She feeds warm porridge to her adult daughter

PHOTO: She feeds warm porridge to her adult daughter

SINGAPORE -  Madam Hasnah Sabani's eldest child, Miss Mizla Majid, 37, has been bedridden her entire life.

It's been more than 30 years of having to gently wake her daughter up every morning, of having to clean her up.

More than 30 years of having to mash fish into her daughter's porridge.

So what drives the single mother and housewife to make this sacrifice?

"Love. My children are special. All they ever need is my attention and affection," said the Madam Hasnah, 55.

As she fed her daughter, the mother of three turned to this reporter and said in Malay: "It's been like this for the past 37 years."

She also has a son, 30 and another daughter, 22. The family lives in a 3-room flat in Tampines. Madam Hasnah's story is a heartwarming tale of how a mother's love can overcome the many obstacles life throws at her.

Miss Mizla was born healthy in 1974, but within a week she had a high fever, fits and jaundice. This led to some fluid collecting in her head.

Madam Hasnah said in Malay: "We (my late husband and I) got the shock of our lives when the doctors showed us our baby.

"Her head was swollen. Sadly, they said her head will never shrink back to its normal size."

Madam Hasnah coped with the bad news and managed her time between her job as a factory operator and caring for the child.

While she was at work, her late father-in-law would take care of her daughter.

When Madam Hasnah was retrenched in 1985, she decided to stop working and focus on taking care of her family. But five years later her husband, an electrician, died of a heart attack.

To support her family, Madam Hasnah said she relied on financial assistance of about $400 monthly from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and some money from Darul Ghufran Mosque in Tampines.

But she stopped receiving this financial assistance when her son started working.

She would also receive cash and food donations from independent donors.


Life was tough then but she felt there was no need to ask for more help as she thought she could manage.

Describing her daughter's condition, Madam Hasnah said: "She's conscious of her surroundings but is unable to speak, sit up or chew solid food."

While her entire body is paralysed, Miss Mizla's eyes are the "most active part of her body", said Madam Hasnah

She said: "It's the only part of her body that moves, and sometimes when we speak to her, we can feel that she's responding."

"Special" daughter

Miss Mizla's neck is also swollen and both her wrists are bent backwards.

She has sores near her spine and ribs, because of her inactivity and long hours on the mattress.

Madam Hasnah, who sleeps in the same bedroom as Miss Mizla, said that her daughter is "special".

She said: "When Mizla was younger, she could move her hands. But when she was about 18-years-old, she could no longer do so.

"She could eat crackers, biscuits, hold books and soft toys.

"But she's not strong enough to throw a ball and she can't drink on her own."

Madam Hasnah also said her daughter is unable to carry anything heavier than a "small children's story book."

For entertainment, Madam Hasnah would occasionally carry her daughter over to the living room. She said: "I'll switch on the television, but Mizla would stare blankly at the screen, without any reaction."


Caring for her daughter can be challenging said Madam Hasnah, especially now that she is in her 50s.

But she keeps to the same regime, despite the huge toll it takes.

She spoon-feeds Miss Mizla three times a day.

Giving Miss Mizla a shower is usually a family effort, and Miss Mizla's brother and sister help out.

Madam Hasnah also cuts her daughter's hair, trims her nails and brushes her teeth. It takes about 20 minutes to do all this, she said.

Madam Hasnah knows her daughter will never know a normal life.

She said: "Unlike most women of her age, who either have their own families or careers, Mizla never went to school nor had any close friends.

"When I look at her, sometimes I break into tears. But I know that no matter how much I cry, nothing will change."

She now gets a monthly cash allowance of $400 from the Community Development Council (CDC).

Her son, technician Azman Majid, and other daughter, technical support analyst Mukminah Majid, are both single and live with Madam Hasnah.

Mr Azman and Miss Mukminah earn about $3,100 and contribute to the family budget.

Some of her family's estimated monthly expenses include: $130 on water and utility bills, $400 on food, $100 on Miss Mizla's diapers and $70 on her milk powder.

Miss Mukminah said much could be learnt from how her mother manages the family.

"My mum is a responsible mother. She sacrificed most of her happiness to take care of us, especially my sister.

"Now, it's our (my brother and I) duty to take care of them.

"I'd like to support my sister by paying for her daily needs such as her diapers and milk as long as I'm working," she said.

When asked if she needs more help, Madam Hasnah said: "Life's not that easy, but so far we're fine on our own."

This article was first published in The New Paper.