After loading my car with some baby stuff and household needs, plus some of the vegetables I still had from Monday’s visit, off I drove to Taiping Hospital for my clinic duty. Since Dahlia’s family stay in the same town, I thought I might as well take the opportunity to visit them after my clinic duty. For the moment, this is one family I visit more than the rest because of their situation and needs.
As soon as I got to Taiping Hospital, I went straight to the ID clinic room, asking if there were any cases they wanted to refer to me. The staff nurse pulled me aside to discuss with me a few cases and to ask for my opinion if she should refer those cases to me. For one particular case, she said the patient himself and his father are okay and may not need any help, but the patient’s mother was the one who seemed very depressed. However, yesterday the mother did not come along to the hospital. Since we Buddies not only give support to the PLHIV themselves, but also to their family members, I told the nurse to ask the father if they wanted to talk to me.
I then waited at the praying room aka makeshift counselling room. It wasn’t long before the nurse brought in the father & son she had told me about. The one with HIV was the son, an 18 year old boy. With a Sekolah Agama background, and scoring a long list of A’s in his SPM last year, his parents had high hopes for him, and never in a million years would they have thought that their son would ever be involved in having sex with a fellow male. Understandably, it was very difficult for the mother to swallow.
The father, however, was more accepting, although initially he too found it hard to believe and accept. What is past is done and over with, his main concern now is his son’s future. The boy only found out that he had been infected with HIV when he did a full medical check-up after being offered a place to further his studies at a local university. He eventually entered another college which only required urine test (for drugs) and no blood test as part of their entry requirement.
According to the father, the boy’s mother is beginning to accept the situation now, although she is still very sad about the whole situation. I gave him my number and told him to get his wife to call me if she needs to talk it out with someone, as I may be able to share with her my experience in dealing with other PLHIV families.
The next case referred to me wasn’t a new case, but a case that had never been referred to Buddies before. The nurse figured the lady may need some help. A 51 year old lady, Nina, who sometimes would refer herself as “kakak” to me, and sometimes as “makcik”. Little did she know that I was actually older than her.
Nina goes to the hospital frequently because of her kidney problems, and during one of the tests done, it was found that she was also HIV+. She is already on dialysis, having to go to the hospital 3 times a week. HIV and dialysis, that’s enough problem already. But wait till you hear the rest of her story…
In addition to having to face her own health problems, Nina needs to take care of her husband at home. Her husband, an ex-IVDU, also has mental illness and had even been warded at the psychiatric ward before. He can become violent from time to time (his addiction to drugs certainly didn’t help). Given the conditions of both husband and wife, neither of them are working. So who supports them? They do get RM300 financial assistance from Baitulmal, but the amount is not enough, given that there are 11 people in their household.
The couple has 10 children. Because of their parent’s condition, the first 4 did not continue their studies after SPM. It didn’t matter that they only managed to get low-paying jobs, what mattered was that they needed money to support their family. The eldest basically supports the family’s living expenses. The #2 took a loan to help repair and renovate the family’s house to cater for their big family. He is now married and stays elsewhere. #3 took a loan to buy a car to make it easier for him to bring his mother to the hospital at least 3 times a week. Half of his monthly pay is deducted to pay for the loan. #4 is earning just enough to support himself. #5 and 6 are studying at higher learning institutions and still needs financial support. #7, 8, 9 and 10 are all still in school… 3 in secondary schools and the youngest still in primary school.
With their house (which looks nice of course after the renovation works) and the car, from the outside it did not look like they needed help. If there were any assistance given to the kampong folks, this family would never even be considered.
I told Nina that we Buddies may be able to help out with her 4 younger children’s schooling expenses. She looked somewhat surprised. “Tak pernah ada siapa-siapa bagi kami bantuan,” she said.
After taking down her particulars, I told her either myself or any one of my fellow volunteers would be contacting her to arrange for help.
Since there were no more cases to be referred, I headed off to visit Dahlia’s family. When I got into the house, Dahlia’s daughter Dilla (the 16 year old mom) was feeding her little girl some baby food. The girl is almost 7 months old now. It was good to see some progress in the baby’s growth, considering that during my previous 2 visits her growth seemed somewhat slow.
Dilla was home because during the fasting month, most of the college’s culinary programs are held during iftar and so Dilla would only be able to go home at night. That leads to another problem. Of late it seems a group of guys on motorbikes like to disturb her while she cycles home from her college. After having gone through the rape case before this, both Dahlia and Dilla did not want to take any chances. Luckily Dilla had a friend who goes to the same college daily on a motorbike, so now the friend would pick her up and send her home daily, especially if their program ends at night.
I admire her courage. Dilla is very mature for her age, and especially after having to go through such a harrowing experience. May God protect her and her family.