THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)
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Saturday, 30 July 2011

A final farewell…

After visiting and delivering another month’s supply of groceries to Sofie yesterday; and then visiting Zalia and delivering milk & diapers for her daughter before heading home, I was planning to just stay home today (other than my Saturday pasar tani routine) and tidy up my messy work table at home.

But when I was at the pasar tani, a call came in on my hand phone from an unfamiliar number. The caller identified herself as Shilla’s sister-in-law and told me that Shila had just passed away about 6 something in the morning. She herself wasn’t too sure what time the funeral would be as the family was still calling relatives and friends.

So after my pasar tani routine, off I headed to Shila’s house. Shila had been staying with her mother (at her mother’s house) ever since her husband passed away about 8 years ago. It’s a kampong house which I had visited quite a number of times even though I am not Shila’s main buddy. Shila’s buddy is for the moment overseas and was not able to visit today.

When I got to Shila’s house at about 10 am, there were quite a number of people visiting. Laila, Shila’s 11 year old daughter, looked rather calm. So did Shila’s mother. I knew Shila’s mother was busy with people always asking her where was this and that to help prepare for Shila’s funeral, but I still managed to talk to her for a few minutes to find out what happened.

After being hospitalised some time last month, Shila’s condition had improved a lot. Other than HIV, Shila also had heart problems. She & Laila did join us for our recent Family Day. I never thought that would be her last Family Day with us. Within the same week after the Family Day, I did get to meet Shila & Laila. Shila had to go to the hospital for some tests and after she was done with those tests, I went to fetch her. Shila was hungry by then (she had to fast before the tests were done) and so I brought both her & her daughter for makan-makan at a fast food outlet at a nearby shopping centre. Apparently Laila had always asked her mother if she could eat there but Shila couldn’t afford to fulfil the girl’s request. So when I offered to bring them there, the girl was all smiles.

That was the last I met Shila alive. And she was doing okay then.

So the news of her death came as quite a shock to me. As a matter of fact, it was a shock to her family as well. Even though they knew of her HIV, but based on her condition, they didn’t expect her to go so soon. According to her mother, the only thing Shila was complaining about yesterday was a backache; and then later at night she complained she felt rather warm and so decided to sleep upstairs which was cooler. Usually she’d sleep downstairs with her daughter. And the next thing they knew, this morning Shila was gone.

I immediately sent a few text messages to a few people whom I thought should know about Shila’s death – including SN. SN immediately called me back – she was shocked too. Apparently the doctor had just asked her to call Shila to arrange for some other tests to be done on her before deciding on the best ARV medication to be given to her.

Anyway, when I got to Shila’s house, the first thing I did was to ask her mother if the funeral arrangements had been made. 

“Jenazah semua dah ada orang uruskan ya?”
“Dah… saya suruh anak saya pergi ambik orang yang selalu uruskan jenazah tu.”

OK, so everything had been arranged for, so I just sat there quietly and I thought probably I could leave early. But after a while, Shila’s sister came back, and the family seemed a bit restless. I decided to ask. Apparently the regular lady whom the kampong folks had always depended on to handle pengurusan jenazah, was not home and nobody seemed to know where she was. A few ladies offered help to cut the kain kafan, but nobody dared lead. I could see Shila’s mother was beginning to worry although she kept her cool. I finally decided to just go and join the ladies helping out with the kain kafan when one of them asked, “Adik boleh tolong ke?” “InsyaAllah boleh,” I said, and immediately they put me as the “leader”.

So yes, from then on I took over the pengurusan jenazah, right from preparing the kain kafan, mandi jenazah and on to mengkafankan jenazah. The other ladies gave full cooperation.

It was during mengkafankan jenazah that Laila started sobbing away. Poor girl. Being the only child, and losing her father when she was just about 3 years old, Laila had always been manja with her mother.

By the time the jenazah was all ready, it was about 12.45 pm. I sought permission from Shila’s mom to leave as I had already done what I could. She hugged me and thanked me for helping her out. Somehow, from the way she thanked me, I get this gut feeling that maybe, just MAYBE, the regular lady could have heard rumours that Shila had HIV and therefore purposely made a disappearing act so that she didn’t have to give any excuses for refusing to handle Shila’s jenazah. Just for the record, during one of the kursus pengurusan jenazah that I had attended before, one of the participants actually asked if he could refuse to handle the body of an HIV infected person. I do hope I’m wrong about this lady though…

I do intend to visit again one of these days to discuss about Laila’s future. No worries about who the girl will be staying with, she’ll definitely be staying with her grandma at the very same house she’s staying now. But other than monitoring Laila’s educational needs, we need to monitor her emotional status as well. Ramadhan will begin on Monday, and one thing for sure is that this coming Raya will be Laila's first Raya without her mother.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Sana jangan, sini pun jangan…

For 2 days in a row I was on clinic duty… yesterday in Taiping, and today in Ipoh. No new cases were referred to me in Taiping. But my time in Taiping Hospital wasn’t wasted. I did get to meet 2 old clients. And when it was almost noon, the nurse came over. Initially I thought she wanted to refer a new case. To my surprise, she said, “Afizah, meh join sama, makan dengan Dr Ker!”

The nurses there organised a pre-Ramadhan makan-makan and they so happened to do it on a day when I was there, so lucky me got to eat the delicacies offered – nasi hujan panas, pulut kuning and meehoon soup. *Burp*

This morning I was at the hospital again for my once a fortnight duty at Ipoh GH. No longer bothered to get a parking space within the hospital compounds, I straight away went to park at my usual far away parking spot where most of the time nobody else going to the hospital wanted to park. Exercise! Exercise! I needed (and still do need) the exercise!

As I entered the doctor’s room to notify the nurses that I was already there, the moment SN saw me, she immediately told the other nurse to get Faridah to see me, although it wasn’t a new case and Faridah had been referred to me before. I did visit Faridah and her husband Jeff at the home of Jeff’s mother before, but that was the only time. After that Jeff wasn’t bothered to go for his appointments anymore. He was only interested to get financial assistance but since they didn’t have any children, I couldn’t offer them our Children Education Fund or help to apply for the Paediatric Aids Fund.

Anyway, this morning before they sent Faridah to see me, the nurses told me that Jeff, Faridah’s husband had passed away recently. And since Faridah had defaulted her appointment late last year, this was the first time she came back to the HIV clinic for follow-up.

Ever since Faridah married Jeff and followed Jeff to stay with Jeff’s side of the family, Faridah had sort of lost touch with her side of her family. It was only when Jeff died recently, they were told about it and went to visit during the funeral. Nobody had known that Jeff and Faridah were HIV +ve. However, during the funeral, the obvious presence of the Inspektor Kesihatan didn’t help to keep it a secret anymore. The whole family found out. The whole kampong found out.

Now the problem is this… while Jeff’s family don’t mind Faridah to continue staying with Jeff’s mother, Faridah’s own family felt it wasn’t right, and furthermore, they felt that Jeff’s family wanted her there so she could take care of their ailing mother. Faridah’s family thought since Faridah herself wasn’t well, it was not right to let her take care of her mother-in-law.

Well then, just take her home right?

Wrong! While they felt it wasn’t right for Faridah to continue staying with her mother-in-law, they felt Faridah shouldn’t be staying at her own mother’s house either. The sister-in-law (wife to Faridah’s brother) who accompanied Faridah to the hospital today, stays with Faridah’s mother. She told me that not only is the house small, she also has to take care of her ailing MIL (Faridah’s mom) and so taking care of Faridah as well wasn’t too practical.

Faridah, by the looks of it, cannot be independent. Not because she’s too weak or anything like that, but because she is somewhat rather “slow”. Anything that needs to be done, she needs to be told, each time. That’s why when her husband decided to no longer go for hospital appointments, she did the same. To go to the hospital on her own, she wouldn’t be able to. Probably because she had always been dependent on other people for everything.

Hmmm… they didn’t agree to Faridah staying with her MIL, and they didn’t agree to Faridah staying with her own mother either. So, where is she supposed to go?

That was why they wanted to see me today. They were hoping I could get her a shelter home.

Whatever it is, both sides of the family agreed that even if Faridah moves out, it should be after her iddah is over. And since her husband just died about 10 days ago, I still have 4 months to think of a suitable solution…

Monday, 25 July 2011

Back together again…

I spent my Sunday morning & afternoon having a good time caving with friends at Gua Tempurung – a short break from my voluntary work… a stress releasing activity before I start off with my Ramadhan visits next week. My clients wouldn’t have been able to reach me even if they wanted to… for almost 4 hours inside the cave, there was no reception!! :-)

But it didn’t take long after the expedition ended for one of my clients to call me. I had not even gone out of Gopeng yet when a call came in while I was driving. The ring tone indicated the number was not listed in my mobile phone.

It was Zalia. Remember Zalia? The young mother who sought my help to get assistance for her 2 year old daughter. My problem was, the daughter was staying with Zalia’s mother while Zalia herself, due to a misunderstanding with her mother, had moved out of the house to stay with her mak angkat, who also happens to be her boyfriend’s mother. Of course, Zalia’s mother got pretty upset with the decision made by Zalia.

After about a month or so, now Zalia wants to go back and stay with her parents, and be reunited with her daughter. But she was scared. Earlier on, the plan was that when I manage to get donations of milk for her little girl, I’d bring Zalia together with me to her parents house to pass the milk to them.

I did manage to get help for the girl, but my calls to Zalia went unanswered and my text messages never got replied. For a while I thought Zalia had abandoned the idea of going to see her parents and her daughter.

But finally just after my Gua Tempurung grand tour, she called, using her boyfriend’s phone. Not really a good time to call, but since I had been wanting to get hold of her, I entertained the call. Apparently her own phone became faulty and was beyond repairs. Which was why my calls and messages never got through to her.

Zalia said she needed to move out of her mak angkat’s house as soon as possible and asked if she could meet up with me. She didn’t have single sen to go to town to meet me and so she was hoping I could come pick her up at home. Not really a problem since she’s staying in Ipoh, but I didn’t have her house address and wasn’t in a position to write down the address to ask her on the phone. So I told her to text me the address and I’d try to visit her the next day (ie today).

By the time I got home, I noticed that she had already texted me the address – not familiar territory to me although it’s in Ipoh. But I got my GPS and yes, the road where she stayed was listed in my GPS.

So today I headed off to fetch Zalia. I didn’t tell her earlier what time I’d be coming. She did mention she wasn’t going anywhere so it shouldn’t matter what time. But as I was nearing the house, Zalia called and asked if I was coming. When I told her I was already on my way, she said, “Oh, kalau macam tu saya siaplah barang-barang saya.”

Huh? Siap barang? Was I supposed to send her home today?

Dah ada telefon bagitau mak belum?” I asked.

Dia tak jawab telefon. Dah berapa kali dah saya call.”

Uh oh! I thought I was going to see Zalia to discuss things over. But never mind, Zalia’s mother was probably just too upset with the decision Zalia made to move out of the house and leaving her own child; she purposely didn’t want to answer the call. Besides, since Zalia couldn’t use her own phone, she used her boyfriend’s phone to call. Her mother probably already recognised the number.

Anyway, when I got to the house as per the address mentioned by Zalia, a young lady opened the door and asked who I was looking for. When I mentioned Zalia’s full name, the lady went blank, and then asked another lady in the house. They only knew her nickname, not her full name. I then heard a guy’s voice, asking the young lady who I was. When I mentioned my name, then only the guy told them to tell me to wait for a while. Zalia was upstairs packing her things. So I went back to wait in the car since they didn’t invite me in.

After a while Zalia came out with her bags. Not many things since she just moved out of her parent’s house just about a month ago. I think it hadn’t even been 5 minutes after we left when my handphone rang. The call came from her boyfriend, who was in the house when we left earlier. He asked to speak to Zalia for a while. I had my bluetooth on so I could answer my calls hands free while driving, so I had to turn off my bluetooth before passing the phone to Zalia. Based on the conversation I heard, all he wanted to say was to tell Zalia to take good care of herself bla bla bla. Duh! Couldn’t they settle that part at home when I went to fetch her?

All the way to her parent’s house, I was praying and praying that Zalia’s mother would soften up and accept Zalia back without much drama. Well, I think since she wasn’t really expecting Zalia to go home, what more with someone she (Zalia’s mom) never knew or even heard of before, she seemed rather surprised when she saw me with Zalia. It could have been a different scene altogether had it been Zalia’s boyfriend who sent her home.

After Zalia went to kiss her mother’s hands, the 41 year old mother and grandma to Zalia’s daughter looked at me as I offered my salam. I immediately introduced myself as a volunteer dealing with HIV patients. Zalia had told me earlier that her family had known of her HIV status all along, and so I didn’t have to worry about telling them who I really was.

Zalia’s mother seemed rather receptive. What I felt earlier was right, when she didn’t answer Zalia’s calls, it wasn’t because she didn’t want to accept Zalia in her life. It’s just that she felt too hurt with the decision made by Zalia. I had earlier on in the car, told Zalia to make sure she apologised to her mother, to which she responded, “Memang saya yang salah pun kak.”

So there wasn’t really any unwanted scenes when I sent Zalia back to her family today. I was however hoping that Zalia’s mother wasn’t just controlling herself because I was there. Zalia’s 2 year old daughter, at first seemed shy and kept hiding behind chairs, but after about 10 minutes or so, she clung on to Zalia and looked as though she didn’t want to let go. The poor girl must have missed her mother so much.

Seeing that everything seemed fine, I asked to leave. As I drove off, I looked into the rear mirror to see if the situation would change, but based on what I saw, they were chatting… peacefully. Let’s hope it will continue that way and let’s hope Zalia will not make any other stupid decisions.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Change of plans: From hospital visit to house visit…

I had wanted to visit Zainab’s daughter, Kakak, at the hospital this morning but simply couldn’t get a parking space. Even my usual parking area where others don’t usually want to park (because it’s quite far to walk to the hospital), were full this morning.

I called Zainab, this time she answered. Although earlier she mentioned that Kakak may need to be operated for suspected appendix, this time Zainab told me that the girl need not go through any operation after all. I guess it wasn’t her appendix that gave her problems. But she still needed to stay in the ward for further tests, especially since the girl does have kidney problems.

Since I couldn’t get a proper parking space, I decided to cancel my plan to visit Kakak and change to plan B to visit Lin instead. Somebody had given some cash through me to be given to Lin, for her to spend for Ramadhan/Syawal, so I thought I might as well visit her today. There were some photos (of our recent Family Day) that I needed to pass to her as well. So I called Lin, just to be sure she’s home. I wouldn’t want to go all the way to her house only to find out that she was in Ipoh for her hospital appointment!!

Lin said she was at home and was not planning to go anywhere, so I told her I’d be coming. Within half an hour, I was at her house. Lin was concentrating on her sewing and didn’t realise my presence until I got to right in front of the door. Her 14 year old daughter was ironing her school uniform.

Education-wise, Lin’s daughters seemed to be doing quite well. Her 1st & 3rd daughter are already working, while her second daughter has to study a little bit longer since she’s taking up medicine overseas. Lin’s 4th, her son, had never done well in school, and even after SPM he was doing one thing after another. One moment he’d say he wanted to work, next moment he’d say he wanted to take up whatever courses with some friends. Latest, he had gone up north to take up a short course, and according to him, right after the 3 months course, he’d be offered a job. His mother or sisters couldn’t ask much, he wouldn’t say much, but it’s something to do with shipping, or so he said.

Lin’s 5th child, a 16 year old boy, isn’t doing too well in school either. Joining a vocational class, his last exam results slip showed a number of subjects which he got G’s (for gagal). The only subject he scored an A was “kimpalan” (welding), the one and only subject that he’s interested in. For other subjects which he’d need to sit down and study, he failed miserably. Last year, for his PMR, I offered Lin to pay for his tuition (he is under our Sponsorship Program), but he himself refused. No point paying for his tuition if he wasn’t going to attend. He doesn’t seem interested to study. He is even contemplating to do part time jobs during school holidays so he’d have some money to get a motorcycle license.

Lin’s youngest daughter is an average student in school. Last year she turned out one of the tops in her class, and so this year she was transferred to what Lin calls “kelas budak pandai”. This year since she’s sharing a class with better students, she got to the lower bottom of the class.

Right now, financially I’m not too worried about Lin’s family. With her 2 girls already working (although “baru nak hidup” as people say), and I know that the girls are the responsible type, at least there is always something in the kitchen for them to eat. My main concern now is her sons, especially her 16 year old who doesn’t seem to be bothered about his studies. He already likes to join his friends go fishing etc instead of studying or doing his homework at home.

I just hope the 2 boys will not end up like their father.

Which reminds me… what’s the latest news about their father, Mr Darling? What about the case reported by his wife (now ex-wife) for molesting his step-daughter? Well, since her 14 year old daughter was there, I didn’t want to ask Lin about Mr D. Didn’t want to be discussing Mr D’s molest case in front of any of their children, especially the younger ones. Although the eldest daughter despises the father, Lin always reminded them that good or bad, he’s still their father.

So no, no updates on Mr Darling today, ok?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Unwell daughter… irresponsible husband…

I was relaxing at home on Sunday when a call came in from an unfamiliar number. At first I thought it was one of those unwanted telemarketing calls, but when I answered the call, the voice at the other end sounded familiar. It was Zainab, whom I couldn’t call earlier because she didn’t have a phone. Even for our recent Family Day, I had to leave a note with her daughter at her house (Zainab was at work) to inform her of when and where to wait for one of our volunteers to fetch her.

Anyway, she called to give me her new number and to ask if the Family Day photos were ready. She also mentioned that for this week she’d be on night shift at her workplace and so I could visit her during the day time.

With photos already printed, and money has started coming in from donors to be used for my poor PLHIV families, on Monday morning I decided to shop for some groceries before visiting Zainab and her family at home. Once I got all the stuff into my car, I called Zainab to inform her I was on my way. But she didn’t answer my call. At first I thought she could be in the bathroom or something, but after a while, she returned my call. She was at the hospital with her daughters.

Her older daughter, more affectionately called Kakak, had been unwell and since the girl’s appointment at the paediatric clinic is only in August, quite a long way to go, Zainab decided to bring her to the hospital yesterday. It was not advisable to bring the girl to other clinics since all her records are at the Ipoh GH paediatric clinic (the girl has kidney problems). So after coming home from work at about 6.45 am, and after a short nap, Zainab called a colleague of mine (the one who fetched her for our family day earlier) to ask if he could send her and daughter to the hospital. So yes, my colleague who stays not too far from Zainab’s place, fetched them at home and sent them to the hospital on his way to work.

Upon being told that they were at the hospital, I decided to go straight to the hospital. And as usual, finding a parking space within the hospital compounds was almost impossible – unless you’re lucky enough to pass by at the right time when another car is going out. I parked outside and walked.

The moment I walked into the paeds clinic, there was no problem spotting Zainab and her 2 daughters. They were still waiting for their turn to see the doctor. Adik was playing at the playground. I immediately showed Kakak their family day photos. She was smiling from ear to ear looking at the photo of her on the horse.

When it was kakak’s turn to see the doctor, Zainab went in with her. Knowing that I was outside, she let Adik continue playing.

Apparently when they went to see the doctor, the doc wanted to get more tests done on Kakak and told her that she’d need to get her blood taken for testing. Scared of needles, the girl asked the good doc if they could take her mother’s blood instead… :-)

Once her urine and blood samples were taken and sent to the lab, Zainab was told to bring the girl again to the hospital on Wednesday to see the doctor after test results are out. The 2 girls had been complaining they were hungry, so I brought them to the cafeteria. Knowing they loved chicken, the first thing I asked was if they wanted nasi ayam for lunch (it was already noon by then), and immediately they smiled. Kakak had one plate of nasi ayam for herself, while Adik shared with her mother. The little girl ended up eating most of the chicken while her mother finished up the rice…

After lunch, I sent them home. They didn’t realise I had some groceries at the back and were quite surprised when I asked them to help carry the stuff down from my car. The 2 girls were all smiles when they saw some of the foodstuff I had bought for them.

Anyway, while waiting at the hospital and in the car while driving them home, I had the chance to chat with Zainab. I asked about Zaki, her husband. I was wondering why he didn’t come along to accompany his daughter to the hospital. By right, it should be him since Zainab had just got home from work and hadn’t had enough rest. Obviously Zainab looked rather fed-up when I asked about Zaki. “Dia nak mati cepat lantak dialah kak, malas dah saya…”

Zaki is no longer going for his hospital appointments. Work? Nope, he’s no longer working either, but that didn’t come as a surprise to me since he had always come up with all sorts of excuses to quit whatever jobs that he had. Even when he was working, he didn’t contribute to the family’s expenses, he spent his wages to buy cigarettes and whatever else for his own needs.  Dia tak kerja, tapi bukannya nak tolong jaga budak-budak ni pun!”

And the main reason Zainab feels more fed-up than ever is that she suspects he is back on drugs.

Mana dia dapat duit?” I asked. “Kawan-kawan dialah kak!”

Which reminds me, when I went to their house to leave the note regarding the family day, only Kakak and Adik were home. When I asked the girls where their parents were, Kakak answered, “Ibu kerja. Ayah keluar.” Luckily it was me who went to visit. The door was not even locked. Any strangers could easily go in to kidnap the 2 girls.

I think it was rather irresponsible for him to leave the 2 girls (aged 8 & 6) all by themselves at home, don’t you think? And especially now after knowing what he had been up to of late.

Thank goodness Zainab now has a phone. It would be easier for me to check on them from time to time. And I was thinking I’d check on them on Wednesday after Kakak’s next appointment at the hospital.

However, about 3 pm today, I received a text message from Zainab, sayiing that Kakak had to be warded and may need to be operated. Kakak was down with high fever last night and so Zainab brought the girl to a nearby clinic and was told by the doctor to bring her straight to the hospital as he suspected the girl may need to get her appendix removed.

I tried calling Zainab but my call didn’t get through. I sent a text message to get further info but that too had not been replied. I guess the next few days I may just have to visit at the ward to get further details…

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Visiting the K’s

It’s been a while since I last went to visit the K’s. The last visit was in April, immediately after they moved to a newly rented house, quite near the old house. With photos of the Family Day already printed, and some groceries already at our centre, I decided to give them a visit on Saturday. I texted Mrs K first to ask if anybody would be home. Mrs K herself would probably be working, so I just wanted to be sure any of her children would be around so I could leave them the groceries and photos. According to Mrs K, her 16 year old daughter would be home, so yeah, I went ahead with my plan.

The door was closed when I got to their house. I honked, and immediately I saw a girl peeping through the window. After a while Mr K opened the door and came out.

Tak kerja ke?” I asked.

Baru balik pukul 1,” he replied.

Since he was around, I got him to carry the box of groceries out of my car. I just carried the 10kg pack of rice. His 2 younger girls also came out. The 16 year old was not around – her aunt just came to fetch her to help in the baking of some raya cookies to be sold during the coming Ramadhan. Shah, the eldest boy, just started work at the nearby petrol station. Mrs K was not back from work yet.

Since the girls were around, I went in for a while, and passed the family day photos to them. The girls got excited, especially looking at the photo of the 2 of them riding the horse. Despite the fact that I had reduced my visits to their house ever since Mrs K started sending me text messages wanting to borrow money, 4 year old Baby K had always been friendly with me. Ever since she was small and couldn’t even talk, right to now when she’s already quite a chatty little girl, she’d always welcome my visits. In fact when she followed her parents to the hospital some time in May, when she saw me in the counselling room, she came in just to give me a peck on my cheeks and immediately went out again.

Well, this time she was telling me all sorts of stories… some I understood, some I didn’t. After a while, a cute little white kitten came in and immediately headed towards me. Baby K took the kitten in her arms. The kitten jumped from the girl’s arms and came running to me again, this time hiding underneath my kain, right between by legs. Baby K was so afraid the kitten wanted to follow me back, she grabbed the kitten from between my legs, and this time she didn’t let go.

Apa nama dia?” I asked.

Tot!” answered the older sister.

Bukanlah! Nama dia Lily!” the little girl replied.

Anyway, I asked Mr K about 20 year old Shah. I was quite concerned about his future. If he doesn’t start thinking seriously of his future, what is he going to feed his family when he gets married? Shah was supposed to join Giat Mara starting July but none of the courses offered at the Giat Mara near his place were of interest to him. He’s more into automotive stuff and the Giat Mara offering such a course is quite a distance away, and they don’t offer accommodation. There is a newly opened Kolej Komuniti quite near their place, which offers automotive courses AND provide accommodation as well, so he’s aiming to apply for their January intake.

Let’s just hope this time it will work out as planned…

Friday, 15 July 2011

Clinic duty: 3 different ladies, 3 different stories…

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.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Meeting up with a new client…

Almost 3 weeks ago, while I was driving to KL, a call came in from a lady. Initially I thought she was an HIV+ lady needing someone to talk to, but apparently she was seeking help for her older sister, Mimi who was infected. The lady who called me, Lia, was the one taking care of Mimi at home, with full support from Lia’s husband.

Since I was driving, it wasn’t really the right time for us to chat. And usually I prefer to meet face to face as I’d be able to get more info that way rather than just speaking on the phone. So I told Lia, I’d try to visit in about 2 weeks time. I was then quite busy with the Family Day preparations.

I almost forgot about Mimi and Lia until end of last week when I was planning some visits to the homes of my clients. Immediately I called Lia to find out if it was okay for me to visit them this week. Lia was actually waiting for my call. I asked her to SMS me her address, but she instead just gave me directions to a place I was not too familiar with.

So yesterday morning, I sent a text message to Lia, asking her to text me her house address so I could set it in my GPS. There was no answer, so I just set my GPS to the name of the taman I thought Lia mentioned when I spoke to her last week.

As I was driving at the highway, Lia called. She said she was unable to use the SMS function on her phone and so she called to give me the address. I was driving and was not in a position to write down the address, and so had to memorise the address. And apparently the name of the taman I thought she mentioned last week was also wrong. She mentioned “damai”, I remembered it as “aman”… :-)

After exiting at the toll house, I stopped by the road side to reset my GPS. Alamak, the taman was not listed in my GPS. I had no choice but to depend on the directions Lia gave me earlier last week. As I was about to move on, Lia called again. It seems Mimi no longer wanted to stay with Lia and had decided to move back to her own home on Sunday. So Lia asked if I still wanted to visit if Mimi wasn’t around. I told Lia we could still discuss how we could help Mimi.

So I continued my drive, and without a problem, I found the junction leading to the taman, as there was a huge signboard listing all the tamans in the area. Only problem was, once I got in to that junction, there was no further signboard indicating which way was this taman and which way was that taman. But I remembered Lia mentioning earlier about passing by a mini market and so the moment I saw the mini market, I stopped to call Lia.

Akak jalan teruuuus sampai hujung belok kiri, hujung lagi belok kiri lagi. Saya tunggu kat luar rumah pakai baju warna merah, eh, pink!”

Ah, the house wasn’t too hard to find after all, if only they had put up proper signboards leading to the various tamans

Lia was quite friendly. She immediately opened up about lots of things. About how their parents died when they were young, and how the siblings got separated, one taken care by aunt, one by grand aunt etc. So they were not really close to each other until much later in their lives after they got married.

Mimi herself was unlucky to have married a hard core drug addict.

Dah lama ke suami dia meninggal?” I asked Lia about Mimi’s husband.

Eh, bukan meninggal… cerai,” Lia replied. “Tapi sekarang ni tak tau lah dia di mana. Hidup lagi ke tidak pun entah!”

All her married life, Mimi was the one who had to work and support the family. Her husband was always in and out of Pusat Serenti. They have 2 sons, both grown up now. The older boy is working in another state, earning just enough to support himself, while the younger one for the moment stays together with Mimi.

They finally got divorced about 3 or 4 years ago, not knowing that they were both infected. It was only recently when Mimi was down with TB and had to be hospitalised did she find out that she had HIV. By then her condition was so bad, whenever relatives visited, they all thought Mimi didn’t have that long to live. And things got worse when Mimi fell and became half-paralysed. So Lia took Mimi to her home to take care of her.

Mimi did get better physically. She still walks with a little difficulty but at least she can already walk. But ever since diagnosed with HIV, Mimi became ultra sensitive. Any advise given to her, especially by family members, she’d think she had become a burden to the family and that the whole family hated her. And because she had not forgiven her husband for what happened to her, from time to time she’d say to Lia, “Engko percaya sangat la laki engko tu. Entah dia keluar pergi mana entah.” Sometimes, Lia did get somewhat influenced, making her feel suspicious of her husband.

Mimi finally decided to move back to her own house (bought when she was still working) last Sunday, after she got a compensation of RM18K from her former employers when they had to close down some time ago. When Lia told her yesterday that I was coming over, at first Mimi said she didn’t want to come. Which was why Lia called to inform me that Mimi had gone back to her own home.

How long can RM18K last? The moment Mimi got her compensation, her son, who was staying with her, asked for a new motorbike. And the moment he got his motorbike, he stopped working! (he was earlier working for an uncle)

Lia’s main concern was if the son would really take care of Mimi. All the while Lia made sure Mimi took all her medication on time, took her to the hospital etc.

Akak jumpa dia nanti, akak tanyalah sendiri,” Lia told me.

Dia nak datang ke? Tadi kata dia takde?”

Dah, saya dah telefon dia balik, cakap akak dah on the way. Saya kata akak nak bincang macam mana boleh tolong dia. Nanti kejap lagi dia datang, anak dia bawak.”

After a while Mimi arrived with her son on a motorbike. While she could walk, I could see she was still walking with difficulty.

Ni dah dok rumah sendiri, boleh ke masak?”

Saya sikit-sikit bolehlah. Masak, anak yang masak.”

Pandai dia masak?”

Masak orang bujang, bolehlah…”

The problem now is, the son got himself a job in another state, starting August, meaning his mother will be alone at home, if she still insists on staying in her own house. Given her condition, I don’t think it’s advisable. But the son didn’t seem too bothered about how his mother will cope alone at home.

Anyway, I looked through all her documents, and obviously Mimi should be able to apply for Socso’s disability pension. I taught both Lia and Mimi on how to go about, especially in getting the doctor’s report. Mimi had initially thought she’d just bring the form during her next appointment in Ipoh and ask the doctor to fill in and sign the form there and then. I told them they wouldn’t be able to get the report that way.

I think I may need to do a few follow up visits to Mimi’s house. Although initially it was Lia who called me to seek help for her sister, from my visit yesterday, Mimi seemed receptive enough to allow me to visit her at her own home. As Lia told me earlier, sometimes Mimi would prefer to listen to others rather than her own family, which was why Lia sought my help in the first place.

I’d probably be able to get more info from Mimi too if I meet her alone…

Monday, 11 July 2011

Visiting Sofie at her newly rented home…

In my earlier posting here, I mentioned about Sofie having to move again after her sister, whom she had been sharing the house rent of RM250 with, was offered free accommodation by her employers near her workplace. With no fixed income, Sofie couldn’t afford to pay RM250 by herself, and so she immediately looked for a new place to rent.

She did manage to get a house at a rental rate of RM150, but nearer to her old place (where the condition was so bad), which means she may need to have her children’s schools transferred yet again. For the moment the children are still schooling at the old school, although they may need to leave their house earlier than usual.

Sofie did tell me (during the Family Day) that she’d be moving to the new place during the week. So on Saturday I called her to ask if she had moved. I needed to visit and bring Saiful, her son, to an optician, as required by the ophthalmologist during his previous appointment. Sofie and her children were all already at the new place. I then asked for the address, and as usual, they themselves didn’t know their new address. I then asked for directions.

Akak masuk aje *XXX, seberang jalan keretapi tu, sampai kat padang talipon saya. Nanti saya gi ambik naik motor.” (*cannot lah give the actual name of the place kan?)

Again, as I had expected, these clients of mine always ASSUME I know the place they’re talking about just because they are familiar with the place. I know of a pintu gerbang going in to Kampung XXX, so in my mind, that was the place Sofie was talking about.

So when I went this morning, I went straight to the Kampung XXX, but couldn’t find a railway track for me to pass. I then decided to head back to town, where I found a road by the name of Jalan Kampung XXX, and yes, immediately I saw a railway crossing. Drove pass the railway crossing, found the padang, and then I called her. She told me to wait. Within just a few minutes I saw Sofie on a motorbike together with Ika, her youngest daughter.

I then followed her motorbike, and had to pass through some back lanes before reaching her house.

For a rental of RM150, I must say the house is quite spacious. And with not so many things such as furniture, the house looked even more spacious. The moment I walked in, I saw the old mechanical sewing machine that I brought for her last year. Still working and still being used, alhamdulillah.

Further than her old place, but so far things are looking good. She just moved in last week, and already she’s getting orders to supply kuih for the nearby hospital canteen, and also to supply kuih at the nearby pasar ramadhan for the coming fasting month. At least she can work from home, without having to stand too long selling the kuih herself at the hospital canteen or at the pasar ramadhan. And based on the place where she stays, even after Ramadhan she may be able to sell kuih and/or nasi lemak by the roadside near her house.

Yes, so far so good. I do hope she doesn’t have to move again anytime in the near future…

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Pre-Ramadhan visits begin…

With Ramadhan approaching and donations starting to come in meant for my PLHIV families, I figured I didn’t really have much time left for me to do my pre-Ramadhan visits.

On Thursday I started buying some groceries – rice, cooking oil, sugar, flour, canned food, biscuits, cordial, etc, thinking of storing them at the Buddies Centre so that whenever I decide to visit any of my clients, I’d just go to the Centre and get the groceries from there.

Right after putting all the stuff in my car, I thought there was still time, so I called Fuzi to find out if she was home. As soon as she said she was home and wasn’t planning to go anywhere, I told her I was coming over. Might as well settle one family first since I didn’t have any other plans. After all, I had already got photos of our Family Day printed and sorted out to be given to the various families, and I’m sure the kids were eagerly waiting to see their photos.

So off I headed to Fuzi’s house. I got there at about 11 am or so…. saw Ijam already in his school uniform, waiting for the school bus to come. Iwan, the youngest boy, was at a neighbour’s house, playing with some friends.

Anyway, Fuzi was telling me her problem with her boys. While the 2 girls had never been a problem for her, the boys tend to befriend naughty boys who would ponteng sekolah as and when they like. Sometimes, when one of the friends decide not to go to school for “not feeling well” (although they were well enough to go out and play), the friend would come over to the house to “cari gang” so that Fuzi’s son too would ponteng as well. Of course Fuzi refused to let her sons ponteng, but sometimes the sons can be very stubborn.

I know it had never been easy for Fuzi. But she’s lucky her 2 daughters had always been responsible and reliable.

On Friday, I promised to meet up with Shila at the hospital after she’s done with some check-up. Told her to give me a call once she’s done.

While waiting for Shila to call, I went to a hypermarket to buy some things for myself. But before I got down from my car, I decided to call Aini to check how she was doing. Aini was the one who got warded last week and had to miss our Family Day although she and her children had always been regulars to the event. I thought if Aini was home then maybe I could visit her at home as well. But Aini said she was at the post office.

I then got down from the car and as I was walking over to the escalator to get up to the hypermarket, I saw a few familiar faces… Aini and 2 of her children!! When she said she was at the post office, I thought it was the post office near her house. But apparently she was at the post office in the same building as the hypermarket!

“Ponteng sekolah ke?” I asked her daughter.

“Mana ada! Ni dari sekolahlah ni…”

It was report card day, and Aini & her 2 children just came from her daughter’s school to get her report card. Aini needed to buy a pair of trackbottom for her son and so after getting the daughter’s report card, they immediately headed to the hypermarket.

Hah, dah alang-alang jumpa Makcik Afizah kat sini, tunjuk terus keputusan kat dia,” Aini told her daughter. And she responded with, “Alaaaaa…..” but still took out her results anyway. A string of B’s, C’s and D’s… but she still managed to come out top in her class. She’ll be sitting for her SPVM this year.

I showed them some pics of the Family Day that they missed.

“Alaaa bestnya… makcik buat la lagi sekali… untuk kitorang je!”

I was still holding the report card when the girl said, “Tu makcik nak frame ke?” Hehehe… sorry girl, I forgot to give back lah!!

By about 10.30 am or so,  I headed to the hospital. Even though Shila had not called yet, I wanted to see SN at the HIV clinic to ask a few things, particularly regarding payments for the hospital bills. Shila had just got her bill for the time when she was warded some time back, amounting to RM68, which she couldn’t afford to pay because she’s not working. Apparently Aini didn’t have to pay when she was discharged on Monday, she just told the lady at the counter (as instructed to her by SN) that hers was an HIV case, and so she was exempted from payment.

Aini could have still got the exempt from payment by showing her JKM card, like I did for Sofie before. Shila however, does not have a JKM card because she is not getting any financial assistance from the Welfare Department. She has applied, but was told they didn’t approve her application because she had only one child. And after checking with the nurse at the HIV clinic, Shila couldn’t get exemption because of her HIV either. She was warded earlier for something else, not HIV-related, and as such the exemption from payment did not apply in her case.

So how? Well, by the time Shila called me to say she was done with her check-up, I went over to see her, and settled the bill for her. Since we now have our Clients Welfare Fund, we use the funds for cases like this.

Shila’s 11 year old daughter Laila also came along to the hospital to accompany her mother. She self-declared the day a holiday for her because she wanted to follow her mother to Ipoh.

Anyway, by the time we settled the hospital bill etc, Shila was already very hungry. She had to fast before coming to the hospital for some scanning etc, so she hadn’t had anything to eat in the morning. I brought them both to the nearby mall because Shila and daughter wanted to jalan-jalan after that, and immediately took them for lunch at one of the fast good outlets there. Shila and Laila often go to the mall after any of Shila’s hospital appointments, and the daughter would always ask the mother if she could eat at the fast food outlet, but Shila simply couldn’t afford it there. So when I asked if she’d like to eat there (I didn’t know earlier that the girl had always wanted to eat there), Laila just smiled and nodded.

After lunch I left them there and headed home. A few more visits to be done next week, including one to the home of a new client whom I have not met before…

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Mixing around with the families…

With more than 60% of the attendees of our Family Day last Sunday consisting of my clients and their families, while the rest, even though not my client, do at least know me other than their own buddy, I made it a point to make sure I chatted with each and every one of them.

Sofie and her 4 children, Lin and her 3 children, Fuzi and her 5 children, Zainab and her 2 children, are all already very familiar with me because I visit them often. And even though I don’t visit the K’s that often, all 4 children are also familiar with me.

I had not met Jay’s children before, usually I’d meet her only at the hospital when the children aren’t around. So yes, I finally got to meet her 3 children. Then there’s Aza, whom I only met once when I visited her at home, before passing her case to somebody else.

When I got to The Roots, a few clients and families were already there. Fuzi and family, Shila and daughter, Kamala and daughter, Pushpa and her aunt (Pushpa is an HIV+ orphan who stays her aunt) plus one male client I wasn’t quite familiar with but I know I’ve met him before.

Kamala & daughter, together with Pushpa & her aunt were going around enjoying the scenery. They were actually looking for Kamala’s buddy, who was supposed to come but didn’t turn up and never even bothered to inform me. But I’ve visited both Kamala and Pushpa before during my assessment visits, so the moment they saw me, they immediately came over to me to say hello. Most of the time during the day the 4 of them were together, but they still joined the rest for the games and activities.

Lin had adult daughters who were like friends to her, so I didn’t really see her chatting much with the rest of the ladies. However I was glad that at the swimming pool, she and her daughters did take the liberty to look after the 2 girls of a client who didn’t come with their parent, as their father was too weak to come. But whenever Lin saw me chatting with the other ladies, she’d take the opportunity to join me in the conversation. I guess she’s just the type who doesn’t know how to start a conversation with people she’s not too familiar with.

One person who didn’t have any problems making friends was Rin. Talkative and friendly, Rin however sometimes tend to forget that not everyone can understand her Parit dialect.

Fuzi and her children, being regulars to our Annual Family Day, had no problems letting their hair down. Her children joined every single activity. Likewise, Sofie’s children had a swell time too, although her eldest son decided not to jump into the pool. Her 2nd son, Azman, the kaki sakat, had a swell time.

The K’s came in full force – all 6 of them. It was nice to see the eldest son Shah (I think he’s 20 this year) taking good care of his 4 year old sister in the pool. The other children too seemed to be enjoying themselves.

For Zainab, it was only her 2nd time joining our Family Day. The first time was back in 2007. This time however, she came only with her 2 daughters. Her husband, however, chose not to come. I guess he wanted to avoid having anyone “lecturing” him because he had been defaulting all his hospital appointments. It was Zainab’s 6 year old who almost got herself drowned when, upon seeing the other older children in the adults pool, decided to simply jump into the adults pool instead of the children’s pool. That happened while Zainab was chatting with one of the other ladies. Then Shila shouted, “Anak siapa tu?!” Upon seeing her daughter struggling, Zainab immediately jumped into the pool to save her daughter. After that both her daughters made sure they remained in the children’s pool.

Hana couldn’t come for the family day as she had to work, but that didn’t stop her children and their grandma (Hana’s mother) from joining us. The grandma just sat around watching over her grandchildren who were having fun in the pool. But she was so sporting, when we were taking the group photo and the photographer said, “OK, freestyle!" she sportingly raised both hands and showed the peace sign.

One of the ladies did mention to a colleague of mine that under normal circumstances, she and her children wouldn’t be able to come to places like this.

At the end of the day, I could see that none of them regretted coming (although I know a few of them, especially the first timers, had second thoughts earlier on whether they should join us). In fact I think they really had a good time. When we were getting ready to go home, first Mrs K came over to me, “Kak, kejap kak… nak bergambar. Along cepat Along, ambik gambar mak dengan Kak Zah!” (note: Mrs K is the only person calling me Kak Zah) Then Rin quickly took out her camera, “Eh, saya pun nak jugak!” and passed her camera to Mrs K’s son. Finally I called all the kaum ibu who were there and we all took a photo together…

The day after the event, I received a text message from Rin, "Jutaan terima kasih banyak pada semua yang terlibat tempoh hari lebih2 lagi akak sebab susah payah untuk kami. Saya dapat banyak kenalan baru yang senasib. Kami happy. Saya doakan semoga akak dirahmati & Allah akan memberkati hidup akak sekeluarga."

Ahh… that made it worth all the effort…

Monday, 4 July 2011

Family Day at The Roots

While I was conducting the committee elections during the TKCOGA AGM on Saturday, a text message came in on my handphone. It came from Halimah, a client of mine who’s supposed to join the Buddies Family Day on Sunday, and whose family was supposed to be picked up by the bus we’ve arranged from Taiping. I was busy then so I figured I’d act on it after the AGM.

By the time I got home, I totally forgot about Halimah’s text message. Fully aware that I’d have another busy day on Sunday, all I wanted to do was to have a good rest. It was only when I woke up on Sunday morning that I suddenly remembered Halimah’s message. Immediately I forwarded the message to the volunteer in Taiping taking care of the northern group.

By 7.15 am I left home – first, to fetch Sofie’s family from their home. Then I immediately headed to the Ipoh bus station as I had promised to meet up with a few families there so we could go together to The Roots in Tanjung Rambutan. Lin’s family was coming by car (one of her daughters who had started working this year recently bought a car) but since they didn’t know the way to The Roots, they wanted to follow my car. Rin, like last year, borrowed her father’s car to come and like Lin, also wanted to follow my car. Then there was Mrs K and family who was supposed to come to Ipoh by bus. Zalia, the young mother whom I just met recently, was also supposed to meet me at the bus station, but when I tried calling her twice, she didn’t answer the phone. I got another volunteer to also come to the bus station so that those without transport could go in her car to our family day venue.

I got to the bus station 10 minutes early. My fellow volunteer had called me to say she may be a bit late as yesterday was also the day for the Ipoh International Run and so all the cars had to give way to the runners.

After a while, I thought I saw Lin and her children pass by in their car. I had already told all the clients to wait at the open space in front of the Poslaju beside the bus station to make it easier for us to wait instead of at the bus station proper which is always busy. When I saw their car pass without entering the area, I immediately called Lin. Her daughter who was driving, went ahead to the nearby Post Office near the railway station instead because as she told her mother, “Macam takde orang je mak…” I told them to turn back and then I waited outside my car so they could see me.

Next to arrive was my fellow volunteer. She had gone to fetch 2 daughters of her client first before coming to meet us. The client was rather weak to join us for the family day, but allowed his 2 daughters to join us. Next came Rin. With her were not only her children but also Mrs K’s children. Apparently, since Rin still had to drive pass their way, she hitched a ride for the children while Mr & Mrs K got there a few minutes later by motorbike.

Since there was space in my fellow volunteer’s car, Mr K parked his motorbike at a safe place and then both he and his wife got into my colleague’s car. It would be much easier rather than having to follow us in their motorbike.

So off we went to The Roots, and we got there just on time – we were supposed to start off with breakfast at 9 am. 2 volunteers and a few clients, including Fuzi and her children, were already there. And since I noticed breakfast was ready, I told those who were already there, to have breakfast first while waiting for the rest to arrive.

The group from north arrived a little while later. Initially a total of 21 people were supposed to join the bus from Taiping but at the very last moment we had more cancellations and finally we ended up having only 9 people (including a volunteer) on the 30-seater bus!

Anyway, we had a spread of mee goreng, nasi lemak, banana cake, coffee & tea for breakfast. After breakfast, I gave them a short briefing on the do’s and don’ts and what activities we had lined up for the day.

We started off with the family event – treasure hunt. With only 4 clues in the form of Malay pantuns, it still wasn’t easy for the families to find the clues, even when they got to the right place!


Then the children took turns for the horse ride.


After that the children were allowed to jump into the pool. One 5 year old girl, upon seeing that quite a number of older children having no problem swimming in the adults pool, simply jumped into the adult pool and almost drowned herself! Luckily her mother saw her, and immediately jumped into the pool to get her daughter. I didn’t see the incident though, I was still with the children who were not done with the horse rides. Only when the girl’s mother, all wet, came to me and told me the incident, I again reminded all the parents to please make sure the children didn’t go where they weren’t supposed to go.


While the children had fun in the pool (we also had a pool game for the kids), some of us decided to enjoy the scenery…

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By 12.30 pm lunch was served…


I walked around during lunch to let the children (including the older children) to pick out a number for the lucky draw. With the various sizes of pre-loved toys I managed to get from donors, we figured let them pick their own numbers. And since there were quite a few cancellations, I let the mothers also pick the extra numbers.

So once they were done with lunch, we gave away the prizes – first the prizes for the games then followed by the lucky draw prizes. When I announced that we were about to give away the prizes, some of the children (and their mothers too!) actually tailed me wherever I went!! But at the end of the day, everybody got something to bring home. Each family definitely with more than one prize.


By 2.30 pm, we left the place. Tired, but I could see happiness on the children’s faces… and satisfaction on the volunteer’s faces. We had a jolly good day!


Friday, 1 July 2011

Visiting a client at the hospital

As I was busy calling/texting my clients who are coming for the Family Day, informing them of where to wait, who’s fetching them, what’s the car registration and phone numbers of the volunteers fetching them etc, a call came in from Aini. I had arranged for a trainee volunteer to fetch her at home and I just texted her the name and phone number of the volunteer.

Aini said she was at the hospital, warded. For the past few weeks, she had lost her appetite and had been feeling really weak. Even when she forced herself to eat anything, most of the time, she’d end up vomiting. Her siblings, who saw her looking really pale, had started questioning her on what her ailment really was. None, and I mean none at all, of her family members know she has HIV. Not even her children. But since Aini has kidney problems as well, they easily took her word that her paleness was due to her kidney problem.

On Wednesday, even though it wasn’t her appointment day, the nurse told her to just come to the clinic to see the specialist. She was afraid her condition may be the side effects of one of the ARV medication she was taking. Indeed, when the doctor saw her, the good doc told her to immediately stop the ARV she was taking. And based on her weak condition, she was immediately warded so they could put her on drips. Since she went to the hospital alone, on her own, Aini had to call her father to seek his help to get her things at home and to also take care of her children.

Today I decided to pay her a visit at the hospital. Decided to test my level of fitness as well, so took the stairs instead of the lift. I figured if at any time I felt too tired to continue, I’d just take the lift from whichever floor that I stopped. But nope, I made it all the way to the 8th floor using the stairs.

Aini was still on drip, but she was sitting on a chair, reading a newspaper. She looked much better, in fact she said she felt much better and could already take in food. Definitely her earlier condition was due to one of the ARV she was taking. After she’s discharged later, Aini will have to go see the specialist again, and the doctor will have to start her off on another regime of ARV.

According to Aini, she was told that very likely she can only be discharged on Monday. Which means Sunday’s family day is a definite no for her and her kids. Too bad.

Aini was quite concerned that her daughter, who looks after her at the hospital, may end up looking through Aini’s file and find the word “HIV” there. The girl will be sitting for her SPM this year, and Aini didn’t want news like this to affect her studies. I told Aini to just be prepared to talk to her just in case. Another concern of hers was the hospital bill when she gets discharged. I told her not to worry, since she does get monthly financial aid from the welfare department, all she has to do is to show her welfare card at the payment counter when she or her daughter goes to get clearance for discharge. In any event, I told Aini to just give me a call if she gets into any problem with the hospital bill.

I didn’t see Aini’s daughter outside when I came, but after Aini told me that her daughter spent the night at the hospital to accompany her, when I left the ward I decided to look for her. There she was chatting with a newfound friend who was also accompanying her mother. Aini’s daughter was surprised to see me there since it wasn’t visiting hours yet.

Ponteng sekolah ek?” I teased her.

Nak buat macam mana, ada orang tu manja, kena tunggu,” she said, smiling.

Anyway, she said she had already informed her teacher, and she had only missed school for 2 days while tomorrow is already Saturday. Hopefully Aini will indeed be discharged by Monday.

As for myself, after walking up 192 steps to the 8th floor, and still feeling okay, I decided to go down the same way. Yep, another 192 steps, which took less time than going up.