Caption: Mr Ho Ah Tat in his rental flat in Geylang Bahru
Diabetes may have robbed Mr Ho Ah Tat of two of his limbs but not his will to live independently. The 72-year-old former carpenter, who lives alone in a one-room rental flat in Geylang Bahru, was diagnosed with diabetes some 15 years ago.
Six years ago, Mr Ho suffered an infection in his leg, which was so bad it affected the bones leading to the doctors having to amputate his limb to save his life. The wound was so bad there was pus oozing out. Then came the bad news: His leg had to be amputated. However, despite going through a below-knee amputation, he was then told his whole leg had to go to prevent the infection from spreading to the rest of the body.
“Imagine going through two operations in a year! I lost my whole left leg! I was very worried as I did not know what will happen to me. Can I still look after myself? Who will take care of me?” said Mr Ho.
Fortunately, Mr Ho was able to receive support from other seniors and staff from TOUCH Home Care’s (THC) nursing team and TOUCH Senior Activity Centre (TSAC) at Geylang Bahru. THC’s nurse monitors his blood sugar and manage his medicine and insulin, while TSAC staff helps him to read letters and apply for Public Assistance.
Despite losing a leg, Mr Ho was able to look after himself on his own. However, things took a bad turn in March 2019 when a wound started developing on his arm. As his wound was not managed well, his infection worsened quickly over a weekend. He was advised to seek immediate medical help. TSAC staff quickly called an ambulance to send him to the hospital, where he was admitted.
Caption: TSAC staff reaching out to Mr Ho
Caption: Mr Ho learning to take care of his health
Caption: Mr Ho is strongly motivated to learn to do things on his own
Caption: During the pandemic, Mr Ho took part in TSAC's IShopUPay programme together with staff volunteers from SP Group, known as SP Heart Workers.
Mr Ho felt his world falling apart when he was told of his grim prognosis. The infection in his right arm had started to spread rapidly and it had to be amputated. This news was a big blow to Mr Ho as this would mean losing his stronger arm.
“I fell into depression; it was a death sentence to me. In my mind I knew what it meant. If I lose my independence, I will lose meaning in life. I’m not sure what to think or feel about it,” said Mr Ho.
When Mr Ho was recuperating at a community hospital, he was told that if he was unable to do transfers on his own, it may not be safe and practical for him to be on his own at home. At this point, Mr Ho was determined to do what it takes to regain his independence. With a positive attitude, he told the medical staff, “Teach me and I can learn how to look after myself!”
With support from TOUCH, Mr Ho received help in having his health checked and wounds managed. TSAC, Care Close to home staff and senior befrienders also visited him regularly to encourage him and help him run errands.
“I don’t know what I would have done without the strong support from TOUCH. Now I don’t worry too much. I just live one day at a time. I can now smile and remain hopeful in life because I know there are people out there who will help and support me to continue to live well and safely in the community,” added Mr Ho.
Story published in 2021.
Updated in 2023.