Singapore man walks, runs and swims despite one less limb

SINGAPORE - For many people, the end of the year is a time of celebration and special moments.

Less so for 27-year-old Mohamed Syahidin Mohamed Isa.

On Christmas Eve in 2009, Mr Syahidin was riding his motorcycle along Boon Lay Way to meet his girlfriend for a movie date when tragedy struck.

He has no memory of the incident due to his severe head injuries, but he believes he was involved in a hit-and-run incident.

Talking to The New Paper on Sunday, Mr Syahidin says: "The investigators told me that I was thrown off my bike.

"No witnesses came forward, and the culprit was never found."

He suffered injuries to his head, eye, back, lungs, arms and right leg.

"The bones (in my leg) were broken and my blood vessels destroyed. The doctors tried to save it, but my blood just couldn't circulate."

After four hours in surgery, the doctors decided to amputate. He had lost too much blood.

He was 23 and in the prime of his life.

He found this impossible to come to terms with, only comprehending the full extent of his condition six days after the incident.

"I couldn't move to see how much was left. It just didn't sink in," recalls Mr Syahidin.

Neither his family nor girlfriend could bring themselves to tell him outright, fearing it might interfere with his recovery.

The cold realisation came about only when one doctor made a casual remark.

"He was introducing the ward to his colleagues, and I heard the word 'amputee'," says Mr Syahidin.

"There were no amputees that I knew of in the ward, so I asked him if he was referring to me."

The doctor said yes, and adjusted Mr Syahidin's bed so he could finally see for himself.

"My knee and everything below it was gone.

"At that moment, a million thoughts raced through my head," says Mr Syahidin of the shocking realisation.

Everything from anger at why his situation wasn't made clear earlier, to whether he'd have to depend on others for the rest of his life.

"I was worried about my job, my future finances, and what life would be like for my girlfriend and me."

His mood took a downward spiral. Mr Syahidin even told his girlfriend that she should leave him.

"I wanted her to find a better man. Not a broken one like me."

His girlfriend, who wants to be known as Ms Nor, refused point-blank.

Says the 26-year-old: "It was the toughest part of his life, I wanted to stand by him."

But it wasn't going to be easy for the couple. "Being together would mean I have to look out for both our futures, when I wasn't even sure what would happen to me," says Mr Syahidin.

Ms Nor's reply was the turning point, the moment he decided that losing a limb would not mean losing his future.

"It pushed me to recover. I didn't want to disappoint her or my family. I had to be strong for all of them."

After being warded for a month, Mr Syahidin returned home.

A few days after his discharge, he attended a concert by British band Muse at the Indoor Stadium.

"I was determined not to miss the concert. I had been looking forward to it all the time I was in hospital," he says.

Sitting in a wheelchair, he was still in some pain during the concert.

He adds: "At one point, I even forced myself to stand on one leg to get a better view."

The pain he could deal with, but what irritated him were the stares he encountered from other spectators.

"I didn't let it get to me. I just focused on the concert and enjoyed myself."

In fact, they became another source of motivation.

"The staring made me determined to be well again, so that people wouldn't have a reason to stare at me in the future.

"I told myself that I wanted to move on and get better quickly.

"I decided I was going to be normal. I don't want to be crippled and dependent on others."

He spent another five months recuperating at home, concentrating on learning how to walk again.

"I was going to walk, run, swim and travel again."

He learnt how to use a walking stick - a difficult and painful task at first.

He got stronger and in July, he even returned to work.

But he choose to take up another job - as a project coordinator at a company which manufactured cranes - instead.

He says: "At that point, I wasn't confident that I could design and implement mechanical systems.

"I thought I needed a job that didn't require me to be as mobile for a while."

A few months later, he "graduated" to using a prosthetic leg.

The aluminium alloy device, which has a bendable knee, cost $19,000. But Mr Syahidin got it for free through sponsorship by the manufacturer as well as support from a hospital.

He says: "I was overjoyed. The best thing about it is that people don't notice I have a disability.

"It's as if I am a normal person, until I show my 'metal leg'. Then some kids think I'm the Terminator," he says with a smile.

Mr Syahidin is happy to talk about it now, but he still recalls the time when it took a lot of determination to succeed.

He often fell down and had to pick himself up physically and mentally.

He says: "I couldn't think of going back to a wheelchair. I didn't want to go back. I wanted to keep moving.

Mr Syahidin can now exercise with ease - TNPS met him just before his weekly swim at Buona Vista Swimming Complex.

In the last three years, he has also travelled to various places overseas with his girlfriend and friends.

His determination to keep moving did not stop at regaining basic mobility. He has also taken part in three vertical marathons and two 10km runs.

"Even if I have to walk for the whole marathon, I will not stop. There are others with severe conditions who can't participate even if they want to, so why am I complaining?" he says.

"One of my biggest inspirations is my late uncle, who passed away recently. The man battled with Parkinson's disease for 10 years and was bedridden.

"Compared to his pain, mine is nothing."

Wearing a prosthetic leg every day can cause blisters. He says it's a small price to pay for his mobility.

"It's painful, but I want to prove to myself and others that amputees can lead a normal life.

Says Ms Nor: "I'm very proud of him. Not many people can bounce back after what he has been through."

Now living with his parents and three siblings in a Jurong four-room flat, Mr Syahidin is grateful for their support.

He says: "I'm lucky to have a family and girlfriend who have stuck by me all this while. Without them, I don't know if I would have had the strength to carry on. I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

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