Caregivers, patients honoured at ceremony by SingHealth

Madam Ang visits her comatose husband in hospital every day while caring for their two teenage sons. Mr Lee, who was diagnosed with rectal cancer, is an active colorectal ambassador and started a support group for patients like himself.
Madam Ang visits her comatose husband in hospital every day while caring for their two teenage sons. Mr Lee, who was diagnosed with rectal cancer, is an active colorectal ambassador and started a support group for patients like himself.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Store deliveryman Mong Weng Fook has been in a coma ever since he fell from a ladder and suffered a severe head injury in 2002.

Now 63, he is still in Ren Ci Hospital where his wife, Madam Juliana Ang, visits him every day, making an hour-long trip between her shifts as a part-time administrative assistant.

"I sponge him every day so that he feels more comfortable and does not get bed sores," said the 56-year-old. "I also steam some pear or apple juice for his nightly feed and make new sets of clothes for him every year."

Madam Ang was among 14 caregivers honoured at a SingHealth awards ceremony at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) yesterday.

Each took home $250 in shopping vouchers and a plaque.

"I feel that it is my duty as a wife to take care of my husband, to whom I have been married for 30 years," she said. "My husband was a quiet man but he took care of the family well, showing his love in his own quiet way."

Madam Ang has raised her two sons single-handedly. Aged 13 and 16 when the accident happened, they went through a rebellious phase as they could not accept the sudden absence of their father.

Eventually, her sons grew distant from their father as he appeared unresponsive during their visits, although he can breathe unassisted. The chances of his regaining consciousness are low.

"I hope that one day they will visit him of their own accord, after seeing how I have persisted over the years," she said.

Her efforts were noticed by Ms Sek Ah Suan, a social work associate at Ren Ci Hospital who nominated her for the award.

"I admire her perseverance as she shoulders and cares for the family by herself," said Ms Sek. "To provide for her sons' education, she has to borrow money and is now working hard to pay off the debt."

Twenty-three inspirational patients were also singled out for their resilience and strength in the face of adversity.

Among them is former tyre businessman Thomas Lee, who was diagnosed with Stage 2 rectal cancer in 2008 - which came as a shock as he "ate well, worked hard and slept well". Since his rectum was removed surgically, he has to go to the toilet up to 20 times a day. Yet, he dealt with the situation with a touch of humour. "At least I know my body is detoxed," he said, laughing.

Mr Lee is an active colorectal ambassador at SGH and started the Bowel Chat support group to help patients like himself.

Patient support group is a new category added to this year's awards. The Burns Support Group was among five groups awarded.

Founded by burn survivor Freddie Neo, 61, in 2003, the group of 30 survivors and healthcare professionals interact with burn patients to help them on their road to recovery.

Mr Neo said: "When a patient sees a survivor and how they get on with life, he is encouraged to overcome his own challenges."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2016, with the headline 'Caregivers, patients honoured at ceremony by SingHealth'. Print Edition | Subscribe