MR TAN WEE LIAM, BRAILLE TRANSCRIBER
"Despite being visually impaired, Mr Tan is as capable as any caregiver. He helps his wife who needs a new ocular prosthesis with her medical appointments as he wants her to get the best care possible. His courage and positive attitude inspire us to do more for our patients.”"
Aw Ai Tee, Deputy Director of Nursing (Clinics and Research), Singapore National Eye Centre
My mother was pregnant with twins. Unfortunately, I was born about eight weeks premature and my twin sister did not survive.
After birth, I was diagnosed with Retinopathy of Prematurity, an eye disease caused by abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina — the light sensitive part of the eyes — for premature infants.
My right eye, which is smaller than my left, is totally blind. The vision in my left eye used to be better in my younger days, but with ageing, my vision has deteriorated. I can see better in bright sunlight than in artificial indoor lighting.
However, I have always been independent and getting around in familiar surroundings is not a problem for me. It is only when I am travelling to unfamiliar places that I need help to find my way around.
I work as a braille transcriber at the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped. I transcribe and reproduce books in braille, a system of writing that uses characters made up of raised dots, with the help of a computer. I also teach adult visually handicapped clients braille.
My wife, Yew Gek, has had low vision since she was a child. She lost her sight in her right eye due to glaucoma when she was a teenager. We met during a hiking trip with our mutual visually impaired friends. Despite our visual handicap, we managed to bring up our son to the best of our ability, and he now works in the civil service.
Today, although she can no longer see, my wife still works as a receptionist and gets around on her own in familiar surroundings. She also handles the cooking at home. In fact, when one of the students I gave braille lessons to asked for advice with cooking, my wife was happy to help.
I take care of the other needs at home, and try to ensure that my wife and I stay well so that we can continue to enjoy the little things in life together, such as spending time listening to audiobooks and music together at home.
It is hard for someone who is not visually handicapped to understand what we go through every day. This is why I try to share my experience with those who ask me for advice on how to stay independent despite visual impairment.
In life, there will always be ups and downs. I prefer not to focus on the negative. I know that I can turn to my friends and extended family for help and support when I need it, and am not afraid to ask for help when in public. For example, when my wife and I do grocery shopping, we usually take about an hour or two to locate the items on our own. With the assistance from helpful members of the public, we can get things done quicker.
I hope my wife and I can continue to stay independent. I also look forward to doing volunteer work after I retire, to contribute to the community in my own small ways.
Mr Tan’s wife, Mdm Lim Yew Gek, is a winner of the Inspirational Patient & Caregiver Awards 2022 — Patient Category. Read more about her story
The annual Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Awards honour individuals for their strength, courage and resilience in the face of health challenges, as well as outstanding patient support groups that have provided invaluable support to patients and caregivers.
Each year, our winners continue to inspire us with their ability to overcome adversity. Their experiences provide valuable learning for the doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and other healthcare workers who care for them.
This year, SingHealth recognises 37 winners who, amid the challenging COVID-19 pandemic, continue to motivate healthcare professionals to deliver better care and inspire many others with their zest for life. Read their inspiring stories
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