I was on clinic duty again on Wednesday. This time I got to the hospital half an hour early. We volunteers are supposed to be there at 10 am, but I decided to go a wee bit early so that I could have a short rest before getting any case referred.
But as I got in the doctor’s room, although the doctor wasn’t there yet (she was still doing her rounds at the wards), the nurse told me that one of the new patients was already there.
So off I went to the support service room, and within minutes SN came in with the new patient, a lady in her late 20’s. Bibah had been diagnosed HIV+ since more than 3 years ago, and had already been going for follow-ups at the hospital, but in another state across the South China Sea. Some time back, she and her husband came back to Ipoh to visit her husband’s side of the family. Initially it was meant to be just a short visit before heading back across South China Sea, but Bibah got sick and checks showed she was down with TB and unfit to travel. So they stayed on longer. However, since they hadn’t planned to stay longer, they didn’t transfer their hospital appointments to Ipoh. Bibah’s husband didn’t even bother to make any arrangements to get his case transferred to Ipoh, while Bibah herself, since she was hospitalised due to her TB, was referred to Ipoh’s ID clinic. And on Wednesday was her first appointment, which was why her case got referred to me.
Anyway, Bibah’s husband had married before but by the time he married Bibah, he was already divorced. Bibah knew about his ex-wife, but that was all. What the husband didn’t tell her was, by then he had already been diagnosed HIV+, and in fact was already going for follow-up appointments at the hospital. Bibah got pregnant, and what a shocker it was for her when blood tests showed she was HIV+. It was only during this time that her husband finally told her that he had long been infected with HIV.
Bibah felt cheated. She was mad with her husband, but it was too late. No matter how she felt, she was already infected. And she was pregnant. Thank goodness her child, a boy, turned out negative.
Bibah had since forgiven her husband (oh well, sort of… I think it was more of feeling insecure if she separates with her husband) and is still together with him. And none of Bibah’s or her husband’s family members know of their HIV status.
Since their stay here in Ipoh had been prolonged, Bibah had got herself a job as a helper at a canteen. Her husband does wiring work. But what I’m concerned about is the fact that the husband, according to Bibah, is still taking drugs. Sigh…
Anyway, the couple plans to go back to Bibah’s home state by the end of this year.
The next case referred to me was a single young lady, Vasanthi. Recently a friend of hers told her that she heard about Vasanthi’s ex-boyfriend having AIDS. Worried, Vasanthi went for blood test, and regrettably, the result came out positive. Not wanting her elderly parents to know, she confided in her cousin in KL, who advised her to go for a second opinion in KL. She just told her parents that she was going to attend a friend’s wedding in KL, and her cousin helped to get her tested and referred to Sg Buloh Hospital. But she can’t be giving the same excuse to her parents every time she needs to go for appointments, so she was advised to fix her appointments in Ipoh instead. Although there is an HIV clinic at the hospital in the town where she and her parents stay, Vasanthi wanted to avoid having friends or relatives bumping into her at the HIV clinic, so she opted for Ipoh.
Even for Wednesday’s hospital appointment, Vasanthi’s parents thought she was out for work. She should be able to get back before office hour ends, so there shouldn’t be any problem of her parents asking where she went. (Unless of course, her father suddenly decides to drop by her office lah kan…)
Vasanthi seemed calm, but the moment she started telling me her story, tears started flowing. I think all she needed was just to get things out of her system. Now it seems she has a new boyfriend, who knows about her HIV but still willing to accept her in his life. Vasanthi had however, told him to think things over.
There was no further new case referred to me after Vasanthi’s, but one familiar looking lady did walk in. It was Wan, the Orang Asli lady whose kampong is only accessible by motorbikes and 4-wheel drives. We had been trying to call her for our recent Family Day, to no avail. Apparently Wan had changed her phone number because one guy, trying to woo her, kept calling her.
“Kalau ya pun tukar nombor kenapa tak bagitau? Saya sikit lagi aje nak stopkan bantuan bulanan untuk anak awak,” I said to her.
“Saya hilang nombor telefon kakak!” came the reply.
Her son came along with her as he was unwell and needed to see a doctor. That was the first time I met her son, who is under our Education Sponsorship program. Hairul, 12, will be sitting for his UPSR this year. Very active in sports too, in fact he represents the state for sepak takraw and so he got to go to other states as well.
Wan now works at a rubber plantation, earning a take home pay of just about RM250/month. During the weekdays, she stays in a rented home in town with a few other friends and only goes back to her kampong house on weekends. Luckily Hairul’s school provides hostel facilities to all the Orang Asli kids. Every Friday after school, the children will walk home, which may take an hour or so. Imagine if they have to walk to school every day.
With a take-home pay of RM250, Wan definitely needs extra help. When her husband was still alive, they used to get monthly aid from the Welfare Department. After her husband died, the financial aid was transferred to her name. But after a while, it stopped. I think that was mainly because Wan had not only changed her phone number, she also moved to her parent’s kampong without informing the department. The previous aid came from the Welfare Office of another district, Wan should have informed them when she moved to another district.
I may need to get her buddy to help out in this since the buddy stays in the town where the district welfare office is.