Helping Ah Ma see again

Helping Ah Ma see again
It took more than a year before Madam Lim (centre), a newspaper vendor, agreed to have her cataracts removed. Her grandson Cher Yong (above, left), neighbours and shopkeepers then saw to it that she applied her eye drops.

SINGAPORE - Just a few years ago, her eyesight was so bad that she could make out only shadow and light.

Madam Lim Gay Hua, 65, found it tough to run her newspaper kiosk. Speaking in Mandarin, she says: "It was hard to make out outlines. When people paid me, I had to guess by the colour of the notes what denominations they were."

And, yes, there were people who tried to cheat her by walking off without paying.

"Some paid me in Malaysian coins," says Madam Lim.

But she could not just up and leave. The kiosk, which she runs at Block 339, Ang Mo Kio Street 31, was and is the only source of income to support her and her grandson.

When The New Paper documented her plight more than two years ago, her grandson, Chen Cher Yong, just seven years old then, had been roped in to help her. Acting as eyes for his Ah Ma, he would help hand out change to customers.

He never complained. Instead, he played with his toys and napped on a mattress tucked in a corner until it was time to return home at about 11.30pm.

He told TNP then: "Ah Ma can't see. I don't know if anyone's trying to steal from us. So Ah Boy has to look out to make sure nobody takes our money."

When asked about her grandson's involvement in the kiosk, Madam Lim says: "It was us two against the world, you know?"

Her story tugged at Singaporeans' heartstrings when it was published two years ago.

People wanted to help. Among them was Dr Leo Seo Wei, 41.

The ophthalmologist in private practice said: "I felt that I could help her. I had to do something."

But when she went to the kiosk, Madam Lim was not around.

Refusing to give up, Dr Leo got in touch with the grassroots leaders in Ang Mo Kio and eventually found out where Madam Lim lived.

She was not home but Dr Leo made the grassroots leaders promise to take Madam Lim to her clinic for a consultation "at least".

A month later, they turned up with Madam Lim and Cher Yong.

The blindness was, in fact, a case of cataracts. It was a severe case but was treatable.

But Madam Lim had to be convinced to go for the operation to remove the cataracts.

"I waived my fees, so did the anaesthetist. I even convinced Mount Elizabeth Hospital to let me use the operating theatre free of charge. Everything was booked and everyone was ready to go," says Dr Leo.

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