Barely two years ago, Mr Muhammad Fazli Hasri was a patient at Tan Tock Seng Hospital's (TTSH) Foot Care & Limb Design Centre.
Today, the 29-year-old works there, helping others to find a way to overcome their challenges, like he did when he walked out with a new artificial right limb.
Patients are usually surprised when he reveals that he is an amputee, because no one can tell unless he lifts up the hem of his pants.
As a technical assistant in the Prosthetics & Orthotics Service, Mr Fazli is part of a team which makes and assembles customised prosthetics and orthoses for people like himself who have lost limbs to injury or disease.
The centre is based at TTSH, a member of the National Healthcare Group. It is made up of the Prosthetics & Orthotics and Podiatry services. TTSH is the only provider of prosthetic and orthotic services in the public healthcare sector.
Senior prosthetist/orthotist Tsu- rayuki Murakami, 28, said: "We make artificial limbs for people with missing arms or legs to help them to be able to substitute the body function that they have lost."
He added: "For orthotics, we manufacture custom braces for the lower legs, spine and head. These are bracings that help to improve the function that patients may have lost because of neurological or orthopaedic conditions, or sometimes due to diabetes as well."
The 10,764 sq ft centre - about the size of nine five-room Housing Board flats - sees more than 26,000 patient visits a year.
From the first appointment with the patient, where casting is done and the fabrication process starts, it takes an average of two to four weeks before the prosthesis is ready to be fitted. Patients still have to go through rehabilitation gait training, which means learning how to walk again, to make sure they can use the prosthesis safely before they are allowed to take it home. This rehabilitation training can take three to six months, depending on the complexity of the case.
For Mr Fazli, the second of three children who lives with his parents in a four-room HDB flat in Bukit Panjang, it all began after dinner on Aug 30, 2015. He was on his way from Melaka to Johor Baru on the North-South Expressway with four friends in a car. Asleep in the back, he dreamt they were tumbling through the air. In reality, it was the start of a nightmare.
The driver had dozed off and hit a divider. The car overturned after rolling around "like a washing machine". While the others escaped with mainly minor injuries, Mr Fazli's right leg was stuck and almost crushed by the front seat. His leg, badly affected by bacteria, could not be saved despite multiple operations.
Fearing that the rot would spread above his right knee, he agreed to the doctor's recommendation for an amputation. Afterwards, he was referred to TTSH for a prosthetic leg to be fitted.
"To be honest, when I was one of the patients, I felt so demoralised. I envied the ones with two legs who could walk normally," said Mr Fazli.
As he had studied electrical engineering and mechanical technology at the Institute of Technical Education, he was recommended by his prosthetist to work at the centre. Grateful for the opportunity, he started there this year.
With support from his fiancee, friends, family and colleagues, Mr Fazli tries to look forward. He also hopes to offer the same support he received to other patients because he knows what it feels like.
"We try to show people that we are just 'lightly abled' - not disabled," he said.
A sporty person who likes to surf, swim, cycle and play soccer, he hopes to represent Singapore in the Paralympics in future.
He said: "For those who have lost a limb, do not be demoralised. It does not change who you are, whether you have one leg or two."
VIDEO: Watch Muhammad Fazli Hasri as he shares more about his work at the Foot Care & Limb Design Centre. str.sg/flc
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'A leg up in life'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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