Blind busker helps woman cope with recent vision loss
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, Madam Siti, 44, finally took her first steps out of her door. She managed a tentative half-hour walk along the corridor of her two-room rental flat in Eunos Crescent.
She also bravely got into the lift and walked around the void deck before returning to her flat.
She was accompanied by blind busker Suhaime Roa.
He had heard about Madam Siti's plight from his wife, who had read about it online.
Last Wednesday, The New Paper reported on Madam Siti's condition.
In January, the customer service officer in a food distribution company had a fever for about a week.
One morning, she woke up unable to see.
Doctors at Changi General Hospital diagnosed her with Klebsiella pneumoniae, a superbug that is resistant to antibiotics.
By then, the bacteria had spread to her left foot, kidney, liver, lungs and eyes, causing her to lose her sight.
After her discharge from hospital, a medical worker provided by the hospital helped her with personal care and daily activities for two weeks.
Since then, the single mother of two children, aged 11 and seven, has had to fend for herself.
Not any more.
After the TNP report was published, more than 20 readers called in or e-mailed to offer help.
TNP was at Madam Siti's flat on Saturday to witness her first steps out of her flat in about two months.
Mr Suhaime, 53, and his wife, Siti Aisah Rawie, 50, a nurse, showed her how to use a white cane to get around.
The busker, who became blind after a car accident when he was four years old, was approached by community-funded group 3R Sincerely Giving (3RSG) to help Madam Siti integrate back into society.
The father of four said: "When I heard about her, I had an instant flashback. The thing that happened to me when I was four happened to her when she is 44.
"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."
Mr Suhaime also gave Madam Siti a smartphone with a voice-over function and a walking cane that he hardly uses.
"Those things got me through most of my daily activities. I wanted to give her a good start so that she can learn how to use them," he said.
When Madam Siti stepped outside and struggled to put on her slippers, Mr Suhaime waited patiently.
With the help of his wife, he taught Madam Siti to move her walking cane in a clockwise direction and feel for shallow drains and potted plants along the narrow corridor.
Occasionally, he would say "Be careful" and "Watch out for the wall in front of you" when he heard Madam Siti's cane hit something.
When Madam Siti raised concerns about tripping over things, Mr Suhaime encouraged her to overcome her fear.
"There are many things that visually handicapped people struggle with on a daily basis but I told her to take it day by day," he said.
He also guided her on which buttons to press in the lift as she has yet to learn Braille.
"It was terrifying for me at first," said Madam Siti.
"I haven't stepped out of my house in a long time but I like the challenge," she said, breaking into a small grin despite looking worried earlier.
She also received help from her seven-year-old daughter, who took her mother's hand, placed it on her shoulder and led the way.
Madam Siti said: "I feel a little more confident about walking on my own now that I know how to use the cane.
"I think all it takes is a lot of practice.
"I'm overwhelmed by the support and contributions from people. If not for them, it would have been very difficult."
THE NEW PAPER