Due to shortage of volunteers who are able to help out with support services at the Ipoh HIV clinic every Wednesdays, we only send volunteers for clinic duty at Ipoh GH every 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month. Although we have over 20 volunteers now, clinic duty is during office hours and as such, it’s not for those who work 9 to 5. So far we have 3 teams for clinic duty – the members of these teams are either retired, self-employed or have flexi working hours. 7 of us altogether, 3 in my team and 2 each in the other 2 teams. I had 3 because the other 2 were then still trainee volunteers.
Well, the 2 in my team has since been confirmed, and since we’re getting a few new volunteers with flexi hours as well, I figured I can now let the other 2 members in my team to be on their own so I can set up another team to train the new volunteers. But instead of having to reschedule the duty roster which had already be drawn up until the end of the year, we’ll still stick to the duty roster. I’ll just bring the new volunteers for clinic duty either on the 2nd or 4th Wednesdays of each month when there are no teams on duty.
Our dear Dr Ker had also informed me earlier that they needed support services in Taiping Hospital as well. HIV clinic in Taiping Hospital is only held once a month ie on the 4th Tuesday of each month. After asking around, a few of my fellow volunteers indicated their willingness to go to Taiping. If we can form 3 teams, then each volunteer will only need to go there once every 3 months. That’s not too bad…
So yes, we went ahead. Yesterday we finally started our services in Taiping Hospital – hari ini dalam sejarah for us Buddies! Since it is our first duty in Taiping Hospital, I made sure I myself attended the first clinic – just to be sure of the arrangements. Dr Ker had initially suggested that we share a room with the pharmacist, which is what we’re doing in Ipoh. But the room in Ipoh is a lot bigger – sharing is not a problem. The pharmacist’s room in Taiping Hospital, however, is too small to be shared by too many of us… especially when we have at least 2 Buddies on duty each time. Today we had 3 – including our new volunteer doctor who works in Taiping. The other volunteer came with me from Ipoh.
After Dr Ker introduced me to the head of the Taiping Hospital specialist clinic, and after contemplating a few options, our new volunteer doctor suggested that we used the surau at the specialist clinic. Hmmm… HIV clinic is only half a day, should end by 1 pm, and the Muslims would only be using it after 1 pm. So yeah, why not? And since the surau is at a room right across Dr Ker’s room, it was even better still!
So yes, the surau became our room for the day, and most likely will become the support group room every 4th Tuesdays of each month. We just carried a bench inside, added 2 more chairs, and voila! We were ready to serve! We just had to make sure everyone took off their shoes when entering the room.
Okay, room settled. So in we went. And we waited. And we waited. And we waited. Fasting, and bored waiting, the carpet at the surau looked so tempting to sleep on! After a while I went to the doctor’s room to confirm with the nurse if there were any new cases to be referred to us. She said there were a few. So okay, we’d just wait.
The first case was only referred to us after 11.30 am. A lady in her early forties whose husband passed away a few years back. It seems the husband never told her he had HIV. She only knew when her husband’s condition deteriorated. Even then it was the doctor, not her husband, who told her. Not long after that her husband passed away. It seemed rather weird to me though, that although she was tested positive immediately after that, nobody referred her for further check-ups. She said she was just called up for one counseling session, and that was it! According to her, she didn’t know how to go about to get an appointment. Hmmm… or maybe she didn’t understand what was told to her, resulting in her not going for follow-ups. It was only recently when she had to be warded for severe headache, that further tests were done and an appointment was finally made for her to go for check-ups at the HIV clinic.
Well, in her case, her whole family except her children know she has HIV and they are all okay with it. As for her 3 children, they seem to be doing quite well in school. The first 2 offered to stay in hostels and only the youngest 10 year old boy stays with her at home. Based on her situation, she doesn’t need sponsorship for her kids, but we will consider her for our Children Education Fund which is usually used for back-to-school expenses at the beginning of each schooling year. That’s the time when she’d usually feel the extra financial burden.
The second case referred wasn’t a new case. She had been on medication for 2 years now, and had not been fasting for the past 2 years. However this year she started fasting – meaning she’s taking her medication not at 12 hour intervals like she should be doing. The doctor was quite worried. They would usually allow the patient to do that only if their condition is a bit more stable, but for this lady, her condition is still considered poor, with low CD4 and high viral load.
The doctor then sought my help to speak to this lady. According to the doctor, she told this lady that it is not advisable for her to fast yet, but the lady looked somewhat upset and looked like she was about to burst into tears; so the doctor, a Chinese lady, didn’t dare say anything further. She figured it was better for a fellow Muslim to speak to this lady.
And so the lady was sent into our make-shift counseling room. The doctor was right indeed, every time we said something, the lady looked like she was about to burst into tears. I think she’s also a bit depressed. Anyway, at the end of it, it did seem like she was ready to follow our advise. But I think we will also need to follow up with her from time to time. Maybe if she has someone to talk to, emotionally, she may be a bit more stable.
The next 2 cases referred to us were men with something in common. Not only are both them divorced, in both cases, the children are staying with them, and their ex-wives have gone missing, never even coming back to see their children. The first guy said he doesn’t even know where to start looking for his ex-wife to get her tested. They got divorced a few years back. This guy is already on medication and he seemed like the compliant type.
As for the second guy, he said there was no need to get his ex-wife tested as he only became an IVDU after their divorce. They got divorced when the children were still about 2 or 3 years of age. Now they are already teenagers and don’t even remember their mother. The only thing about this guy is, he wasn’t compliant in taking his trial medication (they are usually given trial medication first to see if they take their medication on time without fail) and so the doctor thought there was no point making him start with his antiretroviral. As a matter of fact, although the guy said he’s no longer taking drugs after released from Pusat Serenti recently, the doctor on the other hand, is considering to refer him to the methadone clinic before giving him the antiretroviral.
So, 4 cases were referred to us yesterday. But because the cases were referred to us late, only after they were called in to see the doctor, we finished rather late, after 1 pm. But ngam ngam just in time before zohor. It was the first time for the nurse at the HIV clinic to have a support group, so she wasn’t really sure how to go about. But she did ask me after that, and so I told her that next time, if there are new or problematic cases, once the patients have arrived at the clinic, she could just refer them to us immediately without having to wait for them to see the doctor first. That way, not only we volunteers don’t have to wait too long; the patients too can go back immediately after seeing the doctor. Win-win situation. Hopefully our next duty in Taiping next month will run more smoothly.
And oh, before we left, there was another duty we had to do… carry out the bench and the chairs and return them back to its original place… :-)