Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013: My Rebirth - Part II (The Test)

"Doy bat hindi ka pa din gumagaling nakaswero na ang gamot mo?"

Inday retorted as I stepped out of our bathroom Wednesday afternoon after hospital discharge. It rang some bells... then lots of bells, the alarming ones! I can't sleep early that night. She does make sense. Why will I not get well when my antibiotics are given through IV already? Why am I still sick? It's been 45 days of chronic coughing without phlegm. I was so tired of thinking, my mind keeps on bugging me, it's more of conscience monologue actually. Then I thought about what I found out online that weekend.

So how exactly do I find out if I am immuno-compromised? And what the hell does that mean?

The answer partly came from Karen Davila. She featured a news article regarding a possible cure for HIV discovered somewhere in Europe. HIV... uh-oh (drop your jaw here). 

I did not see this TV program, but Inday and Anne did. The two hardcore Kapamilya couch potatoes are the most formidable cousins I live with in Cavite. I was later told that Inday and my sister in the province were already texting that afternoon and trying to figure out what's wrong with me. So Thursday very early morning, with eye bags and all, over coffee and the best 4:00 AM pandesal we can get, Inday told me about their plan. Her's and my sister's. I in turn told them what I found out online. I told them about some symptoms of certain infections. Infections that are common to immuno-compromised patients. 

"HALA DOOOOOYYYY!?!?", like an unwanted epiphany, that's all that Anne could utter while opening her sari-sari store rolled up window. The dawn is at hand. The three of us standing in that street knows what I have been doing that exposed me to possible STD, no need to discuss any further. And with what I figured out online, it's really possible I have the virus. But this Pozzie Pinoy(pozziepinoy.blogspot.com) guy says the only way to find out is to take The Test. And so we all decided I needed to get screened that morning, it cannot wait.

Picture credits to pozziepinoy.blogspot.com
I checked the contacts I found online, I had two options, The Manila Social Hygiene Clinic near San Lazaro Hospital in Manila and the RITM-ARG Satellite clinic in Malate. The ever supportive Inday travelled with me from Cavite to Manila on May 23. My contact "Jubel" as I understood it then is a volunteer from SHC but we ended up in RITM-ARG Satellite Clinic in Malate. I'm not totally discrete to strangers. I always believe in the disarming power of the truth, sometimes to a fault. So I candidly told the cab driver that I will have an STD "check-up". I asked him the shortest way to get to San Lazaro from our bus drop off point in Buendia.  

Add me on:

Manong driver instead said, "dito po yun sir" referring to the ARG clinic in Malate as if it's routine to him. He must have ferried some in the past. (Scary gee, muttering like the hooded guy taking you to your doom). We came before the 11:00 AM opening, the steel pull-down door was closed, so we have to wait. I checked online for some contacts of the clinic, found and started texting Chad (not related to the PP website). Told him I'm already in the area but I have to wait for the opening. We had lunch somewhere nearby. Thinking about it now, it was my last chicken inasal haysss. I know Inday was anxious but as ever, she was cheerful(probably because of the unli rice). She even bought me sundae ice cream from a convenience store like I'm about to see a dentist. (Watch out for my story regarding multiple molars extraction last year!)

Picture credits to pozziepinoy.blogspot.com
It was almost 12:00 NN when we got inside the clinic, the receiving area was almost full already. I filled up the forms and waited for my turn. Inday and I were whispering in Kinaray-a so those who overhear us won't understand what we are talking about, or so we thought. Very rude. Inday was more rude, she calls people-like-us(PLU) "incomplete"(as noun and not adjective). It was a bad habit we learned from some relatives back in the province, and that is because there are many "incompletes" in our famiy and friends, Inday included. "Doy, incomplete man ra?", referring to fellow clients in the clinic. People could really be innocently discriminating and that includes the two "incomplete" whispering. And to answer one of the 2013 Miss Earth final questions: They are the worse kind of discrimination, those that appear to be normal and innocent. Because they have salient but deep ethical abrogation. What!? Simply, it's bad to call people names, so dear readers please deal with it and get done with it.

Chad told us there is pre and post counselling. While waiting for my batch for the pre counselling, I helped a clinic staff fix the widescreen LCD TV, I'm IT by profession anyway. We were watching Eat Bulaga then, we did not mind although we were solid Showtimers, Inday, Anne and me. Then my phone rang, I have to step outside to receive a call from my sister. I told her we're already in the clinic. She told me to hang on, that despite anything she will stand for me, and that I still enjoy the love, support and understanding of our family. I had mixed emotions. I felt bad I will surely make them disappointed. Afraid, that they will get hurt. Consoled, that my greatest ally called. I am not proud of what I am about to find out but I sure feel determined with what I am about to do. Finding what's wrong and fixing it.

The next four "testees" were called. Inday stayed and watched TV. We went upstairs inside the blue room and the counselling started. It was more of a short literacy course on STD and HIV/AIDS. It was educational, most of it I already read online. The only difference is that Chad was able to verbalize my fears and equally, he was able to enlighten me on the win-win situation of getting screened. "Knowing your status is being responsible", I remember he said among others.

It definitely helped me prepare for the next step, which is the taking of blood sample for screening. One at a time we were called to another smaller room. Then we were told to wait downstairs or we can go back for the results after 2 to 4 hours. Having lunch earlier, Inday and I decided to stay. Her anxiety was already showing up. I still held my composure. A lot of things were running in my mind. What to do if it's positive? I did not even consider what to do if it says negative. I can already feel it. I can sense it. I know it's going to be positive. And I'm positive about it. No need to counter my gut feeling. It usually ends up right. I was not out of bounds anyway, I'm in THAT territory. So I was not being a clairvoyant, I just know my chances. 

I lived a life of risky behaviour, and I'm about to get my prize.   

to be continued...