Celebrating Life’s Every Triumph Together – Steve Chong

Steve with senior physiotherapist Pauline Koh at the SPD Open House on 4 March 2017

Steve with senior physiotherapist Pauline Koh at the SPD Open House on 4 March 2017

Mr Steve Chong, 41, sustained a spinal cord injury during a ride out on a swing scooter. He enrolled in SPD’s Transition Programme for Employment (TPE) in 2015 with his sights set on regaining independence. With determination and hard work, Steve was able to walk again in less than a year. In this article, Steve shares his journey of recovery and eventual return to work.

28 March 2015 started out like any ordinary weekend when young couples like my wife and I would go to the park to cycle. It turned out to be anything but ordinary.

We decided to try something new and rented a swing scooter. While going down a slope, I lost control of the scooter and ended up falling backwards. I felt an “electric” shock down my back and I couldn’t move my legs. My wife called the ambulance and the paramedics came and I was conveyed to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital immediately. I underwent an emergency operation and when I woke up on the hospital bed, I found that I couldn’t move my legs. I was devastated.

The doctor told me not to be discouraged and assured me that I would recover. I was later transferred to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for physiotherapy. There, I was trained to carry out my daily activities using a wheelchair. I felt so lousy sitting in the wheelchair and was disappointed and sad. It was a difficult time. I told myself to carry on, and pushed all negative thoughts to the back of my mind.

Steve demonstrating the use of rehabilitation equipment with occupational therapist, Sheena Astilla

It was during that time that Jessica Luo from SPD’s TPE approached me. She told me about the Transition Programme for Employment that SPD offers. The programme comprised an hour of physiotherapy, an hour of occupational therapy and an hour of circuit training where I would work on a machine to build up my strength twice a week. I felt excited and was very keen to start exercising and training my legs and body so that I could walk again. So, without hesitance, I signed up for the programme.

Before enrolling into the programme, I sat down with a few of SPD’s therapists. One of the questions they asked me was, “What do you want to achieve through this programme?” I told them that all I wanted was to be able to walk again, without the need for any walking aids. In turn, they encouraged me and told me I stood a good chance at achieving that target.

My physiotherapist was Helena McDermott. Helena understood my conditions and she helped me regain strength in my muscles, which was really weak then. She even gave me “homework”, which were basic home exercises that I could do at home. I persisted and worked hard to deliver every “homework” assignment, with the determination to get better every single day.

As the days went by, I regained some strength in my legs. Helena then decided that I should do away with my wheelchair and started to train me to walk with a quad stick. With her encouragement and dedication, coupled with my will and desire to improve, I no longer need any mobility aids to walk!

Not only did SPD’s programme helped me in my recovery, the social workers were all very helpful and never failed to talk to me, and check if I needed anything. Staff like Azlin Binte Amran, Lim Sok Hwee, Helena, Pauline Koh and other therapists have all became my friends.

These individuals have encouraged me, and reminded me constantly that I would walk again.

I am now a project engineer at Blomteq Solution Pte Ltd, a company that provides electrical services and solutions. There remain some challenges such as climbing the stairs and lifting heavy objects, but all in all, my recovery has been quite amazing.

For those who are walking a similar journey and experiencing the same ordeal, I would like to encourage you to never give up, and to believe that you can make it!

Lastly, thank you SPD!