Each time Tzu Chi volunteers visited Mr Lim, they would sing a popular classic Hokkien song whose title means “one must work hard, then one will be successful”, in the hope of bringing back his lost memories.
In August 2016, the Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) received a referral about a man with a ruptured aneurysm, Mr Lim. He was unable to take care of his daily living needs after undergoing a brain surgery and his memory was also affected. After evaluating his case, Tzu Chi started supplying nutritional milk and adult diapers to him. Volunteers from the Foundation also visited him each month to give him and his family care and support.
A year later, Mr Lim still required tube feeding and suffered from memory impairment. Thus, Tzu Chi volunteers referred him to the Tzu Chi Free Clinic for treatment. After he was examined by the Free Clinic’s TCM doctor, Chow Khai Shui, Tzu Chi decided to provide him with TCM home care services, to give him regular acupuncture treatment.
During each home visit, Tzu Chi volunteers would sing some familiar songs to Mr Lim, with the hope of kindling his memories. It also helped to assuage his anxiety while he was having acupuncture treatment. Dr Chow would ask him questions in an attempt to stimulate his brain, too. He shared that Mr Lim’s mind was quite confused at first, and that he could not talk logically and was easily agitated. Thus, he and his team tried their best to help him.
During the twice weekly TCM home care visits, Mr. Lim might act up from time to time. He might refuse treatment or shout, and would even pinch and scold the volunteers. Sometimes, he would spit at Dr Chow.
“I feel really sorry towards Dr Chow as my husband got angry and spat on him before,” said Mrs Lim, apologetically.
But Dr Chow understands that Mr Lim is a stroke patient and suffers from brain damage, so he cannot think and behave in a normal way.
After receiving more than a year of TCM home care services, Mr Lim gradually recovered his mobility. Now, he can eat on his own and even help with simple household chores.
Mrs Lim said happily, “Sometimes I will teach my hubby how to fry eggs. As he has a poor memory, I’ll remind him to adjust the heat setting, etc.”
In early April 2019, Mrs Lim began taking her husband to the Tzu Chi Free Clinic for treatment. Initially, she was worried that he would scream and shout in the bus and disturb other passengers, but their trips to and from the clinic went smoothly.
“Now, my husband does not have to wear adult diapers whenever he goes out to see the doctor. He only has to go to the toilet once before leaving the house. Then we will go to the Free Clinic and come back,” shared Mrs Lim.
She is very thankful to Tzu Chi volunteers for the care and company they gave her and her family during their difficult times.
“At first, I was really anxious as I didn’t know how to face the situation. My pillar of support (husband) had fallen down. Later, Tzu Chi volunteers came to us and continually cared for me. They also gave me encouragement. With Tzu Chi’s help, I’m really not afraid anymore. They take care of us like family,” shared Mrs Lim.
Realising the impermanence of life
As Dr Chow conducted the home care visits, he came to realise the impermanence of life.
“We have no idea what will happen to us tomorrow. This was what happened to Mr Lim, too. Before he suffered the stroke, he was able to do anything. But all of a sudden, he became like this. His example teaches us that life is really fleeting, so we must take hold of the present,” he said.
Dr Chow’s daughter, who is also a practising TCM doctor, often followed her father to Mr Lim’s home to give the latter support and acupuncture treatment.
She said, “I’m very thankful to Mr Lim’s family for giving us this opportunity to do home care visits. I saw how he gradually recovered. At first, he wasn’t familiar with us, but gradually, he started to respond to us. I also saw that Mrs Lim has become more adept at taking care of her husband, and feel very happy for them.”
Tzu Chi volunteer. Florence Chew, who regularly joined the TCM team in visiting Mr Lim would also interact with his three children lovingly during the visits. She often encouraged them to care for their parents and help with household chores, as well as reminded them to take good care of themselves.
Mrs Lim is very thankful to Tzu Chi for its help over the years and hopes very much to do something in return. Hence, Chew encouraged her to take her husband and children to a Tzu Chi recycling point to help with sorting recyclables, to play a part in protecting the environment.
“Seeing how Mr Lim has changed himself, I really like it very much. I will continue to accompany this family and hope that they can join the ranks of Tzu Chi volunteers,” said Chew.