A call came in from an unfamiliar number earlier this week, asking for Kak Afizah. Initially I thought it could be one of my clients who had maybe changed her phone number. Turned out the lady who called got my number from the nurses at the HIV clinic in Ipoh. Her appointment at the hospital wasn’t on a Wednesday, so she was not referred to Buddies because we only send our volunteers to the hospital on Wednesdays. Seeing that she may be needing help, the nurses at the HIV clinic encouraged her to call me.
And so she did. From the conversation we had, I was told that her husband, with a CD4 of only 2, was rather weak and had not been working since beginning of the year when he had to be hospitalised. The lady herself, Mar, just found out that she too had been infected. They have 3 children, the older two are 19 and 17 respectively, but her main worry is her youngest daughter, who is only 2 years old.
It was quite difficult to assess her situation by phone, especially since I had never met her before, so I asked if I could visit her at home. She welcomed the idea. So I arranged to visit her on Saturday. After finding out where she lived, while I knew where the area was (I have another client staying within the same area), I also knew it wouldn’t be easy to find her house just based on the address. So I told her that once I got to the foot of the hill (her kampong is at a hilly area), I’d give her a call.
After fetching a trainee volunteer at the Buddies Center this morning, we headed straight to Mar’s kampong. As we got to a kindergarten, I decided to stop and call Mar. Mar told me her daughter would be coming down on a motorbike to meet me and show me the way to their house. But Mar also asked me, “Tapi akak berani ke bawak kereta sampai rumah saya?”
Me: Kereta boleh sampai depan rumah ke tak?
Mar: Boleh, trapi setengah orang tak berani. Kalau akak jenis brutal, boleh.”
So yeah, I decided to become “brutal” today. I saw a girl on a motorbike coming my way (I told Mar to tell her daughter to look for a Kenari), and when I asked if she was Mar’s daughter, she nodded. And so, I just followed her going up the hill on the narrow tarred roads. It wasn’t too bad, I didn’t really have to be “brutal”. But when we almost reached their house, we had to go down one steep hill and it was there that Mar’s daughter looked back to see if I dared drive my car down the hill. No hal lah! No problem for my Kenari.
Mar seemed like a very pleasant person. Her husband was still rather weak, but according to Mar, his condition had improved a whole lot compared to earlier in the year. He is still however, still on leave from work (he works as a security guard) and beginning this month, although he has not been terminated from work, it will be unpaid leave for him as he has already used up his medical leave.
I was quite worried looking at Mar’s 2 year old daughter. Mar did mention that her daughter has eczema, but the little girl’s skin condition looked quite bad. Mar had only found out about her own HIV just recently. When she was pregnant with this girl, blood test did not indicate she was positive, and so she delivered the girl through normal delivery, and even breastfed the girl for 2 whole years. The girl had been brought for HIV testing, but the results will only be known later when Mar goes for another appointment at Ipoh GH in about 10 days time.
I do hope the little girl is spared from infection, although frankly speaking, I am rather worried.
Mar’s eldest daughter is 19. When asked if she’d like to continue her studies, she was reluctant. Even when I recommended short term skill training courses, she didn’t seem too keen. But she just got herself a job at a newly opened factory, let’s see how it goes from there. Mar’s second daughter is in form 5 this year, and according to Mar, the second daughter seemed more interested in her studies, and may want to further her studies after her SPM. I really hope she will.
While I was at Mar’s house, a text message came in from Hana, informing me that additional fees need to be paid to her 2 children’s school. Both her kids are under our sponsorship programme, so I didn’t have to wait for the Board’s approval to pay for their school fees. Hana’s house is within the same area as Mar’s. I didn’t bother to include a visit to Mar’s house earlier in my schedule for today as Hana usually works on Saturdays, but when she sent that text message while I was already in the area, I decided to call her to find out if she was home. Receiving a reply in the affirmative, I decided to straight away head to her house. I had not been visiting her ever since her new house (at the same old spot) was built.
Glad to see her stay in a much better house. Her old house (her mother’s house actually, she stays with her mother) was in such poor condition that at one time, the floor gave in and Hana fell through it, breaking her arm. They then rented a house nearby until they could get help to rebuild the old house. Finally when her father got his EPF, the money was used to build a new house in place of the old one. (I’ve only met the father once, he has 2 wives and most of the time when I visit, he’d be at his other wife’s house)
I didn’t stay long at Hana’s house. After passing her the money for her children’s school fees, I headed back to Ipoh. As I was driving, a call came in from another unfamiliar number. It turned out to be a long lost client of mine, Zu, who had been missing her hospital appointments for quite some time. The last time I met her, her daughter was just about a year old. Zu asked if she could meet up with me to discuss her problem. She was waiting at a specific place and she said she’d wait there until I came. I was already out, so I might as well straight away go and see her. While driving, I wondered what her problem was. She used to have problems with her mother before as her mother didn’t quite like Zu’s boyfriend. She nagged, and fed up with her mother’s nagging, Zu decided to move out and followed her boyfriend.
Once I reached the place indicated by Zu, I couldn’t see her around. Just as I was about to call her, she knocked on my car window. I told her to come in. She had lost weight and looked unwell. I asked her what her problem was…
To cut the whole story short, the boyfriend that she followed was a drug addict. He somehow got her involved in drugs as well. She tried to quit drugs by buying methadone, but when she doesn’t have enough money and asked her boyfriend to help her out, he told her he’d only buy for her drugs, not methadone. Finally Zu decided to leave him and now she’s back at her parent’s house. She told me she wanted to get proper treatment. She no longer wants to be addicted to drugs and she wants to get proper treatment for her HIV too.
We Buddies are no experts in dealing with drug cases, and so I couldn’t assure her of help straight away. But I told her I’d try to arrange for something as soon as possible. I also told her, she must be strong enough if she really wants to change. Just to be sure she wasn’t lying to me when she said she’s back with her parents, I decided to send her home. Indeed, she was telling the truth. Her daughter, now already 4 years old, was playing outside the house, supervised by her grandma, Zu’s mother. I just went down for a while to salam with her mother, then off I headed home.
What started off as a visit to a new client’s home, ended up with visiting 2 other old clients as well…