Learn how neighbourly love and emotional support helped one woman overcome personal challenges.
Mdm Emily Thamarai Kanni D/O Markos became depressed and felt alone as her health worsened, but her neighbours and care professionals supported her through the tough times.
To make matters worse, she suffered a painful inflammation of her large intestine in early 2016, and doctors at Singapore General Hospital had to operate on her to save her life. She now needs to use a stomach bag permanently.
Mdm Emily, now 55, fell into a state of depression. “At that point, I thought, ‘I am all alone. How can I take care of myself in this condition? How will I survive?’” she recalls.
She has her neighbours to thank for supporting her through difficult times. One of them is Ms Adalena Koh, who lives a few units down from Mdm Emily.
Mdm Emily recalls the day she was suffering from intestinal problems: “I was in unbearable pain. Adalena was the one who took me to the hospital and stayed by my side. She left only after I was warded, and by then, it was already 2am.” Ms Koh, who volunteers her time to help the needy, talks to Mdm Emily whenever she can. “Whenever I walked by Emily’s flat, I would always check on her, especially if I saw that she was crying or looked depressed.”
Says Mdm Emily, whose siblings live apart from her: “When your family is not around, it’s important to have good neighbours you can depend on, especially if you live alone like me.
In her lowest moment, Mdm Emily also struggled with her stomach bag, which contains her stools, as she worried it would leak. She also could not change the bag herself as it was situated on the right side of her body, where she could not see.
She was referred to Home Nursing Foundation (HNF) by the hospital. HNF’s Senior Enrolled Nurse Sharifah Fauziah Binte Syed Salim Shahab would visit Mdm Emily’s flat in Toa Payoh every week to provide stomach care as well as monitor her blood pressure and blood sugar.
The nurse, aware that Mdm Emily lives alone, takes special care to give her emotional support and words of encouragement. The two have become good friends. “I provide a listening ear and support in any way I can,” says Nurse Sharifah.
Mdm Emily looks forward to these visits all week. “Sharifah is extremely caring. She always asks me whether I have eaten and how I am feeling. I enjoy her visits very much,” she says.
Mdm Emily is a changed woman today, thanks to her neighbours’ intervention and community healthcare providers like HNF. Her diabetes and blood pressure are now under control, as she takes care of her diet and never skips her medication under the watchful eye of her care professionals. She also sees a psychiatrist and is currently on antidepressants.
And she views the challenges that once overwhelmed her in a different light.
With regard to her stomach bag, she says, “I have learnt to accept my condition. I take very good care of my bag and always ensure the area around it is clean so that it does not become infected.”
The mental wellbeing of people with physical health conditions also requires attention. Depression is often associated with a physical health condition. Based on the Singapore Mental Health Study (2010), about half of the people with depression had at least one physical health condition.
To find out more about community partners providing emotional support and befriending, visit www.aic.sg
This article was first published on NEXTSTEP Magazine, Year 2016, Issue 3. "AIC With You" is the new quarterly magazine on Community Care by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC). Subscribe to AIC With You here.
Download the HealthHub app on
Google Play or
Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.
This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
The ABCs of Health Screening
Impact of Haze on health
Delicious Diabetes Friendly Recipes - Eat Well, Live Well
Myths and Misconceptions about Depression
Eat to Lower Blood Pressure
Warning Signs of Dementia
View More Programmes
Check out our tips on how you can live well together, and test your knowledge on healthy living. Whether it’s eating healthy, staying active, going for health screening, or caring for your mental well-being, it’s never too late to start your journey!
Establishing convenient and conducive environments for workers to achieve healthier lifestyles.
When it comes to your child’s health, you can never be too careful. With the Children’s Health Services on HealthHub, you have a smarter and more convenient solution to store and access your child’s health records – allowing you to keep up with your little one’s growth anytime, anywhere.
Browse Live Healthy
In partnership with