Lifelong struggle with embarassing problem
HIS condition was so embarrassing that it nearly drove him to suicide. And he endured merciless taunts while growing up.
Warehouse operations supervisor M. B. Nesh, 29, was born with an imperforate anus, which means he did not have an anal opening. Even now, after finally fixing the problem, the memory of what he went through is painful.
After his birth, surgeons made small openings or stoma in his belly and attached the ends of the intestines to the openings to fix his defect.
This allowed him to pass motion into a pouch attached outside the body.
It was not until he was three that doctors surgically created an anus for him. The problem seemed to be fixed.
But it left him with a terrible and embarrassing side effect - bowel leakage.
"I still wore diapers when I went to K1 (first year of kindergarten) and because of that, the children teased me. It got so bad I didn't want to go back. I dropped out of K1," he said.
The teasing continued when he went to primary school at age eight.
"I was relegated to the back of the class where I sat alone. No one wanted to sit with me or be my friend. They said I was stinky. I was also seated near the door in case I needed to go to the toilet fast," Mr Nesh recalled.
His only friend while growing up was his dog Spotty. "Spotty loved me unconditionally. He never judged me," he said.
The lonely boy soon grew up to become "an angry teenager". "I picked fights and became violent. I hung out with the wrong crowd and was often hauled into the disciplinary master's office," he said.
At 16, in Secondary 2, Mr Nesh dropped out of school. That same year, his world crumbled.
"My mother, who was my rock and supporter, died suddenly from a heart attack. Eight months later, one of my brothers, seven years older than me, died in a road accident," he said, tears welling up.
As if that was not tragic enough, Mr Nesh lost both his father and his best friend, Spotty, to cancer six months after that.
"I was at my lowest then... My parents who provided me a safe harbour each time I got into trouble were no longer around. I asked why all the bad things happened to me. That was when I entertained thoughts of suicide," he said.
He remembers being in his dark bedroom, staring at the window, but the fear of dying stopped him.
"I also remember telling myself if I did it, then I would disappoint my late mother who always encouraged me to make something out of my life despite my condition."
Mr Nesh, who now lives with his eldest brother and older sister in the west, picked himself up and started over.
He studied part-time and took up odd jobs, working as a cleaner, mover and security guard. Then a motorcycle accident while he was doing his national service worsened his condition.
"My incontinence became bad. I wanted to improve my situation. So I did my own research and found that I could actually opt for a pacemaker to be implanted.
"But the pacemaker alone costs $45,000. Besides, I would need to change the battery after three to five years, and that would cost between $7,000 and $8,000. How could I afford it?" he aked.
So Mr Nesh picked a cheaper, subsidised option - a colostomy and stoma bags - and had the surgery in 2013. He said he paid only a small amount because the operation was subsidised and he used Medisave.
Checks with hospitals show that the surgery and hospital stay for a private patient would cost $10,000. It is between $2,400 and $3,500 for a subsidised patient.
The operation meant Mr Nesh's stools were drained from the intestines via the stoma, into a bag attached to his abdomen.
Not wanting to live with the smell, Mr Nesh changed the bag every day. "Because of work, I used the better grade bags, which cost $250 a month," he said.
Post surgery, Mr Nesh completed his O levels as a private student. With four credits, he studied for a diploma in logistics and operations management, and later got a job in a shipping firm.
But having to move heavy equipment around caused him to suffer a hernia at the stoma site repeatedly.
His surgeon, Aileen Seah, felt Mr Nesh could not continue like this and brought his situation to the attention of the Parkway Pantai group, in the hope that he would be given an artificial sphincter under its Life Renewed Project.
Mr Nesh then underwent a series of operations over four months this year.
The procedures, which included the cost of the implant and hospital expenses, came up to more than $100,000. They were fully sponsored by Parkway Pantai.
Mr Nesh, who recently married his girlfriend of four years, said he is happy with the result. "I got a second chance to make something of myself. I will definitely make sure I will live up to my late parents' expectations."
THE NEW PAPER