Friday, June 5, 2009

My first encounter - AIDS

I supported an AIDS patient because he asked for Buddhist counselors

When this case was brought up in our weekly meeting, Doctor asked whether any Team is keen to embark on the case. Not all Teams are Buddhist counselors. We were asked whether we will like to consider the possibility. Thoughts floated through my mind as I knew that AiDS is a contagious disease. From all the rumors that you will get it when you come into contact with a with full blown AIDS made me hesitate.

Both I and my partner pondered for a while and finally we decided that we will give it a go. We asked the doctor a few questions.

1) How should we handle this patient?
2) Can we touch him - like shake his hands?
3) How can we avoid getting infected?
4) All the myths about AIDS, what to believe and what to drop?

With this, we learnt that AIDS virus died immediately it hit the air. We will not get AIDs breathing the same air as the patient. We were told to wear gloves. This is for precaution. AIDS will not be transmitted when shaking hands but if we have a cut and we are not aware of it, there is an opening for AIDS virus to enter the body.

SEX is the transmission of AIDS. Unprotected Sex. Myth that Gay gets AIDS but it is not true. Even the Heterosexual is prone to AIDS. This is due to a series of sexual partners. Transmission has many ways e.g oral - saliva, sexual contact without condoms, reused syringes, blood transfusion etc.

I wondered all these while where are AIDS patients housed? This place is not publicized openly and therefore I will not mention it here. My purpose is to avoid people flooding this place as if it is a Zoo. It is also to keep the privacy of these sufferers as many do not want the public to know or their friends to know. When we heard someone has AIDS or HIV, the public shunned them. People point fingers and talked about them like they deserved it. My old lady Boss told me once 'Lian, Sex is beautiful...but this is Sex gone wrong'.

So off we went to visit this gentleman named Bob. He was 28 years old. He last worked in a hotel as an Assistant Manger of F&B (Food and Beverage). He contacted HIV positive 2 years ago. He went through treatment but his immune system did not respond to the drug. Now he has full blown AIDS and of course he was waiting for his 'final call'.

When we entered the hospital, we saw each room has a patient. The nurse in charge gave us a white plastic overall and gloves.

As we walked along the corridor, I peeped into rooms. I saw patient moaning in pain, I saw patients wearing nothing but pampers - yes, those that baby wears. I saw some tossing in beds. There was a group of 5 men sitting in a common area talking to each other. They were patients too. They looked at us with curiosity. I later learnt from Nurse that there are minimum visitors to these quarters because of privacy. We finally came to a room.

Nurse : Bob, how are you today. Look, you have visitors...(she smiled).
Bob : (was lying in bed and when he saw us, he sat up) Hi, you must be the Buddhist volunteers I asked for.
Lian : Hi Bob, my name is Lian, this is Steve.
Bob : Hi Lian and Hi Steve!

He thanks us for so sincerely extending our friendship and indicated a chair for us to sit down. Steve was apprehensive and he decided to remain standing. To avoid hurting Bob, I sat down.

Bob : I have no visitor and I have no friends now. My family is vexed and they felt ashamed to visit me. They are afraid that neighbors, relatives and friends know that they have a son who has AIDS.
Lian : I am sorry to hear this Bob.
Bob : Is this the first time you are having an AIDS patient? You both looked a bit worried and lost. (Oh...sh*ts! was it so obvious?)
Lian : (I decided to be opened) Yes, Bob. We have not had an AIDS patient before. We were wondering what we should say and what we should not say. We do not want to hurt you further. I am sorry for our insensitivity, we really do not mean it that way. We are not experience enough.
Steve : Sorry Bob.

Bob started to talk about the hospital. It is on the ground floor and opened into the green lawn outside. Birds were chirping from a few nearby trees. It was breezy. He told us that he used to visit certain temples and we spoke about various masters that we know and laugh about our ignorant in practicing. Bob was a kind man, he puts us at ease and he succeeded. Steve started to sit on the arm of the armchair I was sitting on. We had good time exchanging Buddhist news.

I took stock of this young man. He was good looking. He spotted a GI hair style and it is easier to keep and clean. Probably lost lots of weight but he still looked good. From the time with him, I kept hearing moans from a nearby room. After two hours, we took our leave. We asked if he wanted us to bring him anything the next time we come. Bob said no.

On our way out, I peeped into the room with the moaning man. I saw a nurse with him. She was fully wrapped from 'top to toe'. I saw soars on the arms, legs and body of the moaning man. Are these AIDS boils?

We walked out of the premises with a heavy heart. I have never really understood AIDS except that it is deadly and doctor have no cure for it. How was it transmitted and where it came from has a long trace back to Africa it seems. Although talks about careful sex and what should be done, man is thinking ‘I may not be so unlucky, try’ and BINGO! Caught it!

We went back to see Bob after a week. He looked thinner. We saw sores forming on his arms and some liquid were seen. Bob said it won’t be long. He actually looked forward to it. He said it is going to be painful and he did not want us to see him in that state. So this should be our last visit.

Bob told us that he contacted HIV positive from his girl friend. They have been together for many years. At one time the girl friend was posted overseas for training for 6 months. Apparently she contacted it from someone whom she had sex and transmitted it to Bob. Bob was not aware of her sexual activities. He started to have symptom of flu and persisting fever, constant headache, sore throats and muscle aches. He later had bleeding nose. When she saw Bob developing such, she confessed to him that she had caught HIV but she was not aware of it when it was transmitted to Bob. She had tested positive and was on medication. Bob went to see a doctor and after all the tests, the results confirmed the worst. They had splited up. She died half a year ago and now Bob is dying too.

It was a sad story. A betrayal of love and it brings heartache and death. Bob said that he had been faithful and he was looking forward to a marriage life. We really do not know our partner do we? The trusts accorded are not treated with respect. People cheat anytime they have the chance. When I am typing this, my heart still ached for Bob.

He passed away 2 weeks later. We did not see him. I saw with my own eyes how a dead AIDS patient was wrapped up in black colored garbage bags, sealed and tied. I asked whether they were sent for embalming and back home for wake? The answer was no. The body was sent straight for cremation. What a way to die. In pain, in shame, no proper clean up, nor family members to say good-bye. Of all the terminally ill, AIDS is the saddest.

I believe one should be loyal to one’s partner. Mum always says ‘Forbidden fruits taste the sweetest’. Anything ‘stolen’ is thrilled and fun but it brings death.

I have no more advice on this issue – SEX and AIDS. The authority is doing all it can. The education of safe sex is everywhere. The recent survey showed a drop in AIDS in Singapore but it doesn’t mean we are safe.

On Bob’s first anniversary, Steve and I joined the lighting of candles on World Aids Day to remember our friend who died of this incurable illness. We joined in the quilt project. Many people were sobbing in these gatherings, many...who lost their love ones to this terrible ‘life snatcher’. I pray that all those that died rest in peace.

Please practice safe Sex.

5 comments:

  1. A big SAHDU to you for doing such a NOBLE work.

    May the blessings of the Triple Gem be with you always!

    MAy Bob be well and happy in his next life!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Sathira

    Thanks. I just do what I can and every case is something new for me to learn and associates with Lord Buddha's teaching.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great! Keep up your good work!

    May you be well and happy always!

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a sad tale, but even sadder is that Bob is far from an isolated story.

    You do a wonderful job and I'm sure you made a huge difference in his final weeks.

    ReplyDelete
  5. it's a really nice blog thanks for add my comment...

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