His world collapsed when he couldn't walk

Mr Ho Soon Chye had to use a wheelchair when his arthritic knees gave way three years ago. The 75-year-old, who is divorced and estranged from his daughter, did not see meaning in life and worried about his future. But after rehabilitation, he can wa
Mr Ho Soon Chye had to use a wheelchair when his arthritic knees gave way three years ago. The 75-year-old, who is divorced and estranged from his daughter, did not see meaning in life and worried about his future. But after rehabilitation, he can walk without a walking stick and is his jovial self again.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

For 30 years, Mr Ho Soon Chye was fine living on his own. But his world collapsed three years ago when his arthritic knees gave way.

He had to use a wheelchair and did away with his usual daily walks to the market to chat with his friends because the journey there involved too many steps for him to manage in a wheelchair.

He could not do simple tasks, such as cooking, and had to turn to his neighbours for help.

"I was in pain and felt so helpless. I did not see any meaning in life any more as I couldn't do what I used to do and there was nobody around," the 75-year-old said in Mandarin. He is divorced and is estranged from his only daughter.

The former odd-job worker slipped into such a deep funk that he needed to take sleeping pills to fall asleep. In the day, he battled loneliness by reading newspapers and watching television.

"I kept worrying about my future and how I was going to cope as the doctor said my legs had no rehabilitation potential," said Mr Ho, who lives in a one-room rental flat in Telok Blangah.

The social worker from the community hospital where he was treated for his limbs referred him to Hua Mei Care Management under Tsao Foundation, which promotes successful ageing.

His counsellor, Ms Loh Yan Zhu, said: "When I first met him, he was teary and anxious."

 

She helped him deal with his emotions and sought to improve his self-esteem and confidence.

The care management team also arranged for a hospital reassessment of his knees, which were subsequently operated on. After a year of rehabilitation, he can now walk without a walking stick.

"The team encouraged me to take things slowly, and I found the strength to believe in walking again," said Mr Ho.

He is now his jovial self again, and constantly cracks jokes with his neighbours. Whenever Tsao Foundation organises any gathering, he would be the first to sign up. Last year, he travelled to China on his own for a holiday.

Mr Ho said: "I am happier now, and I live day by day. Money is tight as I live on my savings, but I don't think too much. As long as I can walk and eat, I am contented."

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2015, with the headline 'His world collapsed when he couldn't walk'. Print Edition | Subscribe