I am so sorry that I stayed away so long. It has been a hectic month or two what with the Petrocalypse, the new government and everything we have all had a harrowing time. Thanks to everyone who commented. Below is the continuation of my freedom-from-LUTH story
When the doctor asked me to make a photocopy of the referral form, I made two. I wanted to see what constituted a referral in LUTH and how she had condensed my 6 years into one flimsy piece of paper. It had just a few lines for what my starting CD4 count had been, what it was presently , if I had begun ARVs or not, if I was depressed or psychologically troubled and my reason for transferring. I was not really surprised that the doctor had filled my mental state as ‘stable’ and the reason for transfer as wanting a facility ‘closer to home’. It was LUTH after all, but how would things ever change if the discomfort of patients is not taken into consideration and on record?
I set out the next day bright and early for the Community centre. I was really nervous that something would jinx it and I would have to go on my knees back to LUTH. I was quite early again so I had to wait for resumption. The staff were polite as usual, although one lady who did not belong in the reception kept asking everyone who they wanted to see. Being the first person to arrive I was attended to first and I went upstairs to wait for the doctor. It seems the centre begins by about 9.30 am so early birds will have to wait a bit; but the 30-45 minute wait in an air-conditioned, calm environment is nothing compared to the several hours in over-crowded, boisterous LUTH.
The doctor came after a little while and invited me into his consultation room almost immediately. When I handed him the referral letter he asked if had been difficult to obtain to which I replied in the negative. He said he knew it would not be because they would probably be happy to be one person less burdened. He then sent me to the lab to have my blood taken for all the necessary tests after which I would come back to him to be clerked (or booked).
The guy at the lab was on the phone when I entered, there was another man there so he asked that I give them some privacy. I sat on one of the chairs just outside of the door of the lab. After a few minutes , the patient inside left and I thought I heard ‘next’ so I entered the room. The lab guy looked up with a surprised expression. ‘ Did you say ‘next’”? , I asked. No he said.’ Well, were you thinking it’, I asked again. He laughed and said I should come in. It is a testament to how elated I was feeling that I could be my mischievous self at the lab – where there are needles and blood. The lab guy gave me a seat and asked what I was there for. I told him I was not sure but that I had been asked to come and do a blood test before I was registered. He lowered his voice to a barely audible whisper and said ‘have you ever done a HIV test before’? Oh, I laughed, only one million times over the past 6 years. I saw that put him at ease, so I told him about my referral. About the same time he received a call from my doctor on the intercom who told him what tests to do with me.
he said he had to do a test to confirm I was HIV+, first of all. I wondered aloud if there was a possibility I wasn’t. He said some tests could be wrong and give false results. I told him that in that case I would become a billionaire just by filing lawsuits. Unfortunately that was not to be as the test proved what you and I already know. Now, the real tests had to be done.
As he was drawing blood he began to chat to me. I really do not remember the particular details but I remember that he kept complimenting me. I did not look my age, I was quite cheerful, I was very pretty, etc. At end of it all, he told me my results would be out in a week and gave me his number to call to ask what my CD4 count was just in case I was curious. He also gave me my next appointment date, to come for the next blood test, As I left he told me I was doing very well. That really made me happy.
After the test I went back to the doctor who told me I needed to see a nurse. He described the person I was to see and it turned out it was the lady who had been asking me questions downstairs previously. She led me to her office. Once in, she began to ask questions about why I was there and my treatment so far. I explained the whole LUTH story and she understood completely summarising it as I needed personal care. I warmed up to her instantly. She then explained what the next step could be if my CD4 was low. It was the usual and much needed counseling given before ARVs are dispensed and I was finally certain I was in the right place. After counseling about the right way to maintain health during drug use she counseled me on how to keep up my health to avoid ARVs in the first place. Healthy eating, healthy living, close and critical attention to immediate and remote causes of illnesses in my environment, avoidance of stress. I was surprised she said these things because I had long suspected that they could contribute to health but I never realised they were very essential. He gave many examples of her patients who were extremely healthy and not using ARVs, just because they stuck to a healthy regimen. Then she said those same words ‘ you’re doing very well’. I was so happy to know that what I was feeling inside was not reflecting on the outside. She read my weight and blood pressure and then sent me back to the doctor.
I had to sit with the doctor for a short while so he could fill in my details in a new case note. I noticed several forms on his table. One of them had a list of the drugs and treatment lines that could be administered to the patient. I admit I stole one when he wasn’t looking. And then a curious form titled ‘Hospital Depression AND Anxiety Form’. That had a scoring guide ;
8-10 borderline case
I filled it and I am certain that I was either at the high end of Borderline or I was in Case. His expression betrayed nothing. He then asked the necessary questions, name, age, health history, etc, and I became a bonafide member of the centre. I was free to leave until the test results came out.
Unlike LUTH, where I would be up before the roosters to go to the clinic, I was advised to come for my results by about 12 noon. It took them a little while to find my file as the lab guy had just left for the hospital. Finally it was found and the doctor told me my CD4 count. 533. I was shocked. Apparently, whatever had been reducing my immunity had abated, and I was even above border-line. In other words my immunity had risen so high I was ineligible for drugs. Again. I had no doubt that stress had been practically killing me before.
There was a spring in my steps as I left the clinic. For the first time in a long time I felt very in control of my health and very happy with my life.