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A Blanket of Love
11 November 2016

Nervousness and anticipation filled the air as 5 students from Hougang Secondary School waited at the door of Madam Siah’s home. Her daughter Siti warmly greeted them at the gate and invited them into her humble abode. At first encounter, Siti’s bright smile, coupled with her cheerful and friendly demeanor instantly sets one at ease.

Siti invited the students and their teachers, Ms Hwee Noi and Ms Yen Nee into the room where her mother was resting. Madam Siah Bte Ahmad, 67 years old, was diagnosed with CNS lymphoma and came under the care of her attending nurse from HCA Hospice Care, Ms Lim Lay Choo.

Madam Siah appeared tired but happy to see a crowd of students around her bed. They were excited to present the blanket which they had sewn together with much sweat and love, to her. Over the last 6 months, more than 20 students, some of whom had only picked up a needle for the first time, collaboratively stitched patches of cloth together into a large blanket.

The students held the blanket up so that Madam Siah could see it and immediately, her eyes instantly lit up and she exclaimed “Very colourful! Very pretty!” Relief broke on the faces of the students and they smiled with pride and joy at their completed patch work. Andrea, a secondary 4 student shared “I felt like crying. Seeing how happy Madam Siah was and how caring the caregiver is towards the patient really touched me.”

Warmth – literally and figuratively speaking was the reason behind the creation of this blanket; to provide physical warmth to our patients in their time of illness and discomfort, but also warmth in their hearts, knowing someone cares for them.

Bravely, each student came forward and held Madam Siah’s hand in theirs with a shy smile on their face and a faint “Hello Madam Siah”. This simple but powerful gesture is an outward expression of an inward love and empathy towards the elderly – something they were taught from “A Touch of Love” workshop they attended, organised by HCA Hospice Care’s Young Caregivers Programme.

Siti, who is the primary caregiver to Madam Siah, shared that it was very challenging during the initial stages. Coming to terms with her mother’s illness, and being entirely new to caring for an end-of-life patient was something she was not prepared for. Balancing her schedule between caring for her mother, who needs to be tube-fed at specific hours of the day and spending time with her family can be quite a feat.

Siti attributes the caring nature and positivity she exudes to her mother who led by example and took care of her own mother who had taken ill a few years back.  “I learn from example. Had I not helped my mother take care of my grandmother, I would not have known how to take care of my own mother.”

Siti describes her role as a caregiver to be very fulfilling and rewarding. “Every day that she is alive is a bonus to me”.

Similar to a caregiver, the students faced comparable challenges in the process of piecing the blanket together. Andrea shared that it was frustrating when her thread became knotted mid-way and she needed to restart the sewing process. Another shared “It was tiring and difficult to manage my schedule between studying and sewing, so I need to plan my timetable well.”

When asked how they felt after seeing Madam Siah comfortably tucked under the completed blanket, Shenny, a secondary 3 student exclaimed, “Shiok ah!”. Her fellow school mate shared, “Certain things we do may seem very insignificant to us, but it can go a long way and be of great meaning to someone else. For example, we spend an hour each week sewing the patches of cloth together, but when completed, it can be very beneficial for someone else.”

As Siti aptly puts it, “We should never underestimate the touch of love as it communicates how much you care for them. Showing such acts of affection to our loved ones is worth so much more than any material things we can give.”

Write a word of encouragement to the students from Hougang Secondary School and Madam Siah’s family at communications@hcahospicecare.org.sg. If you would like to have our Young Caregivers Programme available at your school or institution, send us your enquiry at ycg@hcahospicecare.org.sg.