From where she was lying day in and day out, Hamidah’s view of the outside world was obstructed by the grilles of a window. Since her discharge from the hospital after being treated for a stroke 14 years ago, she had been confined to her sickbed. Oftentimes, the only thing that kept her company was a television set next to her bed.
Hamidah used to live with her younger son and his wife in a one-bedroom flat. The small unit was packed with junk and ventilation was poor. The occasional squabbles between Lokman and his wife were always within earshot of Hamidah. “My mum would feel sad whenever she heard us quarrelling,” said Lokman.
Just over 30 years old, Lokman is the closest caregiver of Hamidah. Despite suffering from multiple medical conditions, he took care of his mother all by himself. “My mother gave birth to me; she has given me much more than what I am doing for her now,” said Lokman, who has been painstakingly caring for his mother for over ten years without complaints. However, he later found himself growing weaker day by day.
As a matter of fact, Lokman has been suffering from diabetes and hypertension for a long time, and has also developed cataracts in both his eyes. After having been diagnosed as unfit for work by his doctor, he had to give up his two jobs, and his wife became the sole breadwinner of the family. To save money, Lokman stopped seeking medical treatments, and he was mostly homebound due to frequent giddy spells. He almost never got out of his home except when it was time to buy food, thus shutting himself from the outside world.
Seeing that Lokman was becoming more and more depressed, and that both his and his mother’s health needed attention, a friend referred them to Tzu Chi Singapore in August, 2014. The next day his case was reported, a Tzu Chi home care and medical team visited his family to provide care and to learn more about their situation.
Home Care With Loving-Kindness
“They burst into tears when they first saw us, even before we uttered any words.” Nurse Lim Mee Nguk would never forget the hopeful eyes of the mother and son, as well as the messy and filthy environment in which they lived during the first visit. She was determined to do what she could to help them.
Hamidah spoke only Malay, slurring as she spoke, so Lokman had to help interpret for the visitors. Dr Edwin Lim of the home care team diagnosed Hamidah with malnutrition, fluid retention, and high blood pressure. Hence, apart from paying for her medications, Tzu Chi also provided Hamidah with protein and nutrition powder to help improve her physical condition.
Hamidah’s bed was old and worn out, and the broken parts of the bed frame were tied together with a piece of cloth. She ate and sleep on her bed the whole year round. Since Lokman hurt his back two to three years ago, he had not been able to move his mother out of the bed, let alone clean her body thoroughly. Her body was covered with patches of dirt as a result.
The home care team then delivered an automatic adjustable bed to Hamidah’s home. Lying in her new bed, Hamidah was smiling from ear to ear, as she could now help herself sit upright by adjusting the bed.
Members of the home care team gave Hamidah yet another pleasant surprise—they helped to bathe her and even gave her a haircut. Lim Mee Nguk and three other volunteers spent two hours scrubbing and washing Hamidah in a hot and humid bathroom. Though they were drenched in their own perspiration from the hard work, they felt a great sense of achievement when they saw how clean Hamidah’s body was after the bath.
“She feels that she is cleaner now, so do I!” Lim added matter-of-factly, “You have to keep yourself clean if you want to be healthy. How can one be healthy without a clean body?”
Apart from Tzu Chi, a Muslim charitable organization has also extended its help to the family by cleaning up their home.
Son Inspired by Mother’s Strength
Due to financial constraints, Hamidah discontinued her medical treatments for stroke after she had been discharged from the hospital, thereby missing the critical period of post-stroke rehabilitation. Though she had been paralyzed for more than 10 years, the Tzu Chi medical team did not give up on her. They devised a rehabilitation regimen to help her regain strength in her hands and back, as well as the ability to balance her body.
Her twice-a-week physiotherapy sessions lasted for half a month before the physiotherapist reduced it to one session per week. How much progress Hamidah can make depends very much on her own efforts. Whenever a member of the home care team asked, “Did you practise the exercises every day?”, Hamidah would nod her head emphatically, her eyes sparkling with confidence.
On 27 October, 2014, with the assistance of four members of the home care team, Hamidah managed to sit upright again and maintained this posture for five full minutes! Lokman was moved to tears. “I feel so proud and happy! Mom can sit upright now!”
Seeing that his mother’s condition was improving day by day and that she was now able to feed herself with her right hand, Lokman started to reflect upon himself ─ shouldn’t he work to overcome his own challenges in health, work and marriage, too?
An optometrist from TIMA, Cai Kun Ling, prescribed a pair of glasses for Lokman, and the home care team continued to give him care during the home visits, often encouraging him with positive words. His friends, too, urged him to pull himself together, so that he could take good care of his mother.
Five months later, Lokman finally summoned up the courage to consult a doctor at a polyclinic near his home, with the company of a senior Tzu Chi volunteer, Zhang Ai Ping. He was then referred to a hospital for further treatments. Later, both he and his mother moved in to live with his elder brother.
At that time, Lokman could not walk fast and he would start panting after every few steps. To shed his weight, he began to watch his diet and would often work out by playing sepak takraw with his friends in the neighbourhood. He eventually managed to lose 7kg in just two months. His body became lighter, and he has also grown more confident of himself.
Now, Lokman looks forward to taking his mother for strolls in a wheelchair. “If my mother can do it, I should be able to do even better since I can still move around on my own,” he said.
A Renewed Life
After the mother and son moved into their new home, the Tzu Chi home care team continues to visit them to provide medical help. For the past 14 years, Lokman has always deemed it his duty to look after his mother and never thought of sharing this responsibility with others.
“At first, I was a little suspicious as Tzu Chi is a Buddhist organization and I was not sure about their motive then,” he revealed. “But after a few home visits, I could really feel the sincerity of the home care team. I was very touched, as what they have done truly transcended race and religion.”
Lokman said that the continued love and care from Tzu Chi was beyond what a family could offer, and that it carried a special significance to him. “I really appreciate and am very grateful to the Tzu Chi home care team for their help. I will definitely do my part to help if a need arises in the future.”
The home care team is happy to see how Lokman has picked himself up again. Lim Mee Nguk further hopes that Lokman can return to the work force one day.
This day, Zhang Ai Ping has brought some colour pencils and paper for Hamidah, hoping that she could improve the dexterity of her hands through drawing. The 59-year-old mother began drawing and colouring, beaming happily like a child.
Soon, the blank sheet of white paper is covered with the drawing of a rising sun and floating clouds, just like what Hamidah can now see from her window when she sits upright in her bed.