Blind leading the blind

Blind leading the blind
Mr Suhaime Roa teaching Madam Siti Hajar Abdul Gaffar how to navigate the corridor outside her flat with a walking cane.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Madam Siti Hajar Abdul Gaffar has not stepped out of her flat in months.

A sudden infection in January left her blind and she has been afraid to venture out, becoming a prisoner in her own home.

But on Saturday (April 9), Madam Siti, 44, finally took her first steps out of her door and managed a tentative half-hour walk along the corridor of her two-room rental flat in Eunos Crescent.

She was accompanied by blind busker Suhaimi Roa who had heard about Madam Siti's condition. Her plight was reported in The New Paper on Wednesday (April 6).

In January, she was diagnosed with Klebsiella pneumoniae, a superbug that is resistant to antibiotics, causing her to lose her sight.

Mr Suhaimi, who became blind when he was four, said: "When I turned blind at such a young age, I didn't have many experiences in the world yet so I could ease into it.

"It's definitely much more difficult for her to go through it at this age because she knows what she has lost."

The New Paper received more than 20 calls and e-mails from members of the public offering help to Madam Siti.

Readers offer meals, after-school care

3R Sincerely Giving (3RSG), a community-funded group that helps those in need, wants to help Madam Siti reconnect with society.

Madam Zarina Jaffar, who spearheads 3RSG, said: "I heard Siti's story from a friend, who told me she was quite reclusive after her diagnosis. That made us more determined to do our best to make life better for her and her family."

She also encouraged members of the public to contribute.

"We have blind busker Suhaime Roa helping Siti to cope with her disability, as well as all kinds of help streaming in from good Samaritans. We count ourselves very lucky," added Madam Zarina, 48, a student care teacher.

Madam Ummi Abdullah, who owns a food catering business, was approached by Madam Siti's good friend for help. She jumped at the chance once she heard about Madam Siti's condition.

"I could not imagine how hard it must be for her, so I wanted to do my part and help," said Madam Ummi, who has been running the business for six years and has a restaurant at Simpang Bedok.

HELPING OUT

Since last Monday, she has been providing dinner on weeknights for Madam Siti's family and plans to continue doing so until things get better for the family.

"I feel that it's not easy for her to be in the kitchen while she is still coping with her disability, so I want to lessen her burden," she said. Madam Ummi also hopes Madam Siti's school-going children will get sufficient nutrition.

"It makes me happy to know that her children are coming home to food that is good for them," she said.

"Right now, I don't want them to worry about paying me. We can always figure something out later when Siti's finances have stabilised."

Ms Elizabeth Chow, 48, director of Chow & Chows Childcare & Early Learning Centre, contacted The New Paper, saying: "I saw a link to her story on my Facebook timeline. When I read it, I was so moved, I immediately wanted to help."

The mother of two added: "I can't help much with her medical condition, but I could relate to her concerns about her children."

She offered to have Madam Siti's children go to her centre after school to bathe and do their homework.

However, Madam Siti politely declined because her children are in student care at their primary school.

She said: "When I lost my vision, I thought I was going to have to cope with it on my own.

"But I didn't expect this many people coming forward, offering to help. It really means so much to me."


This article was first published on April 11, 2016.
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