SINGAPORE - He was an avid football player and ran marathons. But a shock diagnosis of kidney failure at the age of 18 put an end to Mr Muhammad Izzad Aman’s sporting dreams.
His energy levels cratered, he had fever often and constantly felt short of breath. Not only did he have to drop all sports activities, he also gave up his ambition of becoming an interior designer.
“I was really depressed,” he said. “I couldn’t do much, and I was thrown into a lifestyle that I was not familiar with.”
Kidney failure is the fifth and final stage of chronic kidney disease, where the kidneys are severely damaged and unable to filter waste from the blood. There is no cure, but the condition can be managed by dialysis.
Since his diagnosis, Mr Izzad has been receiving dialysis thrice a week for 11 years.
At 30, he is one of the youngest among 118 patients at the Tay Choon Hye–NKF Dialysis Centre, who are on average 65 years old.
More than 300,000 people in Singapore suffer from chronic kidney disease. More may be undiagnosed, as the disease has no obvious symptoms until the final stage.
The National Kidney Foundation (NKF), which has 40 dialysis centres islandwide, supports more than 5,400 of the over 9,000 dialysis patients in Singapore.
While dialysis can cost more than $2,000 per month without subsidies, 77 per cent of NKF patients pay between zero and $50.
NKF’s Whampoa centre was set up with SUTL founder Tay Choon Hye’s $5 million donation in 1999. SUTL, which started out as a ship chandelling and duty-free supply trading company in 1968, is now a leisure and lifestyle business. It owns the ONE°15 Marina brand, as well as owns and operates marinas around the world.
Mr Tay himself had kidney failure and died in 2002.
His son Arthur Tay, who is SUTL’s chief executive, continued his father’s legacy by donating $300,000 over the years to NKF. He gave another $275,000 on Feb 24, on SUTL’s 55th year.
Mr Tay told The Straits Times: “It was natural for me to continue my father’s charity efforts to NKF.”
He said his father was a man of few words who seldom complained, despite his illness.
He added that he also believes in paying it forward.
“My father taught me compassion – that because we have been blessed in business, we should give back. We should contribute if we can.”
As for Mr Izzad, he still has hopes of starting a family with his wife, Ms Nursharmin Zaman, whom he married in 2021.
Ms Nursharmin was his secondary school sweetheart. She motivated him to get his driving licence after his diagnosis, so he could work as a private-hire car driver.
“I can’t put it into words, she’s more than a partner to me,” he said. “Who will accept their other half with such a condition?”
Ms Nursharmin, who is 28 and works in data entry, accompanies her husband to his renal and rheumatoid appointments whenever she can.
Mr Izzad said: “Dialysis tires me out and sometimes I’ll have mood swings. My wife takes it in but doesn’t make a fuss. Only a few days after will I sincerely apologise to her. I don’t even know how she handles me.”
Like many dialysis patients, he hopes for a transplant as there is no cure for kidney failure.
The average wait time for a transplant from a deceased donor is 9½ years.
“Even though I know I’m not in the greatest condition, I know I’m living life in the best way possible,” Mr Izzad said.
“But if there is a future where I have a kidney for myself, who doesn’t want it? And of course, to start a family as well.”