Posted on 06.10.2021 | 12:00 AM
The Contentment in Life
As I walked towards the KDF Bishan dialysis centre, I spotted a petite lady waiting alongside with other patients for their dialysis sessions to begin. There she was, my patient to interview for the day.
Once the nurses were ready to welcome them in after the disinfection routine, Mdm Toh Poh Giek, 64, walked in confidently with her ART test in hand. Even with enhanced testing measures in place due to the COVID-19 spread in the community, Mdm Toh’s spirits continue to remain high.
After introducing myself, I followed Mdm Toh to her assigned seat and she started to unpack the items required for her dialysis session. “I have done this for so many years!” chirped Mdm Toh as she laid out medical tapes on her pull-out table. While waiting for the nurses to make their rounds, she got busy with her own preparations and measured her own blood pressure.
When asked why she is doing the preparation work on her own, Mdm Toh looked at me with a big smile and said: “I keep myself moving by doing all these before the nurses come.” Her independence has indeed helped to relieve the dialysis nurses from some of these menial tasks.
Once Mdm Toh was settled in and the nurse had attended to her to commence her dialysis treatment for the day, she started sharing her life story with me.
A Short-lived Dream
Mdm Toh led your typical 1970s Singaporean dream. At the tender age of 24, she got married to her husband who was a full-time hawker. With two sons and a daughter in tow, Mdm Toh was a homemaker and kept tabs on the household. It proved to be a handful for Mdm Toh, but she had the help of her mother-in-law, who helped raise her daughter. Life for the family was simple and relatively uneventful.
When Mdm Toh turned 40, she discovered lumps and growths on her skin and was slightly concerned. She went for a medical checkup, and the doctors ran further tests. The lumps on her skin were signs of an internal infection, and Mdm Toh was diagnosed with acute kidney failure.
Mdm Toh had to undergo dialysis for her condition. Even though all her children were working by the time of her diagnosis, and her husband was still the sole breadwinner of the family, forking out more than $2,000 monthly for Mdm Toh’s dialysis and medical needs proved to be financially challenging for the family. She was referred to KDF to receive subsidised dialysis to ease her family’s finances.
One Day at A Time
Halfway through our conversation, she shared that her husband has been unconscious in the hospital for the past month due to a work accident. He had a fall at the hawker stall and landed on his head. Due to her dialysis schedule and the COVID-19 enhanced measurements in place at the hospital, her eldest son is currently taking care of her husband.
Behind her stoic features, Mdm Toh has accepted the fate of her husband and her family. Having been on dialysis treatments for 24 years, nothing seems to come as any surprise for her.
“One day at a time,” she smiled weakly.
Taking Life By the Hand
Mdm Toh currently lives in a rented two-room HDB flat with her husband and her two sons. Her eldest son used to be living alone but moved back in the recent years to look after the elderly parents. He works full-time as a retail staff. Her daughter has since moved out and started her own family.
While her daughter does not call often, she still understands and appreciates that her daughter comes by often to visit her. “She has her own family, and she is busy as well. She has young children, and it is not convenient for her too. I don’t even chase her for a second grandchild! Only if she wants to have another,” she laughed.
Even though her younger son was already 36 years old, she still worries for her him. He used to have a job, but it has been almost 8 years since he had worked due to him suffering from mental health issues. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, he has to go for regular follow-ups at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to prevent relapses. He receives subsidies from IMH for his medications.
When asked if Mdm Toh if any further assistance could be of help to her family, she concluded with great contentment, “There are others who need the help more than us.” We would like to wish Mdm Toh and her family good health and a speedy recovery for her husband.