Man who lost the use of his legs but not his independence wins inspirational patient prize

SINGAPORE - Mr Seah See Seng was just shy of 40 when he fell victim to a workplace accident - a one tonne machine fell on him, leaving him paralysed waist down.

The then engineering transporter - who became wheelchair-bound - had to give up his job. But the 61-year-old refused to give up his independence.

"I learnt to get dressed and move around on my own and I improvised by using poles to switch off the lights and close the windows," he said.

Mr Seah supports himself by selling tissue at Sembawang MRT and even sets aside time to repair broken wheelchairs for the elderly in his neighbourhood.

He was one of the 32 people who were given awards for their positive attitudes and resilience at the Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Award on Tuesday.

The awards were launched in 2010 to honour patients and caregivers with positive attitudes who are an inspiration to healthcare staff. Any health group can make nominations.

This year, the 23 patients and nine caregivers were nominated by health institutions run by public health group SingHealth, Singapore Eye Research Institute, Ren Ci Hospital and Home Nursing Foundation.

The winners walked away with $250 gift vouchers and a plaque.

But for Mr Benson Sim, 66, the biggest reward is seeing the smiles on the faces of the friends he takes care of.

The retiree, who used to work in the pharmaceutical industry, has been caregiver to 11 of his friends, with health problems ranging from glaucoma to cancer, over the last 20 years.

"Not many caregivers have knowledge about diet, medication and nutrition so I try to help my friends because I have some basic knowledge," he said.

Mr Sim cooks meals for them, accompanies them to check-ups and translates medical advice into mandarin or dialect for them.

Dr Allan Fong, deputy head and consultant at the Singapore National Eye Centre, said he was shocked to learn that Benson was not related by blood to any of his charges.

"If more people in Singapore can adopt his spirit of befriending and caring for those around him, it would solve a lot of problems that our ageing society faces," he added.