The care and dedication that Mdm Pan Meng Zhu has shown her husband in the last nine years is the epitome of unwavering love. It is this great love that gave the 40-year-old the strength and courage to carry on after her husband met with a car accident that left him in a vegetative state. Senior analyst, Poh Sho Siam, finds out more about this extraordinary love story from Mdm Pan.
On New Year’s Eve in 2009, Mdm Pan and her husband shared the day’s events and their hopes for the new year over a video call, as he was based overseas. She never would have imagined that it was the last conversation that they would ever have. About two hours later, Mdm Pan received news that her husband had met with a road accident and was in a critical condition. Accompanied by her brother-in-law, she took the next flight out to be at her husband’s side. It was only when she saw him in the intensive care unit that she realised the extent of his injuries.
Her husband was flown back to Singapore 10 days later after doctors had assessed that he was stable for the journey home. Mdm Pan remembered vividly the massive swelling of his head due to air pressure during the flight. A hit-and-run accident victim, her husband had sustained extensive injuries to his brain. His fractured legs were signs that he could have been run over as well.
Back in Singapore, her husband spent six months in the hospital and another three months in a nursing home. The accident had left him in a vegetative state. While Mdm Pan never failed to visit her husband in the hospital every day, rain or shine, her resentment towards her circumstances grew. “I withdrew from everyone and felt bitter about being burdened with the obligation of caring for my husband and raising two young children on my own,” she recounted. Her son was two and a half years old and her daughter only four months old then.
It took her many months to come out from this dark place. Prior to the accident, Mdm Pan had always been dependent on her husband and parents to take care of household matters. She found herself having to be independent and to stay strong for her children, her parents and her parents-in-law.
In her sorrow, Mdm Pan, who was only 31 years old then, found solace and strength from those around her – her parents and sister who stepped in to help look after her children and take care of household chores; her husband’s colleagues and superiors who comforted, encouraged and kept her company at the hospital. Other patients and caregivers who were coping with their own dire situations also inspired her.
By mere coincidence or divine intervention, Mdm Pan was introduced to a religion by a fellow caregiver and she started studying its teachings. She drew strength from her new-found faith and started to come to terms with what happened. She believed pulling herself together was the best thing she could do to repay others for their care and concern.
Mdm Pan knew that it would not be sustainable for her and the children to visit her husband every day if he were to stay in a nursing home. She wanted her family intact and the children to grow up around their father. With this goal in mind, she went about making the necessary preparations to bring him home from the nursing home after three months.
While she struggled at first, Mdm Pan gradually learnt to bathe, change and feed her husband. The initial years were peppered with many ups and downs. For instance, a persistent wound had once caused her so much distress, as it would not heal after several trips to the clinics and hospital.
It has been about eight years since her husband has been cared for at home. Mdm Pan has resumed working and engages a foreign domestic helper to help out at home. As her workplace is nearby, she is able to return home during lunch time to make sure that things are all right at home. There are occasions when she feels frustrated, but at the end of the day, what matters is that the family is still together and her children get to understand their father’s condition.
Every day, she and the children would share with him what happened in the day. Although her husband is unable to respond, his presence provides a form of support. “My children still need their father,” she said. “I believe he understands and feels what is happening around him. If I’m sad, he will feel it too.” Thus, she encourages herself to stay positive and not dwell on negative things.
Because of what she has been through, Mdm Pan hopes to share her experiences to encourage others to persevere and to treasure what they have.
Mdm Pan’s greatest wish is for her family to stay together so they can experience the joy of witnessing the children grow up, complete their education and set up their own families. As to what gives her strength to stand by her husband all these years, she replied, “our love still lives on, with love, everything is possible.”
A demonstration of “love conquers all”, we hope that others would be encouraged by Mdm Pan’s determination and courage to overcome challenges with a positive attitude.