He meant it when he says 'I know how you feel'
When retiree Joseph Chan, 73, tells dialysis patients that he can feel their pain, he is not just paying lip service.
Mr Chan is a kidney patient himself, going for dialysis at the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) three times a week.
But every Monday, he is at the NKF headquarters at Kim Keat Road for a different reason.
The bachelor is a patient-counsellor, helping other kidney patients who are new to the programme.
Under NKF's Patient Advocacy programme, which was launched in 2013, those undergoing dialysis are counselled by others who are also going through the same procedure.
Dressed in bright yellow T-shirts, the patient advocates rotate around the different centres to engage kidney patients undergoing dialysis.
"These patients and their families are usually disheartened and sad because of the diagnosis during orientation.
"As an advocate, I usually try my best to allay their fears by sharing my own story and hoping to cheer them up," he said.
In 2012, Mr Chan was sent to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) by a polyclinic doctor because "my blood count was dangerously low and I needed blood transfusion".
"I was told I had kidney failure and because of my condition, I lost my job as security officer with a hypermart," he said.
He was again admitted to SGH in 2013 when his legs swelled up. This time, the doctors told him he needed dialysis.
By then, Mr Chan was on public assistance, and he had to take care of his older sister, who is intellectually challenged and suffering from breast cancer.
"NKF helped me a lot during then. When I was asked if I would like to be a patient advocate, I felt I could finally give back," he said.
Mr Chan volunteers by counselling new patients, playing games with them and entertaining them.
"I would even tell them things such as not to drink too much water (which can cause fluid overload) and the benefits of exercising," he said.
Mr Chan was happy when he was informed that he is to receive the Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Award today for his voluntary work.
"Because no matter how small my contribution is, I have been recognised for my efforts," he said.