Posted on 27.4.2021 | 12:00 AM
Life’s Simple Pleasures
What seemed like a normal visit to the doctor’s turned out to be something more serious. Mdm Ang Poh Gek was only 34 when she was diagnosed with kidney failure. She said, “I thought it was just a stomach flu, but it was not. It turned out to be kidney failure. I could only blame myself for not taking care of my body and eating habits when I was younger. I worked too much, self-medicated too much and neglected my health.” Due to her young age, the doctor recommended for her to undergo dialysis to prevent her condition from worsening.
Mdm Ang’s concerns gravitated towards her family. Back then, she worked as an administrative staff and was the main breadwinner of the family. Her husband was an odd job labourer and drew an irregular income. With a family of 4 young children to feed, Mdm Ang and her husband were already living from hand to mouth, even having to borrow from her siblings to get by. Now with impending medical fees and treatment, Mdm Ang was at her wits’ end.
“In the early 90s, knowledge about kidney disease was not widespread. Facilities were limited as well. There were hardly any subsidies for kidney-related illnesses and treatments costed more than $2,000 a month. It was simply too expensive to afford. It was easier, and cheaper to give up treatment.”, she shared.
In 1996, Mdm Ang’s case was referred to KDF by a social worker. KDF was a newly founded charity organisation and was one of the few charities that provided subsidies for low-income end-stage kidney patients. With the support of charitable donors from KDF, Mdm Ang qualified for highly subsidised dialysis treatment.
KDF had no dedicated centres then. With the support of Alexandra Hospital, patients like Mdm Ang were able to undergo dialysis within the compounds of the hospital. “I remember having to undergo dialysis in a small area together with other patients at Alexandra Hospital. The place was simply furnished, but the warmth and dedication of the nurses made up for it.”, Mdm Ang recalled.
“There was once I fainted halfway during treatment. Till today, I can still remember the voices of the hospital nurses telling me, “Don’t close your eyes now, Mdm Ang. Your children need you.” Those words gave me courage to fight through some of my darkest moments. I told myself that with each passing day, my children will slowly grow up to be more independent and that these struggles were temporary.”
As KDF grew in operations and served more patients, it outgrew its Alexandra Hospital facilities. The first dedicated KDF Dialysis Centre was opened in Bishan in 1997. Mdm Ang was one of the first few patients to be transferred from the Alexandra Hospital facilities to the Bishan Dialysis Centre. In 2007, KDF built its second dialysis centre at Ghim Moh. Mdm Ang was promptly transferred over to receive treatment till date due to its proximity from her home.
Mdm Ang had a constant problem of high potassium levels in her kidney readings, but with the care and support of the clinical staff, she gradually learnt to manage her condition better. Her mother also chipped in and helped look after her growing children while she went for her dialysis sessions.
Through the years as a dialysis patient, Mdm Ang met many good Samaritans along the way and has never felt alone in her journey. She fondly recalled an incident that touched her greatly, “My eldest daughter’s primary school teacher called me one afternoon and told me that she was not doing well in school and wanted to understand why. I explained the situation at home to her, and she offered to make arrangements for my daughter to stay in school after class daily under her supervision, to catch up with her homework. My daughter started improving in school, and it was such a relief.”
Undergoing dialysis with KDF for the past 25 years was not easy for Mdm Ang, but with numerous helping hands and subsidies, she is able to live to see her children blossom and start their own families.
Today, Mdm Ang, 67 is a proud grandmother blessed with 5 grandchildren. Her eldest daughter works in pastoral care now, serving the underprivileged in society.
“Thank you KDF for keeping me alive, letting me experience life’s simple pleasures. My home may be small, but I am grateful for the roof over my head. My meals may be simple, but they are always had with my loved ones around me. With that, I am happy and that is enough.”, Mdm Ang smiled warmly.