I was supposed to be on clinic duty in Taiping yesterday, and today in Ipoh. But I couldn’t make it to Taiping yesterday as my uncle passed away on Monday and I had to rush to KL for his funeral. No problem about going for today’s Ipoh clinic though.
As usual, the moment I got to the specialist clinic, I headed straight to the doctor’s room to inform the nurse that I was already there and to ask if there were any new cases. The nurse told me there was one, and she told me that SN (the staff nurse we had been working with and had gone for a 6 months course during the second half of last year) was back. Immediately I went to the room next door and SN was there, talking to Wan, the orang asli lady whose son is under our sponsorship programme.
SN told me about an old client, Normi, who may need help. Normi had been referred to Buddies before (not during my duty though) but at that time the volunteers on duty didn’t assign her any buddy. My guess is there were 2 main problems back then – the volunteers on duty were non-Malays… and Normi speaks in Parit dialect, and in addition she has hearing problems as well.
So SN got Normi to see me at the counselling room. The counselling room by the way, had so many people today, definitely no privacy at all. Other than the usual pharmacists, there were also student pharmacists as well. It was noisier than usual, and with Normi’s hearing problems, I had to speak louder than usual, something I don’t usually do… at least not in the counselling room!
Normi is a single mother with 5 children. However only the youngest, a 14 year old girl, stays with her. The eldest is married, stays in another town. The other 3? They’re staying with their married eldest sister. I asked Normi if they’re working, but she herself was not sure if they were. I asked how often they come back, and Normi said that only happens during Raya. With Normi herself not working, I asked if Normi had been getting any form of financial help from anyone. All she gets is Welfare Dept’s Bantuan Kanak-kanak of RM100 for her youngest daughter. She has to pay RM70 per month for her house rental. So what does she survive on? I asked if her children give her any money. Only when she asks them for money, she said.
When Normi’s husband was still alive, they used to get PPRT assistance. The house was under her name, while the land belonged to her father-in-law. According to her, after her husband and FIL died, her in-laws chased her out of the house. She claimed she “kena buat” and the numbness she feels on the left side of her body is also “buatan orang”.
Frankly, I don’t quite know what to think of this case. For someone who only gets RM100/month and has to pay RM70 for rental, she looked rather “bergaya”. There must be a reason all her children except for one prefer to stay elsewhere. She also said she came to the hospital with a “kawan”. I wonder what her children’s version of the story is like…
The next case referred to me was a prisoner’s case. He came handcuffed to a policeman, so whatever conversations I had with him, the policeman listened as well. There were no secrets though, I wasn’t discussing with him how to escape from prison… :), he is due to be released in March anyway. SN referred the case to me because this guy has 2 children, aged 11 and 7 who may need help. The children are now staying with their mother, his wife. The wife works as a cleaner, earning about RM400 – RM500 per month, and she has to pay RM170 for rental. Hmmm… I think I may need to pay a visit to assess this family’s needs. I’ve got the wife’s number, so I shall be calling her soon.
There were no further cases referred and it was still early. When I went to the doctor’s room to inform them that I was leaving, Dr Ker gave me the name and number of a new Taiping case. “You tak datang yesterday pun I ada case untuk you,” she said. I called the lady, and frankly I think she’d feel more comfortable speaking to a Chinese-speaking volunteer. I told her I’d get a Chinese volunteer to call her.
Since it was still early, I decided to visit Sofie at the ward. She had been warded since Thursday 2 weeks ago, and initially the doc thought it was just due to dehydration as a result of ARV allergies (she’d vomit every time she tries to eat/drink anything). So rightfully she should have been discharged after 2 or 3 days. But after she fainted at the toilet in the ward, and the next day she had very high fever, they decided to do x-ray and scan.
When I got to Sofie’s bed, Saiful was there. Apparently he had not gone home ever since he started accompanying his mother at the hospital 2 weeks ago. Meaning he skipped school for the same length of time. I asked if he had informed his teacher.
“Mintak tolong kawan aje bagitau cikgu. Tapi hari tu kawan kata cikgu dah marah.”
Well, I’m a bit concerned too. I know of a girl who skipped school for a month to take care of her mother and ended up being expelled from school. I don’t want Saiful to go through the same thing, although he himself didn’t seem too bothered. I told Sofie to get her sister to call the school to inform them of Saiful’s situation. At least getting the news from an adult, hopefully the school teacher would be more understanding.
At first I wanted to suggest that the boys take turns to take care of Sofie at the hospital. But it was a women’s ward, and males are not supposed to stay overnight at the women’s wards. It was different for Saiful, because although 13, he looks like a 9 year old! Initially he even had problems getting in because the guards didn’t believe he was 13. But now, after 2 weeks, all the guards know him already.
Noticing that it was too early for visiting hours, Saiful asked, “Macam mana makcik boleh masuk?” I showed him my pass. Definitely more “power” than his temporary pass… :)
As for Sofie, there were some equipments attached… drip… machine… I don’t know what the machine was for. Sofie herself was not able to tell me anything. She only said that further tests were done but results were not out yet.
After a while, I left Sofie, and told Saiful to come along with me downstairs so I could help top-up his mom’s phone credit. After 2 weeks in the hospital, they ran out of credit. They could top-up at the shop at the ground floor, but Saiful had to buy food at the hospital canteen and things aren’t cheap. After 2 weeks, they don’t have much cash in hand.
After paying to top-up their phone’s credit, I gave Saiful some extra cash for his lunch. Then I headed back to the HIV clinic to see the doctor, hoping to get more info regarding Sofie’s condition.
According to the doctor, the scan done showed “something” in Sofie’s brains, and so now they needed to do further tests to find out what exactly the “something” was. The doc did explain some things in medical terms which I can’t quite recall (I did badly for my science subjects in school!) but one thing she could confirm, Sofie may need to spend a lot more time at the hospital than anticipated.
Oh dear… I think I may need to visit the children at home without waiting for Sofie to be discharged.
I just hope that the “something” is not something dangerous…