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)

Monday, 29 June 2009

Busy calling calling...

For the past few days I've been making/receiving quite a number of phone calls to/from my PLHIV clients. Not forgetting a few replies to my earlier SMS on Wednesday last week regarding our coming family day.

After Murni became the first to confirm her attendance together with her 5 children, early the next morning, Mrs K replied my SMS - saying they would like to join too. They had missed last year's family day at the Taiping Zoo as we were not able to contact them then. (at that time Mr K had sent their phone to the kedai pajak gadai)

Later in the afternoon, while I was at Buddies Centre, Fuzi called. I have not spoken to her for quite some time now. She herself dared not call me too often after the 'lecture' I gave her - about simply waiting for others to do things for her instead of taking the initiative herself. Things had actually improved a whole lot for her family, and so I want her to be more independent. I will slowly pass her case to another volunteer, although I will still follow up on her from time to time. Since she will be joining the family day with all her 5 children, maybe I can introduce her to her new buddy on that day.

After Fuzi's call, I decided to call Sha. I didn't send her the standard SMS I sent to the rest because the last time I contacted her was Raya last year! You see, despite being rather paranoid during her pregnancy (due to listening to "advise" from unqualified people), after she gave birth, and after just a few visits from me, both at the hospital and at her home, she's a much calmer person now. Of course, it helps that her present husband, although negative, is very supportive of her. It's her ex-husband who's in denial and simply refused to go for blood tests. Since Sha is one of the less problematic ones, and I have so many other problematic clients, I would usually only check on Sha once in a while. In fact, the last time I went to visit her was when her baby was 10 months old. Now he's already 2 1/2 years old! And confirmed free of HIV! Anyway, Sha is interested to join the family day if she and her family doesn't have any other plans for the day.

After Sha, I called Jah. I knew Jah is the type who'd jump at the opportunity to jalan-jalan anywhere, and since she didn't reply my SMS, I decided to give her a call. As expected, "Credit habis kak, tak sempat top up lagi." And yes, as expected too, she does want to join the family day - no doubt about it.

Yah never replied my SMS. When I mentioned about it to my colleague who was also at the center, he told me that Yah changed her number yet again. And she never bothered to tell me about it? My colleague wanted to give me her number (she had called him earlier to seek some info regarding welfare matters), but I told him not to. If Yah really wanted to keep in touch with me, she'd inform me herself of her new number. Now that I no longer send her groceries and baby's needs, if she feels that I am no longer of any use to her and as such no necessity to give me her number, let her be.

I guess my colleague must have told her what I said. On Friday a call came in from an unfamiliar number. "Kak, saya ni." I knew immediately it was Yah. Nobody else introduces themselves as 'saya'. She wanted to tell me that she's interested to join the family day. And her children? Well, her 2 older children are still at the same orphanage while Abang Chik, the one and only son, is in the process of being sent to a "pusat pemulihan akhlak". A pusat pemulihan akhlak for a 9 year old boy?? Yah said he seemed to be getting naughtier and naughtier each day and a teacher is arranging for him to be sent to the so-called Pusat Pemulihan Akhlak, as claimed by Yah. Frankly I'm not too sure what to believe. Abang Chik had always been a hyperactive child and as suggested by one of my blog readers, he may be having some sort of ADHD, and so I did tell Yah to bring him for proper checkup. She never did.

But Yah said she will be joining the family day together with Aini, her youngest daughter who's now already 3 years old. I used to deliver diapers and milk powder to their home quite regularly when the girl was younger, to the extent that the girl's Tok Wan taught Aini to call me Mama! Well, this Mama hasn't met this baby of hers for so long, I doubt the girl would recognise me any more.

Later at night, Lin sent me a text message, to inform me that her daughter wanted to attend a "Teknik Menjawab Soalan UPSR" course in Ipoh and had been pestering Lin to call me to ask if the payment could be covered by our sponsorship programme. RM60 is a big amount if Lin has to fork out her own money. I told her as long as it's for her daughter's education, it should be covered.

I had already told Lin earlier about the family day, and most likely she and her children will attend because as she always told me, "Kalau harapkan saya, tak berjalanlah budak-budak ni." You see, when she was still married to Mr Darling, she was a full time housewife who stayed home almost all the time. So she simply doesn't know where or even how to bring her kids for jalan-jalan. Anyway, when I mentioned the town where we will be having our family day, Lin's 12 year old daughter wasn't sure whether she should believe me. Mention the town and the first and only thing that came to her mind was a mental hospital (ah, I bet now you know the town I'm talking about, kan?). And of course, it didn't help that her Makcik Afizah's facial expression doesn't change much whether she's serious or joking! The poor girl must be confused...

Sunday morning I went to visit Zainab. Since her phone had long time gone kaput, I couldn't call or SMS her. Thank goodness she stays in Ipoh, so I could just go and drop by her house. I couldn't check if she was home or not, so I simply redah - bringing with me some foodstuff for her kids, and an old phone of mine, which has some defects here and there but still usable to make/receive calls or send/receive text messages.

Too bad Zainab wasn't home. Only her hubby Zaki and the kids were home, so I didn't go in. I just talked to Zaki for a while outside the house. Zainab had to do overtime work - which is a good sign, really. I guess the economy is getting a bit better. Before this, the factory where she works had stopped overtime for a while. I told Zaki about the family day, and he promised he'd get Zainab to call me back (now that they've got a phone) once they can confirm if they're joining or not.

Well, so far, from my list of clients alone, I already have 10 adults (including sons/daughters past schooling age) and 18 children confirming their attendance. There are already enough people to make a family day even if clients of other volunteers don't intend to join. But what I noticed this time is that 4 of the babies I used to deal with quite a lot when they were younger (either visiting them at the hospital when they were born, or delivering babies' needs to their homes - keeping a close tab on them until they were confirmed free from HIV), now aged between 2 1/2 to 3 years old, will be joining. It will be some sort of gathering for 'my babies'.

Coincidentally, 'my babies' joining the event are 2 boys and 2 girls. Maybe I should be a matchmaker now, huh? ;) Better still, pair up Fuzi's 3 year old cute looking son with Yah's 3 year old cute looking daughter. Uh no... on second thoughts, better not... I may end up having to come up with my own version of "Ibu Mertuaku" script later on as Fuzi and Yah are not in good terms with each other... what more to berbesan... they perang besar you see...

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Heading for home...

I am so happy today. Happy but sayu at the same time. Remember I mentioned in my previous posting my calls to Puan Nur couldn't get through? Apparently her phone went kaput. She got herself another phone now but since all numbers were stored in her old phone instead of the SIM card, she had a hard time trying to look for the phone numbers of her acquaintances, including mine.

Well, she called me this morning. And guess what? She was already on her way to fetch Sharifah and my little Cek Mek from the shelter home. She had initially planned to go next week but since her hubby can only take time off this week, they decided to go today instead so at least they have a car to bring Cek Mek home. So yes, my little Cek Mek is finally heading home today. The little girl's hospital appointment has not been transferred yet due to the last minute decision, but Puan Nur promised me she'd bring Cek Mek back for her next appointment (which is next month I think) and ask for the referral letter then. I will personally make sure Puan Nur keeps her promise. No matter what happens the little girl's health is to be given priority.

Since I'm not seeing the little girl before she heads for home, here's an open letter from me to my little Cek Mek...

_________________________________________________

My dear little Cek Mek,

I am so glad you are finally heading for home. Not my home. Not temporary home. Not shelter home. But your own HOME SWEET HOME... with your own family - your young mom, your young grandparents, and not forgetting your young aunts and uncles.

Ever since you came into this world (in a very dramatic manner I must add!) I have been blogging about you a lot, I hope you don't mind. Frankly when I first blogged about your mom, I never thought your birth would somehow leave a rather big impact on me. I thought it would just be another case - like the other cases I've handled before.

Yes, I have dealt with quite a number of babies born to HIV positive mothers. Why was it that you my little Cek Mek dear, got more of my attention?

Were you cuter than the rest of the babies? Naaah... jangan perasanlah, I doubt it. To me all newborn babies are cute. It's when they grow up a little and start throwing tantrums that I start classifying them as cute, cuter, cutest or not cute at all. Hehehe...

The main reason must have been the uncertainty you had to face. Even before you were born, your mom had nobody but me to depend on here in Ipoh. For the other cases, the women at least had homes to go to. They had family members taking care of them. And even though there was another case of out-of-wedlock pregnancy I had to deal with before, her case was handed over to a shelter home in KL before she gave birth. So I didn't have to face any of the delivery kelam-kabutness. Besides, for all the other cases I've handled so far, they all delivered on the scheduled dates. And I didn't have to be the one sending them to the hospital.

Oh yes, that must be another reason you touched my life more than the other babies. Never in my life did I ever have to send someone to the hospital at 3 am to deliver a baby! No doubt I didn't wait at the waiting area like the fathers and suku-sakat kaum-kerabat of the other babies, but still, you, my little Cek Mek, were so impatient to see the world, you made me create a record of my own. That was a first for me.

Then when I found out that your mom gave birth to you thru normal delivery, I got worried. All the other babies I dealt with before were caesarian deliveries, and so my confidence level (about them being safe from HIV) was rather high. Your case was the first normal delivery case I had to deal with. Another first for me. I did consult an expert on this and was told not to worry as your mom was on ARV medication during pregnancy and so the chances of you getting infected were still reduced somehow.

Then came the uncertainties of your future. Were you to be given away for adoption? Were you to be sent to a welfare home? Were you to remain under the care of your own mother? That was only finally decided when your mom and younger-than-me grandma got to see and touch you. Ahh... you were too adorable to be given away... so they decided that you were to stay at a shelter home temporarily while your mom would go home with your grandma. Their plan was to come and get you from the shelter home later after a few months. I objected to that (such a busybody, wasn't I?). I told them that your mom should join you at the shelter home for at least 2 months so that the 2 of you could bond - otherwise you may not want to follow them when the time comes. Actually I suggested that because quietly I was hoping that by the time your mom has to leave the shelter home, she'd be too attached to you she wouldn't have the heart to leave you behind for too long.

So, the decision was made... your mom and grandma agreed to my suggestion. There shouldn't be any more problems, right? Wrong! Due to your mom's status as an unwed 19 year old HIV positive mother, the case was referred to the hospital's social/welfare unit and so your mom and grandma had problems getting you discharged from the hospital. I had to bring them to meet the officer in charge to settle the problem. I never had to do that before. Another first for me - all because of you, my little Cek Mek dear.

By then you were 7 days old but your mother had yet to register for your birth cert. Your grandma was around by then, but she was not familiar with Ipoh and she too never had to do the registration for all her children - she had your grandpa to do all that. So I went with your grandma to the JPN to register for your birth cert. And yeah, you got that right... another first for me!

The problems we encountered caused some delays in sending you and your mom to a shelter home, and since your grandma had to go back to settle some things at home first, for a few days, you had to stay alone with your mom at an unfamiliar territory. While waiting for your grandma to come back to Ipoh, I had to check on you every day during those days. That was when you little rascal managed to steal my heart!

Then we sent both you and your mom to a shelter home. And for the first time too, the shelter home I sent you to was not specifically for HIV cases. It felt rather odd really, leaving you at a place where the other occupants were not in the same category as you and your mom. Both your grandma and myself felt sad when we left you and your mom there.

But the sadness became joy when in less than a week, your grandma told me she finally decided to bring you and your mom home earlier than originally planned. It was a good thing you and your mom didn't look too comfortable there. It made your grandma think again. I was so happy! She had not decided on the date yet but at least she was already making the necessary arrangements. Yes, I knew that would mean I'd be seeing less (maybe even last) of you, but the fact that you were finally going HOME in its true sense made me feel much much better. To me, the sooner you head home, the better.

Well, this morning your grandma called me and surprised me when she told me she was already on her way to fetch you and your mom. The best news I've heard all week!

Truth be told my dear, I was kinda hoping I'd be able to see you one last time before you head for home. But never mind, it doesn't matter what I want. The important thing is what you need - and what you need is a place you can truly call home. So go! Go on home!

My little Cek Mek dear,

I hope you don't get me wrong with my long letter recalling all the tense and blood pressure rising moments I had to endure because of you. I am not complaining - not at all! I thank Allah for choosing ME to provide those little services to you. I enjoyed and appreciate every little moment I got to spend with you. I definitely learnt a whole lot from this episode, and for that I really have to thank you, my little dear.

I may not be seeing you again (although I do hope I will), but I definitely will keep in touch with your mom and grandma to get updates from time to time about your progress, at least until I can be very sure of your HIV status. And I want you to know, no matter what the outcome is, we all still love you no less. You're very lucky my dear, that you have a very open minded grandma.

For now my little Cek Mek dear, my prayer for you is so that you will lead a normal, healthy and happy life full of love. May Allah protect and bless you always.

With loads and loads of love, cuddles and kisses,

Opah Pi

p/s

I am sure some of my blog readers would want to cuddle and kiss you too, if only they could.

Friday, 26 June 2009

A little update on my little Cek Mek

Yesterday I met my friend who frequents the flat where we temporarily placed Sharifah recently. (He didn't frequent the place when Sharifah was using the place lah - otherwise sure dah kepoh satu flat!). He went over to the flat a few days ago and bumped into one of the neighbours...

Neighbour: "Mana budak perempuan yang beranak kecik hari tu?"

My friend: "Dah balik kampung dia lah."

Neighbour: "Baik betul baby tu. Suami budak perempuan tu mana? Kerja apa?

My friend: "Suaminya askar."

End of story.

Soldiers get posted to various places from time to time, so that was the first thing that came to my friend's mind to avoid further interrogation from the neighbour. Good move, I must say... although he did lie... white lie ka, yellow lie ka, purple lie ka, doesn't matter lah!

But you know what that meant? That meant despite the precautions we took to avoid exposing my little Cek Mek to the people outside, the neighbours did notice. The baby was only exposed twice. The first time was when they were just discharged from the hospital and I needed to bring them there first before sending them over to the present shelter home a few days later. There were quite a number of children playing around then but I didn't see any adults outside. The second time she was exposed was when we needed to bring her into my car to send Sharifah and my little Cek Mek to the shelter home. Again, I didn't see any adults around, just a few kids. This particular makcik who was asking my friend all those questions about Sharifah must have been peeping from the windows...

Well, since my friend brought up the story of my little Cek Mek, timbul rindu pulak kat si kecik tu. I tried calling Puan Nur to ask if she had already fixed a day to fetch her daughter and grandchild, but my calls didn't seem to get through. Oh dear, don't tell me she changed her number yet again...

So I decided to call Kak Ana, the lady running the shelter home. I wanted to know the latest progress on my little Cek Mek's checkups at the hospital. Kak Ana was in the car, together with Sharifah, and they were on their way back from another round of body massage for Sharifah.

According to Kak Ana, they just brought my little Cek Mek to the hospital earlier in the morning. The people at the hospital needed to take the little girl's blood sample for testing.

Imagine how I cringed when Kak Ana mentioned that the little baby's blood didn't seem to flow out... so they had to make a few attempts to get her blood samples. Adoiii... the little girl is just slightly over 3 weeks old.

Oh my poor little Cek Mek!!

p/s

Btw, this is my 333rd blog posting...


Thursday, 25 June 2009

Nak join family day tak?

No, the question is not meant for my blog readers.

It's the season when I have to start calling all my PLHIV clients again. Our family day is coming up in just slightly more than a month, and we need to get the numbers and all for logistics purposes. So I've got to start asking my PLHIV clients to ask if they'd like to join our family day planned in early August.

With the long list of clients that I have, I didn't want to end up like a broken record, calling each one and repeating the whole story about the family day to each and every one of them.

I figured for a start I'd just come up with a standard text message and send the same message to all my clients; see the response from there, and then maybe call them later for follow up. So yes, I've sent text messages to Murni, Suhaila, Maria, Asiah, Jah, Fuzi, Yah, Lin, Hana, Ani, Mrs K and Razif. Zainab's phone has gone kaput so I will need to visit her to pass her the info. I haven't been in touch with Sha for quite some time so I will need to call her to make sure her number is still valid.

Nuri is very unlikely to join us as she had always been reluctant to join any of our activities - to her if she joins our activities people will know she has HIV. But I will still call her - who knows she may think differently now.

Although people like Shila and Wani call me from time to time, I will let their own buddies invite them to the family day. I already have enough people to contact!

Zana and Noni are now in KL, and I haven't been able to call them for quite some time. I was also informed by SN that Kak Som's case has been transferred to KL, and SN also confirmed that Makcik Minah had passed away some time ago (before this I only heard rumours about it, as in my posting here). So, it's definitely NO for these people.

People like Jah, our live wire, will most likely say yes. In fact every time I call her she'd expect me to invite her to jalan-jalan anywhere. But so far she has yet to reply, my guess is she ran out of credit for her hand phone. I will have to call her later.

Fuzi too would very likely say yes, as her children always love to jalan-jalan. But she has yet to reply my message, I wonder why.

Ifa, who switched off her phone the last time I tried to call her about 2 months ago, surprised me this time when she became the first to reply my SMS. She didn't say yes lah, but at least she bothered to reply saying that she'll get back to me later on whether she's joining the family day.

The first to confirm was Murni - and she's coming with a tow of 5 children - big and small.

Lin and children too are very likely to join unless they have other plans for the day. I had already told them informally about the family day when I went to visit them recently. Her youngest daughter probably thought I was joking when I named the town where we're going. To her, mention the town and the only thing that comes to her mind is a mental hospital (I bet you can guess the town I'm talking about kan?). It didn't help that my facial expression is just the same whether I'm joking or not... :)

I'm not sure yet if Sharifah will be able to join us - for the moment I am still waiting for her mom, Puan Nur, to confirm when exactly she wants to fetch Sharifah and my little Cek Mek from the shelter home and bring them home.

Sofie is definitely too weak to join us, and I'm not sure if her children would want to join without their mother coming along. I guess I will just have to ask them.

Whatever it is, I will very likely have to call my clients who don't reply my SMS by this weekend.

I sure hope I haven't missed out anybody.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Help find missing children (Updated)

*UPDATE 24th June 2009: Alhamdulillah, both kids were found safe and well last night. Thanks to those who helped spread the words and who prayed for their safe return. More details here.

Earlier post:



Nadia Natasha 8 tahun dan Ahmad Zakry 10 tahun, telah hilang dari rumah di Sri Putramas, Jalan Kuching, KL pada 22 Jun 2009. Kali terakhir dilihat pada jam 7malam 22 Jun. Sebarang info sila hubungi Puan Miza di 013-345 5661. Terima kasih.

Nadia Natasha 8 yrs and Ahmad Zakry 10 yrs were missing since 22nd June 2009, last seen at Sri Putramas, Jalan Kuching, KL at 7pm. Please call Puan Miza at 013-345 5661

Monday, 22 June 2009

Another new case?

I didn't post anything about my last clinic duty, did I? Usually, right after my clinic duty, I'd blog about it. But my last clinic duty was on the day my little Cek Mek was born, so my postings were focused on the little girl and her mom.

There were actually 3 cases referred to us that day - all male patients. However, for 2 of the cases, the communication was more with the wives, so while the men themselves didn't talk much and were not assigned any buddies, I did give our brochure to the wives and wrote my personal phone number (in addition to the hotline number on the brochure) in case the wives wanted to talk to me. Both women looked so stressed and even cried when I spoke to them during my clinic duty, I figured they may need to talk to someone later.

Well, one of the wives did call me when I was in Cameron Highlands - just 4 days after my clinic duty. Rosnah, whose husband Azlan was already too weak to take care of himself, called to ask if we provide any sort of financial assistance. Rosnah has a job, but since her husband was already bedridden (he was on a wheelchair when I met them at the hospital) and she had to frequently bring him to Ipoh for appointments with various clinics for various ailments, she certainly had to spend a lot more than usual. They have one daughter, now in secondary school.

I told Rosnah that while we ourselves do not provide financial assistance to our clients, we could help them to apply for financial assistance. And I specifically mentioned that it would probably be easier for me to get assistance for her daughter's educational needs - which I have been dealing a lot with since our Education Sponsorship Programme started last year.

Anyway, I asked if I could visit them at home. Rosnah was reluctant as her mother-in-law stays with them and she doesn't know anything about her son's HIV. Rosnah was afraid her mother-in-law may ask lots of questions during my visit. So I told her to call me the next time she needs to bring Azlan to Ipoh so we could discuss things further.

However, a few days ago I received a text message from Rosnah. Her husband Azlan passed away on Monday last week.

I will still need to call Rosnah soon. The last time I spoke to her, her HIV status was not confirmed yet. She was called to do a second blood test but the result of the second test was not known yet. I'm quite concerned because usually they'd only be called for a second test if the first test was reactive.

If she's confirmed positive, then I will have a new client to add to my already long list.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Banana delivery!

I went to visit Lin yesterday. After my usual Saturday pasar tani routine, I called to ask where she'd be around 3 pm as I wanted to drop by. Since she said she'd be at her stall, I told her I'd go straight to the stall.

I then immediately carried some pisang abu (2 tandan!!) into my car, although I planned to go later in the afternoon. You see, I didn't want to be carrying the bananas after I got ready - nanti kotor lah baju!

Yes, Lin is the one who now sells goreng pisang to earn an income for her family. I like her attitude. She applied for welfare and Baitulmal aid, so far nothing. But she doesn't wait for help to come her way. She finds ways and means to earn some money to support her children.

Oh yes, so far she's still getting the monthly alimony of RM300 from her ex-husband (that's Mr Darling - in case you have forgotten) but there are already signs that the said amount may only come in when pestered. Mr Darling himself told his children that his present wife doesn't like him seeing his children so often. She wants him to concentrate more on HER child who, according to her, needs more attention. Itulah... siapa suruh pi cari beban...

I told Lin to arrange with the pejabat agama for the alimony to be deducted direct from Mr Darling's salary since he is a government servant. Lin hopes to do so soon.

Anyway, business seemed to be doing well when I was at Lin's stall today. I sat at a table nearest to where she fries the bananas, facing her, so we could talk while she works. Meanwhile I ordered air kelapa from the stall she's sharing with.

When I saw she was a bit free, I told her to get the air kelapa guys to help get the bananas from my car. Nope, I didn't want to get my clothes dirty.

As I continued chatting with Lin, her 12 year old daughter came. She didn't argue a bit when Lin told her to show me her latest school exam results. The girl knew I'd need to send reports to her sponsor as she's covered under our Education Sponsorship for Children programme. 2B's and a string of C's. Lin had gone to see her school teacher earlier and due to the drop in the girl's performance, the teacher had asked if Lin could help out the girl when she studies or does her homework at home.

It's not that Lin doesn't want to help out with her children's studies. The question is... when can she do that? Daytime every day, she's at her goreng pisang stall as that's her only source of income. Night time, once she takes her ARV medication at 9 pm, within minutes she'd go into dreamland no matter how hard she tries to stay awake. As Lin herself mentioned, "Lepas pukul 9 malam, dah tak boleh pakai dah saya ni!"

So yes, when and how can she pay more attention to her children's studies? Tuition? Well, somehow the girl's school conducts tuition at night - which is not practical for the girl. Lin was not about to let her girl go to school alone at night, it's dangerous! Lin herself who is always knocked out by 9 pm, won't be able to send and fetch the girl from school. So, to them the school tuition was not an option.

I told Lin to ask around on the rates if the girl goes for private tuition near their place. I may be able to get the amount covered by her sponsorship money. Otherwise when Lin's second daughter comes back from overseas for holidays in August, she will need to give intensive revision course for her younger sister before her UPSR.

Why on earth does the school conduct tuition at night anyway? It may not be a problem for parents who can send and fetch their children from school, but the needs of people like Lin and her children need to be considered too!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Wanna become a volunteer?

Of late I've been getting quite a number of emails from some silent blog readers asking me about my voluntary work. Questions range from how to be a volunteer... what do we need to be a volunteer... what are the do's and don'ts of becoming a volunteer... what kind of NGOs are the best to join... what do I get from my voluntary work etc.

How I wish those who asked were staying in or around Ipoh... I would have coaxed them to join Buddies and offer to give them hands on training.

But frankly, as someone who had only seriously became a volunteer 5 years ago, I consider myself still green to be any sort of "consultant" on the subject of volunteering.

Oh yes, before joining Buddies, I did join a few associations but never really found one that suited my needs. I had been looking around for NGOs where I could offer my service to the community but I didn't really know what kind of service I could offer since I didn't have anything special to offer. And somehow the NGOs I joined before were more "general" - I wasn't really exposed to the trials and tribulations of the people in need.

So when someone told me about an NGO providing support service to people living with HIV, which was looking for more volunteers, especially Malay volunteers, I gave it a shot. And guess what, it had all the ingredients I was looking for - low profile, no glam, no politicking, first hand exposure to the lives of the people we're dealing with.

Of course, that doesn't mean you have to join an NGO like mine. If any of you want to become a volunteer, consider your own needs and expectations. Some people may be better off joining high profile NGOs. Some may not be suitable in NGOs like Buddies where we have to deal with people's emotions. They may not be able to take it.

So think thoroughly before you choose what kind of NGOs you'd like to join. And before you join, make sure you are able to commit some time to your voluntary work. Otherwise you may just end up having to frustrate your fellow volunteers when they expect you to join them for some activities but you're always not available.

Having said all that, if you are interested to do voluntary work like mine, dealing with people first hand, here are some tips for you:

#1. Don't be judgmental. What you see on the cover need not necessarily reflect the contents. There are always reasons why people do what they do. So no matter how wrong you think they are, give them the benefit of the doubt.

#2. Learn to listen, especially during the first few contacts. No matter how tempted you are to advise them to do this and that, make sure you let them open up first. The important thing is to gain their trust. Show some empathy. If you are the one who does most of the talking during the first few contacts, chances are they may not want to contact you later because.... errmmm... you talk too much... ;) Once they trust you, they themselves would contact you later to ask for advise/help.

#3. Don't jump to conclusions after listening to one side of the story. Try to find out the other side of the story. For example, someone may tell her sad story of being discriminated by her family etc, but for all we know, she's the one giving problems to the family. So yeah, try to get to know the family as well.

#4. Be sincere in what you do - give em your heart. When you're not sincere, you'd easily get fed up. Oh yes, sometimes I do get physically and mentally tired when I give my heart to the families needing help, but when the end result turns out well, the feeling is... PRICELESS! Hilang letih! Of course, you have to accept that sometimes when things don't turn out the way you wish they would, you do tend to get frustrated. You will then need to just let go.

#5. Don't get too emotionally involved. Ahh... this is a tough one, I admit, especially when it needs to go hand in hand with #4. It's hard to give something/someone your heart while at the same time avoiding emotional attachments. I myself sometimes find this rather difficult, especially after having spent a lot of time with a particular person/family. (yeah, look what happened when I spent so much time with my little Cek Mek - I miss her already!) You need to be keras hati. For me, when my emotions begin to play, I'd make myself busy with other things - like blogging... haha! (In other words, this blog is not only meant for creating awareness, it's also a place for me to de-stress!) Just like office work - you must never bring home problems at the office. It's the same thing with voluntary work.

5 tips for my 5 years in Buddies... :)

Remember... in whatever that you do, always try to think of the brighter side of things.

As to the question of what I get from my voluntary work - SELF SATISFACTION AND A WHOLE LOT OF LESSONS ON LIFE. You see, my PLHIV clients don't give me problems, they give me lessons (without them realising it, of course).

So, anyone care to join Buddies? We're short of volunteers you know... :)

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Sofie revisited

After I went to visit Sofie slightly more than 2 weeks ago, I was thinking of visiting her within the next week or so to settle whatever contributions I managed to get for her from my kind-hearted blog readers. By then I had gotten the money to buy bicycles for the children and a few others had also committed to give a fixed monthly contribution to her family.

However, things didn't really go as planned, not because I didn't want to, but because something unexpected happened - a little girl decided to see the world much earlier than anyone had anticipated! Yep, you would have read by now about the experience I had trying to help out Sharifah and her baby, my little Cek Mek Molek.

Sofie at least had her sister to look after her; Sharifah on the other hand, had nobody.

Since I managed to settle Sharifah's and my little Cek Mek's problems temporarily by sending them to a shelter home on Friday last week, I figured I might as well get things moving for Sofie this week, before some other emergencies crop up! Contributions were already coming in, and since some of my kind hearted blog readers had entrusted me with the money without even knowing me personally, I simply had to make sure Sofie gets the necessary help.

Yesterday I had to check out the venue of our coming Family Day, tomorrow I have some important discussions in my office, so I decided to go today, with a trainee volunteer.

Before we went over to her house, we stopped by a bicycle shop in the small town where she stays. I received contributions to buy 4 bicycles for all her 4 children, and 4 bicycles definitely wouldn't fit into my car, as such the best option would be to buy the bicycles there and get the bicycles delivered to Sofie's house (I mean, Sofie's sister's house).

After paying for the bicycles and leaving Sofie's address with the shop owner, we went to my car, only to find a surat saman for not displaying a parking coupon. Adoii, the only parking coupons I had in my car can only be used in Ipoh. The town we went to is under the jurisdiction of another town council. It's not like I park my car in that town often (in fact that may have been the first time I parked my car there). How I wish they still use parking meters so that people like me who'd only drop by the town once in a blue moon can use those meters instead of having to buy a parking coupon. But oh well, I will just pay the RM10 fine by post. I wasn't about to go search for their office to pay, so we just headed over to Sofie's house. The shop owner promised he'd send the bicycles in a short while.

As I got into the house, immediately I looked over to the right - the exact same spot I saw Sofie during my last 2 visits. This time, she looked even weaker than before. Apparently she was just given a new combination of ARV medication and her body was still adjusting. She had been vomiting, she couldn't eat much (as she said, baru telan nasi dua sudu dah pengsan), her skin became very itchy, and she felt very hot she couldn't even bear to wear any clothes. She just had a batik sarong to cover her body. She's supposed to go to the hospital again in 2 weeks time... but if her condition remains the same or gets worse, I wonder how she's going to get on and off the bus to get to Ipoh!

Only her 3rd child was home when we went to visit today. All the other 3 were at school. Her 11 year old son who was home, by right had some tuition class in school as well this afternoon, but he decided not to go. "Nanti takde siapa nak jaga mak." - that's what he said.

He's a very obedient boy I must add. While we were chatting, the bicycles we bought were delivered. The boy didn't simply grab the bicycles. It was only when we mentioned the bicycles were theirs and told him to keep the bicycles in a safe place did the boy finally dared to touch the bicycles.

Anyway, I told Sofie about the monthly contributions that has already started going into her bank account, including the one from our Education Sponsorship for Children. Sofie mentioned that with the money in, she will get her eldest son to help buy school uniforms/shoes for her youngest daughter. The girl just started schooling this year, and with all her older siblings being boys, there was no hand-it-down uniforms she could use. Sofie ended up buying just one pair of very poor quality uniform for the girl, costing her RM8. Yes, the girl uses the exact same pair to school every day. So people, before you complain about your child's friend in school wearing dirty or smelly clothes, check out the child's background first ya? And help them out if you can.

I also pleaded Sofie not to ask her eldest son (the one sitting for PMR this year) to work part time after school, as she had planned earlier. I begged her to let her son concentrate on his studies. I even warned her that the financial aid may be stopped if the sponsors find out she lets her 15 year old son work part time. (the sponsors didn't say anything lah... I was the one who pandai-pandai tambah as I really wanted the boy to concentrate on his studies)

Sofie's sister was around when I told her all those, I hope she'd make sure Sofie would abide.

I myself better check on Sofie in two weeks time when she's supposed to come for her hospital appointment. She may be too weak to travel by bus...

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The venue of our coming Family Day

Our annual Family Day has been fixed for the 1st Sunday of August every year - although we may have to make some adjustments in 2 years time as that day may coincide with Ramadhan.

For this year, it will be on 2nd August, just before a few of us fly off to Bali for a week for ICAAP. We have already decided where we want to go this year. After writing in an official letter seeking permission, last week we got the go-ahead from the management of the place.

I informed our fellowship coordinator about it - he's the one who is supposed to draw up the plans and make the necessary arrangements. But on Monday he called me up, telling me that he tried to arrange to go and check out the place to give us a clearer picture of what kind of activities we can organise, and to determine the exact spot where we can have our activities.

However, he was told by the operations manager to come on a weekday for that purpose. Since most of our volunteers are working full time 9 - 5, or even later than that, that left him with no choice but to pass the ball to me and another colleague who's also working on a flexi hour basis. Haiya... so balik-balik madam chair jugaklah kena do all the homework for them! Tak aci betul...

But never mind, today I went over with another orang tua to visit the place. We were shown around the place and given options on where we can have our activities. Here's a sneak preview of the place...

PH20090617162937

Where on earth is this? Here's a clue...

PH20090617170648

And here's an even clearer clue...

PH20090617163614

 

OK, no further clues on where this is. And what kind of activities we're having. I will report on that later when the time comes.

I need to go and have my bath now. I think I smell like a horse...

Monday, 15 June 2009

Back to normal routine

Back to normal routine this week. And that doesn't mean I can relax a bit more - it only means I have more things to cover in my voluntary work instead of concentrating on just one particular case as it had been for the past 2 weeks.

That doesn't mean I no longer have to think about Sharifah and my little Cek Mek either. As a matter of fact, first thing this morning, as I was getting ready to go to my office, a call came in from SN. She wanted to inform me of Sharifah's appointment at the HIV clinic. I had informed her earlier that if the appointment is in August, then there's no need to transfer her appointment to the other hospital as Sharifah plans to leave the shelter home by then.

Indeed, SN did fix Sharifah's appointment in August; but when she mentioned 12th August, I was thinking, alamak... I won't be around then (I should be in Bali that week). I asked SN if she could change it to 5th August, so at least if Sharifah needed my help, I'd be around. Thank goodness SN didn't have any problem with that.

Later when I got to the office, I called Sharifah. When I asked how she was doing and if she had adapted herself to the new place, she just said, "OK lah kak, mula tu payah jugak. La ni buleh lah sikit kot..." Didn't sound too convincing though. And of course I asked about my little Cek Mek. The little girl is doing okay, but according to Sharifah, has some problems sleeping at night as some of the occupants can be rather noisy. You see, this shelter home takes in various types of people - the homeless, the elderly, the mentally disabled (hmmm... I think many of our politicians qualify under this third category... but I guess no shelter homes want to take them). So, it's not easy for Kak Ana to control them all.

Anyway, Kak Ana had brought Sharifah for a massage on Sunday. Aiyah, she should have told me earlier lah, I think I need a good body massage myself (ish, Kak Ana bawak budak tu gi urut lepas bersalin - I pulak sibuk nak urut lepas salin baju!!). When I called this morning, Kak Ana wasn't around. She's a rather busy woman. So, Sharifah has yet to bring my little Cek Mek to the hospital. She should be doing so within this week. I told Sharifah about her next appointment in Ipoh.

Today, I also managed to disburse all the monthly sponsorship amount to the rightful recipients. I also finally managed to get back to those who had committed to contribute to Sofie's family. We now have people willing to give monthly contributions to Sofie and her children. Some of the contributions are already in my bank account. I called Sofie to inform her about it and promised her I'd visit this week. Tak berani simpan duit orang lama-lama...

Later at about 5 pm, a fellow volunteer, our Fellowship coordinator, called. He's the one who's supposed to do all the planning for our coming Family Day in August. Today he had called the manager of the place that we intend to visit for our Family Day, trying to arrange for a day when one or two of us could drop by and check out the place so we can have a better picture of what kind of activities we can organise for the day. But although the management of the place has agreed to let us use their place for our Family Day on a Sunday (the place is not open to the public actually), if we need to check out the place before hand, we'd need to do it on a weekday - a working day. That leaves only those with flexi working hours. In other words, orang tua ni juga lah kena pergi... sigh!

But never mind, for the sake of organising a fun day out for the poor families and their children (and not forgetting, this orang tua also want to have fun!), I will try to go either on Wednesday or Thursday with another orang tua volunteer with flexi hour.

Later, I called Puan Nur, Sharifah's mom. The family's busy moving to a new house. I asked if she had already missed her daughter and grandchild. Puan Nur and Sharifah actually call each other every day! And guess what? My strategy seems to work much faster than I thought! Puan Nur is already planning to bring Sharifah home, and Sharifah is already not willing to leave her baby at the shelter home - so yeah, we may have both Sharifah and my little Cek Mek going HOME sooner than planned!

You know, I felt a bit "down" after sending my little Cek Mek to the shelter home last week. I had mixed feelings - I was so so sad for the girl... I missed the girl... I was wondering if my plan would actually work out. But after listening to Puan Nur's plan today, I feel much better already! Not that I'd be able to see my little Cek Mek more often, but at least I know she will be at a proper home with a proper family environment.

I think I can sleep better tonight...

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Time to move on to other cases...

Becoming Sharifah's temporary mom and Cek Mek Molek's temporary grandma had really exhausted me - both physically and mentally. For the past 2 weeks I had been doing lots of thinking and running around trying to settle their problem. Yes, there was a break in between for the retreat in Cameron Highlands, but with so many people there that weekend, and the traffic jam, I didn't really get the much needed rest there.

Yeah, yeah, I know... I should take care of myself and not tire myself too much over my voluntary work. But when an unwed 19 year old HIV positive girl gives birth to a baby here in Ipoh - when she has NOBODY else in Ipoh but me, I simply didn't have the heart to simply let her be. Imagine, if I had not sent her to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning of 3rd June, and she ended up giving birth at the flats - alone... don't you think I'd end up with even more problems? To me, getting out of my house at 2.40 am to send her to the hospital was definitely a better option.

And if I didn't help find her a temporary place to stay in Ipoh, and she didn't get the necessary moral and emotional support, she may have just skipped her hospital appointments and end up giving birth at unthinkable places... and then suddenly I hear there's a "kes buang bayi" somewhere... imagine how I would have felt, knowing I could have done something about it?!

My main weakness, I have to admit, is dealing with babies born to HIV positive mothers. I tend to pay more attention to them because it always breaks my heart when I learn about a child infected with HIV - so I try my utmost best to take all the necessary precautions before they are born to reduce the chances of them getting infected. But I have dealt with quite a number of babies before this, somehow my little Cek Mek this time managed to steal my heart! Probably for the other cases, I didn't have to worry about who was going to take care of the babies. The other out-of-wedlock pregnancy I handled before, that of Zana's, I managed to send her to a shelter home before she gave birth, so the responsibility of taking care of her had been passed to somebody else before she gave birth.

In Sharifah's case, by the time her case was passed to me, the due delivery date was too near for me to arrange for her transfer. With my little Cek Mek deciding to see the world even earlier, it was a good thing I decided to wait until after delivery before transferring Sharifah to a shelter home. Imagine if I had arranged to send Sharifah earlier thinking there was still ample time before she delivered, and suddenly she gave birth IN MY CAR on the way, adoiii... I wouldn't just be a bidan terjun... I'd be a bidan terjun masuk parit!!

Well, the case of Sharifah and my little Cek Mek is now settled, albeit temporarily. With the running around, and the current kind of weather, I guess I did look a bit pooped out. Even at my office a few days ago when a business client came in to see me, he commented I looked tired. I just smiled, I didn't tell him anything about my voluntary work.

With Sharifah and my little Cek Mek over at the shelter home, I decided to have a good rest over the weekend. I didn't want to do anything related to work - be it office or voluntary work. I just wanted to stay home and do nothing.

But guess what? On Saturday, I tried to get a good afternoon nap - I couldn't sleep a minute. I just sat back to relax... I got bored. Makes me miss visiting my little Cek Mek. How lah to dok diam-diam like this?

So I got up and decided to update the Education Sponsorship for Children account. I have been putting aside all other cases since Sharifah gave birth - now it's time to pay attention to the other cases.

Yes, a few of my PLHIV clients, namely Asiah, Murni and Maria, did call me last week. But nothing serious - they just needed to ask questions which I could easily answer off hand. No big deal.

Right now, first thing is I need to disburse the monthly sponsorship money to all the children under the sponsorship programme. I usually disburse the money some time mid month, so I guess, Sharifah's case was settled just in time.

Next, I need to visit Sofie again. To all my blog readers who had contributed some money to Sofie through me, please forgive me for I have not done the necessary yet. I will try to get things moving this week.

Ya Allah, no other emergencies this week... please?

And oh, there's something else I need to do. I haven't started anything for my ICAAP poster yet... HELP!!!

Friday, 12 June 2009

My little Cek Mek's new home...

Friday 12th June 2009 - The big day.

I had promised Puan Nur and Sharifah I'd fetch them from the flats at 9 am. 5 minutes before 9 am, I was already there. The moment Puan Nur opened the door, I saw all their bags were ready near the door, and my little Cek Mek sleeping soundly on the settee. Sharifah was ready, only Puan Nur was just about to put on her tudung.

Not wanting to expose the baby outside for too long, for fear of having some kaypohs around asking all sorts of questions, I carried all the bags and arranged them in my car first. Only when everything else was ready, we got out, with Puan Nur holding the baby in her arms, I locked the door and we immediately headed towards my car. No looking left or right. Just move...

First stop was the hypermarket - I wanted to buy supplies for the baby before we send her to her new temporary home. Sharifah waited in the car with her baby; and while I got hold of the diapers, baby's toiletries, rashes cream etc, Puan Nur went to buy toiletries for Sharifah. After paying, I suddenly remembered to ask Puan Nur if they had their breakfast. Laaa... belum rupanya...

Stuff like nasi lemak and roti canai would be difficult to eat in the car, so Puan Nur just ended up buying bread and hot drinks.

The baby slept like a baby (of course la, she IS a baby!) the whole journey. Once or twice when I looked back, even Sharifah slept too. And after a while, even Puan Nur herself was already nodding her head...

After about 1 hour 20 minutes, we reached the town. I called up Kak Ana, the lady in charge of the home to ask for directions. The place was just off the main road, so it wasn't that difficult to find.

The gates were locked, but since Kak Ana was already expecting us, the moment she saw a car stopping in front, she asked one of her staff to open the gates. Before I even managed to drive in, Sharifah was already saying, "Takutlah mak..." Probably the butterflies in her stomach were already flying around like mad...

The place was a bit messy - in the sense that space was rather limited and they were doing some extension works outside the house. According to Kak Ana, the place under extension is supposed to be their new dining hall. At the old place where Kak Ana operated from before, they had more space, so they could even afford to have one sewing room and one physio room. Too bad, the landlord wanted the land back.

Anyway, we (Puan Nur, Sharifah and I) had a good long chat with Kak Ana. Another little girl, about 1 1/2 years old, was so excited when she saw a baby with us. She was smiling and smiling (such a sweet smile too) and even held out her arms, wanting to hold the baby. Before this, she was the youngest occupant of the home - now she has an adik! Oh btw, the occupants of the home call Kak Ana, Mama.

Meanwhile, Sharifah looked real nervous. I told her there was nothing to worry about... at the most Kak Ana... errr... Mama... would only scold her if she does something wrong. But of course, Kak Ana treats them all like her own children, so if they do something wrong, they'd still get the same kind of scolding her own children used to get.

After the chat, and after I noticed that they had already served lunch for the occupants of the home, I signalled to Puan Nur that we'd better make a move. It was then that Kak Ana showed us Sharifah's room - she's sharing the room downstairs with one of Kak Ana's assistants.

Before we left, I went in to give a little peck on the cheeks of my little Cek Mek. Then I gave a hug to Sharifah who was already on the verge of crying. And by the time we got out of the house, when Puan Nur herself gave Sharifah a hug, she couldn't hold back the tears any longer. Kak Ana just said, "Hujan tak pa... jangan tsunami sudah..."

Puan Nur managed to hold back her own tears.

As we drove off, I knew Puan Nur herself felt somewhat guilty about leaving Sharifah and the baby there. But she just needed some time to adjust some things back home before she can bring them home, to be together with the rest of the family. Sharifah should be out of the shelter home in about 2 months time, while the baby will stay there a little bit longer to give time to Sharifah herself to adjust at home. But I made Sharifah promise to visit her baby frequently during that adjustment period.

But looking at how things were just now, I bet Puan Nur herself will be calling me in less than 2 months asking if I could accompany her to visit her child and grandchild. I told her to just call me in advance if she wants to visit so I can make plans. I want to visit my little Cek Mek too!

After sending off Puan Nur to the bus station in Ipoh and making sure she got a ticket to go home, I myself headed home straight away. After my prayer, as I sat back to relax, suddenly I realised... I miss my little Cek Mek already!!!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

My little Cek Mek...

When I went to see SN (the staff nurse at the HIV clinic) the other day to arrange for Sharifah's next appointment to be done at the hospital nearer to where she'd be staying, SN told me about meeting up with Aida earlier during the HIV clinic. Remember Aida? She was the one who had earlier agreed to adopt Sharifah's baby before Sharifah and Puan Nur decided not to give away the baby.

Apparently a friend of Aida's who knew about Aida wanting to adopt a baby born to an unwed mother on such and such a day, the friend, who happened to know one of the nurses at the labour room, told her nurse friend about it. And guess what? The nurse told this friend (Aida's friend) to better tell her friend (that's Aida) not to adopt the baby as the baby has HIV because she was born to an HIV positive mother! Kurang asam punya nurse! When this friend told Aida about it, Aida just pretended to be surprised.

SN got so mad she asked for the name of the nurse. "Kalau aku jumpa dia, aku sembur habis-habis! Maklumat sulit pesakit mana boleh bagitau kat orang?"

Yeah, I wouldn't mind giving the nurse a piece of my mind too!

In a way, it was a blessing that Sharifah decided not to give the baby to Aida. Imagine, even before Aida brought the baby home, the news had spread that the child was born to an HIV positive mother. In fact, the news was that the baby was positive... when in actual fact, we don't know her HIV status yet.

Anyway, today I went to visit Sharifah and her baby (my little Cek Mek) again. When I got there, I saw 2 pairs of shoes outside the door. At first I thought maybe Sharifah's friends from the college where she used to study, came to visit. But as I got nearer, a nurse came out. She smiled at me, I smiled at her... then suddenly when she saw me grabbing the door knob to open the door, she asked, "Eh, nak jumpa siapa?"

I just pointed my finger inside and said, "Nak jenguk dia lah."

"Ni ke Puan Afizah?" she asked. Amboi, naik famous pulak Puan Afizah ni orang dok sebut dalam seminggu ni...

There was another nurse inside the house. They were actually from the klinik kesihatan who does home visits when there are newborn babies around. They got the report from the earlier klinik kesihatan that Sharifah went to, and since the flat where Sharifah is temporarily staying for these few days is within the jurisdiction of another klinik kesihatan, the nurses from this other klinik kesihatan came over to check on the baby.

Knowing Sharifah's status as an unwed mother, naturally they interviewed her with questions like who'll take care of the baby, where will she be staying, who's helping her out etc. Same questions Sharifah had to answer to so many people already - and Sharifah told all of them that a certain Kak Afizah from Buddies had been helping her out. She thought they would have heard of the Buddies. They instead responded with, "Buddies? Tak pernah dengar pun..." Yep, that's how low profile we are!

I managed to have a chat with the 2 nurses. It was to be their first and last visit to check on Sharifah's baby as tomorrow Sharifah and her baby would be going to the temporary shelter home. That's under the jurisdiction of another klinik kesihatan. The 2 nurses were interested to know more about the voluntary work that we Buddies do. They never knew such an NGO existed. They didn't ask Sharifah too many questions the moment they saw the person who was supposed to be looking after the welfare of Sharifah and her baby. Probably before this they were thinking "Entah siapalah Afizah ni... boleh harap ke tidak?"

Their main concern of course was that Sharifah may have just made up the story that her own mother was coming over. For all I know they may even have been worried that this lady who had been helping Sharifah may have other plans up her sleeves (like wanting to sell Sharifah to Thailand and then sell the baby to interested parties maybe??!)

I guess I don't look like an ibu ayam to them... they ended up thanking me when they were about to leave...

Our Cek Mek Molek was awake then, so again I took the opportunity to hold the little darling in my arms. I even talked to my little Cek Mek. She didn't say anything of course, but I bet she must have wondered apalah orang tua ni dok merepek...

One final night for Sharifah and Cek Mek at the flat. At least tonight Puan Nur is around to spend the night with them. Tomorrow we (Puan Nur and I) will be sending them over to the temporary shelter home.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

It's not settled yet...

With Puan Nur needing to go home by Tuesday night latest, and after finding out that Sharifah would be discharged on Tuesday afternoon, we had made plans to send Sharifah and her baby to the temporary shelter as soon as the 2 were discharged. I had told Sharifah on Monday to call me first thing Tuesday once the doctors confirm that she'd be discharged. Before that, on Sunday, when Puan Nur and Sharifah went to visit the baby at ward 6C, they were told by one of the nurses to inform them once Sharifah was discharged from the maternity clinic, so they could send the baby over to her.

By 10 am, Sharifah called me to confirm that she'd be discharged. I told her to get her mother to come and settle whatever necessary and that I'd come over in the afternoon. I figured since her own mother was around, there shouldn't be any problem for the hospital to release them. Around 1 pm, as I was on my way home, Puan Nur called me up, to say that although Sharifah had been discharged, they were still waiting for the baby to be discharged. Puan Nur said she'd call me once the baby's discharged, so there was no need for me to come too early.

By 2.30 pm, Puan Nur called again, to tell me that the nurse at ward 6C told them that the baby could not be discharged as the case had been handed over to the hospital's social & welfare department, and as such the baby could only be discharged upon clearance from that department.

I decided to go to the hospital and get Sharifah and Puan Nur to see the officer in charge at the social and welfare department. I have heard of the officer's name before but never had the chance to meet him. That would be a good opportunity for me to meet up with him.

So yes, we got to meet him without any problem. Apparently he too had heard a lot about me (nothing bad, I hope!) but never got the chance to meet me either.

Anyway, with Puan Nur agreeing to take responsibility over Sharifah and the baby, the officer printed and signed the letter there and then. Relieved, Puan Nur and Sharifah went back up to ward 6C while I waited downstairs (it wasn't visiting hours at that time).

After a short while, Puan Nur called again, sounding rather frustrated. They still could not get the baby discharged. They still needed the OK from the specialist before the baby could be released. Adoi!! By then it was almost 4 pm, and since Puan Nur needed to go home by hook or by crook on the same day, there was no way we could send Sharifah and the baby to the shelter home that day. I then decided to take Puan Nur to the Registration Dept to register for the baby's birth cert and let Sharifah wait with her baby.

Ahh... the baby's birth cert. I had earlier told Puan Nur and Sharifah about the birth certs of fatherless babies I had encountered before whereby they didn't have father's names. All the while Puan Nur thought that bin or binti Abdullah would automatically be added to their names (for Muslims). So they got worried that once the baby is old enough to go to school, she may get teased by her friends... "apasal kamu tak ada nama bapak?" and the likes.

I would be worried too if I were Puan Nur and Sharifah. So I suggested to them to do something that I myself had never even thought of before. I told them to include "Abdullah" in the form as part of the baby's own name. Say, if they wanted to name the baby Cek Mek Molek (that's not the baby's name lah, but I don't use real names here anyway kan?), in the form under the child's name, put it as Cek Mek Molek Abdullah. If the officers ask, just insist that they wanted Abdullah as part of the baby's name.

So yes, Puan Nur followed my suggestion. And no questions asked by the officers. Imagine how happy we were when the guy showed us the printout of what he had entered for registration... Cek Mek Molek BINTI Abdullah. Yes, the binti was there! The father's particulars were still entered as "maklumat tidak diperolehi" but at least the girl can write down her name with a binti to add. And her MyKid and later on MyKad will have a binti added to her name. Alhamdulillah. Now I know what to suggest if I encounter any other similar cases (although frankly, I hope I won't have to handle any more of such cases).

On our way back to the hospital, Sharifah called her mom. Apparently, while the 2 of us went to register for the baby's birth cert, the specialist came over to check the baby and gave the go ahead for discharge. Still, it was too late to send them to the shelter home, so we decided to bring them to the flat first. Puan Nur would go home, settle whatever that she needed to settle today (Wednesday) and by Thursday come back to Ipoh. She wants to personally send Sharifah and baby to the shelter home so our plan is to send them on Friday.

Meanwhile, Sharifah would be alone with her baby at the flat. We were quite concerned that there may be some kaypoh neighbours asking lots of questions if they hear the sounds of a baby crying. But guess what? The darling little girl is such an angel! I went to check on them today, and was told by Sharifah that the baby only cried a little (even then, not loud at all) when she needed a change of diapers. Even when I went today, she was asleep most of the time. When she woke up, she didn't cry either. I took the opportunity to hold her, and oh yes, she's such an angel! Geram pulak, rasa nak cubit-cubit...

Hai... penangan dapat dukung cucu... :)

Monday, 8 June 2009

Mother & baby to shelter home, another baby coming soon?

Right after I got back from Cameron Highlands on Sunday, I tried calling Puan Nur to get the latest updates. But my call didn't get through. So I called Sharifah - and was told that she was waiting for her mother to come to bring her to ward 6C to see the baby.

Later at night I tried calling Puan Nur again. This time I managed to speak to her. According to Puan Nur, they asked the nurses at ward 6C as to when they can send the baby back to the maternity ward to be with Sharifah. They told her that once Sharifah is confirmed to be discharged, then they will send the baby to the maternity ward.

Since Sharifah was supposed to go for her appointment at the combined clinic this afternoon, we thought there was a good chance she'd be discharged today - so we thought we could bring them to the flats first, and tomorrow we (as in myself and Sharifah's mother) will send both Sharifah and baby to the temporary shelter home. Apparently Puan Nur had already spoken to the lady in charge at the shelter home (I told her to call as my earlier arrangement was a bit different) to explain to her their latest decision not to give the baby away, and to ask if the lady would still accept Sharifah and the baby temporarily.

The lady not only accepted them both, she even offered Sharifah an admin job at the home if she was interested. That would be useful experience for Sharifah especially because she does intend to look for a job once she leaves the shelter home.

When I went to visit Sharifah today, she still wasn't sure when she'd be discharged.

"Doktor kat combined clinic kata apa?"

"Dia kata kalau tak dak apa-apa buleh balik. Tapi masa balik bilik ni tadi nurse tu kata doktor tu tak tulih apa-apa pun."

That meant Sharifah wasn't discharged today.

Puan Nur needs to go home on Tuesday by hook or by crook as she needs to attend to something on Wednesday, even if that means she has to take the night bus. But if Sharifah doesn't get discharged by tomorrow, then banyak susah lor. I will then have to take over as the mama again... aiyaiyai...

We needed to make plans but not knowing when Sharifah and baby would be discharged, it was difficult to plan. So I went over to the nurse counter, saw a few doctors there and asked them when Sharifah was expected to be discharged. The more senior doctor there asked if I was a social worker. I just said yes and I told them I needed to arrange to send both mother and baby to a shelter home. She then told me that Sharifah would be discharged tomorrow, and since there are so many things to arrange (Sharifah's next appointment, baby's next appointment, medication for the baby etc), most likely we could only take them out in the afternoon.

I told Sharifah to confirm with the doctors when they come for their rounds the next morning; and once she is confirmed to be discharged, to immediately inform both her mother and I. I also told Puan Nur to go to the hospital early if so, to help arrange whatever necessary. Since Sharifah doesn't have a husband, the best person to handle all the signing this and that would be her own mother. If I were the one having to do this and that, there would be probably loads of questions asked.

So Puan Nur is now at the flats, packing up, so by tomorrow afternoon, once we get Sharifah and the baby from the hospital, we will only drop by the flats to get all the luggage, then immediately drive off to the shelter home. After settling things at the shelter home, I need to rush back to Ipoh to send Puan Nur to the bus station so she can go home latest by tomorrow night.

Hopefully we can stick to the plan.

Just as I was updating my blog with this posting, a call came in from Asiah. Just to recap, Asiah got HIV from her first husband. She then remarried, as wife no.2 to an elderly man (elderly but still strong lah... not yet the ketaq-ketaq type). That was about 3 or 4 years ago.

So, why did Asiah call me?

"Kak, hari tu saya tengok dah dua bulan tak dapat period saya pergi check kat klinik. Depa kata saya pregnant. Macam mana boleh jadi macam ni kak?" (eh, eh, tanya kita pulak macam mana boleh jadi macam tu... dia yang buat kerja, bukan kita!)

"Laahai, tak pakai kondom ke?"

"Pakai, tak tau macam mana boleh lekat le pulak. Ni suami saya kira suruh saya gi cuci, buang kandungan ni. Dia takut nanti budak ni dapat HIV."

I explained to her about all the precautions that can be taken etc. That was what she thought too, but she wasn't confident enough to explain it to her husband.

"Terima kasih kak, dah cakap dengan akak ni lega sikit rasanya."

Oh boy, I thought I was done with the pregnant cases for time being after Sharifah gave birth. Now comes another one??? I haven't even finished dealing with Sharifah's case. Maybe I should just be a midwife... a diving midwife. (bidan terjun daa!)

Oh well, at least for this new pregnancy case, the baby has a father.

Friday, 5 June 2009

The newborn baby... a change of script

As mentioned in my previous posting, I'll be away in Cameron Highlands this weekend. So today after my asar prayer I decided to visit Sharifah at the maternity ward again, to find out if there are any updates.

The moment I got into the room, from their faces I knew they had something to tell.

"Kak, ada orang dah ubah fikiran..." said Puan Nur.

"Apasal?" I asked. "Nak bela sendiri pulak ke?"

Apparently, after we brought her to see her cute little baby yesterday, and after touching her baby with her own hands, Sharifah couldn't sleep last night. Her mind wandered... that little darling may be the one and only child she'd ever have... if she gives the baby away, she may not ever have another baby again.

Not just Sharifah, Puan Nur herself held her granddaughter in her arms yesterday, and suddenly she felt so sad about having to give the baby away.

They are after all, in the process of moving to a new home, in a new housing area, so they figured they can start afresh at the new place. They were thinking of maybe telling people that Puan Nur herself is adopting the child without having to mention that the little girl is actually Sharifah's own daughter.

All I could say to them was... "Akak dah cakap dah hari tu kan?"

Yes, I had already reminded Sharifah that the baby may be the only child she'd ever have. I had even suggested the part about Puan Nur being the foster mother. Yes, I had actually encouraged Sharifah to take care of her own child. I saw Sharifah as a soft-spoken and obedient girl - unlike the stubborn Zana, the other out-of-wedlock pregnancy I handled before. Somehow Sharifah made the wrong move that once and got into this trouble. I had anticipated that she may feel differently once she delivers. But no, at that time all Sharifah said was, "Susahlah kak..."

I asked both Puan Nur and Sharifah more than once, if they really, really wanted to give the baby away - they seemed firm in their decision.

That was of course, before she gave birth and before she saw and touched her own baby. After going through the trouble of giving birth, and after seeing and touching her baby, suddenly the motherly side of her is taking over the worries of what others may say.

Sharifah was actually thinking of leaving the baby at the shelter home for about a year or so before she takes the child to stay with her. But I reminded her that after a year or so, the child may not be too comfortable with her. And I reminded her to also think of whoever's going to be the caregiver for the baby during that one year. After getting attached to the child for a year, the caregiver will then have to give the child back to Sharifah.

I suggested to Puan Nur and Sharifah that if they do want to take care of the child, but they need time to adjust some things before bringing the baby back to their home, then maybe both Sharifah and the baby need to be sent to a temporary shelter for about 2 months or so; and then both of them go home together. Let Sharifah take care of the baby at the shelter home. Get the mother and child to bond.

And what about Aida who already had such high hopes of adopting the baby? If we don't tell her about the change of plan soon, she may start buying baby clothes and other needs. So I sent her a text message, telling her that Sharifah is now rather reluctant to give away her baby and that she and her mother will decide by Monday. I didn't want to tell her no straightaway.

After a while, as we were chatting, I was surprised to see Aida coming in. I didn't think she'd come after seeing my message. I asked her if she got my message. "Entah, tak perasanlah pulak," she said. UH OH! She then checked her handphone and said there were no messages. I then checked MY handphone - in case I sent the message to the wrong number. But no, Aida's name appeared on the message, somehow Aida did not, or had not, received the message. But while I was checking, Aida read the message on my phone.

"Kenapa? Dah tak jadi nak bagi pulak ke?" She asked.

Then we started explaining Sharifah's reluctance after yesterday's visit to ward 6C. Aida was frustrated I'm sure - but she remained calm and could still chat with us. Maybe, just maybe, she saw it coming. After all, the baby had not been officially given to her yet, and as such she knew she had no right to insist.

I told Aida we'd give her the decision by Monday. Aida then left, this time without too much hope.

As of today, Sharifah seemed determined to take care of the baby, but I didn't want them to make the decision there and then. Meanwhile I told both Sharifah and Puan Nur to think things over thoroughly over the weekend. I reminded them that they need to be prepared for whatever's coming - what the neighbours may say... what their relatives may say... oh you get the drift. I reminded them that this baby MAY be infected as well and they must be prepared to accept that as well.

So yeah, let them think things over while I get my break in Cameron Highlands. Who knows, when I come back, I may need to rewrite the script yet again...

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The newborn baby... what next?

After lunch, zohor prayer and a short rest yesterday afternoon, I went out again - I was some sort of Sharifah's "temporary mother" (but called Kak though... nak juga mention, hehehe...) and there were still some matters I needed to handle. Sharifah's purse, handphone and other things were still with me; and nobody was accompanying Sharifah at the hospital (other than the hospital staff of course) - I wonder how Sharifah felt then. By right that was the time she needed more support.

I went straight to the delivery hall - where Sharifah was when I left earlier in the afternoon. I figured Sharifah would have already been sent to the ward, but I needed to be sure. I think probably the nurse at the counter just got in and was unsure who I was talking about. Just as she was going through the register, the same senior nurse who had earlier told me that Sharifah had already delivered her baby came to the counter... saw me, and without me having to ask anything, she immediately said, "High dependency ward. Baby 6C." Hmmm... I wonder if this makcik looked like someone yang baru dapat cucu pertama...

"Girl or boy?" I asked.

"Aiyah, cannot remember lah. Too many babies today." She answered.

Never mind, I just said thank you and off I went to the maternity ward. I know where the high dependency ward is - I've visited quite a few of my clients in that very same room before. But it wasn't visiting hours yet; so I decided to go and see SN at the HIV clinic. I had wanted to chat with her earlier during my clinic duty, but she was too busy I didn't want to get in her way. This time, it was almost 4 o'clock so when I got to the room, SN was alone, just updating the files and welcomed me in for a chat. She took out the file of the lady who wanted to adopt a baby so I could jot down all the details I needed. The lady, Aida, is also HIV positive. SN then called Aida and asked if she was interested to adopt Sharifah's baby. Aida had actually wanted to come immediately - there and then! I told SN that Sharifah's mother was only coming the next day and so SN told Aida to come the next day (that's today).

By the way, I found out from SN that Sharifah got a baby girl. When Sharifah went for scan last month, the doctor told her it was a boy. I guess when the doctor scanned the mommy's tummy back then, the baby girl had shown her middle finger to the good doctor... ;)

By 4.30 pm, I left SN. It was already visiting hours and I really really needed to at least show my face to Sharifah as I didn't want her to feel so down. As I passed by the other rooms, I saw all the other patients having at least their husbands by their side. When I got to Sharifah's room (which was right at the very end), not only was she all alone, there was absolutely nothing on or in the locker beside her bed. Even the drawer was not fixed to its rightful place yet. The poor girl...

There was nothing else for her to do except to just close her eyes and try sleeping. But she wasn't really sleeping - the moment she heard my footsteps, she opened her eyes - looking relieved. She was still very weak and tired then. I gave her back her things and made it a point to take out her handphone from inside her bag, in case she needed to talk to her mother.

Sharifah then asked if I could help buy some maternity pads for her. And mineral water. And take her bag from the flats. Since she needed all those things quite immediately, I told her I'd have to go out first, so I could get back in time before visiting hours ended. Drove off to a shopping mall near the flats to buy the maternity pads and mineral water, then off to the flats to get Sharifah's bag. Then rushed back to the hospital to get all the things to Sharifah. Sharifah had wanted to pay me for the maternity pads and mineral water, saying that her mother had given some money for necessities, but I didn't want to accept her money. Orang baru dapat cucu takkan itu pun nak berkira kot! :)

I didn't really stay long as I had yet to perform my asar prayer, but I promised Sharifah I'd visit again the next day at 4.30 pm - and if there was any urgency and she needed anything earlier, to just call me.

This morning at my office, I called up Puan Nur to enquire what time she was coming. I told her about Aida who would be coming to the hospital. Puan Nur said she should reach Ipoh by 4 pm - which is just perfect timing.

Today being Thursday, as usual I went to the Buddies Centre to settle some admin matters. Then off to the flats to get the balance of Sharifah's medication supplies. She was earlier on given the medication to be taken during her pregnancy to protect her child. Now that she had delivered the baby, she is to stop those medication while the baby will need to be given medication for 1 or 2 months, regardless of whether the little girl is positive or not. As for Sharifah, after about 2 months, she will need to get her blood tested again, and depending on her CD4 count, the doctors will decide if she should start medication for herself.

Anyway, I took the balance of Sharifah's medication to be returned to SN. Then I saw a telephone charger, and I figured Sharifah may need it. I had called Sharifah earlier in the afternoon to ask if she needed anything, but her phone was off. My guess was she wanted to save on her battery.

When I got to the hospital, it was not visiting hours yet. I went straight to SN's room to return the medication. SN was busy briefing a group of new nurses, so I left right after I passed the medication to SN. SN did mention she'd try to call Aida to ask what time she was coming.

It was still not visiting hours yet, but there was only about 15 minutes to go, so I decided to wait outside the maternity ward. As I was walking there, I saw a familiar looking lady. Yayy! Puan Nur was already there - also waiting for 4.30 pm. At least got gang to chat with while waiting to go in. Sempat juga tease dia, calling her Tok Vogue.

The very moment the guard allowed visitors in, both of us went in. Sharifah's face immediately lit up upon seeing her mother. After a while, SN called me up. She said she couldn't seem to get hold of Aida and since she's busy training the new nurses, she asked if I could try calling Aida myself. And so I did - and I managed to get her. I asked if she was coming and she told me she'd come around 5 pm - after working hours. Her office was just nearby the hospital and so it wouldn't take too long for her to get to the hospital.

Both Puan Nur and myself decided we might as well wait for Aida to come before going to see the baby at ward 6C. About 10 minutes pass 5 pm, Aida came. I sort of "interviewed" her to assess if she was really really suitable for this child. Not trying to be judgmental, but considering the fact that this baby may be infected, I had to make sure Aida was ready to accept all possibilities. I also asked if her husband agreed to the plan (the husband didn't come along as he was working). I didn't want any problem to arise later on especially since Aida's present husband has been confirmed negative. (Aida got HIV from her first husband) At first she said, "Saya rasa dia setuju." Immediately I reacted, "Tak nak rasa-rasa. Pastikan dia setuju. Kalau tidak jangan ambil baby ni."

Aida immediately called her husband. Her husband was at first a bit reluctant because he thought the family of the baby would demand that they pay a certain amount to adopt the baby. Puan Nur assured Aida that they were not asking for money, they just wanted the baby to be brought up by a loving and responsible family. After a while, even the husband sounded as though he couldn't wait to bring the baby home. He was even willing to pay for Sharifah's hospital bills. I also told Aida I'd be visiting them from time to time to monitor the baby's progress. Aida had no problems with that. She knew I was from a support group for the HIV infected, and so she wasn't worried about confidentiality issues.

We then decided to go to ward 6C to see the baby. Problematic babies (those with jaundice etc) and babies under close supervision like Sharifah's baby are sent to this ward. I asked Sharifah if she wanted to see her baby. The moment she said yes, I went to the nurse to ask if I could bring Sharifah to see her baby. Ward 6C is at the hospital's main building and is quite a distance from the maternity ward, especially for someone still weak like Sharifah. After getting the OK from the nurse, I got hold of one of the wheelchairs... only to realise I got one with a tayar pancit! Luckily there were a few other wheelchairs available.

Off we went to the main building, with me pushing Sharifah in the wheelchair. I jokingly told Sharifah, "Beratlah!" (She's quite a chubby girl) And the innocent girl replied, "Alaa.. suruhlah mak tolak." Puan Nur just laughed away. She knew I was just teasing.

At ward 6C, only parents of the babies are allowed in. So Aida and myself waited outside and I let Puan Nur push Sharifah in. We saw some people going to the balcony side and suddenly realised we could at least have a glimpse of the baby from the windows. So both Aida and myself went over to have a look. And when Puan Nur saw us, she immediately carried the baby to the windows so we could have a closer look from outside. Cute little baby (2.7 kgs) looked just fine - and even opened her eyes a bit when she was brought to the windows.

And so it is agreed. Aida and husband will adopt the baby. We now will just have to wait for both Sharifah and baby to be discharged from the hospital.

And I just took Aida as one of my PLHIV clients as well. And you know what that means? That means I will still get to monitor the baby's progress. Better still, Aida stays here in Ipoh. YAYYY!!

It has been quite a hectic week for me. I need a break. And a break I will get. I have already told both Puan Nur and Sharifah I won't be around this weekend. I don't have to worry about Sharifah as her mother is around until Tuesday.

Where am I going this weekend? It's Buddies Retreat at Cameron Highlands!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Young, single and... WHAT? DELIVERED?!

On Monday, after her appointment at the O&G clinic, Sharifah called to inform me that she is supposed to be warded on 14th June and her op to deliver the baby is on 15th June. Her due date of delivery is 28th June but operations are usually scheduled 2 weeks earlier.

Her appointment at the HIV clinic is this morning and since my voluntary duty is also this morning, I promised to pick her up at the flats and we'd go together to the hospital.

Puan Nur had gone home on Monday night and was thinking of coming again to Ipoh when Sharifah delivers in 2 weeks time. I myself thought I'd probably visit Sharifah every day nearer to the due date, in case she needed to be warded earlier.

My initial plan for today was to pick Sharifah at the flats, go to the hospital, then have lunch together before I send her back to the flats.

But in the wee hours of the morning, at 2.40 am to be exact, my handphone rang. It was the dreaded James Bond ringtone - my PLHIV assigned ringtone. Alamak... not a good sign...

With my blurry "baru bangun tidur" vision, and without my reading glasses on, I couldn't really see the name appearing, but based on the length of characters appearing, I figured the call was from Sharifah. That worried me even more.

"Kak, sakit kak. Ayaq pun dah keluaq ni. Macam mana nak buat?"

Definitely it wasn't a good sign. Here's a 19 year old HIV positive pregnant girl, alone in a flat not familiar to her and as such she doesn't know any neighbours to seek help from. The thought of her possibly giving birth at home alone is a cause for concern. Amma ilek, appa oso ilek. She didn't have anyone in Ipoh but me.

So yeah, without even washing my face, I just grabbed and simply wore my jubah and tudung over my sleep clothes, and quietly sneaked out of the house so as not to wake my mother who was sleeping in the next room. The worrier that she is, if she was awake when I went out at such an ungodly hour, she wouldn't be able to sleep until I got back. Thank goodness she was sound asleep and didn't notice that her daughter went missing for a while.

Driving at such hour, and in Ipoh some more, was a breeze. I went to fetch Sharifah (thank goodness the flat she's staying in is on the ground floor) and by 3 am we were already at the delivery hall. I was asked to wait outside, together with some eager daddy-to-be's. Some were even there since afternoon. I figured there was no point for me to wait. I had after all, left her in good hands. I went back in, asked Sharifah for the keys to the flat (in case I needed to take anything from there later) and told her I'd go back first. Then off I went home to continue my sleep.

At 6.30 am, I SMSed Sharifah asking about her progress. She said the doctor had seen her and told her that she may need to be operated this morning. After a few minutes, she called. She asked if I could come take her things (her purse, handphone etc) as there is nobody to look after her things when she goes into the operation theatre. I told her I'd get her things when I go to the hospital later for my clinic duty. Sharifah also asked for my favour to call her mom. I called Puan Nur immediately.

Before going to the hospital again this morning, I stopped by the flats to switch off the lights and check whatever else necessary. Then off I went to the hospital, got a parking which so happened to be nearer to the maternity building, so I decided to go the the delivery hall first, to get Sharifah's things, and to ask for her status. I got her things without a problem, they didn't even ask who I was. When I was told Sharifah was still in the delivery room, I asked what time would her op be. To my surprise, the nurse told me maybe she didn't need to go for op. "But she has HIV", I argued. "Ya, tapi doktor pakar kata tak payah, tak apa lah," answered the nurse. At that time, it was already 9 am. I didn't really believe the nurse.

Then off I went for my clinic duty. I immediately told SN that Sharifah wouldn't be coming for the HIV clinic appointment as she was already at the delivery hall. SN then told me about an HIV positive lady who wanted a baby soooo much who asked if anyone wanted to give away their baby. She didn't care if the baby is positive or negative, she just wanted a baby so much. I told SN I'd have to discuss again with Sharifah's family and then talk to the lady who had earlier offered to take care of the baby.

After my clinic duty, I went down to the delivery hall to enquire on Sharifah's status again. A more senior nurse who saw me earlier and had already recognised my face told me that Sharifah had delivered a baby - NORMAL DELIVERY.

"Hah? Tapi dia ada HIV." Again, I argued. No confidentiality issues as Sharifah's records there already show she is HIV positive.

"Ya lah, tapi sudah deliver normal," answered the nurse.

"Sharifah, the 19 year old girl?" I asked again just to be sure we weren't talking about different people.

"Yes!" Answered the nurse, lucky thing she didn't scold me...

Sharifah was then still in the delivery room, so I didn't go in to see her. I went up again to the HIV clinic to see SN to tell her that Sharifah had delivered. Who knows, maybe I wasn't aware that it is okay now to let the HIV positive mothers to deliver their babies via normal delivery. But SN herself was surprised when I told her about the normal delivery.

"Kenapa pulak normal delivery?" asked SN.

"Manalah saya tau? Saya hantar tadi pukul 3 pagi. Pukul 9 tadi belum ada apa-apa tapi dia orang kata mungkin nak buat normal delivery," I said.

SN then conveyed the matter to the doctor on duty at the HIV clinic. The doctor asked if a date had already been fixed for Sharifah's delivery. After telling her that the due date is 15th June, and after explaining a few more things, in the end the doctor could only say, "What can we do now anyway? Already delivered what?"

Which is true, really. Already delivered, what else could I, or anyone else for that matter, do?

It was already lunch time, so I drove home, feeling somewhat frustrated that after going through the trouble of sending the girl to the hospital at 3 am, she still delivered via normal delivery. But I guess, it was meant to be. All I can do now is pray that the baby is not infected.

Will visit Sharifah again later today, and maybe pass back her handphone to her, in case she needed to call anybody.

More updates later.