Life can take my leg away, but it can’t break my spirit. How one Amputee’s financial struggles hasn’t stopped her from helping others
[This story was contributed by one of our readers, a practicing Financial Consultant]
“Come in, Alan.”
I didn’t know quite what to expect.
It was a warm Friday afternoon, and I had found Madam Zaleha’s unit after 10 minutes of walking.
Pushing open the heavy, weighted door, I saw a calm, smiling lady seated on a couch.
She seemed to carry herself with hope and a great deal of self esteem, instead of someone despondent after losing a limb.
We sat down and spoke for the rest of the afternoon, and here is her story.
How I found her
It was during a typical prospecting call, where I first spoke to Madam Zaleha.
I was sharing the idea of increasing the coverage for Long Term Care using Medisave, when she sprung a bomb on me: “But Alan, I just cut off my right leg. What can I do?”
I knew that prognosis wasn’t good, but I offered to visit her to review her existing policies to see what might she still have.
That’s when I understood the delicacy of her financial situation, and proposed some actionable steps to alleviate it.
But over several meet ups, she graciously shared with me about her life and thoughts.
It is nothing short of compelling, and inspiring at the same time.
Her Story: A life of toil without complaints
Madam Zaleha had her first pregnancy at 24, where she developed gestational diabetes.
It would become a recurring theme for her, culminating during her third pregancy in 2006, when she was 40.
Thats when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Despite the trio of bad health markers, she worked day and night as a cook, a janitor, and several odd jobs to keep her family afloat.
As anyone would attest, raising one child isn’t easy. Raising three of them while suffering from adverse health conditions is exponentially tougher.
Yet Madam Zaleha did not complain.
Incredibly, even though she was beset with her own financial obligations, she still found it in herself to lend money to those around her that she felt needed it more.
She did her best for years, until she couldnt afford to pay the mortgage for her home at Telok Blangah Rise, and had to sell the unit. That was in 2010.
“I got right back to work right after my bypass”
Having moved around a few times after 2010, Madam Zeleha operated a school canteen from 2014 onwards, but life struck her another heavy blow 4 years later.
In 2018, she developed renal failure and had to undergo dialysis three times a week. To make matters worse, doctors discovered 2 blocked vessels in her arm that needed a bypass. There was no possibility of using a stent, so her blood vessels from her leg were used to replace those in her arms.
As incredible as it may sound, barely a week after the major bypass operation, Madam Zaleha was back to work, operating the canteen.
“I have to work, else I cannot make a living for myself”, she explained.
But that was not the end of the streak of bad luck, as far as her health was concerned. Around 2021, all her toes on her left leg had to be surgically removed due to an infection.
And in early May 2022, she was hospitalized due to a bad fall. After spending two months in hospital with her right leg in a cast and braces, it had to be amputated below the knee due to contaminated blood, causing gangrene.
“I just want to see my grandchildren grow up”
While understanding her story, I was impressed at the stoic way she approached her life and all that was happening around her.
But she astounded me by sharing a bald statement.
“I must have lent out over 150 thousand dollars to the people around me”.
Here was a woman that was unable to work, and receiving financial help from her mosque and the CDC. Yet throughout all these years, she never stopped helping those people around her. People that she felt needed more help than her.
It was her family members, her neighbours, and her friends that she shared her generousity with all these years.
The money came from selling her house, her own savings, and even from the Dependent Protection Scheme payout she received after losing her leg.
While I was unsure about the prospect of recovering the money she loaned out, she did share with me what kept her going – it was the hope of seeing her youngest daughter (currently studying) make good in life, and watching her grandchildren grow up.
Understanding her Philsophy on life
Reflecting upon her life story, I found it incredible at how someone can be so calm about it.
She smiled at this point and replied – Everyone will die, its just a matter of how I live.
And thats when the understanding dawned on me.
To Madam Zaleha, it was never about her.
It was always about the people around her. Her daughters, her siblings, her neighbours, her friends, and sometimes even the strangers that she helped.
She knows what its like to have electricity and water supplies cut off, what its like to be down to your last dollar, and what its like to have no food to eat. And because she has been through all that, she practises compassion towards others facing the same situation.
I also came to the conclusion that she was also being a shining example to her children, and to let them know never to give up, no matter what hand life deals to them.
And when asked about any advice she would share to others:
“If you think you are secure, you are not.
There will always be unforeseen things along the way”
Turning to our readers for help
That is the story of Madam Zaleha, as shared by Alan.
We understand that she is currently living in a rental one room flat, and receiving financial assistance from her mosque and the CDC, with a small amount of money drawn from her CPF each month.
If this story resonated with you and you wish to lend a helping hand, you may do so via 2 ways:
1. Reach out to us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Reach out to Alan: 8547 2495
Your kindess will be much appreciated.