Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Day 11: Prayers for Those Who Need a Little More Courage in Life


Our guest poster today is Ms Agnes Lim. She's my secondary school schoolmate, and thus an old friend of mine. I have invited her to share her story with us, as I feel that she is a very inspiring individual. She was dealt a tough hand of fate, but she risen from it and with an amazing store of optimism, continued living life to the max. The picture below are recent pictures - pictures taken in the past one or two years. Definitely, way AFTER the fateful accident.

Let's hear it from... Agnes! 
Looking cool while keeping a look out for the Loch Ness Monster!

Day 11: Prayers for Those Who Need a Little More Courage in Life

Life on its own, is never a smooth sailing journey, and some, may have theirs filled with adversity. However, the choices we make in our life, very often determines how we can emerge from adversity to go on and lead the life that we really want. 

11 years ago, at a tender age of 23, I was involved in a near-death road traffic accident. As a pillion rider, I was the unfortunate victim that suffered serious injury from the impact of the accident. The force of the vehicles' collision had flung me metres away from the motorcycle that I was on, landing on the road with an excruciating pain that shot right up from the leg to the heart, cruelly severing my left leg on the spot. To cut the long story short, by the time I reach the A&E department, my leg was beyond salvation with nerves all fully damaged. With a few fractured ribs bone, a fractured femur and a severed left leg, I was grateful that I survived the accident and have a chance to live again. 
I still recall the moment when my orthopaedic surgeon JK, told me that we have no other options but to amputate my leg. However, a prosthetic leg will be fitted, and normal activities can resume. Not fully understanding what it meant, I asked if it means I can still run again, thinking that I will come out from the surgery, a “bionic woman”. His confident response, was “Yes” without a doubt. With that, I was wheeled into the operating theatre to perform the surgery that was going to fix me up.

Cycling on a two-wheeler at Marina Bay!
Of course, when I woke up from the surgery, no “leg” was fitted. Where my leg should have been, it is now just an empty space. The sense of loss hit me profoundly. 19 days in the hospital, from initial care in the high dependency ward till recovery in the normal ward, and subsequently the discharge, I have to prep myself every waking moment with the new fact that I had lost one leg. For the rest of my life, I have to embrace myself for a life reliant on a prosthetic leg or a wheelchair/crutches in order to be independent and move again.

From a “young and mighty” youth who had newly found her economic power as she transit from a financially dependent student, to an independent career woman, suddenly, daily activities like going to the supermarket becomes a troublesome chore as I depended on my family, the caregivers, to bring me out on my wheelchair. Not only did I lose my leg, I lost my independence and freedom. Coping with the frustrating changes during the entire recovery process, I told myself, that I can’t continue living in this manner. I had only 2 choices; (1) To give up and continue to wallow in self-pity, misery and lament “Why Me?”, or (2) Choose to be courageous and make the best out of life. I decided that it is time to live. 
JK’s words on being able to run again had stuck with me. I can’t see how I am able to do that, especially when I had not even been fitted with my prostheses yet, but I trusted him and choose to believe that life will go back to norm.
Riding the ATV on her own at Gold Coast
Coping with a physical challenge, I have to learn how to walk with my prosthesis. Simple things that have been taken for granted, such as walking up and down the stairs and slops, different terrain such as level ground and uneven grounds like the grass field, are all no easy feat at all. Even simple steps that I was making with the prosthetic leg, I recall chanting “big step, small step, big step, small step” in order to pace myself normally while learning how to walk. 

The physical recovery, wounds and physical injuries, as well as learning how to walk all over again, was challenging, but can be managed. The real challenge comes from the emotional upheaval, commonly associated with peculiar stares from the strangers, focusing on my leg. Firstly the stare comes from trying to guess if the prostheses was real. Secondly, they tried to determine where the prostheses ends after confirming that it was a prostheses. Thirdly, they check out the person wearing the prostheses, usually with disbelief that that it belong to a young person. By the time they gazed towards my face, they will usually be met by my eyes equally staring at them with curiosity before they awkwardly turned away. 
Diving (!?!?) off Gold Coast. You go, girl!!!
It was not easy to accept the fact that I was no longer “normal” in the eyes of the “norm” when all this while I have been putting in my best effort just to look normal and be normal. And on bad days, I decided to let it affect me so much that I stop wearing berms. Regardless of where I go, I will always be covered from top to toe. But overtime, I realized that this wasn’t me at all. Especially in hot humid Singapore, long pants at all times of the day? It was simply ridiculous, and I decided to get out of the rut and focus on living.

The physical challenge had allowed me to experience a different life that I would have otherwise taken for granted. I have had my fair share of running and jumping around with both legs before the accident. And now I have the chance to live life with some challenges, and experience what other able-bodied person may not have understood. It allowed me to understand what living with courage really means.

It saddens me whenever I speak to amputees like myself who told me that I will never be able to walk on the beach again as the sand may spoil the prostheses, nor swim in the sea as it is just too dangerous with the buoyancy of the prostheses. I have got professionals telling me that my pursuit of normalcy is not important nor realistic. I have got all sorts of people in life telling me that giving up is an easier route. However, it is all in the mind, and all you need is that little courage to live, and to pursue things that matter to you.
Family support rocks!!! "My Supporting Crew" says Agnes!
11 years on, I still cannot run (though I now know that it would be possible as long as I am fitted with the right prosthesis). But recounting back, I have been able to do so much more than I could have ever imagined. Over the years, I have learnt how to cycle again, I have trekked up the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, concurring the almost 45degree slope, trekked up partially to Mount Kinabalu, with the support and help of family and friends.  I have snorkeled in Phuket, did an introductory dive in the Great Barrier Reef, and recently survived a Shark Cage Dive in the South Africa. Thanks to the many great people around who had been urging me on, I have found the courage to live life the way it should be.

Despite so many years on, there are still fears within me that I am trying to conquer. Society without fail, always tends to pick out things that are sub-normal. Gawking at anomaly, is certainly one of them. While it is human nature to stare, most have failed to be sensitive to the feelings of their living subject. It does not feel good at the receiving end of the stare. Sometimes, it would really be nice to be stared at, if the stare is being accompanied by a smile and/or a nod. No words needed, all it takes is a smile to cheer one on. In the past, I seek to find answers to the question “why me?”. In the present, I have stopped searching, and I ask instead “why not me?” 

Today, I pray for all who are inconvenienced in life, be it physically, emotionally, or mentally, to always stay strong. The tunnel in front may be long and dark, but be brave and keep the faith going as there will always be light at the end of every tunnel.  
Agnes (and her beautiful leg) with Prosthetist Mark Woolsey of Dorset Orthopaedic
Thank you, Agnes for guest posting on Tan Family Chronicles! 

Now, I know you guys would be curious about how Agnes' prostheses look like. Hence I have obtained her permission to share with you the above photos of one of her prostheses. This is a beautiful one which she actually flew to the UK to have it done. It truly is a work of art, don't you think? Kudos to her Prosthetist Mr Mark Woolsey and his team at Dorset Orthopaedic!

Previously an executive with MOM, Agnes has been a financial services manager in the financial advisory industry for the past 7 years. She had just joined her current company Professional Investment Advisory Services, embarking into financial literacy, helping people to understand and manage their finances.

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