Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Happy Families Being Happy Together

Dominic Damian’s family appears to be more conventional.

Sometime the house rings with music as the family plays together – Dominic and his eldest twin daughters – Shoba and Sheila – on the violins, his wife Jessie on the piano and the two youngest, Amanda and Camden, on the tambourine and drums.

Anyone peeping in the window at this warm, intimate family scene straight out of Dicken or Louisa May Alcott would probably never be able to guess that all the children are adopted, and little Amanda is HIV positive.

Dominic was in his car on World Aids Day in 1998 when he heard the DJ talking about a HIV-positive baby girl who was abandoned by her mother. The 43-year-old man, who had already adopted a pair of twin girls pulled over to the side, called his wife and asked her: “Do we have space for another one?”

He mentioned the special circumstances, Jessie agreed. There was always room for another one.

In two weeks, they took little Amanda home from the hospital.

“It was a five-minute decision. No child should be without a parent,” Dominic pointed out.

He admitted that having a HIV-positive child is extremely challenging as one has to be extra disciplined with her health as well as her medication regime. But there is no other distinction made between the children.

“The only way a HIV-positive person could infect another is through a blood transfusion or sex. Of course, we tell her older sisters, to be careful and inform us quickly if Amanda should get a cut, but frankly, the virus only survives a few seconds outside. So there is little threat of contamination. And to them, she’s just another sister.”

Dominic said that they are a happy family, although the parents live everyday with the fact that one of their children will be taken from them eventually. “We’re already seeing deterioration in her health as she is not gaining weight and growing very little. Last year, she had a brain tumour,” he said sadly.

Wasn’t it an incredibly challenging decision to adopt a HIV-positive child? “We empathise with anyone who is in trouble and I always believe any child we see must be treated as our own. There is no courage involved in that,” he shrugged nonchalantly.

Dominic and his wife are committed to ensuring that for whatever length of time she is around, today at least, is as happy as they can make it.

A typical Friday would see him coming awake at nine in the morning (Dominic, who owns a music shop and gives violin and guitar lessons, stays up until three practicing the violin), having a quick shower, and then rushing to pick the two older girls up for their violin lessons.

“I make sure I see them in the afternoon, share a meal and if I don’t, then I go back early at night, play catch and hide and seek with them. You should see this old man running and jumping around,” he chuckled.

Then it’s bedtime, where they are thrown on the bed for a good tickling session, after which Dominic tells them three bedtime stories to put them to sleep. “I make these stories up from the top of my head, and they are usually follow-up episodes each night.”

During the holidays, they go hiking in the jungle where they camp out. For the shorter school holidays, he piles the kids onto a bus and they take day-trips out to small towns like Batang Berjuntai. “We walk around, explore the town, and have a meal, just simple little things like that, which are incredibly fun.”

He said that as long as his kids are around, they will be his “…blood, breath, heart and soul”.

“My greatest strength is my love for them. They are the foundation of my existence.”

No comments:

Post a Comment