About a week ago, I received a text message from the nurse at the ID clinic, giving me the name and phone number of a patient, SK, whom she said needed help for his children. After I called SK and found out that one of his children hadn’t gone to school for over a year, I asked if it was okay for me to visit them at home. He agreed.
There’s also another couple, Ali and Aina, whom I met during my Taiping clinic duty, whom I needed to visit to assess their situation before I submit their application for financial assistance from the Paediatric Aids Fund. Although Ali and Aina stay further, I’d still need to pass the town where SK lives. So I decided to visit both families on the same day.
I had some communication problem with SK, so I decided to bring along a Chinese-speaking volunteer. We made a move about 8.40 am or so from the centre and headed straight to the town where SK lives, not to visit him first, but to fetch a trainee volunteer staying in that town. Just as I was about to reach the trainee volunteer’s house, a call came in on my hand phone. It was Mr Rajah, whose daughter has HIV and whose grandchildren last year had received help from our Children Education Fund. He asked if the children can still get help for this year. I told him I was driving and I’d be busy the whole day and that I’d call him back later.
Then after fetching the volunteer, another call came in. This time from Sharifah, Cek Mek’s mother. She’s supposed to come to Ipoh for her blood tests soon, but had misplaced her appointment card and the letters/forms given earlier by the ID clinic during her last appointment, and so she couldn’t remember the dates when she’s supposed to go for her blood tests. Since she’s not staying in Ipoh, she couldn’t simply go to the hospital to see the nurse at the ID clinic to get another letter. I told her to call the ID clinic direct to get advise on what she should do (I’m not going to pamper them and do all the asking for them!). But because she had lost the appointment card (which has the ID clinic’s phone number), she didn’t have the number to call. Thus, as always, the next option was to call ME! I was driving then, so I told her I’d SMS her the number later.
Thank goodness no further calls as we headed on to Ali’s & Aina’s place about one and half hours away. None of us familiar with the place, we had to stop to ask, and I also made a call to Aina, to get an idea of where I needed to go. Then when we reached her kampong, we needed to make another call. This time Aina told me to wait there, she’d come and meet us. She was there within just minutes, so the house couldn’t be far.
Indeed it wasn’t far. But when we reached the Dewan Serbaguna at her kampong, she stopped and signalled to us to park the car there. Apparently her house was just up the hill but due to the poor condition of the road, I was advised not to drive my car up there. She should know better and I figured I shouldn’t go against her advise. And so I parked my car at the Dewan Serbaguna. Only problem was, we brought along some groceries with us. Meaning we (errm, I mean my 2 fellow volunteers) had to carry the groceries on foot up the hill. Me? I had to carry my camera! Hehehe…
I only took over from my female colleague about three quarter way through… when I saw that she was about to give up and put the box down.
Then when we got to the house, we couldn’t simply bring the stuff up the stairs into the house. Going in using the stairs to the living room was out of the question…
We had to go in using the staircase to the kitchen which was thankfully lower…
Only Aina was around. The 2 children were in school, one in standard one and the other in kindergarten. Ali was at his mother’s home nearer to Taiping Hospital. His appointment is coming soon, and given his condition, and the fact that they’d have to take 5 buses to get to Taiping Hospital from their house, staying at his mother’s place was the best option. Aina on the other hand had to bring the children home since school reopened. So far tests showed that Aina had not been infected, let’s home she’ll stay that way.
The house actually belonged to Aina’s late grandmother’s house. The condition was pretty bad, with leaking zinc roofs. They had electricity and water supply. No refrigerator, and no TV. Well, there were 2 old TV sets in the house, both no longer usable.
After getting some info from Aina, and getting her to sign the form, we decided to make a move. It was nearing 12 noon by then and Aina had to go fetch her daughter from the kindergarten at 12.
Heading back to the town where I fetched the trainee volunteer, I told my Chinese colleague to call SK to tell him we were on our way. At least she could get better directions, speaking to him in Chinese. It was nearing 1.30 pm by the time we reached the police station where he promised he’d meet us, as he knew it wouldn’t be easy for us to find his house. True enough, we had to go through back lanes to get to his house.
The moment we got into the house, I saw pictures on the wall, Somehow I thought the faces all looked quite familiar. SK said he was staying there only with his 13 year old son, but there were pictures of him and his wife. SK said his wife had left him. I saw some marks on his son’s neck, according to SK that was due to whatever that was needed to be done by the doctors when the boy had TB recently. The boy had TB? I immediately suspected the boy was infected with HIV as well, and when I asked SK, he wasn’t hesitant at all to admit that the boy was infected since birth. The boy’s mother died, and the one whose picture was on the wall was his second wife, who left him about 2 years ago.
Then only one by one the facts started clicking. No wonder I thought the faces looked familiar! I had met them before! Even his estranged 2nd wife who had gone back to her home country up north. They came twice to our Family Day – once in Teluk Batik in 2006 and the other in LWOT in 2007.
SK has another son, 17, schooling in a private school – sponsored by somebody. Another daughter, whom I had also met during our Family Day, died when she drowned in a river near their house (when they were staying in another town).
My main concern now is the 13 year old boy. He hadn’t gone to school for more than a year now. If I thought the 15 year old HIV+ girl who didn’t sit for her PMR was bad enough, this boy didn’t even sit for his UPSR! I asked the boy if he was interested to go back to school if we could arrange for him to do so. He does want to go to school! Hopefully we can arrange for something… like getting him back to standard 6, albeit a year late.
I will need to ask around first, as I myself am not too familiar with all these…