When awards for resilience are being handed out, it is clear that former crane operator Seah See Seng belongs at the head of the queue.
Mr Seah was just shy of 40 when a 1-tonne machine fell on him at work, leaving him paralysed from the waist down. He became wheelchair-bound and had to give up his job but he refused to give up his independence.
"I learnt to get dressed and move around on my own and I improvised by using poles to switch off the lights and close windows," said Mr Seah, 61.
He supports himself by selling tissue paper at Sembawang MRT Station and even sets aside time to repair broken wheelchairs for elderly folk in his neighbourhood.
Mr Seah's courage and spirit won him a Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Award. He was one of 32 people honoured yesterday.
"Despite his paralysis, he refuses to allow obstacles to stand in his way," said nurse Hariati Sahak from Home Nursing Foundation, who nominated him.
The awards were launched in 2010 to honour resilient patients and caregivers with positive attitudes who inspire healthcare staff. Any health group can make nominations.
The 23 patients and nine caregivers were nominated by health institutions run by public health group SingHealth, Singapore Eye Research Institute, Ren Ci Hospital and Home Nursing Foundation.
The winners received $250 of gift vouchers and a plaque.
But for Mr Benson Sim, 66, the biggest reward is seeing the smiles of the friends he takes care of.
The retiree, who used to work in the pharmaceutical industry, has been caregiver to 11 friends with health problems ranging from glaucoma to cancer over the past 20 years. "Not many caregivers have knowledge about diet, medication and nutrition so I try to help my friends because I have some basic knowledge," he said yesterday. Mr Sim cooks meals for them, accompanies them to check-ups and translates medical advice into Mandarin or dialect.
Dr Allan Fong, deputy head and consultant at the Singapore National Eye Centre, said he was shocked to learn that Mr Sim was not related by blood to any of his charges.
"If more Singaporeans can adopt his spirit of befriending and caring for those around him, it would solve a lot of problems our ageing society faces."
This article was first published on April 1, 2015.
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