Posted on 27.1.2021 | 12:00 AM
Dialysis has accompanied Mdm Wong Lai Lai for a large part of her life. She is 53 years old this year and was diagnosed with early-stage kidney disease when she was 21. When she was 24, Mdm Wong got married, and soon after she became pregnant. For most people, this would be a joyous development, but such was not the case for her. “My doctor advised against this pregnancy. The doctor warned that should I decide to progress with it, my kidney condition would likely deteriorate twice as fast and I would require dialysis in less than 10 years,” she recollected.
Despite the warning, Mdm Wong went ahead with the pregnancy. She became a homemaker after her son was born. She lapsed on her medical check-ups for some 4 years, then one day she started vomiting constantly. She could not stomach any food. Her weight plummeted to 35kg. She finally went to the hospital, but it was a little too late. “My blood pressure levels were dangerously high. The doctors told me that my kidney disease had reached end-stage. Dialysis was the only option left to keep me alive,” she recalled solemnly. The prognosis struck her like a death sentence.
Looking down at her arm scarred from years of needling, she continued, “When I was younger, I remember seeing on television kidney patients hooked up to the machines and I secretly hoped that I would never reach that stage. I never expected myself to be one of them so quickly.” Life was not easy for Mdm Wong. Her husband was not earning much and with a young son in tow, there was barely enough left to pay for her medical bills.
Besides financial needs, she also had to deal with social stigma. “Due to dialysis, I have a fistula (enlarged vein) on my arm and people would shun me when they see it. There was once I reached out to shake a friend’s hand during a gathering. She hesitated to take it and asked if what I had was contagious. I almost broke down there and then. I told her that I hold my son with the same arm, and it is safe to shake her hand with it.” She continued, “I struggled to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
In 2001, Mdm Wong was referred to KDF by a social worker, and has been dialysing with KDF since. At KDF, she started receiving full subsidies for her treatments.
To help meet financial needs, Mdm Wong and her husband decided to open a food stall in a junior college’s canteen. This provided them with a more stable income. It enabled them to put their son through school. In early 2020, they encountered a setback. They were badly affected by COVID-19 and circuit breaker measures. Schools were closed, and their canteen food stall business followed soon after. To make things worse, her husband suffered a stroke in June, and Mdm Wong resolutely took on the role as his main caregiver.
But there is always a silver lining of hope within every storm cloud. Mdm Wong is now a proud grandmother as her son recently got married and had a son. She has also managed to find part-time employment as a service crew to help with the expenses.
With a twinkle in her bespectacled eyes, she quipped, “I have never expected that dialysis could help me live on for so long. This is now part of my life routine. By choosing to stay positive, I look forward to spending time with my family every day. Through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, they have given me a renewed purpose and simple happiness in life.”