Thursday July 12, 2012
By ANTHONY THANASAYAN
Disability and hardship serve as a motivating force for Chong Tuck Meng.
THIRTY years ago on July 4, my chum Chong Tuck Meng encountered the darkest moment in his life. Chong was riding pillion on a motorbike when it skidded. Chong and his best friend were flung onto the highway. The latter died on the spot. Chong survived the accident, but he was paralysed from the chest down.
Chong now needs assistance to carry out his daily activities. He needs help from the moment he wakes up. Someone has to help him into his wheelchair and to the bathroom. The same applies for dressing up and even eating his meals.
“It has been three decades since but a shiver still runs down my spine each time I think about the accident,” says Chong, 51, who hails from Bentong, Pahang.
Chong has undergone more than 30 surgeries to deal with various medical problems, but he has emerged stronger from each episode.
Chong is an inspiration to the disabled community in Malaysia. He has a number of feathers in his cap: he founded Perwira K9 Malaysia, an association that supports people with spinal cord injuries, 10 years ago. Chong is also into wheelchair sports: he is president of the Malaysian Wheelchair Rugby Federation.
Chong is married to Elizabeth Roxas, a Filipina, and the couple have a daughter who is studying in Universiti Malaya.
Rather than give up on life, Chong uses every opportunity to help others who are in the same predicament.
“My disability and the hardship I have endured motivate me to push on. Giving up was never an option,” says Chong. “Many doctors back then gave me a poor prognosis. But it is fantastic that I have survived the past 30 years and look forward to many more.”
Chong shares some pointers on what we can all do to make a difference in the lives of the handicapped. They include:
> All persons with disabilities – especially those with spinal injuries – should find out as much as they can about their condition. Healthcare professionals should ensure that every individual is given the right information regarding his or her disability or at least directed to an NGO or source where they can get the necessary information.
> It is important for all who work with the handicapped to note that it is not the individual alone who may suffer from neglect or lack of support. Their families and caregivers go through the same experience, so they need help and support, too. Many of them need a break. For example, they like to be able to go shopping or take a holiday.
> Exceptions should be made for persons with profound disabilities. They should never be discharged from hospital and sent home when they still need medical care for conditions like pressure sores. Quite a few of them have died as a result of the lack of care or their families did not know how to treat pressure sores. If hospitals are short of beds, then an alternative healthcare home should be made available so that they can have access to expert caregivers trained in medicine. These should be provided free for those who cannot afford to pay.
> A new rehabilitation hospital in Kuala Lumpur will be launched by the end of this year. It is said to be the best of its kind in South-East Asia. It will have modern and proper facilities and services. Whilst this is a very positive move by the Health Ministry, the Government should always think outside the box to ensure that disabled and elderly people who do not have access to such outfits are ensured of specialised homecare and help when their families are no longer around to look after them. One way is to provide caregivers, sponsored by the Government, to help the bedridden at home.
Chong hopes to see special allowances in the coming Budget for such caregivers, waiver of levy on foreign caregivers for the disabled, and a prompt replacement – without charge – if these foreign caregivers abscond. For stay-at-home patients, nursing care to dress wounds and free medicine should be provided by the nearest government hospital.