Retirement life was blissful for 72-year-old husband and wife Mr Lee and Mdm Ong – surrounding a simple routine and being by each other’s side.
However, all this changed when a regular lunch outing one afternoon turned into a long-drawn ordeal disrupting their simple bliss.
In July 2022, Mdm Ong slipped on a spoon at the hawker centre. The bones in her left foot were shattered, causing an infection that required a synthetic skin graft. Recovery was not easy for the diabetic. What followed was months of surgery, hospitalisation and pain. Her only consolation was her husband, faithfully staying by her side.
During this time, Mr Lee received shocking news himself. He was diagnosed with rectum cancer.
Even then, his focus was on his wife. He accepted the diagnosis and requested the doctors to “treat him quickly”, so that he can return to his wife’s side. Within the next two months, he had gone through a successful round of radiotherapy and surgery. Later, he also requested a transfer to St Luke’s Hospital for post-cancer rehabilitation.
Both warded at St Luke’s Hospital, the couple initially kept in touch daily through phone calls and short messages. When Mr Lee was assessed to be safe to walk independently, he would make his way down to Mdm Ong’s bedside every afternoon. On some days, they would spend hours chatting over tea and snacks. On others, they simply sit quietly, reading the bible and enjoying each other’s company.
After a few months, the positive couple has made marked improvements in their recovery. Mdm Ong’s wound has improved, and she is now able to walk with the aid of a walking stick. Mr Lee has also learnt how to manage his stoma appliance and post-operative diet.
With a caregiver hired to care for them post-discharge, the couple is ready to head home soon. They intend to continue with outpatient rehabilitation to continue building their strength and balance, which will enable them to age actively in the future.
“For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… That’s the vows we made 47 years ago to one another. Our love and blessings far outweigh the battles we have been through,” said the couple.
[Photo caption] Mdm Ong was elated to receive her first-ever bouquet of flowers from Mr Lee on Valentine’s Day.