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)

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Confidentiality assured? Really?

Murni called me up this morning. I told her to call me whenever she’s in Ipoh for her hospital appointments or to get her medication. Since she stays out of Ipoh, I’d usually take the opportunity to meet up with her whenever she’s in Ipoh. This time I made sure I told her to wait for me at the waiting area in front of the Klinik Pakar. I didn’t want to go round the hospital looking for parking. That would take 15 minutes at the very least.

Today Murni came to Ipoh alone. Her husband wasn’t working today and so there was someone at home to look after her 1 year old baby. I asked if she wanted some milk powder for the little girl. We had a big box of milk powder at our center and if she didn’t mind carrying the box with her on the bus, she could take the whole box. Murni was glad to accept the offer. To her carrying bulky things in a bus is a normal thing.

While at the center, Murni also gave me the photocopies of her children’s birth certs and whatever other supporting documents to enable me to help her apply for whatever available financial assistance. I also took down details of her schooling children’s list of fees and payments that needed to be paid to the respective schools. Murni has yet to pay a single sen.

All those shouldn’t be much of a problem. What really bothered me was what happened at Murni’s house recently.

2 officers from the Pejabat Kesihatan Daerah where she stays went to visit her at home. No prior calls, no warnings whatsoever, they just went to visit her to find out how she’s doing and to ask her lots of questions. They didn’t even bother to find out if there was anybody else at home who may not know about Murni’s HIV status. None of Murni’s children know that their mother is HIV positive. Worse, when the officers went to visit, Murni’s sister-in-law was there and the officers simply asked Murni questions about her HIV without taking privacy and confidentiality into consideration. What on earth were they trying to do? It’s not like Murni has been missing any of her hospital appointments anyway! And Murni’s appointments are in Ipoh GH, not at the district hospital.

Murni got annoyed. She asked them why they were asking so many questions. It’s not like she’s a prostitute or a drug user anyway. She got the virus from her late husband! The officers said they were just doing their duty… but still, couldn’t they have practiced some discretion as to how to go about? And doesn’t their duty also include the responsibility to keep the matter private and confidential? Why did they simply terjah the patient’s home without warning and started asking her questions relating to her illness? I don't see the need!

So today at the hospital, Murni went to meet SN at the HIV clinic and told her what happened at her home. SN immediately called the Pejabat Kesihatan Daerah to ask them why they had no sensitivity at all. Sigh!

Murni also told me about her friend from her old kampong who’s also HIV+. You see, Murni actually hails from a state up north. Like Murni, her friend, N too found out about her HIV status during pregnancy. They both got the virus from their husbands.

N’s husband died when she was at the early stage of her last pregnancy. When N’s blood test results came out, somehow words spread around town that N was HIV +ve. Guess where the news came from? Yep, the staff at the district hospital where N went to get her blood test done. It’s in a small town where almost everybody seems to know each other.

To support her children after her husband’s death, N opened up a food stall. But because her town folks knew she has HIV, they refused to eat at her stall.

Murni herself found out about N not from N herself. Murni went back to her kampong to visit her married daughter, took a taxi from the bus station to her daughter’s house, and it was the taxi driver who was bad-mouthing N. The guy told Murni about N’s HIV status, and that he wouldn’t want to eat at N’s food stall as N’s saliva may tempias into the food while she cooks and whoever ate the food may get infected as well. In the first place, HIV doesn’t spread through saliva. And secondly, that taxi driver doesn’t mind eating food containing the saliva of the chef as long as the chef is not HIV positive???!! YUKKS!! Now I’m having second thoughts about eating out. Not because I’m afraid I may get infected with HIV, but because I’d start imagining the existence of other people’s saliva in the food I order. YUKKSS!! (Thanks a lot Mr Taxi Driver!!)

Anyway, listening to the taxi driver talking about an HIV+ve friend made Murni feel uneasy. Being +ve herself, Murni didn’t want to argue with the guy, for fear that he may suspect she was +ve too. So she just kept quiet and listened, reluctantly.

And oh, I didn’t finish my story about N, did I? Well, N had to close down her food stall, sold off her house and moved to another town to start afresh.

Looks like the stigma and discrimination is still very strong in this case. But my main concern is; why can’t the health personnel be more professional? Here we are, trying to convince people to go get tested, and to go for proper check-ups at the hospitals if they’re infected, promising them confidentiality, yet the health authorities themselves (like the ones who went to visit Murni at home) can’t keep things private and confidential! (Not all laa… usually those yang kepoh ni are the ones who are not directly involved with HIV cases. So bila dapat tau one HIV case, depa pulak yang kepoh lebih. Those who directly handle HIV cases are usually more trustworthy in this aspect.)

Confidentiality assured? Yeah, right! The authorities better do something about this. Don’t only train those who are directly involved in HIV cases, those in other departments too will need to keep matters like this P&C.


Monday, 27 April 2009

This and that...

As mentioned in my previous posting, I was going to Putrajaya on Sunday 26th April.

Since my function was to start at 3 pm, I promised to meet up with Raden Galoh in the morning, at our usual meeting place, as she mentioned in her blog posting here. And yes, of course, I got myself a signed copy of her book, Kanser Payudaraku.

Then off I went for the launching of my alumni’s own building in Putrajaya.

What I’d like to bring up is about the motorist who was tailing me at the PLUS highway on my way back to Ipoh. It was somewhere along the Tanjung Malim stretch when suddenly there was this Mat Motor tailing my car. Yep, right behind my car. I was driving at the speed limit of 110 km/h and this mamat followed at exactly the same speed. The distance of his motorbike and my car, at that speed, was simply too close for comfort. If I had suddenly slammed on my brakes, he was sure to crash into the back of my car, with an impact that could be fatal.

I stepped on the gas to increase the speed of my car, with the hope of furthering the distance between my car and his motorbike, but every time I increased my speed, he did the same; and every time I slowed down, he did the same too. I got to the right lane to overtake another vehicle, he did the same. I went back to the left lane, he did the same. Sheesh! Kurang asam punya mamat! Although I didn’t get the “jantung berdebar” feeling I’d usually get when there’s trouble ahead, I was still extra alert nonetheless, just in case this mamat was up to no good.

Just as we were approaching Tapah R&R where I was going to stop for Maghrib, we overtook somebody else who was riding a motorbike at a rather slow pace. It was then that this Mat Motor who was tailing me suddenly slowed down to the same pace as this other motorist.

This other motorist happened to be a young lady riding alone.

Wonder what the Mat Motor had in mind when he tailed right behind my car and then when he suddenly slowed down to follow the pace of the woman on the motorbike?

I don’t know what happened thereafter because he soon got out of my sight.

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Yah called me while I was in my office this morning. She wanted to know if there are any orphanages in Ipoh that would accept both girls and boys. She said if she sends Abang Chik to a boys orphanage while his sisters are in another orphanage which takes in only girls, chances are Abang Chik would want out soon.

Huh? Now she wants to send Abang Chik to an orphanage too? Aduuh, when others would do anything to have their children staying with them, Yah seem to be sending one by one of her children to orphanages. I asked her why she wanted to do this, her only answer was, “Tak tau lah kak, tengah banyak masalah ni” – without mentioning what the problem was. What about her youngest daughter who’d be 3 years old this year? “Yang tu tok dia tak bagi. Dia nak bela sendiri.

Frankly, I don’t know what Yah’s problem really is. Seems to me she’s having problem with her own parents. Last time she was the one who refused to let her in-laws take her kids away from her. Now she wants to send the children away to orphanages.

Then she asked me if I knew of any homes for single mothers she could seek shelter from.

Aduuuh… tak habis-habis problem lah perempuan sorang ni! For the children's sake, I will have to arrange to meet up with Yah soon to discuss things. Maybe it is indeed better for the children to stay in orphanages rather than with Yah.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Busy schedule ahead

Looks like quite a number of dates have been marked in my calendar for the coming month or so.

This Sunday, 26/4, I will be in Putrajaya, attending the launch of my alumni's building. I need to discuss some things with the committee as well. I used to be a committee member too, but that only lasted for one term - the monthly Ipoh-KL drive for the monthly committee meetings were rather taxing. When others only had to put aside half a day if there were any meetings, I had to reserve the whole day as I needed to include an additional 4 hours drive (to and fro) on the expressway. But I still do attend one-off functions like this one if time permits.

On 28/4, it's time for Buddies monthly Board Meeting.

On 9/5, I will bring my office staff for a "compulsory" tour of Gua Tempurong. During my last visit there with 2 of my office staff last year, time was limited and we didn't really plan anything proper, so we just went in for the 40 minute dry-tour. Even then, the 2 staff who tagged along were huffing and puffing up and down the steps. This time, we're going for the full 3 1/2 hour tour - going up & down the steps, then down to the lower chambers, crawling in the underground river etc. So we really need to go in the proper attire, and bring along change of clothes as well because while we are going into the cave dry, we'll be coming out wet. I've always wanted to do this, but kept postponing as I couldn't seem to get any "gang" to come along. So when the "Boss no. 1" (I am "Boss no. 2" at the office) suggested to me that we should go for this tour as some sort of "training" for the staff, to me it was "pucuk ubi dicita, ulam petai mendatang". I've even posed a challenge to the staff who are all much younger than me (the youngest one even less than half my age!), that they must make sure they don't lose out to this makcik in terms of fitness.

On 12/5, Buddies will be organising a sharing session between PLHIVs at our center. MAC (Malaysia AIDS Council) has agreed to send a PLHIV to conduct the session.

On 17/5, I will be in Putrajaya again for my alumni's Health Awareness Programme and AGM. I have been roped in to handle the committee elections. Whatever... as long as I myself don't have to be in the committee, I'm okay with it!

On 26/5, it's time for Buddies monthly Board Meeting again. This time we will call all volunteers to attend the meeting to report on the progress of their PLHIV clients.

On 31/5, I will be attending a seminar on Women in Syariah (or something like that... will only get full details later). A lady from PWW (Perak Women for Women Association) called me up yesterday asking me if I'd be interested to attend. It will be fully sponsored - seats are limited and attendance is by invitation only, so to me it's a chance not to be missed. It would be good to empower myself with more knowledge in this field as I'm dealing with quite a number of problematic women in my line of voluntary work!

The very next weekend, on 6th and 7th of June, it will be time for Buddies Retreat in Cameron Highlands.

Oh well, I think I will make full use of the long weekend next week to have a good rest. Friday next week is a public holiday in conjunction with... my birthday!

Oh yes, next week I will be celebrating my 17th birthday for the umptieth time!! Woo hoo!!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Updates on Lin & Baby K

I was just about to park my car near my office this morning when I heard the SMS tone from my hand phone. I ignored it until I got to my office. The message came from Lin...

"Kak, kalau CD4 saya OK, nak bagitau doktor ke pasal saya tak makan ubat?"

I told her to tell the whole truth to the doctor. Otherwise, the doctor may think she has no problem whatsoever with the present ARV medication.

About 12.15 pm, I texted Lin, asking if she was done at the HIV clinic. She replied, saying that she's just waiting for whatever documents - drug prescriptions, and next appointment dates, etc. So I told her to wait at the waiting area in front of the Klinik Pakar once she was done. I would be leaving my office at 12.45 pm and should reach there in 10 or 15 minutes.

When I got to the hospital, I didn't see Lin at the waiting area. There was no available parking space nearby, so I waited a while behind one of the cars and tried calling her. My call couldn't get through. Tried a few times with the same result. So I decided to go one more round. By the time I got to the front again, Lin was still not there. I tried calling Lin again, and again the call couldn't get through. Apparently at certain areas at the Klinik Pakar, the reception may not be clear or there may be no reception at all.

Finally I decided to park my car at the open area behind the hospital and go look for Lin. Had to carry along my laptop as it wouldn't be safe to leave the laptop in the car. As I reached the pharmacy I tried calling Lin again. This time my call went through...

"Lin kat mana ni?"

"Ada kat depan kat tempat akak suruh tunggu tu."

"Saya dah 2 kali lalu situ takde pun?"

"Baru sampai kak, baru lepas ambil ubat."

I told her to walk back to the pharmacy and meet me there. No point for me to walk all the way to the front and then walk back again to get back to my car.

"Semua dah settle?" I asked.

"Tak, nurse tu suruh pergi makan dulu, lepas tu datang balik jumpa dia dalam pukul 2.30."

There were quite a number of patients at the HIV clinic today, and the doctors were also late (probably had to go round the wards first), and so by lunch time, there were still a few pending cases. Although Lin had gone in to see the doctor, the staff were rather shorthanded to prepare all the letters etc. So they told her to go for lunch first and come back after that.

"Amacam? Dah puas kena bambu?" I teased Lin. She smiled, "Nasib baik mood depa baik hari ni. Taklah kena teruk sangat."

Besides, she told the truth before the doctor said anything, including the reason behind her fear (as mentioned in my previous posting), so SN ended up giving her a hug instead.

BUT... her CD4 had gone down drastically to 26. Oh dear, she definitely needs to start taking her medication now. And she promised me she will.

I then took Lin out for lunch. Took the opportunity to ask about herself and her children. Lin used to help out at her brother's food stall. Now she has started her own corner there, selling pisang goreng. Her brother encouraged her to do so - he couldn't afford to pay her more, and she should be able to earn more with her own pisang goreng stall. According to Lin, she gets her supply of pisang abu at the market nearby.

At least now I know what to bring her whenever I visit. There are banana trees behind my house, and sometimes we just leave the fruits on the trees to be eaten by the birds. There's not much that my mother and I can eat anyway, and quite a number of folks cannot tahan pisang abu... angin... so they say. If it's pisang tanduk or pisang asam, then my neighbours would be glad to have them. (Yes, I do know quite a few types of bananas, even the ones which are not available at my house, including pisang emas (bawa belayar?), pisang rastali, pisang awak & pisang nangka... and I also know pisang kaki but it's not a type of banana!)

There are times when I have an abundance of pisang abu at home. Now I know where to send them - and Lin can cut down a bit on costs when I get to do that!

It's good to know that there are people like Lin who at least makes an attempt to earn a living. I don't mind helping this kind of people. Unlike some people I know who depend totally on welfare aid... and complains when the welfare aid comes in late.

Yeah, if you had been reading this blog from the start, I'm sure you know who they are...

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And here's a little update on Baby K...

Mr & Mrs K brought the little girl for her second appointment at IJN earlier this week. The doctors have confirmed that the little hole-in-heart girl should be ready for surgery in November. The cost for the surgery is RM20K, but after appealing, the Yayasan IJN (I think) has agreed to cover RM19.5K, while the couple will have to fork out another RM500. I think the RM500 is just to make sure that the parents would at least make an attempt to contribute a minimal amount for the surgery.

Frankly, if it is up to them, I doubt they'd be able to come up with the RM500. They don't even have enough to cover their monthly expenses... always hutang here hutang there.

Well, I don't think there'd be any problem for me to get contributions of RM500 needed for Baby K - plus maybe an additional few hundreds for the guardians while they're there. Mrs K will definitely need to take leave from work. As such she will be earning less that month. Of course, I didn't tell Mr & Mrs K I'd try to find donors - if I did, they'd probably just goyang kaki from now until November. And if I do get the contributions now, I will only hand it over to them when it's time for the girl's surgery. If they get the money too early, they'd probably use it for other purposes and then go back to square one when the time comes for Baby K's surgery.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Tolong kak, saya takut...

I was relaxing at home watching TV on Monday night (I did mention in my previous posting that all I did on Monday was relaxing at home, didn't I?) when a text message came in. The SMS was from Lin - asking me if I'd be free on 22nd April and if I could accompany her at the hospital for her appointment.

Hmmm... she had gone for her hospital appointments for some time already, without needing anyone to accompany her... why would she need someone now?

Well, she was scared she may get a scolding from the doctor. Ahah, she must have been guilty of doing something she's not supposed to do then, right? Indeed...

"Saya takut kena marah sebab saya tak makan ubat."

No wonder lah, she had not been taking her ARV medication. Yes, she went to the hospital, got the supply of medication (expensive ones too!) but all the ARV drugs are left untouched at home. Why? Because she's scared.

Aiyo! Makan ubat also takut... doktor marah also takut... how lah like that?

Frankly, I do understand her fear of taking the medication. If you had read my posting here, you may remember that Lin had started taking her ARV medication last year, but she had severe allergies to the first combination of drugs given to her - resulting in swollen feet and bloated face and lips. It was so bad I almost didn't recognise her when I went to visit her at the hospital. She had to be hospitalised for about 3 weeks, and as a result, lost her job. The doctor stopped her medication for a while and only gave her a new combination of ARV drugs after she got better.

All these while I thought Lin had been taking her new combination of ARV medication religiously. As a matter of fact, during my last visit to her house, I asked her how her body was reacting to the new drugs. She said she was okay and there was no side effects. Now I know she lied. There was no side effect with this medication because she just kept them at home! The only side effect is that she is now afraid to face the doctor!

While I understand her fear of taking the medication, she should still have voiced out her fear - if not to the doctors, she could have voiced it out to me. She usually doesn't keep anything from me when I ask her anything. Then I remembered, when I last went to visit her and asked about her reaction to the new drugs, it was during our Sponsorship assessment visit. I brought along 2 other buddies with me to her house. (One of the criteria for the sponsorship assessment visit is that at least 2 committee members other than the buddy involved, need to come along. This is to ensure there'd be no biased assessments.)

Even when I told her earlier that I'd be bringing along 2 other volunteers to visit her at home, she was already worried. But since she needed the financial help for her children's educational needs, she relented. But to open up when there are 2 other "strangers" around, no way!

Lin came to Ipoh GH for her blood test last week. That was when she started worrying. Since she had not been taking her medication at all, she's afraid of the results of her blood test. If her CD4 is lower than before, definitely the doctors/pharmacists will ask if she had been compliant in taking her medication. She will only know of the results during her appointment.

Yes, Lin knows she's at fault. And she expects to get a scolding. But being the sensitive soul that she is, she is afraid she may break down and cry when the scolding comes. Which was why she asked if I could accompany her during her appointment. As I told her, if the doctors want to scold her, they'll still scold her anyway, with or without me around. Lin is well aware of that. She's hoping that at least she'd have someone around IF she ends up crying. Poor thing!

I already have prior appointments at the office tomorrow morning, so no, I can't accompany her. I told her to simply tell the truth to the doctor/pharmacist, and tell them too about her phobia due to the side effects of the first combination of ARV drugs given to her last year. I also promised to meet up with her in the afternoon, after her appointment. If she needs to talk it over, she can do so when we meet up in the afternoon, insyaAllah.

Let's see how it goes tomorrow...

Monday, 20 April 2009

Lazy Pi lazy bum...

It's a public holiday in Perak today (it was the Sultan's birthday yesterday...).

Initially I had contemplated visiting Murni and her family today. I wanted to assess for myself their situation, before I consider Murni's children for my NGO's Children Education Fund, or the Education Sponsorship for Children.

But Murni stays in an unfamiliar territory (to me) and so I'd have to do a bit of homework before I go over. I googled for the map to her kampong, and although I managed to get the map of the town where she stays in, I simply couldn't find the road or the kampong indicated in her address.

Maybe I could just wait until next week when Murni is expected to come to Ipoh to get her supply of ARV drugs. Then maybe I can offer to send her back, so next time I want to go to her house, I will already know where it is. But I can't be too sure I won't be busy at the office. Or maybe I could just go today to the town where she stays and call Murni from there, asking her to wait for me somewhere in town. I did that the first time I went to visit Nuri some time back. Yeah, maybe I could do that. But I decided not to call Murni before I confirm my plans.

This morning, after my usual kampong exercise routine, suddenly the lazy bug got the better of me. So, no, it's no go to Murni's house today. I guess I shall just wait for her to come to Ipoh. Whether or not I will be sending her home after that, that's for me to decide only when the time comes - depending on whether I have any other matters to be dealt with, and whether the lazy bug will be attacking me again.

So today Lazy Pi (not Lady Di) is just lazing around at home... making full use of the public holiday to simply relax. I need to rest also kaaan?

THEY CALL ME LAZY BUM... LAZY BUM... IT'S NO LIE... YEAH!

LAZY BUM... LAZY BUM... LOOK AT ME AND YOU KNOW WHY!

(to be sung to the tune of Penny Mclean's "Lady Bump")

happyfaces-1

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Rainy day at the clinic

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.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Gotong-royong

We had a gotong-royong at our center last year to tidy up our store room. During our last Board Meeting, we decided it's about time we have another gotong-royong to tidy up the other areas of our center - we want our center to look tidier and at the same time to have a more systematic way of keeping things... particularly our files. So we fixed it for yesterday.

I didn't realise yesterday was Easter Sunday until one of the volunteers emailed me to say he wouldn't be able to attend because it was a big day for him. Ah well, we had already decided on the date, so might as well proceed with whoever was able to make it.

We were supposed to start at 2.30 pm but I got to the center rather early. I wanted to see the recent bank statements to check on the cash/cheque deposits and online transfers in our account for sponsorship purposes. No doubt it's the treasurer's job to keep track of all the money going in and out, but as the coordinator for the Education Sponsorship for Children who keeps the individual records of each sponsored child and sponsor, I need to make sure my account tallies with the treasurer's.

Nearing 2.30 pm, one volunteer called to say he'd be late. Then another volunteer SMSed to say she was still stuck with a business client. Then another volunteer called to say she'd be late too. With the exception of 2 volunteers who notified me earlier they wouldn't be able to make it, the rest who failed to turn up didn't bother to inform. Only 5 volunteers turned up (that's almost 25% turnout) , but I guess that was good enough to get the job done.

So we rearranged whatever that needed rearrangement, threw away whatever needed to be thrown away, reorganised whatever that needed to be reorganised.



Sorry, no pics of the office area - that room is for authorised personnel only! Hehe...

We now need to buy hard cover files to replace the paper files we've been using. It wasn't necessary initially when we first started as there weren't much to file anyway. But a few years down the road, it's about time we have a proper filing system. Otherwise, we'd have trouble looking for any info. Since we are all volunteers and there's nobody working full time at the center, we are now rather dependent on the respective coordinators to get whatever documents or info.

I'd better start keeping a hard copy of the Sponsorship Programme details too. As it is, I'm keeping the details in soft copy (with a few backups lah). If I don't keep hard copies at the center, and suddenly something bad happens to me (na'uzubillah), the other volunteers may not know where to continue with the programme.

Yeah, yeah, do with less printing, save the environment bla bla bla... but most of the volunteers are still old school material. Still more comfortable with hard copies rather than soft copies. The most important thing is to ensure that should anything happen to any one of us, the rest will know where to find the necessary documents and info.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Donating blood

After my usual Saturday pasar tani routine this morning, and after all the siang-menyiang (of the fish etc) at home, off I went to a hypermarket to get some stuff I needed to use this weekend for my own "Minah Gyver" jobs to be done at my home.

As I got to the main entrance, well, whaddaya know... there was a blood donation drive. Great! It's been almost 2 years since my last blood donation, it's about time I donate again. You see, I don't mind donating blood... but am just too lazy to go to the hospital to do so. They need blood, they have to come find me, and not the other way round. I know, I know... if I really really wanted to donate blood, I wouldn't find it too troublesome to go to the hospital to do so, right? After all, I do go to the hospital quite often for my clinic duties. But I'd have to walk to the other end of the hospital to do so. Ahh, stop finding excuses lah... admit it... I'm just plain LAZY. Capital L capital A capital Z capital Y! Period.

Anyway, since I didn't have to go out of my way this time, and the opportunity to donate blood was there right before my very eyes, I immediately signed up. It is a good a idea to have the blood donation drive at a shopping center to cater for people like me (okay, so maybe the others are not lazy but just couldn't find the time to go to a proper blood center).

After filling up the form, weighing myself (I like using hospitals' weighing scales, they'd usually show my weight being at least 2 kgs less than that showed by my weighing scale at home!), testing for blood type (well, it's already there in my blood donor book but I guess they just have to be sure the last few times I got tested there were no mistakes done), blood pressure etc, I went to one of the empty beds. Just as I lied down, one girl who was there to help give out drinks etc to the blood donors, asked, "Nak makan biskut, makcik?" Adoi, I was lying flat on the bed lah... nanti nak derma darah tercekik biskut le pulak!

There were six beds there, and what I noticed was that most of the time, 4 out of 6 donors were women. After I was done donating blood, and sending to my car whatever drinks, fruits, biscuits etc they gave to the blood donors, I went up to the hypermarket to get whatever I wanted to buy in the first place. When I got down, it looked as though the statistics were just about the same... more women than men.

I can only think of 2 reasons...

1. It was a shopping center and so there were more women around.

2. The guys takut jarum. Muahaha! (errr... sorry guys, just kidding... although I do personally know of a few guys yang memang takut jarum!)

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Excuses, excuses...

Seeing that we still had 3 boxes of milk powder at our center reaching expiry date in May, I figured I'd give one box to Zainab. The milk powder, which we got for free, is for growing up kids (3-6 years). Zainab has 2 daughters around that age. Yes, we do have a few others with kids around that age too, but I haven't really had the time to visit them lately (most of them are staying out of Ipoh). Zainab stays in Ipoh, so it wouldn't be much of a problem for me to go to her house.

The only problem is I don't know when Zainab is on day shift or night shift at her work place. If she's on night shift, I can visit her during the day. So far I've never visited any of my clients at night since I am the type who don't like to go out at night unless I have to. Night time for me is to relax at home. Going for my NGO's board meetings is one of the few occasions that I'd go out at night - and my NGO center is only about 5 minutes drive from my house.

I intended to visit Zainab last Friday, and to make sure she'd be home, I sent her a text message on Thursday, asking if she'd be home the next afternoon. I didn't call her as I remembered she had problems with her hand phone - the line would get cut off every time she answered calls. Well, this time she didn't even reply my message.

Thinking that she was on day shift, I decided not to visit her on Friday. But even by Saturday she had not replied my SMS, so I figured her hand phone had gone totally kaput. I decided to drop by her house on Sunday morning. If she's in, lucky me. If not, that's just too bad, I'd have to come back later.

When I got to her house, I saw a perempuan bogel at the door. Oh don't worry, it wasn't Zainab. It was Kakak, her 7 year old daughter who just had her bath. Adik hadn't had her bath yet, neither had Zainab nor Zaki. Did I visit THAT early? Uh no, I don't think so... I think it was already 10 am when I got to the house.

True enough, Zainab's phone had gone totally kaput. She can't afford to buy a new one, especially now that she no longer gets to do overtime at the factory where she works - which means she's off on Sundays.

What about Zaki, her husband? Didn't he work as a security guard the last time I blogged about them? Well yeah, but as I had expected, he didn't last long with that employer. Am not sure what his excuse was that time, but after that he did manage to get a job at a mamak restaurant. He didn't stay long there either. His excuse? Almost all the workers at that restaurant were Indian nationals whom Zaki couldn't get along with. According to Zaki, they would make themselves busy when their boss is around but relax whenever he's not.

Am not sure if all that Zaki said was true. At a time when it's hard to get a job... at a time when Zainab no longer gets to do overtime, Zaki is still finding excuses to quit his job?!

From the first time I met them, Zaki always came up with all sorts of excuses to quit his job.

The first time he found out about his HIV infection, Zaki used to cook at a restaurant. He used HIV as his excuse to quit. "Takut kalau terluka nanti, darah masuk dalam makanan." Duh! Hello? Even those without HIV need to be careful not to let their blood drop into any of the food they cook lah! We don't want to create too many Raja Bersiongs, do we? (as it is, I think we already have too many bloodsuckers around. Ooops!) Besides, HIV don't spread through the food we eat.

Then after some time he got a job as a security guard. In less than a month, he quit. "Jauhlah, susah nak pergi. Kena naik dua bas."

Then he got another job as a casual staff in another town. I think this one he lasted about 2 months or so before he quit again. "Leceh lah, nak ulang-alik tiap-tiap minggu. Banyak keluar belanja." (of course, buying cigarettes is not a waste of money to him... only traveling to meet up with his family is)

Next, he got a job as security guard again. He quit in a month. This time one of his fellow colleagues whom he didn't like became his excuse to quit.

Ahh, excuses, excuses! There's always an excuse, it's never his fault.

I think he's just plain lazy. Oh, he wants a job alright. He wants an easy job where he can goyang kaki and still take home a fixed salary at the end of each month. At least he can use his salary to buy his supply of cigarettes.

Zainab's the one who has to kerja bagai nak gila to pay for all their household needs.

Sigh...

Monday, 6 April 2009

Weight loss program

Been blogging about serious stuff for some time now... so let's just lighten up a bit ya?

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Pic taken from photobucket.com

A guy calls a company and orders their 5-day, 10 lb. weight loss program. The next day, there's a knock on the door and there stands before him a voluptuous, athletic, 19 year old babe with a sign around her neck. She introduces herself as a representative of the weight loss company. The sign reads, 'If you can catch me, I'm yours.'

Without a second thought, he takes off after her. A few miles later huffing and puffing, he finally gives up. The same girl shows up for the next four days and the same thing happens. On the fifth day, he weighs himself and is delighted to find he has lost 10 lbs. as promised.

He calls the company and orders their 5-day/20 pound program. The next day there's a knock at the door and there stands the most stunning, beautiful, sexy woman he has ever seen in his life. She is wearing a skimpy running outfit, running shoes and a sign around her neck that reads, 'If you catch me, I'm yours.'

Well, he's out the door after her like a shot. This girl is in excellent shape and he does his best, but no such luck. So for the next four days, the same routine happens with him gradually getting in better and better shape.

Much to his delight on the fifth day when he weighs himself, he discovers that he has lost another 20 lbs. as promised. He decides to go for broke and calls the company to order the 7-day/50 pound program.

'Are you sure?' asks the representative on the phone. 'This is our most rigorous program.'
'Absolutely,' he replies, 'I haven't felt this good in years.'

The next day there's a knock at the door; and when he opens it he finds a huge muscular guy standing there wearing nothing but pink running shoes and a sign around his neck that reads, 'If I catch you, you're mine.'

He lost 63 pounds that week.

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So, anyone wants to give this a try?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Hello? How ya doin'?

As mentioned in my previous posting, I have not been in contact with some of my PLHIV clients for quite some time. When I updated my PLHIV list, I realized there were 21 names in my contact list - 19 of them my clients, while the other 2, although not my client, do contact me from time to time. With some of the volunteers having only 2 or 3 clients each, it's about time I pass some of my clients to other volunteers. Otherwise, I may not be able to keep in touch with them as often as I should.

Today, Thursday, as usual I went to my NGO center to check on admin matters. Since I am usually occupied with other things when I'm at my office or at home, I took the opportunity to call some of my clients to find out how they are doing.

First up was Lin. I have yet to tell her that I have already got sponsors for her 2 schooling children although I have already banked in the sponsorship amount for January to March. So I told her that the pocket money for her children will be banked into her account every month, and if there is any other amount which may be required from time to time pertaining to their schooling needs, Lin needs to inform me. Lin seems to be doing okay now. Previously she used to help out at her brother's food stall from morning to 12 noon. Now that her children have got bicycles as transportation for them to go to school, Lin no longer needs to go home in the afternoon. She helps out at her brother's stall a little longer and so gets paid a little more. That's one thing I like about Lin - she looks for opportunities instead of waiting for help just staying at home. Lin's next appointment in Ipoh will be in 2 weeks time, on the day when I'll be on clinic duty, so hopefully I will be meeting her then.

After Lin, I called Ifa. There was ringing tone... then it seemed as though someone did answer but immediately switched the phone off. Ifa knows my number, so she would have recognised the call was from me. Did she purposely switch off the phone because it was ME who called? Maybe she no longer wants to be reminded of anything to do with HIV and I somehow do remind her of that? Ifa had before this repeatedly insisted that she no longer has HIV. According to her, blood tests done at a particular klinik kesihatan elsewhere did not show anything about her having HIV. Duh, of course la sister, the blood test done at that clinic was not for HIV so how could the test result show it? According to SN, tests done at the Ipoh GH showed that not only had Ifa's CD4 drop drastically, her viral load had increased too. Probably because of non-compliance in taking her medication. Ifa had admitted to me before this that on weekends when she goes to discos with her friends, she wouldn't take her medication as she'd be taking ecstasy pills instead. Aduh... Ifa, Ifa. Since she did not answer (or did not want to answer) my call, I don't know what happened to her khalwat case. I wonder if she has married the boyfriend with whom she was caught during the Jabatan Agama raid last year.

After my call to Ifa went unanswered, I tried calling Suhaila & Samsul. My colleague who's in charge of clients welfare told me that he had been trying to call Samsul for the past month but the calls were never answered. So I tried calling and lucky me, this time Samsul answered the call. He's still doing his old job of collecting recyclable goods and not earning much. I asked him why he has yet to take up the job as security guard in Ipoh which not only pays more, but more importantly, fixed. Samsul said he had discussed matters with Suhaila, and they felt more comfortable staying where they are staying now. Oh well, if they themselves are not willing take up the opportunities presented to them, there's not much we Buddies can do.  Sometimes you need to let go of something to get something else. They'd better learn to accept that.

After speaking to Samsul, I tried calling Ani. The phone rang, but nobody answered. The same thing happened the last time I tried to call her. I wonder what's going on in her life now. She called me quite often last time when she needed help with her EPF withdrawal, then she got her money... I guess she no longer needs me? Oh well, at least I hope that meant she put her EPF drawings to good use, unlike some others who'd finish their EPF in just a few weeks and then start telling all sorts of sad stories to get more help.

Couldn't get hold of Ani, so I tried calling our live-wire, Jah. Jah would usually quickly answer the phone if it's me calling, and today was no different - although she did sound a bit blur (macam orang baru bangun tidur) at first.

Me: "Oi, tidur ke?"

Jah: "Biasa la kak... tidur makan tidur makan itu je lah kerja saya."

Me: "Tapi badan kurus macam tu juga, tak naik-naik kan?"

Jah: "Tau tak apa..."

Typical Jah indeed. Like Lin, Jah too will be coming to Ipoh in 2 weeks time for her appointment. When I told her I'd be on clinic duty on that very day, she sounded so happy. I know what's on her mind... free lunch. (makan juga yang diingatnya...)

Then I tried calling one of my clients whom I have yet to get in touch with - a 60-something year old makcik. No, not that I haven't had the time to contact her. I did try earlier but my calls never got through. I always get the "please try later" response. Today was no different.  The phone number belonged to her step-daughter, but according to my colleague who was on clinic duty when this makcik was referred to them, the step-daughter was the one who gave the number and agreed that we should call her step-mother on that number. I think I will need to check with SN on this makcik's next appointment at the HIV clinic and try to meet her then.

Lastly, I tried calling Wani. She's not my client but now that her children are covered under our Education Sponsorship program, I wanted to get her bank account number so I can easily bank in the monthly sponsorship amount direct into her account on time. But, like my call to the above makcik, my call to Wani also ended up with the "please try later" response.

Oh, I haven't called Yah, have I? Well, no need to. Not today. My colleague (the one handling clients' welfare) got a call from her yesterday - telling him that she hasn't been getting her monthly welfare aid. Actually my colleague had already told her earlier that it's normal for the welfare department to bank in the money late for the first quarter of each year, but Yah still wanted to complain again anyway. When asked if she has got herself a job, she said nobody wants to take her in. And she also added, "Saya dah baik sekarang." Uhhh... is she finally admitting that she had been bad before?

Why was she saying that to my colleague anyway? My guess is she still believes that Fuzi had been badmouthing her to me and as a result, she is getting lesser financial assistance because I decided so. Now she wants to get back into our good books so she can get more help.

Aduh, ini perempuan ingat Pi Bani tu siapa? So powerful to stop financial assistance to her? Or so rich to give her money?

Hmmm... maybe she should hurry up and try her luck in Bukit Kilo (orang sekarang mana pakai gantang dah??!) before 7th April. Uhh no, not to bertanding atas tiket bebas using whatever symbol, but to ask for help lah. This is the time to ask whaaat??!!