Aishah Samad

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From Yahoo! Sports Singapore. Click to go there.

I read about this lady and was totally blown away by her strength and attitude.

An article from Yahoo! Sports Singapore written by Ewan Mah which I chanced upon last weekend tells the story of 41-year-old Aishah Samad. Just a year ago, she suffered a bacterial infection that left her hospitalised for months at the ICU of Changi Hospital. On top of that, gangrene set in and resulted in her losing all four of her limbs below her joints.

My head was spinning at the thought of an illness suddenly striking a healthy person like that, and things escalating so quickly and viciously that limbs, in this case all four, are lost. Ignoramus me went all ‘huh?‘ and thinks that bacterial infection sounds like virus infection, as in, it sounds like flu and the like. So I quickly typed ‘bacterial infection causing loss of limbs‘ on Google Search and was quickly greeted by a lot of scary information, the kind that makes me go weak at the knees. Really, life and good health are so fragile, and can be so fleeting.

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Photos by ST and Lim Chea Rong. From yourhealth.asiaone.com. Click to go there.

Well the thing about Aishah is that she was already a remarkable woman before her ordeal that began last year. She was a member of the national shooting team and bronze medallist at the 2003 SEA GAmes. She had to retire from the sport after a new management at her workplace wouldn’t let her take the time off to train for the months leading up to major competitions. But life went on. The single mum to two kids (now grown, aged 21 and 18) became a coach to guide the next generation of Singapore marksmen. I read in an AsiaOne article dated 17th May that the strong and independent woman did her own DIY projects around the house and once rode solo on a motorcycle to Thailand.

Then her world came crashing down after the severe bacterial infection that began only last July. But she picked herself up, which is already remarkable enough. But to do it in mere months, oh my God, where does she find the will and the strength. And as if that’s not mind-blowing enough, there’s her beautifully sunny attitude about her present and future, her optimism and continued zest for life. She’s raring to go. Look at that smile.

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From Yahoo! Sports Singapore. Click to go there.

She was discharged in October, a month after the amputations. She completed her physiotherapy by January, and decided she wants to compete at the Paralympics. From the Yahoo! article:

By then (January), she had decided she was going to aim higher than she had ever aimed in life. Aishah was going to pick up her rifle again and compete.

“I miss the smell of gun powder. None of this air rifle stuff. I do the 50 metre live rounds event.” she glares, then smiles cheekily. “I just want to be in the sport I love. I also want to create awareness for those people like me that we are no worse off than you people,” she says, gesturing towards me with an invisible hand.

She is looking forward to receiving her new prosthetic arms to begin competitive training:

Having received S$130,000 after a fund raising charity fun shoot in May, Aishah will now be able to afford the most advanced $40,000-$70,000 prosthetic for her right shooting arm. She still faces a wait from overseas distributors, and at least another two months of training before she can finally do the things people usually take for granted.

“I’ll be able to brush my teeth, wash my face, pick up things. The movements (of the fingers) will of course be more robotic than usual, but I’ll be able to shoot and more importantly, be confident that it’ll be safe when I’m handling my rifle. I’ll also be the first in Singapore to have such advanced prosthetics.”

I can’t really describe the sense of awe and admiration I feel. It’s almost suffocating, it’s overwhelming.

We come by stories of these heroes every so often. Some have a hold on us more than others. I still remember the story of this elderly Chinese lady in Singapore too from a newspaper article that I read perhaps ten or twenty years ago, who lives in poverty and survives by recycling discarded cans and other stuff, but who still donates I think $50 of her meagre monthly income, because she reckons no matter how bad her situation is, there are always people even worse off. If I had known I would still be thinking of her every now and then, I would have saved that article and framed it up or something.

I have a strong feeling I won’t be forgetting the story of Aishah Samad so easily too.

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