Posted on 19.11.2020 | 12:00 AM
It was the time of the week again. In fact, barring any unforeseen development, she would have to go through it three times a week – kidney dialysis, that is. Her small hands grasped the armrests of her wheelchair as she steadied herself. Arthritis had caused her fingers to be painfully gnarled and unnaturally curved. She clenched her teeth as she tried to summon strength to stand up from her wheelchair. Her right hand reached for the side of her dialysis chair for support, as she slowly transferred herself with the aid of a caregiver. Only in recent times that the tremble in her hands became more obvious. Her Parkinson’s disease had worsened. “‘老人病’ or ‘old person’s illness’”, she tittered.
Madam Lucy, 84, was diagnosed with kidney failure four years ago. Since then, she has been undergoing dialysis at Kidney Dialysis Foundation. It was clear that the years of dialysis treatments have taken a toll on her frail, petite body. Among others, a simple roll of her sleeve revealed an arm pockmarked with scars caused by needles.
But she is stronger than she appears and there is much in life that she looks forward to. One only needs to ask her about family to see her eyes brighten up with life.
The second youngest of four children, Lucy came from a close-knitted family and she still shares a loving relationship with her siblings. They would visit each other often. Lucy and her two sisters would chat about their day and bond over the latest Taiwanese drama series.
The New Normal
When the circuit breaker measures were implemented, it took away the home visits that she greatly looked forward to. This dampened her mood briefly, but she and her siblings quickly adapted to the new normal. Never mind with them not being able to visit each other at their homes, the siblings started checking in on each other through daily phone calls. “I call them often, and we still talk about everything under the sun. I look forward to our conversations every day.” Lucy smiled, her wizened eyes twinkling.
She also had to adjust to another change in her life – instead of making the weekly trips to her church to attend services, she could only access online mass serviaces with the help of her nephew.
“I don’t travel to many places like before. I have been spending most of my time at home. I attend digital masses, watch my Taiwanese dramas on TV and talk to my sisters all from home. I get to go out three times a week to the dialysis centre. Now that I am old, the dialysis sessions tire me easily. So, after I get home, I nap,” she laments.
My Sibling, My Harbour
Lucy remains unmarried and shares a flat with her youngest brother Peter, a retired English teacher. She is financially dependent on her brother and relies on his pension to get by. She is a homemaker all her life and was a full-time caregiver to their late mother in her twilight years. This arrangement to live under one roof with her brother is a natural one, as both are single and can lean on each other for companionship. Both siblings get along amicably.
“Since young, we have never fought or argued with each other. Although he is the youngest, he looks out for me and always has me in mind. He would always ask, 吃饱了吗 (Have you eaten), and even when I told him I have eaten, he would still bring home treats to share. We never go hungry with him around. No wonder he was my mother’s favourite,” she shared.
“Wherever he goes, if he sees a food stall with a long queue, he will join the queue and buy the food back for me, especially if it is char kway teow, even though he knows that I have to monitor my food intake when I am on dialysis. I only allow myself to eat a little each time.” Lucy smiles at the lovely thought.
For the Love of Food
Food remains as an important catalyst in bringing everyone together in Lucy’s family. She and her siblings live by a Chinese saying, “能吃是福” (It is a blessing to be able to eat and enjoy food).
Lucy shared fondly that up till recent years, she was the head chef at home. During festive seasons, she would cook up a table of dishes as her siblings and their children would go over to celebrate. Their flat was always filled with joy and laughter, completed with a symphony of aromas from Lucy’s cooking. “My curry chicken and chap chye (Peranakan mixed vegetables) were the most popular dishes at the table. Everyone wanted second helpings,” she recounted.
These days, she cooks less as it is difficult for her to stand for long periods of time. But in the face of all these adversities, Lucy remains positive. “For a few months, they can’t visit me so I don’t cook much. Now that they can visit me once again, I will try to prepare some simple dishes. I feel good cooking in the kitchen. Although I get tired more easily these days, I will do it for my loved ones for as long as I can.”
Now, the younger generation in her family has taken over the festive preparations Today, Lucy’s nieces and nephews keep the festive traditions going by taking over the food preparation and coordinating gatherings to ensure that the family ties remain strong and affectionate.
We have many patients like Lucy who maintain a positive outlook in life and have so much to live for, including wanting to spend more time with their loved ones. Your gift can help to extend the lives of our underprivileged patients. You can choose to support our patients here or donate using your PayNow app via our UEN: 199600830ZK33.