By PEGGY TAN
At 75, my friend Joe, as he is known affectionately, is an inspiration to many. Although he struggles to walk on one foot, holding tight to a steel walker for balance, Joe is ever so cheerful and has a ready smile for everyone.
Joe, a former civil servant, was a keen footballer in his youth. He loved to cook and my family enjoyed his cooking. Joe was very active but he was a heavy smoker and drank beer and whisky.
When Joe was 57, he started to experience pain in his foot. Sometimes he woke up in the middle of the night in pain and the following morning, he would notice ulceration on his toes and feet. Being a little stubborn, Joe had refused to see a doctor. Joe has always been a strong and independent person, and the thought of consulting a doctor terrified him.
Months later, the pain became unbearable and Joe finally went to see a doctor. Joe was diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease, a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries cause reduced blood flow to the limbs. If left untreated, tissues in the legs would die due to lack of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in gangrene which can be life-threatening.
The doctor advised Joe to stop smoking. However, his condition deteriorated over the next few months. The pain became excruciating and kept him awake at night.
It was a dark day in Joe’s life when the doctor told him that he had to amputate his leg, just below the knee.
“How am I going to live with one foot?” Joe cried out.
“I will take care of you, my dear,” wept Winnie, his wife of over 30 years.
Joe’s two grown-up sons assured him: “Papa, don’t worry; we will always take care of you.”
Weeks later, Joe’s left foot was amputated. Joe prayed hard for strength to pull through this difficult time.
After the surgery, the pain was so unbearable that he had to take painkillers to enable him to sleep at night. He lost a lot of weight.
Joe was glad that Winnie was there for him. Joe’s relatives and friends visited him, and prayed for him.
However, misfortune struck again. After eight months in hospital, doctors recommended a second amputation as his leg was still hurting.
“My stump has to be cut again, this time, above my thigh. Oh God, what have I done to deserve this. I have to suffer so much pain again,” Joe cried.
Winnie and his sons rallied around him. They decided to be strong for each other’s sake.
“You will feel better and you can live longer after this second surgery,” said Winnie gently.
The love of family and friends helped Joe to survive a second amputation. Visits from loved ones helped to keep his spirits up. Joe was thankful that he had good doctors and nurses who encouraged him to be strong.
Joe was in and out of hospital for two years before the wound finally healed. During the long stretches in hospital, he spent his time reading books, watching television and making friends with other patients.
Joe had watched elderly men and women dying in the wards. At night he heard the moans and cries of patients who were in pain. The sight of dead bodies being carried out of the wards saddened him. He realised he had to fight for his life.
When he was finally discharged from hospital, Joe was thrilled beyond words. His dog was so excited to see its beloved master again.
Joe is lucky to be alive today.
“Not too bad; I can still walk and drive my car with one leg,” Joe told us with a smile.
He keeps himself busy by helping to cut onions and chillies for his son who operates a stall in a coffeeshop. Sometimes he visits us and we drink wine together.
Joe feels blessed to have a second chance at life. Remember, we can fall seven times but the eighth time, we can stand tall.