When I went to see SN at the HIV clinic last week, she told me that she had given my number to a lady, a single mother of 2 kids. SN had advised this lady to seek my help for her children’s educational needs. Since I was already at the clinic, SN passed me the lady’s file so I could take down her details. I figured I might as well call her because in many cases, these PLHIVs have second thoughts about calling, or keep procrastinating as they are unsure what to say when they call. And sometimes they are unsure if they can actually trust this person they’re calling.
Later in the afternoon, as I was about to call her, SHE called me. Wah, that was fast. And from the tone of her voice, she sounded like a rather open-minded person. I told her to prepare the necessary supporting documents so that when we get to meet, either when she comes to Ipoh to get her monthly ARV supply, or when I get the chance to visit her at home, she’d be ready with the documents.
Rin, who’s in her thirties, lives in a kampong in a small town which is unfamiliar territory to me. Since I was free yesterday, I decided to pay her a visit and include that town in my “list of towns/kampongs in Perak visited”. Ever since I got myself involved in Buddies work, a lot of these unfamiliar territories are now already familiar territories to me.
I couldn’t find her address in my GPS, so I called to ask for the nearest landmark. She mentioned the name of a school, and yes, that particular school was listed in my GPS. Yayy! So all I had to do was ask for directions how to get to her house after the school. Go on about another 1 km she said, there’s a warung by the roadside, and her house is nearby. Didn’t sound to complicated, so off I went.
Indeed, it wasn’t too complicated. After reaching the school and my GPS mentioned “your destination is reached”, I drove a bit further in until I saw a warung by the roadside. From there I called Rin and she told me to just drive a wee bit further “sampai jumpa pokok kelapa tinggiiii 2 batang, masuk ikut jalan tu, ada nampak rumah atap hijau… rumah saya yang atap merah lepas tu”.
The house actually belonged to Rin’s parents. She and her 2 kids now stay with her parents although she has a house in a nearby town, which she hasn’t finished paying for. Her husband died last year and she only gets his pension of about RM270 per month. She uses that money to pay for the RM200 installment for her house. That house was bought when her husband was still alive but under her name, and so she has to keep on paying. She’s not renting out the house either, because quite frequently, she’d be sending her daughter for tuition at that town at night, and she didn’t feel safe traveling back to her parent’s place quite late. It is after all a kampong, by 10 pm it will be very quiet. So whenever her daughter needs to go for tuition, she and her kids would spend the night at her own home.
So, with an income of RM270 and a house installment of RM200, how does she survive? Well, that’s why she’s staying with her parents. Her father supports them. And I must commend the whole family for supporting her. They know of her HIV and they all give her unconditional support. When I visited, Rin was taking care of her chubby 6 months old nephew. Her children were at school.
I think it is quite obvious that from the family support that she got, Lin seemed more open than the other PLHIV ladies I know. She is not complaining at all. She said when she was first diagnosed, her husband was so apologetic – feeling guilty for being the cause of her infection. But Rin was redha from the beginning. It was her husband who was not. They first found out when Rin got pregnant 7 years ago. Her husband knew immediately it had to come from him, but he never bothered to go for tests. Rin was on ARV immediately to protect the baby. At that time, nobody else in their family knew – not her family, not his family. After Rin delivered, although she never missed the baby’s hospital appointments, she never went for follow-ups for her own HIV treatment, as her husband told her there was no need to. He just wanted them to forget about the HIV episode and lead their usual life.
That was until about a year ago, when suddenly both of them got sick. Rin’s condition got so bad and she had to be hospitalised. Blood tests were done, but since the tests were not for HIV, they didn’t find out about her HIV. Finally Rin herself decided to open up and told her family that she was HIV positive. They couldn’t quite believe her at first, but further tests revealed that she was indeed HIV positive. By that time, Rin was bedridden, in adult diapers and all, and many of her friends and mother’s friends came to recite the Yaasin by her bedside.
But Rin persisted. Her time wasn’t up yet and she was very compliant with her medication. To the surprise of her family and friends, she actually got better and got to go home looking so healthy, nobody would have guessed she was once almost at the verge of death.
As for her husband, he was his usual stubborn self. He refused to go for treatment until it was too late. By then he was too weak to even have a say when the family sent him to the hospital. He died just about 2 weeks after he started his ARV treatment.
That was a year ago. Now Rin is such a positive person. She’s not doing well financially but she doesn’t whine about it. The only reason she called me to seek help for her children was because SN advised her to. And she too thought it would be best for her children’s future.
I invited Rin to join our coming Family Day. Rin immediately said yes. It would be a good opportunity for her to bring her children jalan-jalan somewhere. The last time they did that, her husband was still alive…
Too bad Rin doesn’t stay near me. I think she’d make a good candidate for peer support.