A car crash and an ailing father, this was what bothered me for the past three weeks at least.
I don’t want to talk too much about the car accident I faced. Though expensive, I don’t see it a big deal. Apart from my wallet, nothing else was hurt. I must only say, if you’re travelling along Bedok South Ave 1, onto the Laguna Flyover that links you to the ECP… be very, very careful.
You will encounter a sharp turn that forces you to apply your brakes. If you do this on a rainy day, a speed of 60km/h can cause your wheels to lock, sending you into a spin. That was what happened to me.
The day after the crash, I received a call from Changi General Hospital. It was a doctor. Over the phone, he explained to me how my father had come to them via emergency services because of an inability to urinate.
My father was diagnosed with an enlarged prostrate. To treat this, doctors have first to open up the urinary tract. This is done by inserting a thick tube into his penis, tunnelling through the urinary tract, into the bladder. Connected to the end of the tube, is a bag that collects the pee. Yes, it hurts.
Now, you must also understand that my father is a stroke victim of over 20 years. Already he has an inability to use limbs on the left part of his body. With this pee bag, he has even greater difficulty moving around and transferring himself from bed to wheelchair, and from wheelchair to toilet.
For the past three weeks, I have needed to transfer him from bed to wheelchair every morning before going to work. After work, I would have to rush home to transfer him to the toilet and then back to bed. For a good half of the day, he is unable to do almost anything else. He has to hold his bodily waste until I come home.
You can imagine the smell.
You know… for over 20 years, whenever I’m out having a good dinner or a meal, I feel very awkward. I think about my dad at home eating tingkat meals. When I’m on holidays having a good time, it disturbs me also.
For the past 3 weeks I felt even worse. I couldn’t eat anything in peace really… how could I? How could I even be doing work when he’s suffering at home? When there’s so much housework at home to be done, when he needs showering, when he can’t go to bed and rest when he needs to?
I feel doubly awkward at work, because I can’t be taking too much time off. My personal problems are my personal problems – I cannot let it affect my professional life.
You have to laugh, smile and joke along even when your mind is laden with these problems.
My dad and me live alone together. It has been like this for 20 years, but now… I needed help.
Almost all the nursing homes I called were fully occupied (and prohibitively expensive anyway). There was no other consideration – we had to have a maid.
Ms. Phyu Phyu Lwin arrived at our home last Saturday and you cannot imagine the amount of psychological weight lifted off my mind. She knew from day 1 what to do. She was advising me on how to prepare my father’s bed. She suggested what cleaning tools and liquids I should get. She promptly worked on each nook and cranny of the house, cleaning and packing for the last 3 days.
She had no qualms cleaning up after my father and even can speak a little bit of Chinese with him.
I have a gargantuan amount of gratefulness for her help.
In Singapore, we’re very lucky to be able to have the services of domestic helpers. When I was living in the UK, friends told me you don’t have the services of “maids” unless you lived in Buckingham Palace. In Hong Kong, maids don’t live-in because the houses are so tiny. I hope Singaporeans don’t take this domestic help for granted. Because one day, when their countries achieve economic success, we’ll have less and less of these services.
With Ms. Lwin helping out the household, 20 years worth of awkwardness, stress and relationship strain with my father was lifted away. I wish I had hired a helper’s assistance earlier.
Anyway, I’d like to give thanks to all my friends who stood by and actually helped out in the past few weeks:
Thank you to Edmund Sim and Kiwi Pang especially – who got down and dirty, helping to clean up the most vile and unhygienic when I was busy at work.
Thank you to my colleagues who had to deal with my grumpy moods 😉
Thank you to the helpline staff from the Ministry of Manpower for dealing with my dramatic emails and persistent phone calls.