Monthly Archives: July 2013

LUTH Reloaded (3)

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On my third visit to LUTH I had a very loud fight.

It was a normal Monday, like every other, and as usual I arrived at the center very early: before 6am. I was surprised to find only four people there, normally the people would be in the teens, but I put it down to it being a Monday. People do not want to have to leave their offices on a Monday as that would require a lengthy or detailed explanation.

As I settled into a chair to read my book, I noticed the floor of the waiting area was no longer muddy and had been covered with cobblestones. Also, the zinc shed that offered shade there had been redone. I was happy someone was thinking of making the process more comfortable and less humiliating for the  patients.

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Gradually the crowd built up to maybe fifty, time went and they were ready to begin. The man who was checking our weight had obvious eye problems, and is not actually a trained health professional. In his opinion, you could not get an accurate reading if you stood on the industrial scale with your face towards it. You had to turn your back to it. I obliged him but he read an additional 2 kilograms to my previous weight of a month ago! I knew he was wrong because I had been dieting and other people also wondered why their weight was too high or too low.

After we took our weight it was time to take our blood pressure- the only jobs the nurses actually do. I waited for my turn behind those who, in true Nigerian fashion, had jostled their way to the front of the queue, and behind a young lady who was very sickly, weak very thin, obvious signs that her immune system had been weakened.

Only one nurse sat at the brown wooden office-type desk,beside it, facing the nurse was a white plastic chair. This was where the patients sat , placing their hands on the desk for the cuff that came with the electronic blood pressure meter, and this was what I did. I made a deliberate attempt to greet the nurse a cheerful ‘good morning’ just to ease the somewhat tense atmosphere. She responded and proceeded to place the cuff on my forearm. As she did that she told me to hold the cuff tight. I found that odd but I realized that the Velcro fastener that usually fastened the cuff was worn and useless, so I held it, the cuff unraveled anyway. She hissed and said I was not holding it tight enough. She re-strapped it and tried again. Try as I did, the cuff still unraveled. She raised her voice this time and said I wasn’t holding it well. I explained to her that I had never had to hold the cuff before so she should please show me how to hold it. She strapped me again and told me to hold it tight, I did but it still unraveled. She then said I should leave because she did not have time for this. I asked her politely when I should come back , she screamed at me that she didn’t know. I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t my fault, and I had been here very early so I would not want to waste time deliberately. She screamed that I should not ‘start’ this morning, it was too early’. Then she stood up and sat on the next chair and began attending to others using another blood pressure meter.

When she had attended to about 3 or so patients I reminded her that I was still waiting, she began to scream loudly that I could not be waiting for her, over and over again. (Now, a brief background to this nurse; she is very rude.  If Iknew her name I would have published it. I knew that about her years ago when I first began treatment at the centre; she was one of those people who would shout without provocation and talk down at patients. One time when I made the long journey with my baby from Benin and came a bit late, she was in attendance and started shouting as to why I had come from Benin, I should have taken the treatment there. She kept going on and on and talking loudly deliberately to draw attention but I ignored her. ) Now I did not want to get into any quarrel with her, primarily because I wanted to be angry over important not trivial things, but at this point in time, I had become very upset and I stayed put in the plastic seat.

Luckily for me, the matron was walking past and this girl decided to report me to her. As she was speaking, the other nurse on duty came by. She is nicer so I calmed down, unknown to me though, my doctor friend there had left his desk and stood behind me. When the matron saw him she began to fix the cuff on my arm, the nurse was still spouting crap so I began to shout back at her and everyone tried to calm me down. Finally the matron asked the doctor why he was there and then he told them I was his friend. Immediately the nurse shut up. Obviously she had had a run-in before and she was respecting herself. That gave me latitude to speak and I did. I spoke loudly to the other nurse about how the rude one carried this same attitude for years, how she had no capacity to be nice and she needed spiritual help. The rude nurse said nothing. She had learnt a lesson.

A lot of the time these healthcare attendants in this LUTH treat the patients like dirt, never mind that some of them are infected with the virus. There are several reasons for this; places like LUTH are cost-effective solutions for low-income earners, like I have said in a previous post, so they are hard-pressed to find educated, wealthy patients, coming there-where they go is another story. Another reason is that a lot of these people are holding tight to whatever shreds of dignity they still have left , after being diagnosed with such an humiliating illness. As a result they swallow whatever insults they receive in a bid to get well. I do not fall into any of the categories. I refuse to be ashamed of falling sick; it happens to anyone, and I am educated and informed. So I will not accept it when those idiots throw my card on the floor, or shout at me for no reason or just vent their frustrations on the patients.

After trying unsuccessfully to fix the cuff on me again, the other nurse realised that it was actually too small! So all along, the problem, apart from the worn fastener, was the size. They had to use the manual meter for me with a stethoscope, and that was when I realised that anger really is not good-  my blood pressure had spiked because of that spat with the rude nurse. But sometimes it helps because I was the first person they attended to in that hospital that day.

I was a bit surprised when I spoke to my doctor about how depressed I was about the illness. I will share the reasons for that depression and my fears generally in my next post. He tried to encourage me saying that there was treatment available but also tried to remind me of the power of God to heal. I found that very odd. Not that a healthcare professional was referring to faith healing ,but that he saw it such a serious illness that you should try every means- even unorthodox ones- to get out of.  That notwithstanding, he is a great guy. I think he is really cool.

This brings me to another issue. I have decided to make this blog collaborative. I want contributors who have a personal account of living with HIV or a relative or friend living with HIV. I also want health professionals as well. My doctor has indicated interest in contributing and I am looking forward to it.

 

So let me know.

 

Love, light and Tambourines

 

Joie

 

You Had Me At Hello

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I have to say thank you to everyone who reached out to me following my last post. Where tha heck did y’all come from? I kept getting beep after beep on my phone about one comment or the other  and frankly, by the 3rd comment I had gotten a grip of myself; but the comments still kept coming! How did all these people find me, I wondered.  As a matter of fact at the last two comments I had to start laughing because it seemed I would have to start comforting a few readers soon.

I am much better now. I was able to speak with a more mature, wiser person and together with some introspective meditation I have put it all in perspective. There is no excuse for a person who comes into someone else’s house and takes unfair advantage of them, but I -we- can learn from it. One thing I have learnt is to heed the warning bells that go on in my head. If you read my previous posts you will understand when I say that I battle with a crushing self-esteem issue. As a result I do not stand up for myself,  to men, when I should. It may have occurred to a lot of other ladies that they were placing themselves in a vulnerable or weak position that night, and they would have made the person stay outside or something. For me, the voice of lack of confidence would say ‘who do you think you are to put a man outside’, or turn his offer of a visit down, or refuse his gifts ( in other situations). I kid you not. I have to learn to silence that voice.

Also, and more importantly, I realize the need for counseling for young ladies or girls, both so that they can avoid this situation, and also so that they can recover from it if it ever happens to them. I am living proof of the dangerous ripple effect of sexual abuse, lack of confidence and naivete in a growing female child. I have a duty to help as many other girls growing up as I can to avoid these same problems.This is part of my mission on earth, I know that as sure as I am breathing.

Life is fraught with problems, that is a fact, but we are here to help each other solve those problems as best we can. We cannt afford to just roll up and die every time something bad happens. Like I always say, dont die, before you die, because you will still die. Make the most of everything in life, good or bad. The most important day in your life, apart from when you were born is the day you know WHY you were born. Strange as it sounds, no matter what the distractions, this illness, this life, is the reason why I am here. My strength which you all have so generously commended,  is  for me to be able to carry other people. And so help me God, I will.

So the movement continues. LUTH chronicles are next.

Thank you very much, everyone.

Love, light, and Tambourines

Joie

Life, Where’s The Rewind Button?

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This next post was supposed to be about my next visit to LUTH and the events therefrom but unfortunately it is not. Something happened last that has to come first.

I cannot tell a lie, you can choose to live positively inspite of whatever problems life throws at you, but it is not easy. Everyday is a struggle, a constant battle to scoop up the  good and ignore the bad. So when something or someone just comes to fuck up that positive rhythm that you have managed to build up it is crushing.

A man I used to call a friend came to my house yesterday and forcibly had sex with me. Unprotected sex. Beyond taking advantage of me and of our friendship he totally destabilized me. If I had a pill that would kill me instantly, I would be dead by this morning. I just wanted to die, even though I did not want to leave my daughter. I wept bitterly.

I had allowed him come to my house for two reasons; one , he was an old friend. I have known him for about 8 or so years. Secondly, I was a bit scared as I was the only one in my building, everyone else was away, and no thanks to my inconsiderate landlady, artisans had been trooping in and out of the house to fix things and a few of them had keys to the gate. I just thought that if anyone was watching and saw a man come in the evening they would be dissuaded from doing anything. I also thought it would be good to have company as I had been in my house almost everyday since I resigned and I really was becoming a bit depressed. He was not coming over to sleep or anything, just a visit. And these were my mistakes.

He came and we were watching the Yoruba movie channel and laughing at the subtitles when he just grabbed me out of the blues and attempted to kiss me. I tried to push him away but he held on tight. I thought he would just kiss me and let go but he started fumbling with my bra my trousers. When he raised himself over me I begged him to stop, not to have sex without protection, anything to make him think, but to no avail. He rammed into me roughly, biting my lips, my breasts. My cries of pain and my pleas were ignored. I relaxed when I realised he was going to achieve what he set out to but that did not make the ordeal any shorter. He was like an animal.When he was done, I had bruises all over, my lips were tender and swollen and I could tell I had little tears in my vagina because of the piercing pains there. But it was my heart and my spirit that were broken…

I just opened the door for him to leave when he was done, ignoring his attempts to hold me. There are no words for that sort of thing. When I was alone I broke down.

People make mistakes everyday, they trust the wrong people or make the wrong choices, why do my mistakes have to be so devastating. I only wanted someone to talk to, a person I thought was my friend but look how that turned out. How much stronger do I have to be in this life? And why is it that I am hopeless at detecting when people are only pretending to care for me? Who can I trust? Those were the thoughts in my mind yesterday. I slept by about 3am this morning but did not get out of bed till 4 pm today. I just wanted to roll up and die. Only the fact that I have a daughter who depends on me kept me alive.

More practically, I wondered if I would be reinfected, if by any chance he was HIV positive. I also wondered what would happen if I were much younger than this? What if this happened to a younger lady, or a teenager who prior to this had no exposure to information about HIV, What would be her options? Where could she go and be treated with care and respect? It is a practical and relevant question because if it could happen to me it can happen to a younger, less informed girl. Maybe we should be looking at setting up trendy, youth-oriented counselling clinics in schools and malls. This infection has to be stopped. I also wondered if the guy would be infected because of his selfish and stupid act. I do not wish that for him or anyone; not everyone can handle it,plus he has children for whom he is the only surviving parent.

My doctor said I should not worry about reinfection as the drugs for HIV cover both strains of HIV if I was infected with another. And that the possibility of infection by one exposure was slim. That calmed me down.

But honestly, I am tired of fighting. In this battle there are no allies, only enemies. I am tired, I swear.