Singapore

Her whole life now is about caring for her son

Devoted mum has been main caregiver of quadriplegic son for 17 years. Every day, she talks to him, says dad

She has to tube-feed her 38-year-old son, change his diapers, and turn him over every two hours to prevent bedsores.

If you think life is tough for Madam Maznah Sharipan, 59, think again.

Her husband had his foot amputated because of diabetes, and is on dialysis.

So when it comes to physically turning her son to ease his bedsores or putting ice packs to bring down his frequent fevers, Madam Maznah has to manage all on her own.

Her son, Mr Yuri Dahlan Ismail, suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him bedridden when he was 21.

While on a work assignment, the car he was driving was involved in an accident. The front seat passenger did not survive.

Madam Maznah, a housewife who has been her son's main caregiver for the past 17 years, is responsible for tube-feeding him, changing his diapers and sponging him daily.

Speaking to The New Paper in their four-room flat in Bukit Panjang, her husband, Mr Ismail Shahul Hamid, 62, said she is devoted to their son.

They have a younger son, 36, who does not live with them but visits every week to help bathe Mr Yuri.

Mr Ismail said: "She will talk to him all the time, telling him to be patient and to endure. Even if he can't respond, he can still hear her voice."

Despite the challenges, Madam Maznah manages to keep going with strength, humour and faith.

During this interview, she broke into laughter when her husband said in jest that she neglects him despite their 40 years of marriage.

But she does admit that her son is always on her mind.

"When I'm not at home, I'm always wondering about him. I feel relieved and happy every time I see him."

FRESH GRAD: Mr Yuri at 21 in a photograph taken before the accident. PHOTO COURTESY OF ISMAIL SHAHUL HAMID

Her son's condition - he is a quadriplegic and is unable to communicate in any way - was hard for her to accept at first.

"I used to cry and had trouble sleeping after his accident," she said.

Mr Yuri - named after Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man to travel to space - had just graduated from Singapore Polytechnic when the accident happened in 1999.

He had serious head injuries and was hospitalised for six months. He then had to stay at a rehabilitation home for another six months before returning home.

CONSTANT CARE: (Above) His father, Mr Ismail Shahul Hamid, with the family photograph given to them by Home Nursing Foundation as part of the Portraits Of Love project. Also in the photo is staff nurse Hong Jia Wei, who visits twice a week to attend to Mr Yuri's bedsores. TNP PHOTOS: PHYLLICIA WANG

Over the past few years, Madam Maznah has managed to care for her son, but her biggest challenge involves moving him frequently to reduce pressure on his bedsores, which have worsened over the years.

Mr Ismail, who has Type 1 diabetes and kidney failure, has been going for dialysis three times a week since 2008. The former driver was forced to stop working after his foot was amputated in 2014.

After that, his wife had to wheel him to the dialysis centre, but he now relies on a motorised wheelchair.

The family lives on a monthly payout from Mr Yuri's former employer, Mr Ismail's CPF payout and financial assistance from a family service centre and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

HOME NURSING

Since June last year, Mr Yuri has been a recipient of non-profit organisation Home Nursing Foundation (HNF), which provides home care services.

Staff nurse Hong Jia Wei, 27, visits their home twice a week to attend to his bedsores.

The family is part of Portraits Of Love, a photography project featuring patients and their caregivers, families or loved ones. (See report)

Ms Hong told TNP that Mr Yuri's bedsores were very serious at first but his condition has improved slightly.

She said: "The mum is not young any more and it is difficult for her to turn him over every two hours.

"But they are very loving towards him and always telling me that he is a good son."

She added that she was impressed by their tenacity.

"They are a very simple and humble family and always joking around."

Mr Ismail said they have learnt to accept their fate.

"The reality is that life has its ups and downs," he said.

Madam Maznah added: "I just feel lucky that I'm still able to embrace my son. I'm always praying for him and I have never given up hope that he will get better one day."

Raising awareness of home healthcare services

Portraits Of Love is a project where patients are presented with a photograph taken with their caregivers, families or loved ones.

Between August and November last year, 50 Home Nursing Foundation (HNF) patients were photographed. The photographer, accompanied by a make-up artist who also served as a stylist, went to each home for the photo shoot.

A framed A8-size photograph was given to every participating patient.

The foundation's spokesman said: "We noticed that our patients tend to have one thing in common: blank cold walls in their flats. Whatever photos they have are greatly treasured by them."

The Portraits Of Love exhibition, which runs from tomorrow till Sunday, is the first of a series of events organised by HNF to celebrate its 40th anniversary this year.

The exhibition will showcase a series of photos and short write-ups of HNF's beneficiaries who have received support through its home healthcare services.

The aim is to raise public awareness of home healthcare services and to educate the public about available care options and support services in the community.

The exhibition will be officially launched tomorrow by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and Environment and Water Resources, at Raffles City Shopping Centre.

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