Tadum's story

After the ART 2004

Tadum is now 17 years old and the eldest of the kids living with HIV at Sarnelli House. Tadum’s parents are both dead, and she came to Sarnelli House when she was 9 years old in 2001 after being sold to a taxi driver, raped and abused. She probably contracted HIV from these incidents. Tadum has not always been blind. As she became sicker from AIDS and developed TB, she was also infected with the herpes virus that causes chicken pox and shingles, which probably caused her blindness. Fr Shea tells the story of how he saw her walking one day holding on to the wall, and he asked her what she was doing. She told him she couldn’t see. He scooped her up and took her to the hospital, but it was too late to reverse the damage that the infection had done.

In 2002 Tadum and Bandum were the 2 children sickest from AIDS who were started on the ART (Antiretroviral Therapy). Tadum was so thin and weak, and her CD4 marker for her immune system were almost non existent. She was a prey to all the horrible infections that is caused by a weakened immune system. As well as this she had to face a barrage of blood tests, medical examinations, hospital admissions and eventually mouthfuls of ART tablets. After the first 2 months of being on the medicine when it seemed that she was just getting sicker and losing more weight she eventually began to improve, and it was with Tadum’s improvement that everyone could finally see just how life giving the medicines are.

holding court 2004

Tadum regained some sight in the form of colors and light after a cataract operation, but this was short lived. As the children around her began to grow stronger and go to school, Tadum was often the only older girl at home at Sarnelli during the week. She took to listening to music and listening to the radio. Many times the staff contacted blind schools in Bangkok and other areas to see if Tadum could be accepted to finish her education. These schools regularly turned her down because of her HIV status. Living at Sarnelli House, as the eldest girl Tadum always regained her high standing in the eyes of the other children and even being blind she would know what was happening and who was doing what. One stern word from her and the little ones would stop what they were doing and behave.

Nazareth House 2009 (left), Lyn and Tadum (right)

When Nazareth House was opened in 2008, and 12 teenage girls went to live there, Tadum’s life became more interesting. She was introduced to Dtap a young man who was born blind, but who has led a more fortunate life than Tadum in some ways. He is the brother of Dtim who works in the office at Sarnelli House and manages the accounts. Dtap is independent, can read and write in Braille, and used to swim for the Thailand national swimming team. He has travelled out of Thailand, can speak English, and earns money selling lottery tickets, which is one of the few paying jobs for blind people in Thailand.

Tadum and Dtap

Dtap gave Tadum a different perspective on her life. She began to use the white fold up cane to get around on her own. She also began to learn Braille from Dtap. It was hard for Tadum to go from a time of virtual aimlessness to a routine 8am – 4pm teaching schedule. The word lazy was tossed around a lot and Tadum admitted that she had to push herself to keep to the routine. Living at Nazareth also meant that she had to do her own laundry, keep her room clean and tidy and help with preparing meals. She was also taught how to crochet and has mastered that skill well. This year Tadum’s ART medications were changed from 4 tablets twice a day to 1 tablet twice a day, so she has control of her medicines and takes them with her wherever she goes, using her talking wristwatch to know what time it is. Her health is now not a major concern, where previously it occupied her whole life. She has to go to the doctors every 3 months for a blood test and to pick up her 3 month supply of tablets.


Tadum has begun to study Thai massage. She attends massage school twice a week in Nongkhai. It is only a small cement floored room, with 5 simple wooden beds covered by thin rubber mattresses. The 5 students and the teacher are blind. Meeting new people has improved Tadum’s love life. A young man at the school has professed his liking for Tadum but she has turned him down amidst much teasing from the girls at Nazareth House. She even submitted to photos being taken of her and the class mates, but wanted all of the ones of the hapless boyfriend to be in her hands only.

At massage school

Tadum goes most Sundays to a house in Nongkhai. A young woman named Lada lives there with her elderly parents. Lada has AIDS and is now unable to walk. She lies on a mat on the floor. Her right side is completely paralysed. Her husband died of AIDS a few years ago and she has been connected to the Sarnelli Outreach Team for about a year, who take her for hospital visits and visit her and her family at home. Lada is slowly deteriorating, is depressed that she has no friends and is really struggling to find something to live for. Visiting Lada is something that Tadum enjoys and she has developed a caring relationship with her, and is able to empathise with Lada by using her touch and companionship.

Tadum and Lada

In August this year, a gentleman called Rob from The Netherlands arrived at Sarnelli. He had visited before and was very impressed with Tadum. This time he bought a tandem bike for Tadum. She was excited and has been cycling around with a change of driver every 5 minutes as everyone wants to have a go being the driver in front.

Tadum and the tandem bike

Tadum is much loved and despite her blindness knows exactly what is going on amongst the girls at Nazareth. She is often the calm head and sensible voice for the other girls. This last year has seen her become more independent as her world opens up. Although protected here at Sarnelli House she is beginning to take a few small steps into the outside world as those here at Sarnelli and those generous visitors and donors abroad, support and nurture Tadum on her journey.


(August 2009)

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