by Bellamy Leong
"Hello Bellamy, welcome to my house!” a friendly voice resonated warmly across the corridor, as I approached Mr Hussen's humble abode at Jurong West. With a radiant smile, he greeted me with open arms, seemingly inviting me into the very heart of his story as a kidney transplant patient.
The life journey of Mr Hussen Bin Haroon, aged 53, is nothing short of inspiring. Despite facing the challenges of kidney disease and undergoing dialysis for over a decade, his determination and positive outlook never wavered. As the sole breadwinner of a family of 4, he eagerly shares his remarkable story of strength, hope, and the immeasurable power of support, which were pivotal in his journey as a kidney patient, who was fortunate enough to undergo a successful kidney transplant.
It all started with a fateful day in 2010, when Mr Hussen first noticed something was amiss. His foot had been gradually swelling, but he didn't pay it much attention, thinking it would resolve on its own. Little did he know, it was a sign of something much more serious. He continued to go about his daily routine, heading to work in the mornings, but he couldn't ignore the tightness in his shoe and the increasing fatigue and breathlessness that weighed him down. Mr Hussen’s appetite also took a turn for the worse as every time he tried to eat something, his body would reject it, causing him to vomit. It was a disheartening cycle, as his weakened kidneys struggled to filter and process waste effectively.
Concerned about his worsening condition, Mr Hussen decided to seek medical help and he went to the A&E Department at Parkway East Hospital. The doctor took one look at his swollen leg and suspected that something might be wrong with his kidneys. The following morning, tests were conducted, including X-rays and blood work, and it was then that the doctor delivered the devastating news, Mr Hussen's kidneys had failed.
It felt like a bolt from the blue, a sudden and unexpected blow. The news that his kidney was no longer functioning came as a shock to Mr Hussen, leaving him feeling helpless and unsure of what lay ahead. He recalled breaking the news to his wife, Ms Norah, in a frantic tone, his voice choked with sobs, “Alamak! Why are things this way suddenly? The doctor said my kidneys have failed!”
After keeping his emotions in check, Mr Hussen and his wife were briefed by the doctor on how to go about managing Mr Hussen’s situation by undergoing kidney dialysis treatment, and he will be placed on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant. Mr Hussen commenced his dialysis treatment at a private dialysis centre, where he began with peritoneal dialysis (PD), before transitioning to haemodialysis (HD) after 3 months due to peritonitis. Over time, financial woes arising from the high cost of dialysis treatment, and the inconvenience of long travelling hours to the private dialysis centre troubled him. When Mr Hussen went to SGH for his renal appointment, he voiced his concerns to the doctor in charge, Dr Sheryl Gan, who advised him to dialyse at the Kidney Dialysis Foundation (KDF).
Mr Hussen dialysed at the Ghim Moh KDF Dialysis Centre for 12 years as it was the closest dialysis centre to his home. The initial 2 years of his dialysis journey were an arduous one as he found it difficult to put up with the lifestyle changes that he had to undergo as a kidney patient, such as controlling his daily fluid intake, and not being able to freely eat whatever he likes. However, his wife wholeheartedly embraced the role of being his unwavering pillar of support, frequently offering him words of encouragement and reminding him, “Sayang, always think positive in this journey. If you are feeling down, I will be feeling down as well, and our kids will be affected too. This will not be good for our family in the long run.”
Driven by the support of his wife, Mr Hussen decided to look at the positive areas in his life to build his mental fortitude. He exclaimed to me that he was very thankful to his boss and colleagues at Parkway Pantai, a healthcare organisation that he worked at for 30 years and ongoing, as a delivery dispatcher for clinical samples. When he was diagnosed with kidney disease, Mr Hussen was afraid that he might be outcasted by society, and that he would also lose his job due to the demands of having to go for dialysis at least 3 times a week. However, his boss and colleagues were very understanding of his situation, and they were willing to accommodate a flexible working arrangement for Mr Hussen to take on morning shifts on days that he has to go for dialysis. His colleagues also visited him from time to time at the dialysis centre, to provide him with morale support and cheer him on in his fight against kidney disease.
During his time at the dialysis centre, Mr Hussen also recalled forming connections with other fellow patients like Mr Joseph and Madam Rosiah. They shared their stories and provided each other with emotional support, creating a sense of camaraderie in the face of adversity. The nurses at the dialysis centre also took excellent care of Mr Hussen, ensuring his comfort and well-being during his dialysis treatment sessions.
After years of waiting and 12 years of dialysis treatments, Mr Hussen finally received the long-awaited call for a kidney transplant. The first attempt at a transplant was unsuccessful due to complications, but a second call came while he was at work. With the support of his understanding manager, Mr Hussen rushed to Singapore General Hospital (SGH) to undergo the life-changing procedure on 29th December last year, at SGH.
Following the successful transplant, the dietary habits of Mr Hussen were carefully managed by him and his wife to ensure the longevity of his new kidneys. Some of his current dietary habits include:
- Avoiding Salty and High Potassium-foods
- Avoiding the consumption of certain foods and fruits like eggs, grapefruit, and pomelo
- Adopting healthier cooking options like stewing and boiling, instead of frying
- Consuming lean protein options like fish and chicken
- Drinking at least 3 litres of water daily
- Regulating the consumption of fruit juice
Aside from adopting these dietary habits, Mr Hussen also prioritised regular diabetes checks and attended follow-up renal appointments to monitor his recovery progress. This journey has taught him the significance of taking proactive measures and making necessary adjustments to preserve the precious gift of life he has received.
When Mr Hussen was officially discharged on 26 January 2023, his life took a remarkable turn as he experienced a newfound sense of normalcy. His two children expressed their joy and relief that their father could now live a healthier and more active life, and this milestone became a catalyst in strengthening his family’s bond. He made it a point to spend more time with his family, as it was previously challenging due to the demands of dialysis. Mr Hussen deeply cherishes the quality time spent with his loved ones, be it watching movies at home or supporting his children in their educational pursuits and sports interests. He also dreams of embarking on a spiritual trip to Mecca one day with his family.
Clasping his wife’s hands as he spoke, Mr Hussen expressed his heartfelt gratitude to his wife, who has been a constant source of positivity and support. “Family support can provide a strong foundation for managing the mental and emotional impact of kidney disease,” he remarked. Mr Hussen hopes that his story serves as a beacon of hope for other dialysis patients, reminding them not to lose faith and to believe in the possibility of a successful transplant. He is grateful to the KDF staff and the hospital doctors for their unwavering dedication to helping patients like him navigate the demands of kidney disease.
Mr Hussen's story is a testament to the power of resilience, the strength of family bonds, and the transformative impact of a successful kidney transplant. As a devoted Liverpool fan, he finds solace in the team's slogan, "You'll never walk alone." This sentiment resonates deeply with Mr Hussen, as he draws parallels between the unwavering support of his family and the unyielding camaraderie of Liverpool fans. With his wife's words of encouragement and his family's presence, he hopes that other kidney patients will never walk alone, even during the toughest times. It is through stories like Mr. Hussen's that we are reminded of the remarkable resilience of the human spirit and the power of family and support from one’s circle of influence, to navigate life's hurdles