. Within minutes it rained heavily and so the status for the small tree is "work-in-progress" - half way done, to be continued tomorrow...
I had initially thought I'd work a little extra outside the house today. I was to be on clinic duty and since the clinic starts at 10 am, I figured I'd go straight to the clinic instead of going to my office first. And since the hospital is not that far from my house, I wouldn't have to go out too early. But since I had to stop my "kampong exercise" prematurely due to the heavy rain, I decided I might as well go to my office first. Didn't stay long at the office though - more to just inform my staff on what is to be done etc.
By 9.30 am I left my office, and within just 10 minutes I reached the hospital. Finding a parking space at the hospital had always been tough, but today it was extra torture! There was traffic jam within the hospital compounds! Am not too sure why, was it because of the rain? I finally parked my car at a proper parking lot but further than my usual parking space (which is already far). It was still drizzling then, so I had to use an umbrella; and to add to that I had also brought along one heavy bag full of booklets on Positive Living, requested earlier on by SN. So with my right hand carrying the heavy bag, and my left hand holding the umbrella and a file under my armpit, the walk from the car park to the HIV clinic today seemed soooooo far!! I had to stop a few times to adjust my grip on the bag of booklets. Should have burned some fat and calories along the way... but nope, the 2kgs gained during Hari Raya Haji last year seem to be getting comfortable and had decided to stay put!!
When I got to the counseling room, to my surprise, it was rather quiet. The pharmacists were not there yet. So I left my file there, and went to the doctor's room to send the booklets to SN. SN was surprised to see me. She had forgotten that this is the 3rd Wednesday of the month and so she thought none of the Buddies would turn up (we send our volunteers every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month). She did mention there were a few new cases, so she'd be sending them over to us once the patients turn up.
Well, we had to wait quite a while for SN to send over the new cases. SN herself seemed to be pretty busy despite now having assistance from one or two other nurses (previously SN was the only nurse at the HIV clinic, so she could hardly find the time to send over the files to us). While I was chatting with my colleagues, Jah turned up at the door. I was expecting to meet Jah today since she had told me earlier about her appointment, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Maria together with Jah. It had been quite a while since my last contact with Maria. They both stay in the same town and had actually taken the same bus to come to Ipoh this morning and while they had met each other before (once I think), that was quite some time ago. So, although they did see each other on the bus, and they both had that "rasa macam kenal orang ni" feeling, but because they were unsure if they got the right person, it was only when they reached the HIV clinic did they start talking!
Frankly, I was rather surprised with Maria this time around. The usually quiet woman today seemed more talkative and smiled a lot more. Yes, she's still the introvert type, but I could really see the positive difference this time around. When Jah mentioned she wanted to go to the counseling room to look for me, Maria was the one who wanted to follow. Usually, Maria would be the type who'd just sit there quietly. Maybe it was Jah, the live wire. She is so talkative and happy-go-lucky, she somehow managed to "infect" Maria as well. As an uncle of mine used to say to describe his wife (who is also a talkative person), "Orang bisu pun boleh bercakap dibuatnya!"
Anyway, we only had 2 new cases referred to us today. There was supposed to be 3, but the other one didn't turn up. The first case was a guy, Lim, who found out about his HIV when he went for medical check-up to renew his work permit in a country down south. He's in his late thirties, but I thought he looked younger. He leads an active life, goes jogging etc. When he found out about his HIV, he lost his job and had to come back to his hometown. His brother and sister know about his HIV, but he dare not tell his parents for fear of worrying them. A few of his close friends know of his status, but they have been very supportive. Lim now has to start from scratch. His close friends offered to let him work with them at a salon, and that's where he earns his living now. Not much as compared to his previous job, and he can no longer spend as and when he likes, but at least he has something to do and he has a source of income.
His mind does wander, thinking about a bleak future ahead of him, about how long he has to live etc, but one thing about Lim is, unlike many HIV positive guys out there, Lim is the type who'd talk it out. Oh I tell you, if we let him continue just now, he could talk until 1 o'clock! Which is good, really, but there was another guy referred to us already waiting outside the room, so I told Lim I'd assign a buddy to him and this buddy will call him soon. His CD4 is still rather high, 900+ and I told him to keep himself busy so he wouldn't be worrying too much about his HIV.
The next guy referred to us, Tan, was on a wheelchair and he was pushed into the room by his brother. I asked why he needed the wheelchair. Apparently this guy tires easily and there is no short distance walk when you're at the hospital, so they had to get him a wheelchair. Unlike Lim, Tan's CD4 is already very low, only 28. Without a doubt he'd already need to start on medication this time around. Tan's whole family knows about his HIV, and from what I've been told by the brother, they all give him full support. Tan himself said a buddy was not necessary for him. But we just gave them our brochure anyway, in case at any time they may have some questions to ask.
In the same room where we talk to new patients, the old and new patients who are on medication would be referred to the HIV clinic pharmacists, to be given counseling on their medication. Both Maria and Jah were sent in to see the pharmacists too. After Maria was done with her turn with the pharmacists, she pulled me aside and asked if she could talk to me privately. Earlier on she came in with Jah, so she didn't say anything. I followed her out to a quiet corner outside the room, hoping it wasn't about any more marriage problems like she used to have before.
Maria: Macam mana nak cakap ni ye... segan le pulak.
Me: Segan apanya, cakap aje lah!
Maria: Kak, kat mana saya boleh dapat kondom kak? Saya pergi kat klinik diorang kata takde.
Me: Kan banyak ada jual, kat 7-11 pun ada.
Maria: Seganlah nak beli kat kedai kak, nanti orang nampak.
Me: Pulak dah. Selama ni macam mana?
Maria: Selama ni belum pernah lagi kehabisan stok kondom. Suami saya ni bukan boleh harap sangat, takde kondom dia hentam je.
Me: Suruh lah dia pergi beli.
Maria: Suruh dia lagi tak payah!
For those who haven't read Maria's story, Maria was infected by her first husband, an IVDU. She remarried, got pregnant and it was during that pregnancy she found out she was HIV +ve. Her husband was tested once, which came out negative, but he refused to go for further tests. So the condom is to prevent the husband from getting infected. Where and how she got the earlier stock of condoms, I didn't even think of asking.
But there you go... with the general Melayu-mentality that those buying condoms are "rendah akhlak", even those who want to buy them for "legal" purposes become too embarrassed to buy them in the open - like in Maria's case.
I told Maria, if she's willing to wait after her appointment, join me and Jah for lunch, I'd stop over at our NGO centre to give her a few. Maria was okay with the idea. She's on leave today anyway, so she was in no rush to go home.
Asiah was also at the clinic today. She came rather late and when she saw Jah, she actually shouted out Jah's name. I wanted to ask Asiah to join us for lunch after the clinic, but Asiah came with her husband, and as usual, he never wants to join us. As a matter of fact, he doesn't even want to show his face to Asiah's friends. Susahlah like this.
So, after clinic, I took both Maria and Jah, first to my NGO centre to grab a few condoms to be given to Maria, and then off we went for lunch. Jah was already excited asking me where our Family Day would be held this year. She was telling Maria of her excitement going to Teluk Batik, Lost World of Tambun and Taiping Zoo during our previous years' Family Day. Maria was saying, "Takde siapa ajak saya pun?" I quickly told her off, "Eh, yang dulu ajak payah nak dapat izin suami tu siapa?"
"Dulu tu pasal ajak dia pergi sekali!" she quipped. So I told her this year when I invite her she MUST go. She can always plan to come to Ipoh with Jah. Let's see how it goes this year then...
Jah had the biggest plate for lunch. Definitely more than what both Maria and I ate combined. All she does is eat-sleep-eat-sleep, yet she has not gained an ounce! As a matter fact when she was down with fever recently, she lost some weight. She is now.... ready for this?? 36 kgs!!!! Nope, no typo error there. Even SN earlier at the HIV clinic wanted to give Jah some of her own flesh... if only she could!
After lunch, I sent both Maria and Jah to the bus station. It was good seeing them both getting along quite well. No doubt Jah can easily get along with almost anybody, but to see Maria in such a happy and talkative mood was indeed refreshing.