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)

Monday, 28 February 2011

Updates…

Brought Sofie to the hospital this morning. She didn’t have an appointment with the doctor, but SN wanted to see her to make sure she’s compliant with the latest HAART. Since I needed to see SN anyway to discuss with her about the 2 homeless PLHIV we need to send to shelter homes, I had offered to fetch Sofie at her house so she could come with me to the hospital. Sofie was ready when I got to the house, and this time, Saiful & Ika did not follow us to the hospital. I had told them earlier that if they make it a habit to skip school every time their mother has to go to the hospital, we may consider cancelling their education sponsorship.

So what Sofie did was to get them to set the alarm at 10.30 am for them to get ready. The school bus comes at 11.30 am. She had already told them where to leave the house keys.

After dropping off Sofie at the hospital, off I went home for a while. When I grabbed my “mobile office” bag from home earlier, I had forgotten to put my wallet into the bag. So all the while when I was driving to Sofie’s house and then to the hospital, I didn’t have my IC and driving license with me!!

Luckily my house isn’t too far from the hospital. It didn’t take too long for me to go home, get my wallet, and then back to the hospital. It took me much longer to find a parking space! There seemed to be so many people today, more than usual. I ended up parking my car at quite a distance, and then walked all the way to the specialist clinic. I guess God just wanted me to have my daily exercise… I didn’t do any gardening earlier in the morning as I had to leave home quite early.

When I got to the doctor’s room, SN was talking to Sofie, checking on whether she had been taking her medication on time. She was then asked to go to the front to weigh herself and to get her BP checked.

We (SN and I) then discussed about the 2 homeless PLHIV referred to me last week, Lee and Kasim Teoh. I confirmed with SN we’d be able to send them to Hospital Sg Buluh this coming Thursday as I already have someone sponsoring the transportation cost and a fellow volunteer to join me for the trip. I could just send my fellow volunteer to accompany the 2 homeless chaps, but I wanted to meet with the people from the 2 homes so I could get more details about their homes. SN had already made the necessary arrangements with 2 homes willing to accept them, one Muslim home for Kasim and another home for Lee. The people in charge of the 2 homes promised they’d come fetch them at Hospital Sg Buluh so that we don’t have to go to 2 different places.

I asked SN to make all the necessary arrangements to get the 2 discharged early morning so that I don’t have to end up having to wait for the papers and the medication etc when we come on Thursday morning to fetch them. With previous experiences of having to do everything including to settle payment and to get medication from the pharmacy, I don’t want to end up leaving Ipoh in the afternoon.

SN promised me she’d get the staff at the ward to bring Kasim down immediately after breakfast so that we don’t have to go up to the ward to fetch him. Great! That means I don’t have to find parking. In addition, SN also said she’d try to get Lee (who is at a district hospital) to be brought to Ipoh earlier so that we don’t have to go to the district hospital. That would even be better!

SN said she’d call me once all the arrangements are made.

Anyway, since Sofie didn’t need to see the doctor, she was done quite early. By the time I brought Sofie home, it was only about 10.40 am or so. To our surprise, both Ika and Saiful were ready in their school uniforms. They were having brunch… leftovers of tomyam cooked by their aunt the day before.

After sending Sofie home, I went to the Buddies Centre. I wanted to make sure all the necessary reports for our coming AGM were ready. Glad to note that all amendments were done… the only thing left now is for the honorary auditor to sign the financial statements. I told the part time staff to make sure that all notice/annual reports are sent out to members by 7th March, so I guess everything is going according to schedule.

I then remembered a new case referred to me from Taiping Hospital. A single mother who works as a school gardener, needing help with her children’s education. Since I had not met her yet, I decided to give her a call. Lela, in her late 30’s, has 3 teenaged children. She had been on leave from work since her youngest daughter was hospitalised. The daughter had been having high fever for some time  now. All 3 daughters had been tested negative for HIV and so the illness had nothing to do with HIV. Just talking to Lela on the phone, I couldn’t really figure out what was wrong with the daughter, but I was made to understand that she may need to be warded for a few more weeks. Oh dear.

I also found out from a fellow volunteer that another client’s child is also having health problems. Hana’s daughter, who is under our education sponsorship programme, of late had been fainting at home and from time to time would be complaining of chest pains as well. Hana did bring the child to the district hospital, and was told that the girl is suspected to be having heart problems. I told my fellow volunteer to make sure Hana brings the girl for follow-up checks. I don’t want Hana to use the “tak ada duit” excuse to postpone doing so.

I do hope the condition of the 2 children is not too serious…

Friday, 25 February 2011

Checking on my clients…

Having read through and done the necessary corrections to the respective reports by the coordinators to be included in our Annual Report, yesterday afternoon I finally managed to find the time to visit Sofie and deliver some groceries as well. Before I took a break to Vietnam, I did bring her for her appointment at the hospital, but she had to come again the next week (after certain blood test results were obtained) before the doctor could decide on her medication. I was still in Vietnam on the day she was supposed to start off with a new line of medication, so I wanted to know how she was coping.

Not really having planned to visit yesterday, I only sent her a text message after 2 pm to tell her I was coming. No reply, so I figured she should be home.

But when I got to her house, the gate was locked, the wooden door was closed, but the grille door was open. Just as I parked my car in front of the gate, someone opened the door. It was Azman, Sofie’s 15 year old son. “Mama takde, dia gi pekan. Masuklah dulu.”

I got him to help me with the groceries. The moment I got to the door, he said, “Rumah semak sikit makcik. Ika lah ni!” blaming his sister who’s at school for the mess. As I sat down, he went to the kitchen, “Kejap ye makcik, saya masak air jap.”

Soon I heard the sound of a motorbike in front of the house. It was Sofie and her sister. The sister wanted to buy some things at a nearby minimarket and since Sofie needed to go to the clinic to get some medication for her throat, she followed her sister. When she got my message they were already out in town but they figured they’d be able to come back in time. So Sofie just called her son telling him that I was coming and to make sure he opens the door in case I got there before they managed to return home.

Cuti ke hari ni?” I asked the sister. She actually works at a factory near Ipoh.

MC kak, demam urat. Semalam balik kampung naik motor, pak sedara meninggal. Masa nak balik sini tayar motor pancit kat highway. Nak cari exit keluar highway cari kedai motor, kena menapak sorong motor 4 kilometer!”

Given Sofie’s condition, she didn’t follow her sister back for their uncle’s funeral. Lucky thing. Imagine if Sofie had followed her on the motorbike and they had to walk 4 km!!

Anyway, the moment Sofie walked into the house, she said, “Ya Allah, kan mama dah pesan suruh sapu sampah. Apasal korang tak sapu? Payah betul lah anak lelaki ni. Kalau anak perempuan rajin sikit.”

Tak tentu jugak,” I said, “Kalau dapat anak perempuan malas, sama je…”

Soon after, Azlan, Sofie’s eldest got home. He was earlier at a friend’s house nearby. I told him about the box of form 5 books given by a friend of mine.

Sofie had been on her 3rd line of HAART for a week now. She still vomits, but not as bad as the 2nd line she took earlier. At least she can eat and so she doesn’t look as fragile as she did when she was warded recently. But there seemed to be some sort of rashes on her lower arms.

Me: “Gatal tak?”

Sofie: “Kalau tak usik taklah gatal.”

Me: “Kalau gatal nak usik?”

Sofie’s sister: “Hehehe… kalau gatal nak usik memang sah gatal la!!”

And the reason Sofie needed to get some medication for her throat? “Tekak saya sempit kak. Ubat yang dapat kali ni besar pulak tu. Tiap-tiap kali telan mesti sangkut kat tekak. Jenuh nak bagi masuk. Dah rasa bengkak je dah tekak saya ni.”

I told her to cut the pill into smaller pieces but to make sure she takes all the pieces so that the dosage would still be the same.

Whenever any patients start on a new line of HAART, they will need to come for another appointment within 2 weeks. Sofie’s next appointment is this coming Monday. Since I need to see SN on Monday anyway (to discuss about the 2 homeless guys who need to be sent to shelter homes in KL/Selangor), I told Sofie I’d fetch her at home and bring her along with me to the hospital. Her sister sounded relieved. She took MC on the day Sofie went for her appointment last week (when I wasn’t around), was on leave again on Wednesday when her uncle passed away, and then was on MC yesterday after having to walk 4 km when her motorcycle tyre got punctured at the highway. She didn’t want to take too many days off… it’s still the first quarter of the year, she needs to make sure she spares some of her leave for any future emergencies.

As we were chatting, Sofie asked, “Kak, kalau yang ambik ubat kat tempat yang sama macam saya tu, ada HIV jugak ke?”

Ha’ah, kenapa?” I replied.

Saya tengok hari tu ada perempuan tu gemuk aje. Lagi gemuk dari akak!”

Lagi gemuk dari akak tu, maknanya engko kata akak ni gemuklah ya? Tak nak ambik engko hari Isnin nanti baru tau!”

Oh well, I have put on weight of late, and compared to skinny her, I am gemuk. Sofie thought everyone with HIV would be just as skinny she is…

Just as I was about to leave, I remembered the 4 places given free to “my children” to attend a 3D 2N motivational camp in April. I asked Azlan and Azman if they were interested. Azman immediately said yes but Azlan was unsure. His aunt encouraged him to go. “Bukan senang nak dapat peluang macam ni, free lagi!” she said. I told him it will be good for him and that the camp is not so much talks but more of activities. He finally agreed. So yep, I will be giving the names of Sofie’s 2 older boys for the camp.

This morning I had promised to fetch Fuzi and her son from their home to bring them to buy her son’s police cadet uniform. I never have to worry about punctuality when it comes to Fuzi’s family. If I tell them I’d fetch them at 9.30 am, by 9.30 am they’d be ready outside their home, doors all already locked.

As expected, when I got to their home, they were ready – Fuzi and her 3 boys. Her 2 daughters were in school while Hafiz and Ijam go to school in the afternoon. And since today is Friday, the bus would come a bit later. There was ample time for me to bring them to the shop to buy the cadet uniform for Hafiz.

All along in the car we had “radio Indonesia” on. (Fuzi, an Indonesian still, talks non stop, with loud volume too!)

When we got to the shop, I immediately asked for the cadet uniform from the girl there. The moment she saw Hafiz, she said, “Alamak, kecik… ada ke size pun?”

She then brought out the smallest size she had. A bit big for Hafiz, but not too bad. I told Fuzi to just shorten the sleeves a bit. Likewise with the pants. No problem with shoes though.

It didn’t take too long to get the uniform and accessories for Hafiz, and since there was ample time before their school bus would pick them up, before sending them home, I decided to stop by a mamak shop for brunch. They all ordered roti telur while I ordered roti sardin (to add more sadin-ness to my already muka sadin).

As we were about to reach their house, we saw a boy in school uniform, waiting by the roadside. It was 11.40 am and the boy was one of Ijam’s friends. “Eh, apasal kawan engko cepat benar tunggu bas? Hari ni kan bas datang pukul 1?” Fuzi asked Ijam. Usually the bus comes at 11.30 am. The boy (and his mother I suppose) must have forgotten what day it was…

Anyway, as always, whenever I visit any of my clients, I’d take the opportunity to find out how their children is doing… especially those under our sponsorship programme. It’s good to know that Wina, Fuzi’s eldest daughter who scored 4A 4B for her PMR last year seem to be doing well not only in her studies, but also in sports. She not only wins middle-distance events in school, she would also end up getting first or second place for cross-country events. Now she seem to be showing interest to take up tennis, but her school doesn’t offer that sport.

Saya suka kak, kalau dia rajin masuk sukan ni. Daripada dia lepak-lepak saja dengan kawan-kawan, lebih baik dia masuk pertandingan,” Fuzi said.

I agree, especially since Wina herself is showing keen interest.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A busy day at the clinic…

I was on clinic duty again this morning. I remember Lin saying her appointment was today but I didn’t bother to inform her that I’d be at the clinic. She’s already on HAART, so she was sure to go to the counselling room which we volunteers are sharing with the pharmacists.

When I got to the ID clinic, SN was giving counselling to one client whom I had met 2 weeks ago. After notifying SN I was already there, I went to the front of Room 11 to see if there were any familiar faces. Nope, no familiar faces yet, not even Lin. So I went straight to the counselling room and went surfing. Surfing the internet lah… ;-)

Soon Lin came in accompanied by one of the pharmacists. The normal practice is before the PLHIVs see the doctor, they’d be referred to the pharmacists first to ensure they have been compliant with their medication. Lin told me she actually came early but took some time finding a parking space. Usually she’d come on her motorcycle, but today, since her 2 daughters wanted to tag along, she borrowed a close friend’s car. That was the first time she came by car… now she knows how difficult it is to find a parking space at the hospital.

Anyway, yesterday SN had called me to inform me about a homeless PLHIV now warded at the hospital, due to be discharged but has nowhere to go. So she sought my help to find a shelter home for the guy. So when SN’s assistant came to the room to refer a guy on wheelchair accompanied by a hospital attendant, I thought that was the case SN had told me about.

True enough, the guy, Lee, 44 years old, is homeless. He was earlier in Ipoh GH, but was transferred to a district hospital when he was due to be discharged. He had always been a loner, never married, and according to him, he no longer has any family members. He used to rent a house in Ipoh and worked at a workshop, painting cars. But now, due to his condition, he no longer works and as such, cannot afford to rent a house. At one time he wasn’t even able to walk. Now at least he is able to walk slowly in the ward, but if he needs to go a longer distance, he’d need the wheelchair. He had been diagnosed HIV positive 21 years ago, but had refused to take any medication before.

I told him I’d try to arrange for a home and since he doesn’t have a phone, I’d call the hospital where he’s warded to get in touch with him.

After taking down all Lee’s details, I went over to the doctor’s room to return Lee’s medical files. As I walked back to the counselling room, I saw Lin’s 2 daughters and went over to talk to them. The two were Lin’s 2nd and 3rd daughters – one who just got back from Egypt on the day I flew to Vietnam for my holiday, and the other one who just completed her diploma and will start her training on her new job next week. Feels good knowing that at least one of Lin’s children will start work soon. Lin’s eldest, doing a nursing course, will complete her studies by next month, and she too should start work in the near future. Of course Lin’s second daughter has to wait a while longer as she’s doing medic in Egypt.

I didn’t talk to the girls for too long though… SN’s assistant had told me earlier they had 4 cases to be referred to me, so I’d better wait at the counselling room as I was only done with one.

It wasn’t long before SN came over to tell me about the homeless guy she had told me about yesterday.

Me: “Tadi dah jumpa dah!”

SN: “Yang tu lain. Yang ni Chinese Muslim, now ada kat wad, kalau you nak jumpa I suruh dia orang bawak dia turun jumpa you.”

Me: “Laaaa… berapa ramai yang homeless ni??!”

I agreed to meet the guy. SN said she’d call the ward and arrange for him to be brought down to the counselling room.

After SN left the room, SN’s assistant came over with another case… a young Malay chap who’s just 23 years of age. He’s now on methadone, and it was only after he started his methadone treatment did he find out about his HIV. Samsul stays with his parents, but his parents, while they are aware of his involvement in drugs and his current methadone treatment, had not been told of Samsul’s HIV. Since we don’t have expertise in drug cases, we don’t usually assign buddies to IVDUs or those on methadone. However I gave him our brochure with our hotline number and told him that if he ever needed any help especially in explaining to his parents about HIV, he could call us.

I was not done with Samsul yet when SN came in again to tell me that the homeless guy was already outside the room, the one on the wheelchair, she said.

After getting all Samsul’s details on my contact report, I told him to wait in front of the doctor’s room. Then I went to the door to call the homeless guy in.

Kasim Teoh, almost 60, became a Muslim about 5 years ago. By then he was already homeless, so he had been staying at various suraus, doing odd jobs like gardening and the likes in order to get something to eat and a place to sleep. Even when he was younger and healthier, he had always been a loner, just like Lee.

You memang tak ada family ka? Tak pernah kawin ka?” I asked.

Tada… sapa pun tada. Sekalang ini macam suda tua suda sakit, sapa lagi mau?” he replied.

Oh dear. Anyway, after writing down Kasim’s particulars, I went over to the doctor’s room. Samsul’s file was still with me and I needed to return it to them. Coincidentally, when I got to the room, it was Lee’s turn to see the doctor and the doctor herself wanted to see me to discuss about arranging to send both Lee and Kasim to shelter homes. Apparently SN had already contacted homes willing to take them in, the only problem now is transportation. The guy in charge of the home willing to take Lee suggested that we send Lee by train and they’d wait for him at KL Central. However, given Lee’s condition, the doctor advised against letting him travel alone by train. Likewise, it’s not advisable to let Kasim travel by train either.

The hospital cannot arrange to transfer them to KL in an ambulance since the 2 are supposed to be discharged, not transferred.

SN had basically arranged for Kasim to be placed at a Muslim home, and although she had been to the place when she was in Sg Buluh for a 6 months course, she was of the opinion that it wasn’t advisable for us to send Kasim right to the home since  the place is quite difficult to find. She suggested that if we could arrange to send both guys on the same day to Sg Buluh Hospital (which is easily accessible from the highway), then she can get people from both homes to pick them up at the hospital.

So yeah, now to arrange for transportation to Sg Buluh Hospital…

There was one more case referred to us after that. Nizam, 28 years old, who was accompanied by his mother. He looked rather thin and fragile. With a CD of only 7, and only diagnosed recently, I believe he had been infected for quite some time but never tested for HIV. He now stays with his mother (his father had passed away and his only sister is married and stays elsewhere). The mother seems to be very supportive despite his earlier mistake (Nizam had been involved in homosexual relationship with multiple partners).

I told Nizam that life is not over just because he has HIV… that he’d need to be strong mentally… that he needs to be more positive thinking… that he must not forget to doa

The mother seemed a bit relieved after the session, but I think Nizam needs a bit more time. I have assigned one of our young male volunteers to be his buddy while I will be following up with the mother. I think she may need support as well.

 

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Things to do…

Holiday over… back to work, back to work, back to work!

*We’re having our board meeting tonight – the last one before next month’s AGM. I’ve already told the respective coordinators to get their reports done by tonight’s meeting. I’ve got my CEF/Sponsorship reports all done since last month… but haven’t started anything on the chairperson’s report to be included in the annual report. (hmmm… suruh orang siapkan report tapi sendiri belum siap… ada ka patut?? Excuse: I want to read everybody’s reports before doing my overall report…)

Next month’s AGM will include election of committee members. Now THAT is a problem. Not because of politicking or members fighting to get elected… but because if given the choice, none of us want to get elected! And with 2 from the last committee already resigned before the end of their term, and the Vice-Chairman still recuperating from cancer of the throat (affecting his voice-box), I am still wondering if we can get enough people to be pulled into the committee. (adoiii… orang lain berebut nak dipilih, kita orang berebut tak nak dipilih…)

*Tomorrow I will be on clinic duty. SN had already called me this morning to ask if I’d be going to the hospital tomorrow. There is a homeless PLHIV about to be discharged from the hospital and so SN asked if we could find this guy a place. Most likely he will have to be sent to either KL or Penang…

*I need to send 2 boxes of form 5 books, given by a friend to be passed to children of my clients sitting for SPM this year. I’ve sorted them out… one box will be sent to Azlan, Sofie’s son; while the other box (with subjects like Physics & Add Maths which Azlan is not taking) will be given to Valli’s son who will be sitting for those subjects.

*I need to take Fuzi and her son Hafiz to go buy police cadet uniforms. There is no such shop at her place and she’s not at all familiar with Ipoh to find the shops. Besides Hafiz is under our sponsorship programme and uniforms for co-curricular activities are covered under sponsorship. The uniform I’m sure is not cheap, I doubt Fuzi can afford to pay anyway. So I’ve set aside Friday morning to do this.

*I am planning to visit Ina, the orang asli lady who gave birth earlier this year. I need to get a copy of her baby’s birth cert to be submitted together with the PAF form we’re helping her to apply for. And I am also planning to bring along a new volunteer with me for her first ever house visit, so the visit will have to be over the weekend as the new volunteer has to work on weekdays.

*I’ve been offered 4 free places at a motivational camp due to be held in April this year, to be given to children of my clients. It’s a 3D 2N programme. I’m targetting those who will be sitting for major exams this year. I hope the children will want to go as the programme should be good for them, and being poor, they don’t usually get the chance to go. Usually programmes like this can be costly, but this one is offered to them free.

What else ya? Ah, yang lain tu minggu depan punya cerita laa…

 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Ops cuti HCMC: The Budget ‘Ciput’ Traveller, Part 2

Day 3

We were told to be ready at the guesthouse lounge as early as 7.15 am. Knowing that on the previous day for the Cu Chi tour, the guy from the tour agency came to pick us up at 8.00 am despite us being told to be ready by 8.20 am, we figured we should be ready by 7 am. Subuh was as early as 5.10 am anyway, so there wasn’t really a problem getting up early. And knowing pretty well we probably wouldn’t be able to get halal food for lunch during the 1 day tour, we had samosas for breakfast. We had bought them the night before at Taj Mahal Restaurant.

The samosas tasted good, despite it being left overnight in the fridge. It would have tasted better had it been eaten fresh, but we simply couldn’t wait for the restaurant to open at 10.30 am.

We were down before 7 am… Mrs Anh was just about to open the front gate. As expected, the guy from the tour agency came early. We followed him to the meeting place, ie in front of their office nearby. We were to go to Mekong city by bus before we’d be taken to the various islands for our visits.

Joining us for the tour were mainly mat sallehs… from UK, Australia, Germany and Colombia, and a few Japanese. The bus took about 1 1/2 hours to reach the pier at Mekong city, located about 75 km away.

day3a

The first boat ride took us to a village where they reared bees. We were shown the bees at close range and we were even served honey tea for free.

day3b

At the very same place we were also showed the cobra wine… where real cobras were preserved. Eeeks!

day3c

From there, the guy lead us to another part of the village. This time we were taken to a place where we were to get onto a rowing boat, with 4 passengers in a boat. Joining my sister, my niece and myself was a Japanese woman married to a Turkish guy.

day3d

The guy rowing our boat asked, “Malai?” "Yes,” I said. And immediately he wished me, “Selamat Hari!” (I guess that about covered everything… no matter what time of the day it was!)

We were taken to a bigger motor boat at Mekong River, and after a while we were transferred to a smaller motorboat (10 in a boat) right in the middle of the river, to get to the next destination.

day3f

 

This time we were brought to the place where they make coconut candies.

day3h

At the very same place, they even had a python…

day3i

Then off we went on the same boat to the next destination, this time for lunch.

day3j

 

As we had expected, they didn’t have halal food at the restaurant, so the 3 of us just bought canned drinks and ate some biscuits which I had brought along in my backpack. The guide told us there was a place to rest at the back, so we took the opportunity to take turns to do our prayers there while the rest of the gang were having lunch.

After lunch, our group separated. Those taking the bus back to Saigon went on a different boat, those doing the overnight Mekong tours took a different boat, while those like us who opted to go back to Saigon by boat, went on the speedboat.

We were then brought to a fruit garden where we were given some tropical fruits like bananas, dragon fruit, jackfruit and ciku. At least something to cover for lunch. We were entertained by the locals with Vietnamese songs which we didn’t understand sepatah haram

day3l

After that, we went back to the speedboat which was to take us back to Saigon in about 2 1/2 hours while enjoying the sceneries by the riverside.

day3m

 

I must admit I dozed off during part of the journey (as did the other tourists in the boat) as all of us were rather tired by then. We reached the pier at Saigon at 6 pm, enjoying the sunset on the way. From the pier we were taken back to the tour agency office by bus. Saw a group of “Rombongan Cik Kiah” from Malaysia on the way, in a big group, taking pics. :)

Since we didn’t have proper lunch, the first thing we did when we got back was to have dinner. Again, we opted for Taj Mahal, where this time we tried out the fish briani and prawn fried rice. Nice, but I think the chicken briani was still the best. This time all 3 of us ordered mango shake, but were given mango lassi instead. It looked the same, but tasted different. I still like the mango shake best.

After dinner, we didn’t go back to our room straight. Our room was after all, on the 4th floor. So what was next on our agenda? Shopping la, after having surveyed the place on our first night there. After going back to our room, we started packing our stuff, particularly our clothes, into our trolley bags. My niece by then had bought 2 big haversacks, so we didn’t have to worry about where to chuck all the stuff that we intended to buy the next day.

day3n

Day 4

It was our last day in HCMC, but our flight was at 4.10 pm and checkout time was before 12 noon, so there was still time for some last minute shopping. We decided to go out early morning to have our breakfast at VN Halal. We brought down our trolley bags with us and left them downstairs so that when we check out later we wouldn’t have to make 2 trips up and down from the 4th floor.

We were the first customers at VN Halal that morning. While we were having breakfast, a Malay guy came to us and asked where we were from. He was from Penang and he comes to HCMC every month. Yep, he was there to get supplies to sell back home. He even recommended to us to buy some cheap ready made telekungs, baju kurungs and jubahs at a particular shop. Errr… no thanks, silap orang lah

Anyway, after breakfast, we headed straight to Ben Thanh market to buy whatever we had decided to buy. Earlier, on day 2, when we went round to survey, we had sort of decided what to buy so we just went straight to whichever stalls we had set our eyes on earlier.

By 10 am, we went back to our room to pack our things. No doubt we had already carried our trolley bags down, but with 3 new haversacks bought by my niece (she bought another one in the morning in addition to the 2 bought earlier), we didn’t even have to arrange the things properly inside the bags. By 11 am, we checked out, but we still left our things at the guesthouse. Mr and Mrs Anh had no problem looking after our things. We had earlier on asked if we could check out at 12.30 pm (so we could perform our jamak zohor/asar before checking out), but the place was fully booked and our room had already been booked by Turkish tourists who were supposed to check in at 12.

So we opted for plan B. We checked out, walked over to Dong Du, had lunch at Nyonya Restaurant, then we went over to the Jamia Mosque for our prayers. From the mosque, we decided to take a taxi back to Pham Ngu Lao so as not to waste time. It was almost 1 pm by the time we got back to the guesthouse. Mr Anh had earlier told us to leave for the airport at 1pm if our flight was at 4 pm… in view of Saigon’s unpredictable traffic. He even took the trouble to call a taxi for us. And when the taxi driver came in about 5 minutes, he even sent us off to the taxi, and told us to pay not more than 110,000 VND for the fares.

We got to the airport in just half an hour or so, meaning we got to the airport early. Check-in was supposed to start at 2.10 pm. So we just lepak-ed while waiting for the check-in counter to open…

 vietnam14

Anyway, our flight was on time. We touched down at LCCT at 7 pm, just as scheduled.

Okay then, holiday over… back to work, woman! A few calls/SMS from clients I need to attend to.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Ops Cuti HCMC: The Budget ‘Ciput’ Traveller, Part 1

Some time in May last year, there was a promo by a low cost carrier for a limited number of RM0 air fares to certain places on certain flights. I had totally forgotten about the promo on the day it started, until I read a friend’s status update on FB, grumbling about her attempts to access the carrier’s website, to no avail.

So I just tried my luck, without much hopes of achieving anything, and without even thinking of where I’d like to go. But guess what? I managed to access the website and even managed to find the dates where there were RM0 fares available to Ho Chi Minh City. I immediately called my sister and she called her daughter, and we all agreed to just book without even bothering about whether we’d be available on the dates. The dates were after all, about 9 months away, and it was too early to tell if we’d be able to make it on the dates. With regular fares to HCMC being over RM300 one way before tax, under normal circumstances, we’d probably have to pay about RM800 to and fro inclusive of airport taxes etc. For this one, inclusive of airport taxes, convenience fees, travel insurance AND check-in baggage fee, each of us had to pay less than RM200 for a return trip to HCMC.

Day 1:

So, on Monday 14th Feb 2011, off we headed to LCCT – my sister, my niece and myself, each with a trolley bag, which could have been brought in as cabin baggage, but my niece decided to go for check in baggage for herself & her mom, and since there were still extra kgs available, I put mine as check-in baggage as well. Our flight was at 2.55pm, so we decided to have lunch first, then jamak zohor/asar before we proceeded to the departure lounge. Our flight was on time and the weather was fine. We reached HCMC at approximately 3.45 pm as scheduled.

First thing’s first… get a taxi to get to the guesthouse we booked. Having read about how some tourists got duped by taxi drivers (just like some taxi drivers in Malaysia who like to dupe tourists), we opted for the airport taxi. We were quoted in USD. When we said we didn’t have USD and asked for the price in Vietnam Dong, they asked if we had Singapore Dollars. Again we said no and asked for the rate in VND. They then asked for Malaysian Ringgit, which of course, we had. So we paid RM25 for the taxi fare from the airport to our guesthouse. I guess they all prefer foreign currency than their own.

Not wanting to mispronounce the name of our guesthouse, I had written down the name of the guesthouse, Diep Anh Guesthouse and showed the address to the taxi driver.

day1aWelcome to Saigon… a city full of motorcyclists.

day1b

Our accommodation… Diep Anh Guesthouse, at an alley off Pham Ngu Lao… a popular backpacker area.

The taxi stopped across the road from the alley leading to our guesthouse, so we had to cross the road… with our luggage and all. Scary at first, especially with Saigon traffic, but seeing the locals simply crossing the road without even looking left or right, we made it across with the taxi driver accompanying us halfway. We had to walk about 100 metres through a small alley to get to the guesthouse (which could be rather scary if it was an alley in KL…) but there were many guesthouses along the row… full of backpackers. I had initially booked this place in view of the good reviews given by previous occupants.

We were first welcomed by Mrs Anh, who then called her husband who spoke better English. Before showing us our room, Mr Anh gave us a Saigon map, and explained to us about the interesting places and things to do in Saigon. We immediately booked for 2 tours – a half day tour of Cu Chi tunnel for the next day and a 1 day Mekong tour the day after. Mr Anh arranged for the tour for us. All we had to pay was 5 USD for the Cu Chi tour (not inclusive of entrance fee) and 23 USD for the Mekong tour (we opted for the boat ride back to Saigon from Mekong city instead of taking the bus, otherwise it would have been only 9 USD). Going for private tours would be more expensive and we figured by joining the group tour, we’d be meeting other people from various countries as well.

While waiting, a couple walked in, and talked to Mrs Anh. I didn’t really hear their conversation, all I heard was Mrs Anh saying, “Malaysia.” They must have asked where we were from. I had thought the guy must be Vietnamese, until he came over and asked, “Akak dari mana?” in very fluent Malay. He’s a Malaysian Chinese from Seremban, was already there for a few days and would be leaving the next day.

By the time we were shown our room, it was already about 5 pm. We decided to take a short rest and wait for Maghrib (which was at about 5.35 pm or so) before going out again to survey the area. So yes, after Maghrib, off we went, first for dinner. There was a halal restaurant at the very same alley as our guesthouse… so finding a halal place was not a problem. So yes, for day 1, we had dinner at Taj Mahal Restaurant, selling northern Indian food. I had read earlier a review of the place, mentioning that one portion of briani was quite big, so we opted to order 2 to be shared by the 3 of us. More than enough to fill our tummies. And I must say the chicken briani was good. I loved my drink too… I ordered the mango shake. Yum!

day1cThe chicken briani

After dinner, we walked around to survey the area.

day1dHCMC aka Saigon at night

At the other end of the alley was Bui Vien street, where there were various shops and a few more halal Indian restaurants and a halal Turkish restaurant (which we only noticed on the final night, don’t know how we missed this place on the first night!). One guy from an Indian restaurant, noticing that we were obviously Muslims, came over to us, saying, “Halal! Halal!” and gave us a flyer.

day1eA halal restaurant promoting beer to attract the mat sallehs…

We walked and walked to survey the surrounding area and found where VN Halal (a popular restaurant amongst Malaysian tourists) and where Ben Thanh market was.

On the way back to our guesthouse, we stopped at a minimarket to buy some biscuits, chocolates and drinks. We opted for products with the halal sign – some were even Malaysian products with the JAKIM halal sign. Although we had a halal restaurant very near our guesthouse, Taj Mahal Restaurant only opens at 10.30 am. Having breakfast at VN Halal was not a good idea for the next 2 days as our tours were to start early morning.

Day 2

As early as 7.45 am on the second day we were already at the guesthouse lobby. My niece had brought along instant noodles from home and had that for breakfast, while I just opted for biscuits bought the night before and the 3 in 1 coffee provided free by Mr and Mrs Anh for their guests. Although we were told that a rep from the tour agency would fetch us at 8.20 am from the guesthouse, the guy came as early as 8 am. We then joined with some other tourists from other guesthouses at the same alley. In our group were tourists from various countries including Indonesia, Philippines, Canada, UK and Australia.

Our first stop was the handicap's handicrafts centre.

day2aThe handicapped doing their work.

day2b

The finished products.

We just stopped at the handcrafts centre for about half an hour or so. We were told that some of the fees charged by the Cu Chi tunnel management, were used to support this programme for the handicapped. I didn’t buy anything here though. Although the items looked nice, I didn’t want to bring anything bulky and/or fragile home.

We were then brought to the Cu Chi tunnel area, where we needed to buy the entrance tickets first. 80,000 VND per person.

day2cThe ticket counter.

Once we got ourselves the tickets, we were brought to the entrance of the area…

day2d

First up, we were shown a short documentary on Cu Chi tunnel…

day2e

That was followed by a briefing by the guide about the location and a bit of its history. The guide, a veteran of the war, was a Filipino who ended up marrying a Vietnamese lady. He took part in the war as part of the Philippines army, fighting as a US ally. So he had personal experience of how the Vietcongs fought the war.

day2f

We were then brought around the area, where were shown the traps and holes…

day2gday2h

Not forgetting the tanks used during the war…

day2iDo I look like a Vietcong? (maybe if I wasn’t in blue, huh?)

I even took the opportunity to try out the AK47, a made-in-Russia weapon used by the Vietcongs.

day2jReady… aim… FIRE!!

Finally, we were brought to the highlight of our visit, the Cu Chi tunnel! (not the original one, but a remake, slightly bigger to suit western tourists who are bigger in size. They may get stuck in the original one!)

day2kInside the tunnel.

I was the first to enter the tunnel (after the guide), followed by my sister and my niece. We didn’t bother who followed behind but we were lucky we entered first. Apparently, a few claustrophobic tourists entered the tunnel in the middle of the group, causing congestion inside the tunnel, thus causing many of them deciding to get out the emergency exits available at every 30 metres of the tunnel. By the time we reached the 3rd emergency exit, the guide stopped and asked if I wanted to continue. Hey, I had already done 90 metres by then, might as well go all the way. He then stepped aside at the emergency exit, and asked me to move forward as he wanted to check on the tourists behind. So the 3 of us moved forward with me leading the way. The guide had brought a small torchlight with him, so when I moved forward to lead the way, there was total darkness. Lucky me, I brought along a torch (the same one I used during my Gua Tempurung trip). Upon seeing nothing but total darkness, I simply grabbed the torch from my backpack, put in on my head and switched it on. The guide saw me, and said, “Very good! Now move! Move!” So off I went leading the way (just for my sister & my niece as I didn’t know what happened to the group behind us), telling them where we had to climb up and when we had to slide down etc.

We finally made it through the whole 120 metres of the tunnel with the next group taking quite some time to reach the end of the tunnel after us. I even had the time to go back in and pose for a pic…. :)

day2lThe makcik who made it!

The majority from the group actually got out at earlier exits. Only a few made it all the way and the few included my sister, my niece and I… woo hoo!

By the time we got back to Saigon, it was already after 3 pm. We haven’t had lunch yet, but we decided to go back to our room for our prayer first before heading out again. We ended up having lunch (at VN Halal) at 4 pm before heading to Ben Thanh market. We just initially walked around first to survey the things before deciding on what to buy. The stalls on the outer side weren’t much of a problem for us, but once we got deeper inside, they started hassling us. One guy even pulled my arm, showed me a seluar katok (knee length) and said, “Kakak! Cantik kakak!” Yeah sure, cantik my foot!

For someone who dislikes shopping (I usually only go shopping when I need to), being hassled like that wasn’t my idea of a holiday. And my sister and niece didn’t like the hassling either. So we just walked through just to “see-see look-look” first before leaving the place, and headed to Saigon Square. We took the trishaw ride there…

day2mPic a bit blurrish. Not easy to do this on a busy Saigon street.

My niece had wanted to look for haversacks and her search through the internet indicated that there was a particular shop at Saigon Square. But when we went there and found the shop, they didn’t have it the size my niece wanted. So off we went, this time heading to Dong Du… where the Jamia Mosque was located and where there were quite a number of halal restaurants available. I needed to go to the mosque to give to the imam some donations given through me by my mother and a friend. By then it was already dark, and we were rather tired due to the crawling in the tunnel attempted earlier in the day, so we figured we might as well have dinner before heading back to the guesthouse. But we weren’t hungry yet since we just had lunch at 4 pm. At the same time, we didn’t want to regret not having anything in case we may get hungry later at night.

So we just entered Halal @ Saigon and just ordered coconut drinks and some light stuff to eat. No rice.

After that, equipped with the Saigon map given to us earlier on day 1 by Mr Anh, we walked back to Pham Ngu Lao. However, knowing that the next day’s tour was to start as early as 7 am, no time to buy any halal breakfast, we decided to stop at Taj Mahal Restaurant again and ordered samosas to be packed before heading back to our room, intending to have them for breakfast the next day. We knew that food there are freshly cooked (hence you may have to wait a while for your orders to be ready), we figured the samosas would still taste good the next morning.

Then back to our room, mandi-mandi… and zzzzzzz…

Coming up next… Days 3 and 4…

Monday, 14 February 2011

OPS...

Been busy for the past week...

* Completing my accounting work (for a client with messy record-keeping...)

* Accompanying Sofie to the hospital. She has to come for another appointment this week.

* Checking for Lin about her daughter's status in the evacuation process of Malaysian students in Egypt. Lin doesn't have internet access and so I did all the online checking on OPS PIRAMID for her. With the name list updated rather last minute, I had to check regularly from time to time.

* Fuzi called to say that her son needs to buy cadet uniform but she doesn't know where to get one. Definitely not available at the town she's staying in and she doesn't know whereabout in Ipoh it is available.

* Hana sent an SMS detailing more fees to be paid and stuff to be bought for her children's schooling.

Both Fuzi's and Hana's children are under our sponsorship programme.

Well, I'm off for a break this week.

OPS ACCOUNTING:
Work done and sent over to client to look through and provide me with answers to my queries when I come back.

OPS HOSPITAL:
Sofie will have to make her own arrangements to go to the hospital this week. Will follow up on her when I come back.

OPS PIRAMID:
Lin's daughter will be back this afternoon. So that matter settled.

OPS SPONSORSHIP:
Told Fuzi I'd only be able to help next week. The boy after all needs the uniform in March.
Told Hana I'd look into the matter when I come back.

So, off I go today for.... OPS CUTI.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Accompanying Sofie…

When I sent Sofie home after she was discharged from the hospital at the end of January, I told her I’d come fetch her at home to bring her for her appointment at the ID clinic on 10th Feb. Looking at her condition then, I simply didn’t have the heart to let her go to the hospital by bus, even if accompanied by an adult.

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go out to fetch Sofie, I received calls from unfamiliar numbers. After my bath, I noticed 3 missed calls – all from different numbers but almost similar… the different number was just the last digit. I figured the calls must have come from a government department or agency, but wasn’t quite sure which exactly. If I were to call back, who would I say I wanted to speak to? So I thought I might as well just let whoever it was to call me back if it was important.

Then when I was already driving, my phone rang again. When I answered, I was going “hello! hello!” a few times, yet couldn’t hear anyone at the other end. After the 3rd time, and the same thing happened, I decided to call back the last number. It was actually a district hospital.

“Tadi ada siapa2 call saya ke?”

“Ni nombor xxx-xxxxxxx ke? Puan Afizah ke?”

Ya, saya.”

Sekejap ya, ni panggilan dari Hospital ________. Ada orang nak bercakap, nanti saya passkan line.”

The person who wanted to talk to me was one of the nurses whom I met during my clinic duty on Wednesday. The ones who  accompanied Hamidah to the hospital. Well, knowing that I may be visiting Hamidah at the hospital and/or her children at home, the nurse felt it was important to notify me as soon as possible about Hamidah’s death. Yes, Hamidah passed away the same night after she came back from the hospital appointment in Ipoh ID clinic. I never had the chance to do any follow-up. I thanked the nurse for having the courtesy to inform me. It wasn’t her duty to inform me but she did anyway, and I appreciate that very much.

Anyway, yesterday I used my GPS to go to Sofie’s house as she had moved to another house. Although she wasn’t well enough, her sister couldn’t take it any longer being charged outrageous amounts by the landlord for water (refer my earlier posting on 1st Feb). So they moved immediately after the CNY holidays. Sofie’s sister arranged for everything. The present house is bigger and nearer to Ipoh. The previous house had only 2 rooms and 1 bathroom. The present house has 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms. The rental? Same for both houses. So Sofie and her sister certainly got a better deal at the present house. More importantly the house has its own individual water meter (unlike the old house) so whatever amount they have to pay for water will be for whatever they use.

Sofie, Saiful and Ika were having their breakfast when I got to their house. The 2 older boys were at school. Ika’s & Saiful’s school session is in the afternoon. But Sofie was not comfortable leaving them home by themselves while waiting for their bus to fetch them, so yes, the 2 kids got to skip school again. There was no way we’d be able to come back on time to enable them to go to school. Sofie looked a lot better than when I last sent her home. Still visibly weak but at least she didn’t need a wheelchair.

At the hospital, I dropped them off first before going round to look for a parking space. There was none the first round… not even my usual place which is quite a walking distance from the specialist clinic. I then came in another round, and this time somebody just got out of a parking lot very near the specialist clinic. My luck! :-)

There weren’t many follow-up cases at the HIV clinic, only 8, but each one’s turn took quite some time as the specialist there really looked into details. By the time Sofie’s turn came, it was already around 12 noon. I went in as well to find out Sofie’s status. The doctor took some time looking at Sofie’s file and analysing all her previous test results. She was quite upset to note that none of the medication given to Sofie had any effects on Sofie. Viral load is still very high and CD4 is still very low.

Sofie started on her first line of HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) in 2009. That was probably the best line for her, but she blew it because of her own non-compliance. Not that she didn’t take her medication at all, but she didn’t follow the time. Despite being told that she must take her medication on time, she’d usually take them when convenient for her. So the first line of HAART didn’t work out. During this time, the specialist was on sabbatical leave and so her case was just referred to MOs who let her continue with the medication despite tests showing unfavourable results. “If I was around then I would stopped her medication long ago! What a waste!” she said. You see, once they aren’t compliant, the medication will not work on them and they will have to change to another line of medication.

So a few months ago, Sofie started off with another line of medication. This time Sofie made sure she took her medication regularly and on time. But alas, the second line is simply not suitable for her. She vomitted every time she ate and her internal organs were affected as well. The doctor stopped the medication as well and she was hospitalised.

This time, after looking through all the previous records, the doctor was upset. Upset with the fact that Sofie had not been compliant when taking the first line of medication. “Saya bukan tak mau tolong you tapi saya sendiri susah mau tolong kalau you tak mau tolong diri you sendiri,” she said to Sofie. I can understand the doctor’s frustration. She doesn’t have much choice left for Sofie’s next line of medication. She wanted to make sure that Sofie will not blow it this time around.

Noticing that Sofie’s left eye seemed reddish and a bit swollen, the doctor worried that it could have been caused by infection. So the doctor prepared a referral letter for Sofie to see the ophtalmologist downstairs. She also wanted to see Sofie’s latest test results so Sofie was also sent to do some blood and urine tests. Sofie will have to come for another appointment next week. Then the doctor will decide if it was the right time to start Sofie with her next line of HAART.

By the time we were done talking to the doctor and the nurse, it was already after 1 pm. We went down for Sofie’s blood and urine tests as it was open during lunch hour. To see the ophtalmologist we’d have to wait until the clinic reopens at 2 pm. So I brought them to the hospital cafeteria first for lunch. By 2 pm, we went straight to the eye clinic, showed the referral letter, Sofie had to go through a few tests before she was given a piece of paper and asked to get a number for her turn to see the ophtalmologist. Judging from the number of people at the clinic, it would take some time before Sofie’s turn came. Well, at least she managed to see the ophtalmologist on the same day instead of being given another date for her appointment.

Since it was already after 2pm, I told Sofie I’d go off first and come back later. I actually decided to go home for my zohor prayer first. My house isn’t that far from the hospital so it didn’t take long to reach my house. After my prayer, off I went to the hospital again. Went straight to the eye clinic but couldn’t see Sofie, Ika or Saiful. I tried to call but my calls simply couldn’t get through. The phone reception at the eye clinic was very bad.

After a few times going in and out of the eye clinic, I finally saw the 3 of them. They just came out from one of the rooms and were told to wait for their card. Thank God, according to the ophtalmologist the red eye was not due to infection. We were then given the medicine slip and a card for Sofie to go to the counter to get a date for her next appointment. There was a queue there, so I told her to settle her appointment while I went over to the pharmacy to get her medicine.

There was quite a long queue to get a number at the pharmacy, but once I got the number, I didn’t have to wait too long. By the time I got Sofie’s medication, I went back to the eye clinic and Sofie was not done yet although her queue was shorter. It was already her turn though so we didn’t have to wait much longer.

But I sure do pity Sofie. She will have to come for her appointment at the ID clinic on the 17th, then at the eye clinic on the 21st. Then on the 23rd, she will have to bring Saiful to the eye clinic for his appointment. Sofie tried to ask for her appointment to be changed to 23rd so she could come with Saiful on the same day, but the nurse told her that she’s supposed to come within 10 days which is supposed to be 20th, but since 20th is on a Sunday, they gave her the next day’s appointment. So nope, no changes.

I jokingly told them to set up a tent at the hospital compounds so they didn’t need to travel too often to the hospital.

I won’t be around next week so Sofie will have to come to the hospital on her own. I will check on her after I come back.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Helpless

I was on clinic duty again today. Since I ran out of Buddies brochures I stopped by our center to get a few and chucked them into my bag. And thank goodness, getting a parking space today wasn’t too bad.

As usual, once I got to the specialist clinic, first thing I did was to go to the doctor’s room to inform the nurse I was there, and to find out if there were any new cases to be referred. The doctors had not come down from their rounds yet but SN told me there were a few new cases today.

So I went straight to the counselling room. It wasn’t long before the nurse came in with a new case… a 68 year old man who went for a holiday in Cambodia last year, had too much of a drink, and ended up having sex with strangers. Well, his CD4 isn’t too bad, so I guess he won’t be on HAART yet. I had to rephrase my questions a few times… although the guy could speak Malay, I guess he’d be able to understand better if I gave him a Chinese volunteer.

When I went to return his file to the nurse, I was told there was another case to be referred, and although the lady was already at the hospital, she was on a stretcher as she’s bedridden. But at that point of time, she was still outside with the other patients waiting for their numbers to see the various specialists. It wasn’t practical to get the lady to the counselling room, not when she’s on the stretcher… and it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to go out to talk to her when so many other patients would be able to listen to our conversation, so the nurses agreed that I wait for the lady to be wheeled in to see the doctor and I could talk to the lady there.

While waiting, I called Aina. Remember Aina? The lady whose house I (and 2 other volunteers) went to visit earlier this year, and whose husband passed away end of last month? The last time I called, Aina was still at her late husband’s kampong, where he was buried. I had asked Aina to send me a copy of Ali’s death cert. Today when I called, Aina was already back at her own kampong. But when I asked if she was still staying at the same house, she said she had moved to her mother’s house within the same kampong because an uncle of hers wanted to stay at the old house. You see, the house is still under the name of her late grandmother, which means quite a few family members had rights to the house. All the while Aina stayed there out of courtesy as she didn’t have a home, but apparently immediately after her husband died, her uncle wanted to stay in the house. Not wanting to make too much of a fuss, Aina and her 2 kids moved out to stay with her mother. Anyway, I told Aina to inform me if her children needed any help especially pertaining to their schooling.

Just as I got off the phone with Aina, SN came in to inform me that the bedridden lady had already been wheeled in to see the doctor. I immediately got up heading to the doctor’s room. Well, they didn’t even wheel her into the room as the room was rather small, so the doctors themselves had to get up to see her right outside the room… at the corridor meant only for hospital staff.

The lady, Hamidah, couldn’t even talk much. Every time she opened her mouth, she felt pain. Other than HIV, she had TB and mouth ulcers. Even when she talked we couldn’t understand much of what she was saying. So our conversations were more with the 2 nurses who accompanied her from the district hospital where she had been warded for the past month.

Hamidah married thrice. Her first husband died, leaving her & 4 children. Hamidah remarried and had 3 children with her 2nd husband. The 2nd husband died of AIDS related illnesses (he was an IVDU). Hamidah then married a third time. Then one time she had to be admitted to the hospital, and they decided to do a full blood test on her. That was when she was diagnosed HIV positive. Her husband was then called to get his blood tested as well, and he too was confirmed positive. The only problem was, immediately after he was diagnosed +ve, he disappeared. He never followed up at the hospital to get treated.

Actually Hamidah herself never went for follow up appointments for her HIV as she still felt okay then. She only went back to the hospital lately when she got weaker and weaker. Now, with a CD4 of only about 60, and her body weight getting below 30kg, Hamidah was too weak to even sit down. She lost a lot of weight because she couldn’t eat. Not that she didn’t have the appetite to eat, but every time the nurses tried to feed her, the moment the food got into her mouth, she shouted due to the pain. So she couldn’t really consume much, hence, the lost of weight.

According to the nurses, of late her children had not been visiting her at the hospital either. Her 2 younger children are teenagers, still schooling, and ever since Hamidah was hospitalised, they had to take care of themselves at home. Her older children, all married and working, stays elsewhere. One son does stay in the same town, but he too seldom visits. Only when he visits, then he’d bring the 2 younger ones to visit as well. Otherwise, she’d have no visitors at the hospital. The nurses at the district hospital did call one of her daughters to inform her that they’d bring Hamidah to Ipoh GH today for further check-up, and asked if she’d like to come along to accompany her mother. But she just said no.

Based on what the doctor said, chances are Hamidah would have to stay at the hospital for some time, as they’d need to monitor her medication. Nobody would be taking care of her at home if she’s discharged. She’d be totally helpless.

Frankly, other than to follow up on her case, I don’t really know how to help Hamidah.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

A daughter in Egypt…

A fellow volunteer informed me that he left a box of mandarin oranges at the center, donated by one of his office-mates. He had delivered another box to his client and figured I may have other families I can send the other box to.

So this afternoon I went over to the center to get the box of oranges, then I headed off to Lin’s house. Her 2 daughters studying in KL were back so I thought it would be the perfect time to deliver the oranges to them. In addition to that, I wanted to find out if Lin had got any news from Zizi, her daughter in Egypt. I brought along my netbook and usb modem in case she wanted to see some online updates on the process of evacuation of Malaysian students in Egypt.

Lin was surprised to see me as I didn’t tell her I was coming. She looked calm… she just managed to speak to Zizi. Those with family members in Egypt had been advised to call them from land/fixed lines, but Lin didn’t have a fixed line at home. From what I understand, the only mobile land which would get through to Egypt (since the uprising of the people of Egypt) was Digi.

Well, one of Lin’s daughters who is back home for CNY holidays decided to top-up her phone and attempted to call. The first call, although the number was correct, got through to a guy in Cairo. The 2nd attempt again was answered by a man, so Zizi’s sister immediately ended the call. It was only at the 3rd attempt did they manage to get through to Zizi’s phone.

Zizi, a Mara scholar, had earlier been placed together with other Malaysian students in Alexandria. According to her, MARA officers had been taking good care of them, calling them every day to check on them and to pass them info on the latest situation, and also to deliver food to them. They have been told to get ready and that evacuation was already in the process, starting with those in Cairo first.

After listening to Zizi herself, Lin feels a whole lot better now. Lin had heard of other parents buying air tickets to get their children home… and so she felt quite worried because she couldn’t afford to buy an air ticket for her daughter.

Since Lin didn’t have internet at home, I switched on my netbook, and connected to the internet using my usb modem. I showed her updates from http://krisismesirnasibrakyatkita.blogspot.com and from there she saw for herself the schedule of flights from Cairo to Jeddah and from Alexandria to Jeddah.

I think Lin can probably sleep better now that she has heard Zizi herself saying that she was alright and well taken care of by the Mara officers. No doubt things aren’t over yet, but at least she knows Zizi is in good hands.

Let’s all pray that everything will run smoothly and that all Malaysians in Egypt can be evacuated safely without any problems.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Follow up visit…

By the time I sent Sofie back home after being discharged from the hospital yesterday, it was already 7.30 pm, so I didn’t stay long. I needed to rush for my Maghrib prayer so after leaving all her medication, I left.

Actually when I went to the pharmacy to get Sofie’s medication, I only managed to get 6 out of the 7 listed in the slip. I was told I’d need to come back again today to get the other one. But even the 6 was already A LOT!

Yang ni makan sebiji sekali, dua kali sehari lepas makan. Yang ni sekali sehari. Yang ni satu pagi satu malam. Yang ni satu pagi 2 malam. Yang ni 4 kali sehari, tiap-tiap 6 jam kena makan.”

Aiyo… kenyang makan ubat lah like this…

Anyway, yesterday the letter handed to me for Sofie’s next appointment did not indicate the date of the appointment at the ID clinic as by the time Sofie was discharged, it was already after 5 pm. The clinic was closed so they couldn’t call to confirm the date. The nurse at the counter told me she’d call and inform me of the date later. When I said I go to the ID clinic quite often, she said then maybe it would be easier for me to call them direct to get the date.

This morning I decided to settle whatever outstanding matters. After first going to my old office to sign some documents, I headed straight to the hospital. My plan was to go to the ID clinic first to see SN or her assistant, and then down to the pharmacy to get the other medication Sofie was supposed to get.

When I got to the room, SN was going through all the files. She needed to prepare a report of some sort to be submitted to KL. As always, whenever she sees me coming not on a clinic day, she’d invite me to sit down and we’d have a chat, discussing about the various clients – who have not been coming for appointments… who have not been compliant with their HAART…

We share whatever info we have on the clients to enable us to do a better job. If the clients missing their appointments are mine, then I’d try to contact the client to find out why they have missed their appointments. If there are clients whom I’ve not been able to contact, then I’d ask SN if they are still going for their appointments. If they are, then I’d get the date of their next appointment so I can meet the clients when they come to the clinic.

After spending about 40 minutes at the ID clinic and after noting down the date of Sofie’s appointment next week, I told SN I’d need to go down to the pharmacy to get one more medication for Sofie. When SN saw the slip, she said she had some in her cabinet, so yes, I didn’t have to go down to the pharmacy. Yayy!

So this afternoon I went over to Sofie’s house again. I didn’t call to tell them before hand I was coming but I figured Sofie was too weak to go anywhere anyway.

Only Sofie and Ika were in. It’s school holidays for all 4 kids but the 3 brothers weren’t home. Azlan, the eldest, had gone to make some money by working part time during holidays with a contractor to build a house. Azman and Saiful were at a supermarket to buy some things. Saiful got some amount of money during his stay at the hospital with his mother. He got himself quite a number of abang angkat and kakak angkat who took pity on him having to wait for his mother at the hospital for more than 2 weeks, and they all gave him some amount of money. Being the friendly and talkative type (and small-sized to add, so an added “cute” factor), one of the kakak angkat even told him that even if anyone kidnaps him, they’d probably let him go because he tends to ask so many questions… :)

Anyway, Sofie was lying on her mattress in her bedroom. I went straight in as I didn’t want her to get up. Ika got worried when she saw me walk straight into the room. “Alamak, bilik sepah,” she said. I wasn’t bothered at all though, and Sofie was too weak to get up to be bothered by the condition of her room.

Sofie still looked very weak. Apparently earlier in the morning, she needed to go to the toilet but didn’t want to wake her children, so she got up on her own and ended up falling in the kitchen. The kids then woke up after they heard her shouting in pain. Looking at her condition today, I told her not to take the bus when she goes for her appointment next week. I promised to fetch her at home and bring her to the hospital.

Sofie also told me that they may move to another house soon. During Sofie’s 2 weeks stay in the hospital, her sister had been looking around for another house to rent. What they couldn’t stand was the ridiculous water bills they had been forced to pay by the landlord. You see, at present they’re renting a unit from a row of houses belonging to the same landlord. Each unit comes with individual electricity meters, so each pay for their own electricity bill. However, all the row of houses share the same water meter and so the water bill is divided amongst the tenants. Each month the landlord would just issue them some sort of a bill indicating their fixed rental amount and the amount they’d need to pay for water usage. And for the latest bill, they were told to pay RM100 for water.

It is not surprising that the water bill is high because at the moment the landlord is still building more units of houses to be rented out. But to charge out the bill equally amongst the tenants is totally unfair as the usage has been mainly to build the new units – not by the tenants!

According to Sofie, her sister has found a suitable house nearer to Ipoh, with an extra room but at the same rental rate with the present house. In addition, it is nearer to the bus stop and a pasar malam. In terms of facilities, it is definitely better. And more importantly, whatever utility bills they have to pay will be whatever they themselves use.

Sofie’s sister had just been waiting for Sofie to get better to show her the house. They may move to the new place after CNY.

I told Sofie to inform me if and when they move to the new house, especially if they intend to move before her appointment next week.