WHEN Gurdial Singh woke up one morning and found his blanket soaked in blood, he realised that something was terribly wrong.
The 70-something year old from Parit Buntar in Perak had been suffering from high fever for three days.
It was only after he and his wife had rushed to the nearby government hospital when they realised that Gurdial – a diabetic – had been harbouring a nasty blister on his left toe.
The bleeding was a result of the skin breaking down. Gurdial has no sensation in the area because of his condition.
The doctors only had more bad news for the elderly couple.
Gurdial was advised to have his leg amputated.
“My only concern at that time was to stay alive,” recalled the 82-year old Gurdial to Wheel Power earlier this week.
“The five doctors who had treated me were very professional in their approach,” he added. “They made it crystal clear why amputation was the only way out for me.”
Gurdial went on to point out that his doctors gave him a detailed description of the process – right up until when he would be finally fitted with a prosthetic leg to enable him to walk again.
Looking back he says there were several key factors that helped him not only to make the right decision but also to help him to accept his new life as an elderly amputee.
“My wife was and still is my chief support,” he explained.
“She was always there for me right from day one six years ago to the present day and I truly appreciate her for it.
“We made the decision for the amputation together. My wife was with me during my surgery, in the hospital and during my recovery as I struggled to adjust to my new life.
“I am also grateful to my in-laws and their moral support. They even helped with the arrangements to have the lower part of my limb (from the knee below) to be cremated in a temple whilst I was still in hospital.”
According to Gurdial, another major element towards his full recovery also came from his healthcare professionals.
“The doctors told me everything – from what would happen immediately after the surgery to how long it would take before an artificial limb would be given me.
“These insights were extremely valuable in the process of my rehabilitation.”
A wheelchair donation from the state assemblyman before Gurdial’s prosthetics arrived and the sponsorship of the costs of the limb by the Welfare Department proved to be a most welcomed gift during his time of need.
However, there were changes in Gurdial’s life after his disability that he could not avoid and had no control over.
“Although most of the people I meet talk to me just like a normal person, the invitations that I used to get for social events like weddings, housewarming parties and even New Year gatherings started to drop since I started using prosthetics to move about,” said Gurdial.
“This is probably because of superstitious beliefs about disabilities which I think is all nonsense.”
Gurdial pointed out that some of these negatives perceptions are so strong that there are people who believe that pregnant women should never go near a disabled person in case the unborn child becomes deformed.
“When I started to use an artificial limb, nothing about me changed at all,” he said. “I am the same human person with normal feelings as I was before I started using my prosthetics and it is important that people remember this,” he added.
Gurdial pointed out a couple of incidents even in the temple where ignorance about people with disabilities unfortunately exists.
He visited a Sikh temple in Kuala Lumpur once where he was not allowed into the dining room because of his prosthetic leg. A temple official pointed to a sign on the wall which said “No Shoes Allowed!”
However, when he tried to explain to the person that he really had no choice in the matter because of his mobility problems, this was the retort he got: “A rule is a rule!”
He experienced the same fate when he visited another Sikh temple in Petaling Jaya. At first, no one seemed to have objected and he managed to get into the dining area.
But halfway through his meal he was approached by someone who insisted that he remove his shoes or leave. Gurdial had no choice but to comply.
The person offered to take the food and serve him outside. However, not wanting to be humiliated, Gurdial turned him down.
Gurdial suggests that temples that practised such policies to abandon them at once for people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, a check with a committee member from the PJ temple has confirmed that they do not practise any form of discrimination against the disabled.
Anyone who experiences such treatment is advised to contact the committee at once.
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