She was in pain, unable to move. Yet she dialled my number
In The New Paper on Sunday (Oct 26), Ng Jun Sen wrote about a defiant elderly woman who would rather accept help from neighbours than from social services. This is despite the fact that she is unable to walk due to the pain in her legs. But sometimes the connection between a journalist and newsmaker lasts after the story has been submitted. On Saturday afternoon, he received a call...
Beneath her headstrong exterior is a lonely person wanting to talk to anybody who walks past her flat.
That was the impression I got of Madam Kalsom Abdullah, the 76-year-old who has to crawl around her flat after a minor stroke three years ago.
She lives alone in her rental flat since her husband died six years ago. So when I woke up this morning to a phone call from Madam Kalsom,
I thought she just wanted to chat. I was wrong.
The voice that greeted me on the other end was shaky and filled with fear.
It's a far cry from the proud woman who told me yesterday that she doesn't need help from social workers.
"Hello, you're the reporter right? I can't move. I'm just lying here. Pain, very pain," she said.
Do you need me to call someone, I asked while trying to mask my panicky voice.
"Don't call anyone, it's not an emergency...Will it be fine if I take Panadol?"
I responded that I wasn't a doctor who can prescribe medicine and told her that I would come visit her.
When she opened the door to me later, it was immediately clear that she had suffered.
Gone were the smiles from before. Instead, she hastily described the crippling pain that she felt in the morning.
"My body hurt everywhere just now, I didn't want to move. I didn't bathe. I didn't clean the floor," said the old lady.
"Oh, I took the Panadols anyway. If I die, I die lah." I was worried.
I tried to find out more about her latest condition. The Panadols helped reduce the pain but it still hurts to move her right calf, she said, pointing to the swelling on her feet.
I paused, thinking about the incredulity of the situation.
As a journalist, I'm not the one people should turn to for medical advice.
She has four sons, two daughters and many neighbours who obviously care for her.
But she dialled my number, which she copied from my name card, instead of the many other numbers already saved in her phone.
Why did she call me?
"Don't know," replied Madam Kalsom.
Clearly, this is a woman who needs help from people who are trained to give it. She's not alone.
Last week, I spoke to Madam Yap Bie Keow, the 81-year-old who for four days, unknowingly shared the same room as her daughter after she died in her sleep.
Her son, 60, lived in the same flat as them. They told me they had suspicions that something went wrong, but did not know what to do.
It's a story that mirrored one from a year ago involving a mother-and-son pair at Ghim Moh, which I wrote.
I can't help but wonder if this is a worrying trend about our elderly folk here. Do they know what to do when an emergency happens? Why are they are so stubborn to seek proper help? Don't they care about dying alone in their homes? These are not questions that I can answer.
At 25 years old, I have a long way to go, hopefully, before I can give a primary account.
I might be an old man pondering about impending death one day. But for now, my plan is to live a good life as much as I can so that I know the value of it in my old age.
Do you want a doctor, I asked Madam Kalsom again.
"No, no, no, I'm better already. Thank you for coming. My daughter may be coming soon."
I only left when I was totally satisfied that she would be fine. I reminded her again that she has a phone with a special button to alert the authorities in case of emergency.
Her neighbours know about her condition, and she told me she has informed her children.
I also left her a name card to a social service group and instructed her to call them. Then, we bade our farewells. She was smiling again. Maybe she just wanted a chat after all