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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Friday, 27 April 2012

How complicated can complicated get?

Remember in my last posting I mentioned about the pregnant girl who is not only HIV+ but also on methadone? After finding out that her mother and older brother are both on shabu, we figured “home” is not the place to go to once she is discharged from the hospital. With all the info given to me by the doctor, I knew this was a complicated case and won’t be one easy to deal with. The doctor’s main concern was where this girl and her baby will go once discharged from the hospital.
Since this case is not in Ipoh, I haven’t gone to visit her yet. So instead I got a fellow volunteer who works in the town where the girl is to check on her and find out more details. After seeing quite a number of complicated cases earlier, I thought I had seen them all. But when my fellow volunteer came back to me with her report, things turned out to be even more complicated than I thought.
FACT: This girl, Maznah, was raped at 14. That was her first pregnancy. She was then sent to a shelter home under the Welfare Dept for 3 years. Her father, who was by then divorced with her mother, died while she was there at the shelter home. After that, Maznah & her 4 brothers, stayed with their mom (they previously stayed with their father).
FACT: Maznah’s older brother was caught for shabu and is now in jail. Maznah is no. 2. No. 3 was given away by her father to be taken care by someone else (he must be the lucky one I guess). No. 4 is working at a restaurant and no. 5, now 17, is staying with their mom.
FACT: Maznah has 3 more siblings from a different father, aged 6 to 13. Nope, not Maznah’s stepfather though. Maznah’s mother, who is also on shabu, didn’t remarry after her divorce. The 3 younger kids were born out of wedlock – all with the same boyfriend.
FACT: Maznah’s 13 year old half-sister, is also currently pregnant & now stays at a shelter home for problematic teenaged girls.
FACT: One of Maznah’s boyfriends had been regularly visiting her at the hospital, sending her food etc. So, why don’t they just get married? It seems Maznah herself does want to get married if this guy proposes to her, but right now she herself is unsure if he wants to.

Question: How complicated can complicated get?
Answer: As complicated as can be.

God help me please…

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Spending some time with the kids…

Today being my clinic duty, and knowing that Saiful, Sofie’s thick-spectacled son would be going to the hospital for his appointment with the ophthalmologist today, I promised their aunt Rozi that I’d send the children home after they’re done. Rozi already had to take unpaid leave for the whole of last week, and yesterday she had to take half day leave to settle the younger 2 children’s school transfer at the PPD, so for today she got the eldest boy, Azlan to accompany Saiful to the hospital. That also meant the youngest girl, Ika, would have to tag along as well.

I was still driving around, looking for parking, when Saiful called me up to tell me that they were already at the hospital. He did say however, that his turn was a long way to go. I finally managed to park my car quite a distance from the hospital, then walked over to the specialist clinic. As I was almost approaching the building, another call came in from an unfamiliar number. The call was from Valli’s son, the one who got 5A’s for this SPM last year. He told me he had checked online and had secured a place at a matriculation college up north. I was the one who got excited for him. Then, thinking that his mother may worry about him going quite far from home, I asked him what his mother’s reaction was to the news. He said, “Ma suruh tanya auntie.” So I just told him to grab the opportunity.

Instead of going up straight to the support service room, I went to the eye clinic first to check on Sofie’s children. There were so many people around, but I did manage to locate the children – all 3 of them were leaning against the wall as there were no more empty seats available. I told them to look for me upstairs once they were done.

I then went up to the HIV clinic to inform the nurses that I was already there and to check if there were any new cases. There were supposed to be two new cases today. The first case, an ex-army guy who had already been on HAART for the past 2 years. So his wasn’t really a new case, but newly referred to Ipoh GH. Before this he stayed in another state. Well, he didn’t talk much either, and didn’t seem like he wanted a buddy. So I just gave him our brochure and told him to call our hotline number if need be.

The other new case was the guy who had been contacting me via email earlier to ask how to go about arranging for an appointment with the doctor, and also to consult on other HIV-related matters. But it was our first face to face meet. He seemed to be doing okay, CD4 still okay, but just needs someone to talk to since none of his family members know of his HIV status. I’ve already assigned a male volunteer as his buddy.

After confirming with the nurses that there were no other new cases, I went down to the eye clinic to see the kids. Saiful had already gone in the room earlier when some liquid were put into his eyes, then had to wait for his number to be called again to see the doctor. So I waited there with them. After a while, Saiful’s number was called. Initially Ika went in the room to follow him, and Azlan asked, “Takpe ke ramai-ramai masuk?” I told Azlan to go in and accompany his brother and tell Ika to wait outside with me. At least if there was anything important, Azlan would be the better person to know the details rather than Ika.

They spent almost 15 minutes in the room, during which I took the opportunity to talk to Ika privately. Oh wow, you want to know stuff which you may not get from the adults… get hold of the kids! I didn’t even have to ask, Ika simply told me stuff about her other aunt (the big mouth aunt who told the whole kampong about Sofie’s HIV) which her aunt Rozi never told me.

You see that aunt’s eldest son is on drugs, while the 2nd one, a girl who just sat for SPM last year, got pregnant (out of wedlock) recently and went for abortion. Ahh, no wonder Rozi was so worried about Azman spending more time at that aunt’s house! Definitely no role figures there, only bad influences!!

I guess as much as Rozi didn’t like that sister, she didn’t want to tell too much details, so all these were never brought up to me before. After all, she is Rozi’s sister no matter what. But Ika simply couldn’t keep things to herself. She told me EVERYTHING. I will just keep on pretending that I don’t know all these. Rozi doesn’t need to know that I already know.

Anyway, after seeing the doctor, Saiful needed to go to the registration counter to get the date of his next appointment.  We thought we were almost done… until we saw the long queue of people also wanting to get the dates of their next appointments! Since my car was parked quite far, I told the kids I’d go get my car first. Ika initially wanted to walk with me to the car, but it was raining, so I just told her to wait with her brothers.

By the time I got my car back inside the hospital compound, Saiful was still in the queue. But I managed to get a parking right beside the specialist clinic, so I parked my car there and went to wait together with Ika & Azlan. What I noticed this time was that Azlan was no longer the quiet boy who didn’t talk much. Once upon a time, he was Sofie’s problematic son – always going out at night, coming home late etc. But the boy has changed a whole lot. Sofie herself got to see the positive changes when she was still alive. Now that Sofie is no longer around, I noticed even more positive changes. I could see that he loved his siblings & joked around with them (a trait I never saw before from him!) and his sense of responsibility was also obvious. This time he would even openly talk to me, unlike previously. And he was even complaining that he tried to advise his brother Azman, but Azman wouldn’t listen to him, and neither would Azman listen to their aunt Rozi.

Saiful finally got things settled after 1.15 pm. I had informed Azman yesterday that I’d bring his siblings to his culinary school so we could go out and have lunch together, but since we were still at the hospital after 1 pm, I SMSed Azman to tell him that we were still at the hospital. He would have to go back to class at 2 pm, so I guess it would be better for him to have lunch first.

I still brought the children to Azman’s place. Ika and Saiful had been to Azman’s hostel before (when Sofie was still alive) but they had never been to the culinary school (which is just within walking distance from the hostel). It rained heavily when we got there… it was already about 1.35 pm, and when we called, Azman said he was at a nearby foodstall. So we went straight to the stall. Azman had already finished his lunch, and so we just ordered ours.

I brought up the matter about need to get another guarantor to replace his mother for the Tabung Kemahiran loan.

Me: Ada ke siapa-siapa yang berani jadi penjamin engkau?

Azman: Dah dapat dah.

Me: Siapa?

Azman: Adalah…

Apparently since his aunt Rozi had called him the day before and scolded him, telling him that she didn’t dare get another guarantor for him if he doesn’t even want to listen to her, Azman didn’t want to go begging. He got one step ahead and found another person to be his guarantor. Who? God knows. When I asked if all the documents are ready, he said was getting them soon.

Borang dah sain?” I asked. “Tak payah sain,” he said. When I told him a guarantor MUST sign for the guarantee to be valid, he said he will get the necessary form from the office and get the signature. Right till the end, I couldn’t get him to tell me who this other guarantor was, but I sincerely hope he didn’t sweet talk someone into becoming his guarantor without telling that person what it was all about.

Looks like Azman is determined to do things his way. I reminded him that if I hear any more complaints about him, I will have no choice but to stop the monthly assistance he is currently getting while waiting for the Tabung Kemahiran loan to go through.

Ala, jangan la makcik…” he said. So for the moment I still have the upper hand over Azman as compared to his aunt Rozi. If I have no choice, then I will have to resort to my “no more assistance” threat…

We couldn’t chat longer as it was getting close to 2 pm and Azman had to go back to class. Once the other kids were done with lunch, off we went, first to a pharmacy to get Saiful’s eye drops as prescribed by the doctor. The particular eye drop wasn’t available at the hospital pharmacy and so we had to buy outside. After that I sent them straight home.

Just as we reached their house at about 2.30 pm, the doctor at the HIV clinic called. She had wanted to talk to me earlier during my clinic duty, but she was too busy then. There was one case she wanted me to follow up with. Actually the staff nurse did call me earlier to tell me about the case but I didn’t know the full story. The nurse was just asking if the shelter home in KL where I usually send problematic clients would accept methadone cases. Apparently the people at that shelter home do not have any expertise with those involved in drugs, and so they dare not accept such cases.

What I didn’t know earlier was that this girl is PREGNANT! When the doctor called me today, I got more details.

This girl is in her mid-twenties, and this is her third pregnancy. And no, she has never been married. The first 2 children was with her first boyfriend. This 3rd pregnancy is with her 2nd boyfriend. The 2nd boyfriend however, had gone missing after he found out she has HIV. The first boyfriend however, according to the doctor, still cares about her and he’s been the one who had been visiting her at the hospital now that she is hospitalised.

Her own family? No, they have not disowned her. So no problem, once discharged she can always go back to stay with them, right? Errr… not if that means she may go back to drugs…

You see, this girl is the 2nd of 8 siblings. Her oldest brother, is on shabu, caught, and is now either in jail or in a Pusat Serenti I am not sure. The mother is home, but she too is on shabu. So if this girl goes home once discharged, chances are she too will go back to her old habits. And bear in mind, she is pregnant!

When the doctor went to visit her in the ward yesterday, the girl said she didn’t want to go to a shelter home because she wouldn’t be able to see her 2 earlier children who are now with her first boyfriend. Gosh, since this boyfriend seems to still care about her, why can’t they just get married so that once discharged they can just stay together?? What’s stopping them I wonder.

Our main concern now is of course the soon to be born baby. With the mother being HIV+, and on methadone to add, the safest place to be now is at the hospital so they can monitor her at least until the baby is born. The doctor in charge said they don’t have any problems keeping her in the ward until the baby is born, and that is due in 2 months time. I hope the girl will at least agree to that. Meanwhile we have 2 months to think of what needs to be done next…

Monday, 23 April 2012

Sofie’s son…

After arranging for the continuity of the monthly schooling assistance for Ika & Saiful, Sofie’s 2 younger children, and informing their aunt Rozi via SMS about it, I decided to give the family some space. I wasn’t really sure how receptive the aunt was about having me taking interest in the children too often.  I didn’t want her to feel as though I am monitoring her every move. Maybe a once-in-a-month call/visit would do.

But last Saturday, after done with cooking for lunch, I noticed there were 3 missed calls on my hand phone – all from Rozi. I had earlier left my phone in my room and so I didn’t hear it ringing while I was in the kitchen.

Seeing 3 missed calls from the same person, I figured it was important. Could it be that Rozi had problems arranging for the 2 younger kids school transfer? I remember Sofie herself had problems previously even though she was their own mother.

So I returned Rozi’s call. No, no problem transferring the the children to new schools nearer to the aunt’s place. The problem was with Azman, Sofie’s no. 2 son now studying at the culinary school. The boy had already missed 2 weeks of classes when his mother was hospitalised earlier. No problem about that, he did get permission from the college and he did get the doctor’s letter to show them. But because he had missed classes for some time already, Rozi suggested to him that he should start going back to classes on Wednesday, 3 days after his mother passed away, so that he wouldn’t miss any more lessons. But Azman refused, he said he’d only go back to his hostel on Sunday, and start going back to classes on Monday.

That too was understandable, since Thursday was a public holiday in Perak. But Rozi’s main concern was that Azman had gone out since Wednesday and didn’t come back since, without informing her where he went. Azlan, the older brother who went back to their old house to get some things, found out that Azman had gone to his other aunt’s house (the aunt who had spread the news about Sofie’s HIV to the whole kampong). He did advise his brother to go back to Rozi’s house, but to no avail.

Rozi and Azlan did try to call after that, but Azman didn’t bother to answer his phone. Azlan ended up sending text messages to his brother, reminding him to remember their mother’s advise and requests when she was still alive. But Azman didn’t bother to reply the messages either. So Rozi got worried… what if the boy doesn’t go back to his hostel on Sunday and decides to skip more classes?

Since her calls were not answered, Rozi resorted to getting me to call and advise Azman. I waited until later in the evening before calling Azman, pretending that I didn’t know where he was, and just asking him when he’d be going back to his hostel.  I did ask him where he was, and he did say he was in the other town, not at Rozi’s house. Good, at least he didn’t lie.

I did make him promise he’d start going back to his classes by Monday.

It’s Monday today, and while I was in the kitchen this morning, a call came in. The moment I saw that the call was from the culinary school, I got worried. God, did he not turn up in class today too??

Apparently, the call was from one of the staff of the culinary school, calling to ask about his Tabung Kemahiran loan. You see, in the earlier form, Sofie herself was the first guarantor, and Rozi as second guarantor. Now that Sofie has passed away, they needed a new guarantor to replace Sofie. I wasn’t about to get myself involved as guarantors to any loans taken by these children (once I start then each of them may resort to me as their guarantor later, I wouldn’t want that to happen…. there are simply too many of them), so I told the lady that Azman’s new guardian is his aunt Rozi, and to contact her direct on this matter. Rozi’s number was already in the form as she was named as the second guarantor in the original form.

I am not really sure if any of Azman’s other relatives are willing to become his guarantor (even earlier on when Sofie was looking for a second guarantor, Azman’s cousin who initially agreed, in the end chickened out). But in case Rozi calls me to seek my advise, I’d probably suggest to her to take the opportunity to brainwash Azman and tell him that nobody is willing to be his guarantor if he is not willing to change himself. On my part, I will advise Azman to go back and BEG for help from his aunt and uncle or older cousins. Of course I will give him a piece of my mind as well…

Friday, 20 April 2012

Informing the friends…

After visiting Sofie’s children on Monday, it occurred to me that a few of my other clients do know Sofie, and one in particular, Fuzi, had been keeping in touch with Sofie ever since the last Family Day at The Roots last year. Fuzi and her children even went to visit Sofie’s home for Raya. There were a few others who knew Sofie, but I figured Fuzi needed to know first before she decides to call or visit Sofie only to find out that Sofie had passed on for some time.

So on Tuesday I called Fuzi.

Ada apa kak?”

Ni nak bagitau, *Sofie* dah meninggal Ahad baru ni.”

HAA?? UDAH MENINGGAL???!! Baru berapa hari sudah saya talipon dia.”

Berapa hari sudah? Masa dia kat hospital ke?”

Tak, dia kata dia di rumah kakaknya.”

Fuzi’s “berapa hari sudah” must have been more than 2 weeks earlier. Sofie had been warded ever since her appointment date at the beginning of the month, right to the day she died.

Just as I had anticipated, Fuzi began worrying. “Lepas sorang, sorang pergi. Saya ni bila pulak agaknya.”

Last year she got a surprise when she found out about Shila’s death not long after our Family Day. Now, it’s Sofie’s turn. I know Fuzi worries, because she’s hoping that her time will only come after at least her eldest daughter starts working. The girl is in form five this year, and doing quite well in her studies. Her younger siblings don’t seem to perform that well and so Fuzi relies a lot on her eldest daughter to take care of the younger ones when she’s gone.

I have yet to tell Aini about Sofie. Although she knows Sofie, unlike Fuzi, Aini doesn’t call or visit Sofie (or any other PLHIVs for that matter). Aini’s eldest daughter knows Sofie’s 2 older sons, Azlan and Azman, as they went together for a youth camp some time last year.

Then there’s Wani, who stays in the same town where Sofie & her children stayed (before Sofie moved to her sister’s house recently). In fact they sometimes meet at the pasar malam.

Whatever it is, life goes on for those still living. I hope they don’t start getting depressed when they hear about the death of a fellow PLHIV. They must bear in mind that although they are in the same boat (being HIV+), each of their condition differs. Shila for example, had heart problems, while Sofie’s condition was already bad by the time she was diagnosed HIV+ 4 years ago.

Fuzi and Wani on the other hand, are still considerably healthy despite their HIV. Of course, we don’t necessarily have to be ill to die. When our time is up, our time is up. Not a second sooner, not a second later. It could even be my turn next. Only God knows…

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

What happened to the other orphaned children?

Ever since I joined Buddies in 2004, I’ve had to face quite a number of deaths of my clients. Thank God I’m not really the type who gets emotionally involved in my cases, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get affected at all. I mean, who wouldn’t get touched seeing children still needing love and attention losing their parents, right?

The first of the deaths of my clients that I had to face was that of Rose. Rose had been a client of Buddies for quite some time, but after a while she went missing. By the time my fellow volunteers managed to get hold of her again, I was already a confirmed buddy, and so they assigned me to this case. By then Rose had been diagnosed with late stage of cancer. I only got to know Rose for the last 2 1/2 months of her life, but during that short period she did tell me from A to Z about her life story.

Anyway, when Rose died, her 3 children were all still in primary school. The oldest then was only 12, and the youngest 9. None of Rose’s siblings were well-to-do, and none were willing to take in additional financial burden. But luckily, the children’s paternal family came to the rescue. After visiting the children’s paternal grandma and aunt who took them in, I was convinced they were in good hands and the new guardians were also financially capable to bring them up. So I didn’t really have to monitor their case anymore, although from time to time, I do get news from their aunt. The kids are doing well.

Then there was Lily, who had to lead such a complicated life. Nobody had expected her to go so soon. Despite her HIV, her condition wasn’t too bad. But she died due to complications arising from dengue. Her 3 children were all still young, including her youngest son who was just 5 years old then, and was also HIV+ to add. An uncle willingly took over responsibility taking care of the children, but although I tried to convince them that they didn’t have to worry about taking care of a HIV+ child, after listening to too many other people who insisted they knew what they’re talking about, the child was sent to a shelter home for HIV children, separated from his sisters who continued to stay with the uncle. The uncle however, did promise to visit the boy from time to time.

I have lost contact with this family, and so I don’t know how they’re doing right now.

The next death was that of Azman’s, Yah’s husband. They had 4 children, including the youngest who was still a baby then. Yah had problems with her in-laws then, and had to resort to “running away” together with her kids from their house near her in-law’s house. She moved back to her parent’s house. I did continue to visit them after the husband’s death, but Yah, who initially was a very strong and determined woman, changed for the worse after she began befriending another PLHIV, Mr Darling. She starting going out (and sleeping with) men, determined to take revenge on them. Her 2 older children ended up asking to go to an orphanage. The 2 younger ones continued to stay with their grandparents. I withdrew Yah’s financial assistance as I didn’t want her to spend the money for useless things. Lately however, Yah has changed (or at least she admitted so) and now she is already working at a factory and her kids are back with her. We do keep still keep in touch from time to time and the children seem to be doing okay.

Another death I had to face was that of Rina’s. When Rina’s case was referred to us, her condition was already very bad. So I never really had the chance to get to know Rina better. I only had the opportunity to visit her at her house once, to help bring her to the hospital, and another visit was when she was warded at the hospital. The next visit was at the morgue, the day she died. Rina left behind a son, who was then just 8 years old, but his grandparents were able and willing to take care of him, and so I didn’t really have to follow up on the case after Rina’s death.

Then last year came Shila’s death. That was the first time I had to handle the janazah right from preparing the kafan, to bathing and finally to kafan the body. Shila died at home, not at the hospital, and after I found out that the regular lady who usually handles all the janazah management at that kampong was not around, I offered myself since I knew what to do and had the experience (although that was my first time handling the body of an HIV+ person). Shila left behind one daughter, Laila, who was then 11. But Shila had all the while stayed at her mother’s house, together with her mother and a few other siblings, so there wasn’t really any problem about who was to take care of Laila. But since the family wasn’t well to do, Laila, who was already under our education sponsorship programme, still continues to get sponsorship for her educational needs. But I don’t really have to follow up on this case too often.

The latest case is of course that of Sofie’s. This case is somehow different from the other cases I’ve had to handle. Probably because I visit this family more often compared to the other families, not because I practice favouritism, but because of Sofie’s fragile condition. The first time I was assigned to her, she was actually bedridden. That was 4 years ago. Nobody thought she could survive any more than a year. But for the sake of her children, she persevered for 4 years. Sofie herself, despite her condition, was never the type to just do nothing and wait for assistance to come in. The moment she felt a bit better, she’d try to do something to earn some income for the family. By late last year she started selling nasi lemak near her rented house, after getting some assistance from the government’s e-kasih programme.

There were times however, when she felt unwell and couldn’t open her stall. In other words, the family was still not stable and independent enough. I still visit the family regularly every month. The children were already treating me like family. Unlike other children who’d only go out with me if their mother came along, in the case of Sofie’s children, they didn’t even have to think twice about going anywhere with me without their mother tagging along.

Although the children are now under the care of their aunt Rozi, Rozi too treats me like family and had been endlessly thanking me for helping out her sister. The children now still needs care and help. Unlike the other children under their new guardians whom I only follow up from time to time just to find out how they’re doing (a few I have lost contact totally as their new guardians prefer not to keep in touch with us), looks like for Sofie’s children, I will still have to continue with my monthly visits.


Monday, 16 April 2012

Sofie’s children

Yesterday when I attended Sofie’s funeral at her sister’s house, a few relatives looked like they were trying to be friendly with me. The first was Sofie’s sister, the one Sofie stayed with the first time this case was referred to me. Then there was Sofie’s sister-in-law (the ex-husband’s sister) who had earlier on tried to get me to arrange for all sorts of assistance for her, like the ones Sofie had been getting from us Buddies. I avoided them. I decided to leave early (after making sure whatever necessary had already been arranged for) and told Sofie’s sister, Rozi, the children’s new guardian, that I’d come again today to discuss further on the children’s well-being.

So today after calling Rozi to make sure the coast was clear for me to come and discuss matters, I made my way to her house. According to Rozi, only her eldest brother & wife were around, and it was okay to discuss matters with them around.

All of Sofie’s children were at home with the exception of Azman, the second son studying at the culinary school. He went out together with an uncle to look for some necessities.

Not long after I arrived, it rained real heavy. And so I got stuck at Rozi’s house for over an hour. And with more than an hour spent there, naturally many matters were discussed… including what transpired during Sofie’s funeral yesterday.

At the hospital earlier yesterday when there were only Rozi and myself to arrange the necessary, we did voice out our concern that their older sister (the one who had spread the story about Sofie’s HIV at her kampong) may be telling people the same thing during Sofie’s funeral. Indeed, at the Tanah Perkuburan, when Sofie’s body was about to be lowered down into the grave, a cousin asked Rozi, “Ye ke dia ada HIV?” Apparently the sister had been whispering to relatives about it. But then again, the cousin should have better judgment than to ask the question there? Couldn’t she wait till later?

It was also at the Tanah Perkuburan, the older sister was trying to coax Saiful and Ika to stay with her (she knows very well the kids are getting financial assistance through us Buddies). She told them that their aunt Rozi wasn’t to be trusted and that she only acts nice in front of them but a different person altogether behind them. Gosh, ini macam punya orang pun ada ka??

To me it’s simple. Sofie wouldn’t want her children to be taken care by unreliable people. It had always been Rozi she trusted most, in fact Rozi had always been there whenever Sofie was ill. When she was staying in another state, the moment she heard Sofie was ill, sometimes she’d come all the way alone on her motorbike. And to me it was obvious Sofie’s children are more comfortable with their aunt Rozi than with anybody else. If the others think I’d release the children’s financial assistance through them, sorry… no way! During her final days, Sofie clearly asked Rozi and not anybody else, to please take care of her children come what may.

It’s obvious who Sofie wanted her children to be with, no question about it. And from what I can see, I fully understand Sofie’s decision.

Anyway, Rozi had taken unpaid leave for the whole week to settle matters. She’d need to go to Ika’s & Saiful’s schools to arrange to transfer them to schools nearer to her place. She also needs to settle matters like Sofie’s welfare aid. Sofie had been getting the Bantuan Kanak-kanak. I suggested to Rozi to try and apply for the Bantuan Anak Pelihara since she is now taking care of the children. At least it can help lessen her burden.

Sofie’s eldest son, Azlan, had been taking unpaid leave (he’s taking up 2 temporary jobs while waiting for the results of his application to further his studies in automotive courses) ever since Sofie was transferred to the ICU earlier. When I asked him today, he said he will probably take leave until the end of the month. Only problem is, his job is at the town where they used to stay. The children now have moved in to stay with Rozi. If Azlan continues to work at the old place, he will need a place to stay, which means he may still need to stay at the same house they had been renting. Another option is for Azlan to find a temporary job nearer to the aunt’s place so they could just stop renting the old house altogether. If such is the case, Rozi will need to arrange for a lorry to transport all their stuff there to her house.

As for Azman, the one in the culinary school, I hope he will perform well and complete his course by the end of the year. I am relieved that Rozi will be the new guardian as I know Azman listens more to Rozi than he used to listen to his own mother.

For Ika and Saiful, we (Rozi and myself) will need to keep reminding them about the importance of education for their own future. Looks like I will continue to take them shopping for their schooling needs at the end of the year and give them the needed encouragement to do well in their studies.

The client I’ve been assigned to may no longer be around, but I will continue to monitor this family, at least until I can be sure they can be independent enough.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Farewell Sofie

I was planning to visit Sofie at the hospital tomorrow (Monday). After her sister called me up to inform me that Sofie had to be transferred to the ICU, I had not gone to visit Sofie. I didn’t want to visit during the weekend as I figured there’d be many relatives visiting and I didn’t want those relatives to be asking who I was. Many of them don’t even know Sofie has HIV. After one of her sisters (the one Sofie had been staying with initially when she was first diagnosed HIV+) told the whole kampong that her sister had HIV, Sofie didn’t know who else to trust. The only one she trusted was one sister who had always been closest to her. This sister moved from another state to Perak and found a job here, all for the sake of taking care of Sofie.

Anyway, although I was planning to just stay home today, around noon Saiful (Sofie’s son) called me up. “Makcik, doktor kata mama takde masa lama lagi. Mungkin boleh bertahan sejam aje lagi. Dah cabut dah wayar semua.”

Actually Sofie had been on life support system ever since she was transferred to the ICU (actually it was the isolation unit at the HDU). After 5 days, the doctors discussed among themselves and decided that all the treatment given was not working. In fact Sofie’s condition worsened. Her internal organs were no longer working. There was nothing else they could do.

When Saiful called it was already noon… already visiting hours. I figured I might as well let relatives visit, so I decided to go only after zohor in case they needed help. Just as I was about to leave my house, I noticed there were 2 missed calls from Saiful. I called back, and as expected, Saiful told me his mother had passed on. I told him I was on my way.

Parking had never been easy at the hospital, although today it wasn’t as bad as on a weekday when so many people go for their appointments. Just as I was looking around to park, a car got out of a parking space, just perfect timing for me to park my car. It wasn’t 2 pm yet, so there were still many people waiting for the lifts. Apparently only 2 of the 6 lifts were working. Initially I wanted to wait for the lifts so I could get up to the 8th floor faster, but after looking at the crowd waiting, I might as well take the stairs, just as I did when I went to visit Sofie earlier.

Saiful was outside the ward when I got up to the 8th floor. His aunt and his older brother had gone down to arrange for a van jenazah to bring Sofie’s body home. I went straight in to the HDU. Azman and Ika were there. The nurses were about to do whatever procedures they had to do for HIV related death cases, but when they saw me, they allowed me to have a look before they started the procedure.

After a while, Sofie’s sister came back to the 8th floor together with the document for the booking of the van jenazah. Her step-mother came along, and a neighbour too came with her son. None of them knew Sofie had HIV. Sofie’s jenazah was to be brought home to the sister’s house, after all the urusan jenazah is done at the hospital. It being a procedure for a rep from the Pejabat Kesihatan to monitor deaths involving HIV+ people, we didn’t want to risk these people to become suspicious because of the various procedures taken. So we told them to go to the sister’s house first and bring the children with them so they could help with whatever preparations needed at home. So yes, finally there was only Sofie’s sister and myself left to arrange for whatever necessary at the hospital.

It being a Sunday, things initially were quite slow. We had to wait for the doctor to sign the necessary documents, then we had to wait for the staff from the Pejabat Kesihatan to come before the jenazah could be brought down from the ward. Alhamdulillah we got things settled by 5 pm. The hospital’s van jenazah was to bring Sofie’s body to the sister’s house, for other relatives to pay their last respect and for the solat jenazah to be done before she is brought to the Tanah Perkuburan in another van jenazah arranged by those at home. The hospital’s van jenazah would usually just send the body home and that’s it, off they go.

Just as the hospital’s van jenazah arrived at the morgue, a call came informing us that the neighbourhood van jenazah was at the workshop. They (those arranging matters at the sister’s house) asked if we could arrange with the hospital’s van driver to wait a while for the solat jenazah to be done at home and then help send the jenazah to the grave. The driver dared not since there were only 2 of them on standby duty today and so they shouldn’t take too long before they head back to the hospital.

But the guy at the morgue, upon hearing our plight, offered to call someone else who also has van jenazah facilities. Alhamdulillah we managed to settle the matter there and then, the guy with the van jenazah agreed to go to Sofie’s sister’s house before 6 pm.

So off we went, Sofie’s sister together in the hospital’s van jenazah while I followed them in my car. Quite a number of relatives were already waiting at home, including Sofie’s sister who had earlier spread the news about Sofie’s HIV to the whole kampong when Sofie was staying near her house. Also there was Sofie’s sis-in-law who had earlier tried to get me to arrange for her to get the same financial assistance Sofie had been getting. This SIL however, just wanted the money for herself, all her children had stopped schooling despite getting help for her children’s education (not from Buddies but from another group).

Both did try to get close to me while I was at the house but I tried to avoid communicating with them. They both know Sofie’s children are getting help from us. After the solat jenazah was done, I told Sofie’s sister (the one I trust) that I would be heading home first and come visit again the next day when we expect lesser people at home. It would be easier to discuss the children’s future without too many opportunists around.

Sofie had already mentioned clearly that she wanted this sister to take care of the children. She was the only one she trusted. From what I have seen so far, she’s the only one I trust too. Sofie may no longer be around, but I am determined to make sure the children’s future is not compromised by opportunist relatives. I will only deal with the one I can trust.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Updates here and there…

I am supposed to be on clinic duty every 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month, but with Wednesday 11th April declared a public holiday for the installation of the Yang DiPertuan Agong, I had a relaxing Wednesday this week. No hospital or house visits either, but that didn’t mean I took a break from voluntary work. I still had to go to the Buddies Centre to settle some admin matters, including signing some cheques.

And despite not doing any hospital or house visits, I was in contact with a quite a number of clients and/or their families.

After visiting Sofie at the hospital last week, her sister called me up to ask if I could help get a wheelchair for Sofie. I just told her not to worry about it as we have our Clients Welfare Fund which we could use for this purpose. But I didn’t even have to use the funds. All I did was update my FB status with Sofie’s plight and within less than an hour, I had donors offering to sponsor the wheelchair for Sofie.

So on Monday, off I went to search for a wheelchair. Given Sofie’s fragile condition, I got one which was light in weight. Got it at a discounted rate too…

Came Tuesday, Sofie’s sister called me again. This time to tell me that Sofie had just been wheeled to the ICU. She was unconscious most of the time, and even when she was awake, she was too weak and in pain that they gave her medication so she could sleep again. I called her son Saiful on Thursday to find out if there was any progress, but according to Saiful, there were no changes. All the children were there too. I don’t want to visit during the weekend, as chances are there’d be many relatives there, so I think I’ll wait till Monday to visit again.

I received a few calls/SMS this week regarding the educational needs of the children of my clients. Rosnah said her daughter needed to buy sports attire from the school. She said if possible she wanted 2 pairs, but I told her we’d only approve one pair. Then Imran sent me a text message – his children’s schools had finally asked for the parents to pay for their PIBG fees. And finally Maya asked if I could bank in her daughter’s monthly pocket money into her account instead of her daughter’s as they were thinking of using the daughter’s bank account for Projek Khas allowances. You see, the daughter, who is now at a fully residential school, is under the Projek Khas programme and the school was asking for the girl’s bank account for them to bank in the allowance. It seems, the bank book will be kept by the school, and so it would be difficult for the daughter to take out her monthly pocket money (the girl is still under our sponsorship programme) if they used the same bank account. I have already done a standing instruction for the monthly pocket money to be banked in direct into the girl’s bank account until the end of the year, so Maya finally decided to open up another account for the girl to be used for the Projek Khas allowance.

Well, at least it is good to know that her daughter has finally settled down at the residential school. Before this, it was like a yoyo situation… sometimes she’s up, sometimes she’s down. Sometimes she’s okay staying at the hostel, sometimes she just wants to go home…

Yesterday, after watching the news about the flood at a particular town, I suddenly remembered that my new client, Nani, stays near the area. I was thinking, if her house was involved in the flood, the damage would really be bad since her house is already in quite a bad condition. So I called to ask, and was glad to find out that Nani’s house was not affected, alhamdulillah.

So lazy me didn’t visit anyone for the whole of last week, but I think next week I’d better check out on a few clients who may need help…

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Of Wani’s separation & the return of Anita…

Ever since I started handling the Education Sponsorship for Children programme, some of the recipient families contact me direct for their children’s schooling needs although other volunteers have been assigned as their buddies.

Such was the case with Wani. Wani is one of our earlier clients who had been under Buddies before I joined. When I was under probation, the first client I was brought to visit was Wani, so yes, I knew her since my early days in Buddies.

Last Friday I received a text message from Wani. Since her children are under Sponsorship, she asked if the amount she needed to pay for her son’s one week Kem UPSR organised by the school could be covered. She then conveyed to me that she’s beginning to worry about taking care of her kids on her own, now that she’s separated from her husband.

Frankly, if it’s the financial aspects that she’s worried about, I don’t think she needs to worry too much. When I first knew her, her hubby was in a Pusat Serenti. Wani had to take care of her kids alone. Then when her hubby got out, they got back together, but from my observation, it was Wani all along who had to work hard to earn a living for the family. She’d be helping out at food stalls, she’d be helping to bake cookies for Raya to earn extra income. Sometimes when I visit, the husband would be at home, while Wani was out working. So really, financially, I think it wouldn’t really make much difference for Wani now that they are separated.

Her problem I think would be that there’d be nobody at home to take care of the children when Wani needs to go out to work. She probably needs to adjust her time so that she can go to work while the children are at school and be home when the kids come home.

In addition to that, her boys will now have to adjust to not having their father at home. Then again, they didn’t have their father around when he was in Pusat Serenti earlier…


Just as I was about to fall asleep on Friday night, a text message came in from an unfamiliar number. Remember Anita? The unwed mother I “saved” from her “evil” sister and brother-in-law, then sent her to a shelter home together with her son, and after she found that life at the shelter home was not to her liking due to all the rules and the naggings from Kak Ana, the mother-figure at the home, she decided to leave. We wouldn’t have minded had she just left, what we couldn’t accept was the fact that she went to the homes of her other sisters, and created all sorts of stories about how evil Kak Ana was, to the extent that the sisters called up Kak Ana and said all sorts of hurtful stuff.

Anita then went off our radar… until last Friday night when I got her text message. Guess what she wanted?

She asked for my “bantuan ikhlas” to lend her RM150 as she needed to pay her rental on Saturday and she’d pay me back on Wednesday when she gets her salary. Without even getting any answer from me, she gave me her bank account number straight away.

It had been my policy not to entertain any requests from clients wanting to borrow money, so I didn’t even bother to reply the message. After all that she had done to Kak Ana, she now wants to use me for money? No way!

Saturday came, and I guess she must have checked her bank account to see if I had banked in the money. Seeing that no money has been banked in, she sent me another text message, asking if I could lend her the money and that she had already given me the bank account number. Wow! She must have been really confident that I would just easily part with my money for her. Who does she think she is, and who does she think I am? Sheesh!

I didn’t bother to reply that second message either…

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Hospitalised again

While doing some accounting work at home yesterday, I received a text message from a client, ‘Mkck Fizah, mama masuk hospital.” It wasn’t the client herself who sent the message, but her son who’s looking after his mother at the ward. The client? Sofie, and the son, Saiful, the 14 year old boy who can easily pass off as a primary school kid.

It didn’t come as a surprise to me, really. Sofie was very frail-looking the last I visited her, and knowing her appointment would be this week, Sofie herself had expected to be warded after her appointment with the doctor.

The SMS came in only after 6 pm, so I decided to visit her only today. And thinking that parking would be easier after 2 pm, I figured I might as well visit after the afternoon visiting hours. I do have my special pass, so there shouldn’t be any problem going into the ward.

So after 2pm this afternoon, I left home and headed straight to the hospital… only to find out that parking was still not that easy to get, BUT it was indeed easier than in the mornings. At least I got to park at a designated parking area rather than having no choice but to park elsewhere and walk to the hospital like I usually had to do whenever I went for my clinic duties on Wednesday mornings.

Getting into the lifts shouldn’t have been a problem either at that time, but as part of my Kinabalu training programme, I am determined to use the stairs as much as possible. So yep, I decided to walk all the way up and managed to reach the 8th floor in 3 minutes.

Saiful had gone down to the canteen to buy some food, while Sofie was sleeping on her bed. I touched Sofie’s hands to check if she was really asleep or was just closing her eyes trying to sleep. She opened her eyes. Some young nurses were writing down some reports but when they saw me helping Sofie to sit, they immediately came to help. My hospital pass just had “Pas Khas” written on it (with my photo, name and IC number) without indicating my position or who I represent, so the nurses must have been extra cautious in case I was someone higher up in authority… :-)

Anyway, the doc had to immediately stop Sofie’s present HAART line, keep her off ARV for 3 months before deciding on which combination of ARV should be given for her to start her HAART again.

As I had expected, Saiful and his younger sister Ika had been missing school because while Saiful is looking after his mother at the hospital, Ika is too young to be staying on her own, and so she now stays at her aunt’s house nearer to Ipoh. Their schools are in another town where they live. Even if Sofie gets discharged, she’d be too weak to take care of herself, so she and the 2 kids will be staying at her sister’s house as well. Nearer to Ipoh and nearer to get to the hospital. I think I’ll figure out how to sort their problems later, when Sofie gets discharged.

Later tonight, Sofie’s sister called. She went to visit at the hospital and while Sofie was too embarrassed to ask me earlier, the sister asked if I could arrange to get a wheelchair for Sofie when she gets discharged. I told the sister I will arrange for it. To me it shouldn’t be a big problem. If I can’t get donors, we can always use our Clients Welfare Fund to buy one for her. But I updated this info on my facebook status, and within minutes I had 2 donors interested to sponsor a wheelchair or to at least to donate part of the cost.

That problem settled, next thing is to shop around for one… I need to see the different models and do some price comparison…