Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV

Oct 29, 2012

Visit to the prison hospital

visiting by the bedside
visiting by the bedside

The Siam-Care team visits Klong Prem prison hospital once a week. This hospital accepts the sick from 7 prisons in greater Bangkok and the very sick from different parts of the country. What does a visit look like? The SC staff go up to the men's hospice ward, the name hospice is a bit misleading as the patients are mainly those who are HIV positive or those suffering for severe long-term sicknesses. The hospital is a nice clean place with good equipment and well stocked. The difference with other hospitals is of course that we can't just walk in; first we check in with the guards, we get rid of all our materials and go in with just a pen and notebook. Before we even get to the hospital we have already passed 3 heavy metal doors that slam shut behind us, once at the ward there are bars all around the wards and heavy doors with even  heavier padlocks. These doors are opened early morning so nurses and doctors can get on the ward, and locked again at 3.30 p.m. During the time the patients are locked up there are prisoners on duty who have received some medical training and can help the patients. Siam-Care team generally is allowed 2 hours on the ward to visit, encourage, advice and meet with the patients.

The first patient we meet we will call 'Oeun', he has been on the ward since 2010 and is paralyzed from the waist downwards. Oeun is married and has 2 children, a 15 year old daughter and a 12 year old son. Oeun, his wife and son are all HIV positive. His wife last came to visit when he was still in the regular prison. The wife works  in a department store and hardly gets any days off. She needs to keep what ever days off she has, using them to go to her and her son's hospital appointments. Knowing Oeun has a long sentence she fears he will not come out alive and stopped visiting.
When the son was 10 he developed meningitis, but thankfully recovered well.
Oeun's crime is drug related, when he was arrested he already knew he was HIV positive, in 2006 he started on ARV medication in the prison.
Beginning of this year Oeun stopped eating, he didn't want to live any longer. He felt a burden to his peers on the ward who have to carry him to the shower to clean him up as he is incontinent. He stopped talking and just wanted to die. His skin became  really bad with rashes, he developed bedsores but insisted on not being helped by anyone.
The Siam-Care team would always go over and try and talk with him but he would just be laying on the bed with eyes closed. Then one day he told us why he had given up; his family had abandoned him, so why even try and live. After many phone calls and visits to the the family's house, never finding them at home, we finally managed to get hold of the wife and after explaining the situation she agreed to come and visit once more to say goodbye, so an appointment was made. The wife came with her son, Oeun opened his eyes, looked at them and slowly tears formed. They didn't say much, but after the visit he started eating again. The next week, both children came with the mother, we who were there watching from the distance were all moved as we watched the family touch each other, talk and cry. Since then there are visits more regular, Siam-Care supports the family to come and Oeun has started eating again and every now and again a smile will form on his face when talking about his family. He has hope again!

An other patient we visit regularly is Phet, this time it was with a heavy heart. We have to tell Phet that his wife died. Phet is 54 years old and doing a 25 year drug related sentence. Since he is a second time offender he will not be allegeable for amnesty soon. Phet is married with 3 adolescent children. He was in a car accident before coming to prison the second time and has been in a wheelchair ever since. His overall health is good but his emotional health is not. He is very down, angry at himself for having done drugs a second time and feeling guilty for that he can't be there for his sick wife. In the hospital he is very helpful to his peers, has learned to get around in the wheelchair easily and does errands for the bed-ridden.
Phet had asked Siam-Care staff to visit his wife as she was sick and we have done so regularly. Sadly she was not able to regain her health and died last week, Siam-Care staff attended the funeral and helped cover some of the cost. We have not been able to tell Phet about his wife before today, somehow he was expecting the news but as we told him he wheeled of to have some much needed time on his own. 

listening to very sick patient
listening to very sick patient

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Project Leader

Jan-Peter Kelder

Manager of Communications
Bangkok, Thailand

Where is this project located?

Map of Support 100 Thai prisoners and families with HIV