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Thursday, 27 September 2018 00:00

A Touching Encounter during Challenging Time

Written by  Yap Soo Lan, Kota Kinabalu / Translated by Ong Mooi Lin

Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas in Kota Kinabalu shoulders the mission of safeguarding lives and enabling the patients to have peace of mind during their treatment periods. [Photograph by Tse Ning Siong]

A simple yet grand opening ceremony of Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas, a mid-way home located in a shop-lot with an area of over 4,000 square metres, in Taman Kingfisher industrial park, Likas, was held on September 27, 2018. This historical moment was witnessed by officers from government sector, medical personnel, Tzu Chi volunteers, lodgers at the mid-way home and their family members.


Queen Elizabeth Hospital of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, is a government hospital which provides various specialized medical services and is equipped with advance medical equipment. As such, many critical patients from other areas within the state will be transferred to the hospital for further treatments.

Many family members of the patients, who travelled from rural areas to the hospital to take care of the patients could not afford hotel lodging expenses. Hence, they could only stay in the hospital, walked around and sat resting against the wall or slept on the floor when tired. Even though the hospital provides temporary shelter for them, it could not accommodate such a large number of patients and their family members.

For that reason, Tzu Chi, in collaboration with the Malaysian Medical Welfare Fund and the Sabah Women and Children Hospital (SWCH), set up Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas in October 2015, to provide free lodging for the patients and their family members. The mid-way home with 16 rooms was only opened for children suffering from Thalassemia initially, and later, it was also opened for cancer patients. As at August 2018, it has served as temporary shelter for 1,230 patients and family members. The mid-way home has not only benefitted the Sabahans, but also patients from Sarawak, Labuan, and other remote areas.

Opening of the mid-way home

Datuk Stephen Wong, Sabah Minister of Health and People’s Wellbeing, was invited to host the opening ceremony, in the presence of the Director of Sabah Health Department, Datuk Christina Rundi; Mayor of Kota Kinabalu, Datuk Yeo Boon Hai; Director of SWCH, Dr Tan Bee Hwai; medical personnel, lodgers of the mid-way home and their family members, as well as, Tzu Chi volunteers.

In his speech, the Minister said that the setting up of a mid-way home for those in need does not only help the patients, but also creates a healthy society. Often time, on his visits to understand people’s life, he was deeply touched to learn that many of the folks actually knew Tzu Chi. He appealed to more NGOs to assist the hospital by setting up more mid-way homes for the convenience of the patients and their family members. “This will help enhance the hospital services and ensure the wellbeing of the public,” he said.

Dr Tan also acknowledged, “This mid-way home plays an important role. It was not an easy task to establish such a home, nevertheless, no one gave up.” What touched him the most was that since its establishment, Tzu Chi volunteers have been paying weekly visits to care for the patients and their family members, and conduct various activities for them at the mid-way home. He was glad to have this mid-way home, which benefits many patients from the remote areas.

Chairman of Malaysian Association of Medical Social Officers, Harolhanam bin Mohamed remarked, “Without this mid-way home, patients and family members from the remote areas who are financially tight, could only sleep on the hospital’s corridors. There are only four mid-way homes in Malaysia, and Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas is one of them.” He looks forward to continue working together with Tzu Chi.

Settling the mind and body

Arnie Gipis, who comes from Keningau and has neither friends nor relatives living nearby SWCH, had once lodged at the mid-way home. In mid-July this year, she accompanied her mother, Masneh Langkabong, an oral cancer patient, to Kota Kinabalu for chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. Twenty-year-old Arnie has just graduated but she has to postpone her further studies in order to take care of her mother. Being a filial daughter, she would prepare and feed her mother milk through a nasogastric tube every three hours.

Forty-six-year-old Teza binti Petmo, a mother of ten, comes from Sandakan. She has to travel on a bumpy and long bus ride together with her husband for her cervical cancer treatments. Their uneasiness was eased the moment they settled down at the mid-way home. She shared, “Staying here reduces much of my burden!” According to her, Tzu Chi volunteers visit regularly to extend their care, and at the same time, conduct various activities, like flower arrangement, drawing and singing to release patients’ stress. Smiling radiantly, she expressed that she felt the care and warmth from Tzu Chi.

“When I was informed that I needed to undergo a 3-month treatment in Kota Kinabalu, I was troubled over the lodging arrangement. A night at a motel cost about RM70 to RM80, and I had to stay for not a week, but three months,” said 62-year-old retiree, Mohd Zen, who also comes from Sandakan. He was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer. He said, “I am very fortunate to have a place to stay at this mid-way home. The volunteers are very friendly too. The facilities here are complete and very comfortable, with daily hot and cold water supply.” Thanks to the mid-way home, he could keep his worries at bay and undergo treatments with peace of mind.

Another patient, 59-year-old Ng Mui Len from Tawau, was calm when she was informed that she has breast cancer and needed to be transferred to Kota Kinabalu for treatment. Her only concern then was lodging. It was solved with lodging provided by the mid-way home. She commented, “This mid-way home is neat and comfortable. The lodgers take care of one another despite racial differences. It is very different from staying in a motel. Moreover, it is very near to the hospital, just around a 10-minute walking distance.” She likes the activities brought by the volunteers, especially flower arrangement and dancing, which she had never experienced before. The loving care has greatly reduced her suffering and pain.

Feeling for you

Feeling for the pain of others, volunteer Lau Mee Lin began caring for the lodgers since three years ago. Every Wednesday at 7 pm, she and fellow volunteers would start the programme by first introducing Tzu Chi and sharing Jing Si Aphorisms by Master Cheng Yen. Following that, they will conduct different activities, such as, sewing patchwork quilts, learning sign language, singing, dancing, and more, bringing much joy to the lodgers. Also, taking into consideration the discomfort the patients may feel after electrotherapy, volunteers would cook nutritious congees or soothing herbal tea for them to enjoy occasionally.

Because of the care and warmth, many lodgers would have tears in their eyes or even shed tears when it came time for them to bid farewell after completion of their treatments. “We don’t say see you again for they may not return here anymore for treatment.” Mee Lin would always shed tears of gratefulness when she shares about the bonds she has developed with the patients, and tears of empathy while telling the sad stories and predicaments the patients faced.

“Falling sick is unbearably painful, on top of this, the patients and family members from remote areas have to deal with lodging issue after arriving here. This mid-way home plays an important role of providing free lodging, thus settling their minds and bodies,” said Chong Chee Kim, person-in-charge of Tzu Chi Kota Kinabalu.

Shouldering the mission of safeguarding lives, Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas will continue to serve the patients and create blessings in the world. When life is wavering with uncertainty, the encounter with the mid-way home would probably leave a good memory to the patients when they return home upon completion of their treatments.

 

 

The opening ceremony of Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas on September 27, 2018, was graced by Datuk Stephen Wong (5th right) and Datuk Dr Christina Rundi (5th left), among other honourable guests. [Photograph by Goh Yoong Khooi]   Director of Sabah Likas Women and Children Hospital,   Dr Tan Bee Hwai (2nd left) expressed that the establishment of Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas will benefit many patients from remote areas. [Photograph by Connie Cheong]

The opening ceremony of Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas on September 27, 2018, was graced by Datuk Stephen Wong (5th right) and Datuk Dr Christina Rundi (5th left), among other honourable guests. [Photograph by Goh Yoong Khooi]
 
Director of Sabah Likas Women and Children Hospital, Dr Tan Bee Hwai (2nd left) expressed that the establishment of Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas will benefit many patients from remote areas. [Photograph by Connie Cheong]
 
Volunteer Lau Mee Lin has been caring for the lodgers at Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas for three years. Together with fellow volunteers, they conduct various activities like handicraft-making, sign language learning, singing, dancing, and more on a weekly basis. [Photograph by Tse Ning Siong]  

Volunteer Lau Mee Lin has been caring for the lodgers at Rumah Penyayang Tzu Chi Likas for three years. Together with fellow volunteers, they conduct various activities like handicraft-making, sign language learning, singing, dancing, and more on a weekly basis. [Photograph by Tse Ning Siong]