I was on clinic duty again this morning. I remember Lin saying her appointment was today but I didn’t bother to inform her that I’d be at the clinic. She’s already on HAART, so she was sure to go to the counselling room which we volunteers are sharing with the pharmacists.
When I got to the ID clinic, SN was giving counselling to one client whom I had met 2 weeks ago. After notifying SN I was already there, I went to the front of Room 11 to see if there were any familiar faces. Nope, no familiar faces yet, not even Lin. So I went straight to the counselling room and went surfing. Surfing the internet lah… ;-)
Soon Lin came in accompanied by one of the pharmacists. The normal practice is before the PLHIVs see the doctor, they’d be referred to the pharmacists first to ensure they have been compliant with their medication. Lin told me she actually came early but took some time finding a parking space. Usually she’d come on her motorcycle, but today, since her 2 daughters wanted to tag along, she borrowed a close friend’s car. That was the first time she came by car… now she knows how difficult it is to find a parking space at the hospital.
Anyway, yesterday SN had called me to inform me about a homeless PLHIV now warded at the hospital, due to be discharged but has nowhere to go. So she sought my help to find a shelter home for the guy. So when SN’s assistant came to the room to refer a guy on wheelchair accompanied by a hospital attendant, I thought that was the case SN had told me about.
True enough, the guy, Lee, 44 years old, is homeless. He was earlier in Ipoh GH, but was transferred to a district hospital when he was due to be discharged. He had always been a loner, never married, and according to him, he no longer has any family members. He used to rent a house in Ipoh and worked at a workshop, painting cars. But now, due to his condition, he no longer works and as such, cannot afford to rent a house. At one time he wasn’t even able to walk. Now at least he is able to walk slowly in the ward, but if he needs to go a longer distance, he’d need the wheelchair. He had been diagnosed HIV positive 21 years ago, but had refused to take any medication before.
I told him I’d try to arrange for a home and since he doesn’t have a phone, I’d call the hospital where he’s warded to get in touch with him.
After taking down all Lee’s details, I went over to the doctor’s room to return Lee’s medical files. As I walked back to the counselling room, I saw Lin’s 2 daughters and went over to talk to them. The two were Lin’s 2nd and 3rd daughters – one who just got back from Egypt on the day I flew to Vietnam for my holiday, and the other one who just completed her diploma and will start her training on her new job next week. Feels good knowing that at least one of Lin’s children will start work soon. Lin’s eldest, doing a nursing course, will complete her studies by next month, and she too should start work in the near future. Of course Lin’s second daughter has to wait a while longer as she’s doing medic in Egypt.
I didn’t talk to the girls for too long though… SN’s assistant had told me earlier they had 4 cases to be referred to me, so I’d better wait at the counselling room as I was only done with one.
It wasn’t long before SN came over to tell me about the homeless guy she had told me about yesterday.
Me: “Tadi dah jumpa dah!”
SN: “Yang tu lain. Yang ni Chinese Muslim, now ada kat wad, kalau you nak jumpa I suruh dia orang bawak dia turun jumpa you.”
Me: “Laaaa… berapa ramai yang homeless ni??!”
I agreed to meet the guy. SN said she’d call the ward and arrange for him to be brought down to the counselling room.
After SN left the room, SN’s assistant came over with another case… a young Malay chap who’s just 23 years of age. He’s now on methadone, and it was only after he started his methadone treatment did he find out about his HIV. Samsul stays with his parents, but his parents, while they are aware of his involvement in drugs and his current methadone treatment, had not been told of Samsul’s HIV. Since we don’t have expertise in drug cases, we don’t usually assign buddies to IVDUs or those on methadone. However I gave him our brochure with our hotline number and told him that if he ever needed any help especially in explaining to his parents about HIV, he could call us.
I was not done with Samsul yet when SN came in again to tell me that the homeless guy was already outside the room, the one on the wheelchair, she said.
After getting all Samsul’s details on my contact report, I told him to wait in front of the doctor’s room. Then I went to the door to call the homeless guy in.
Kasim Teoh, almost 60, became a Muslim about 5 years ago. By then he was already homeless, so he had been staying at various suraus, doing odd jobs like gardening and the likes in order to get something to eat and a place to sleep. Even when he was younger and healthier, he had always been a loner, just like Lee.
“You memang tak ada family ka? Tak pernah kawin ka?” I asked.
“Tada… sapa pun tada. Sekalang ini macam suda tua suda sakit, sapa lagi mau?” he replied.
Oh dear. Anyway, after writing down Kasim’s particulars, I went over to the doctor’s room. Samsul’s file was still with me and I needed to return it to them. Coincidentally, when I got to the room, it was Lee’s turn to see the doctor and the doctor herself wanted to see me to discuss about arranging to send both Lee and Kasim to shelter homes. Apparently SN had already contacted homes willing to take them in, the only problem now is transportation. The guy in charge of the home willing to take Lee suggested that we send Lee by train and they’d wait for him at KL Central. However, given Lee’s condition, the doctor advised against letting him travel alone by train. Likewise, it’s not advisable to let Kasim travel by train either.
The hospital cannot arrange to transfer them to KL in an ambulance since the 2 are supposed to be discharged, not transferred.
SN had basically arranged for Kasim to be placed at a Muslim home, and although she had been to the place when she was in Sg Buluh for a 6 months course, she was of the opinion that it wasn’t advisable for us to send Kasim right to the home since the place is quite difficult to find. She suggested that if we could arrange to send both guys on the same day to Sg Buluh Hospital (which is easily accessible from the highway), then she can get people from both homes to pick them up at the hospital.
So yeah, now to arrange for transportation to Sg Buluh Hospital…
There was one more case referred to us after that. Nizam, 28 years old, who was accompanied by his mother. He looked rather thin and fragile. With a CD of only 7, and only diagnosed recently, I believe he had been infected for quite some time but never tested for HIV. He now stays with his mother (his father had passed away and his only sister is married and stays elsewhere). The mother seems to be very supportive despite his earlier mistake (Nizam had been involved in homosexual relationship with multiple partners).
I told Nizam that life is not over just because he has HIV… that he’d need to be strong mentally… that he needs to be more positive thinking… that he must not forget to doa…
The mother seemed a bit relieved after the session, but I think Nizam needs a bit more time. I have assigned one of our young male volunteers to be his buddy while I will be following up with the mother. I think she may need support as well.