Wheelchair-bound man wins award for caring for his stroke-ridden wife

Married for 28 years, Mr John M Fernandez, 64, and his wife Diana, 57, are both wheelchair-bound.

While in the prime of his life, when he was 39, Mr John M. Fernandez lost the use of his legs after an industrial accident in March 1990.

"I was at work at the godowns when I stopped along the aisle between two warehouses to speak to a truck driver. That was when two to three heavy sacks fell on top of me, breaking my back," Mr Fernandez, now 64, told The New Paper.

His wife Diana, now 57, became his primary caregiver. She gave up her shop and, for 20 years, took care of his every need. Then the roles became reversed.

Mrs Fernandez, a diabetic, suffered two strokes six years ago, leaving her wheelchair-bound.

"The strokes affected her right side and her ability to speak. It was frustrating for her because no one understood what she was trying to say. She went into depression," he said.

Despite his own situation, Mr Fernandez takes care of his wife and sees to her daily needs.

He makes sure she takes "all her eight types of medication" and goes for appointments like her physiotherapy sessions. He even learnt how to administer insulin so that he can give her injections every day.

For his true grit, Mr Fernandez will be receiving the Eastern Health Alliance Hero Caregiver award from Health Minister Gan Kim Yong today.

More than 1,100 employees, patients and caregivers will get the EH Alliance Caring Awards 2015 from 6pm at Downtown East, D'Marquee. "I felt worse when she suffered the strokes than when I got injured," Mr Fernandez said.

He said his accident happened so quickly in March 1990 and the pain at that moment was excruciating.

He was hospitalised for six months, first at Singapore General Hospital and then at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

"We had only been married for 2½ years, when I became wheelchair-bound. Yet, she stayed and looked after me," he said.

HELP FROM IN-LAWS

"We were living in a maisonette, but because of my situation, I could not go home. So we moved into my in-laws' flat and that was where she took care of me," he added.

They sold their flat in Bukit Batok and moved to a four-room flat in Pasir Ris to be closer to his in-laws.

"My parents-in-law and my wife's siblings have been our moral support till today," Mr Fernandez said.

Despite them being wheelchair-bound now, Mr Fernandez insisted they have to be independent.

He said they are still living off the compensation from his accident, adding that they are "living frugally and within our means".

They hired a maid to help with household chores and to help Mrs Fernandez should she need to go out.

"When we go out, the maid will push her while I wheel myself to the shops, to the MRT and even to church. We are together and that helps because we can look out for each other," he said.

Eastern Health Caring Awards

The Eastern Health (EH) Alliance Caring Awards was launched in 2013 to pay tribute to outstanding staff, patients and caregivers from the group.

The alliance is made up of Changi General Hospital, Health Promotion Board, St Andrew's Community Hospital, SingHealth Polyclinics and The Salvation Army Peacehaven Nursing Home.

About 1,100 awards will be given out today.

Among them, nine people will be honoured as Hero Caregivers and five as Hero Patients.

Staff nominations were obtained from compliments and recommendations by supervisors, while patient and caregiver nominees came from the respective care teams.

All candidates were reviewed and selected by a panel of representatives from the members of the EH Alliance.

For the first time, a caring award will be given out posthumously.

It goes to Madam Tan Ah Boey for her unconditional love for her son.

He suffers from schizophrenia and lives at The Salvation Army Peacehaven Nursing Home.

She visited him every day until she suffered a stroke and fell in November last year. The 87-year-old went into a coma and never regained consciousness.

Madam Tan's daughter will receive the award on her behalf.

juditht@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 08, 2015.
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