For many years Mr Tng Toh Ter had been the only person looking after his 3 children as his wife had left them when their eldest child, Eng Keat, was only 10 years old. He worked as a coffee shop’s drink store assistant to support his family. Mr Tng was not always in the best of health as he is diabetic. Slowly his health deteriorated due to the long working hours and stress of trying to provide for his family with his meager salary.
In 2002, while Eng Keat was still serving his National Service, Mr Tng was diagnosed with kidney failure. He could not go on working anymore as his legs did not have the strength to endure the long hours of standing. It was a very difficult time for Eng Keat as there was no one he could depend on. His brother and sister were still schooling so it fell onto him to take responsibility of supporting the family and getting his father the treatment he needed. Eng Keat said that his father knew that it was tough for them and tried to ease their minds by complying to everything that the treatment required.
In 2004, Mr Tng was introduced to KDF and started going to KDF’s Bishan Centre for his haemodialysis treatments. Mr Tng's younger son, John, would fetch him to and fro the centre while Eng Keat was at work. One day, while cutting his toenails, Mr Tng accidentally nicked his toe but since it was a small cut he decided to ignore it. However, the cut turned into an infection which led to gangrene. At the hospital, the doctors decided that it would be all right if they just amputate his toe as the gangrene had not seem to spread pass it but unfortunately for Mr Tng his condition did not get better and the doctors had no choice but to amputate his leg.
In 2008, Mr Tng was often in the hospital due to infection. He also could not continue with haemodialysis as he kept developing a fever. During that time he was also blind due to cataracts caused by diabetes. When Mr Tng lost his eyesight, he was often anxious and insecure. He constantly wanted his children to be around as he felt safer that way. Once, he made quite a scene at the hospital by pulling out all the tubes that were connected to him. At this point in time, Mr Tng’s doctor decided to call for a family conference to discuss Mr Tng’s medical condition. Eng Keat and his siblings were told that it was in Mr Tng’s best interest to convert his treatment method to peritoneal dialysis but by doing so, one of them would have to be a full time caregiver for their father as Mr Tng also has hearing problems and thus cannot undergo the training required for the treatment himself. The doctor also urged them to be more attentive to their father, to be responsible and to give him more support. The doctor’s words served as a wake up call to Eng Keat and his siblings, leading them to rally together and really think about how to help their father.
After some discussion, Eng Keat volunteered himself to be the primary caregiver as he said: “I am the logical choice, as I am stronger than my sister and my little brother has to go to school.” He continued saying: “Although I am the primary caregiver for my father, my siblings help out too. After Mr Tng converted to peritoneal dialysis treatment, Eng Keat had to stay at home to look after his father full time and could not go to work anymore. So, his sister, Susan, took on the job of being the breadwinner of the family and chose to continue her studies through part time courses.
Not too long ago Mr Tng underwent an operation to treat and improve his eyesight. Nowadays, he is feeling less anxious and more secure due to the return of his eyesight and the constant presence of his children. With that, Eng Keat is able to work part-time, assisting his friend with his business whenever John is home to look after their father. Eng Keat has expressed a wish to study nursing or go back to his culinary job if his dad gets better. However, John is leaving for National Service soon so Eng Keat says he may have to put his plans on hold.
Recently, Eng Keat and his siblings painted Mr Tng’s bedroom a warm orange color to lift his spirits. They also made sure that his bed was facing the window so that he can take a look at the outside scenery even though he is bedridden. Mr Tng said that he is very happy that his children are looking after him and that they have shown through their actions just how much they care about him. Family support made a difference in Mr Tng’s treatment process. Kidney failure is a lifelong disease with dialysis and organ transplant as its only treatment. He would not have the strength to carry on without his children’s support, care and concern.