He is a caregiver!

Every day, Mr Ismail Mohamed, 77, bathes his bedridden wife, cleans, cooks and buys the groceries – all from his wheelchair. The former policeman has been wheelchair-bound for 45 years after an accident left him paralysed from the waist down when he was 32.

But the grandfather of 12 insists on taking care of his wife of 56 years, Sohdiah, by himself. The 73-year-old has been bedridden with heart disease and liver cancer for the past two years.

Every morning, he wakes up at 5am to change her soiled diapers and clothes, then makes her breakfast. When she naps, he cleans their one-room flat in Circuit Road. A few times a week, he wheels himself to the wet market across the street to buy groceries.

His five children have offered to hire a maid to help, but he has firmly refused. ‘As long as my hands are still strong, I will do it. It’s not difficult,’ he said.

His fortitude made him one of 40 winners of the SingHealth Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Awards.

When asked how he feels about receiving the award. Mr Ismail replied modestly:  ”My family and I are very happy.”

Since she fell ill, Ms Sohdiah has been unable to sit up much, and eat or drink on her own.  She has been in and out of the hospital nine times in the past six months, with each stint lasting a couple of days to a couple of weeks.

Each time, Mr Ismail insists on being by her side and gets his children to take him to the hospital.  On days when he cannot visit, he cries alone in the flat.

“He’s a very hands-on man,” said his 28-year-old granddaughter Nuraishah Amad, an assistant manager at a service apartment complex.  “He’d rather do it all by himself than accept any help.”

His children and grandchildren help where they can, taking turns to stop by the flat to cook, clean and keep the couple company.

Born in Seremban, Malaysia, in 1935, Mr Ismail fled to Singapore with his parents when the Japanese invaded in the early 1940s.  He joined the Johor Baru special constable police force army in his youth, fighting communists in the jungles of the Malayan peninsula.

In 1959, Mr Ismail transferred back to Singapore, joined the Singapore military, and settled into life in a Paya Lebar kampong.

One day, he was helping a friend cut down a coconut tree when it fell on his back.  He was hospitalised for eight months, and permanently disabled.  His wife had just given birth to their fifth child.

After that, he stayed home to take care of the children, while she worked as a cleaning lady and factory worker, as well as taking on several odd jobs to support the family until she retired at 60.  He chipped in by making birdcages which his son sold at Rochor Road.

Despite his immobile legs, Mr Ismail said he is healthy and strong and has no ailments.  He would gladly trade his health for his wife, he said.

“I want my wife to be happy.  If she’s happy, I’m happy.”


Adapted from The Straits Times, March 16 2012


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