When Mar first called me about 2 years ago, seeking help, she had just found out of her HIV infection. Her husband, with CD4 of only 2, was very weak and the family really needed help financially. Since it was rather difficult to assess their situation via phone call, I decided to visit them at home.
Since their house was not that easy to find based on address alone (just like the kampong where I’m staying in now), I told Mar I’d call her once I reached a certain kindergarten at the foothill. Mar then sent her 19 year old daughter down on a motorbike to meet me and then show me the way to their house. Other than this daughter, the couple had 2 other daughters, one teenager, while the youngest one was only 2 years old then.
The youngest girl? During that first visit, she had already been tested but the results of her blood test was not known yet. About 2 weeks after that visit, I called Mar. My fears came true. The girl was confirmed HIV+.
I had not visited this family after that first visit. Yes, we still keep in touch via phone calls and from time to time I do meet Mar when she comes to Ipoh for her hospital appointments. Her eldest daughter is now married and stays elsewhere.
Last week Mar called. Her second daughter, who had completed her matriculation, was offered a place at a local university. Her only source of income is by selling nasi lemak in the mornings, so she is concerned about having to pay the over RM2K registration fee. I advised her to apply for assistance from Yayasan Perak and Baitulmal, however for both, even if approved, she won’t be getting the money immediately. She’d have to pay a certain amount first to the university before they will consider releasing the money. I guess this is to ensure that the students will indeed register, and by paying at least a minimal amount, there is commitment on the part of the family.
While I did suggest to Mar to apply for help from those agencies, I also sought help from my friends on FB. Within hours a few friends committed to donate some money for Mar’s daughter. Enough to ease Mar off her worries. And since I had not visited this family at home ever since that first visit, I figured I might as well visit them to hand over the money instead of banking the money into Mar’s account.
And so, yesterday off I went to visit Mar and her family. Since during the last visit, I simply followed Mar’s daughter to get to their house without paying attention to the left or the right, I wasn’t fully confident I’d be able to remember the way to their house. And since Mar sells nasi lemak near the kindergarten where her daughter came down to fetch me the last time, I told Mar I’d either meet her there, or if she had already gone home by then, I’d call her from there.
It so happened I reached the kindergarten just on time. Mar and her husband had just finished packing up and was just about to go home. I just followed them home, this time paying more attention to landmarks to remember so that next time I don’t need them to show me the way.
I remember the first time I visited, Mar actually asked me if I was “brave” enough to drive to her house. Apparently some people don’t dare drive down the very steep hill to get to her house. “Kalau akak jenis brutal, boleh la,” she said. Well, this time, she didn’t bother to ask again. I guess I made it to her “brutal” list… hehehe…
2 years since my last visit. The house looks the same. But her husband who was bed-ridden during my first visit, can now help out at the nasi lemak stall. His CD4 has gone up from just 2 to over 100 now. Her then 2 year old HIV+ daughter, is now an active 4 year old. According to Mar, the girl doesn’t have problems taking her medication but she’d insist on Mar giving the medication personally to her, not from anybody else. The girl does ask from time to time why she needed to take her medication every single day without fail, and so far Mar had been telling her that the medication is to kill worms in her tummy. Am not sure how long that excuse will work on the girl.
Mar’s main concern is on the future of the little HIV+ girl. Will the girl have a future like any normal child? Will she make it to adulthood?
I told Mar of a few other cases where children who were born HIV+ have grown up. I can’t really promise Mar there will be no problem at all for the girl, but at least she knows the girl is not the only one having to go through this. With the support she’s getting, at least she can learn from what the other HIV+ children have gone through.
Anyway, Mar’s second daughter, who will register at the university early next month, was not home when I visited. The girl works temporarily at a cafeteria, washing dishes, to get some pocket money for herself before she goes off to university. Good for her. She is responsible enough not to depend too much on her parents financially, knowing the hardship her family has to go through.
I do hope she will succeed in her studies and that one day she will be able to help her family lead a better life.