For Noraisha Binte Mohamed, the transition from being a healthy person to having to relearn how to walk, has been sudden and without preamble. However, she reminds herself to always stay positive. She shares more of her rehabilitation journey with senior analyst Poh Sho Siam.
Sometime in February last year, Noraisha Binte Mohamed, or Aisha, by which she prefers to be addressed, experienced numbness in her right leg and arm and went to see the doctor who referred her to a neurologist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Before the scheduled visit the following month, Aisha started experiencing numbness in the other arm and noticed drooping of her left shoulder. Realising that this could be more serious than she had initially thought, she rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. Doctors later found a blood clot at the spinal cord which they surgically removed.
Aisha, 36, currently uses a wheelchair to move around. Her left limbs are getting stronger but her right limbs are still weak. She is enrolled at the Transition to Employment (TTE) programme at SPD where she is receiving therapy sessions.
The severity of her condition came as a shock to her and her family as there were no prior symptoms. Aisha suspects it could be due to an incident a few years back when she suffered a knock to her neck, although she felt fine then.
“The doctor told us that the surgery had a success rate of 25 per cent”, she recounted. The surgery also came with the risk of paralysis. “It was either the surgery or I have to be on life support for the rest of my life,” she recalled. Aisha did not want to burden her family with having to take care of her for life. “I could feel that the doctor was confident of the surgery, although the chance of success was 25 per cent.” Hence, the choice was clear to her then. “Even if I am on a wheelchair, I still want to work and go out,” she said.
To her and her family’s relief, the surgery was a success. Nevertheless, she has to undergo therapy and relearn how to perform the activities of daily living.
Aisha started therapy at TTE in September 2018. During that time, she struggled with using the wheelchair. After several months of rehabilitation, she could manoeuvre the wheelchair independently and through her therapists at SPD, learnt to do things on her own, such as transfer from the wheelchair and to dress herself.
“Once in a while, I will think back on those times before the incident when I could walk, when I could run, but I don’t dwell on them. Maybe my body is telling me it needs rest and to do something different,” she said.
Family has been a major support to Aisha on this arduous journey. She is particularly grateful to her brother who accompanies her on medical appointments, her fiancé who has been standing by her, and her niece who has agreed to be her full-time caregiver.
“My niece has been helping me since the first day. I always want to do things independently and there was once I fell! She was worried and reminded me that I can do things myself after I have learnt the correct techniques and when my limbs get stronger.”
Her fiancé is one of her most ardent supporters. “He always encourages me and will set small goals for me to achieve when we go out, for example, taking a few steps with support or standing to get from the wheelchair into the car,” she said.
It also helps that Aisha enjoys coming to SPD for therapy. “I love the [SPD] staff here. I just want to come here,” she said.
Above all, Aisha hopes to walk again and find a job.
While working on those goals, Aisha is determined to face the challenges ahead with a positive attitude. “Every day you should smile, every day you should laugh and think about the happy things that will come. Most importantly, do not give up!”