Working into the wee hours of the morning as a part-time bouncer at a discotheque in the 1990s, Mr Aw Boon Kheng indulged in the free flow of sugary drinks and eating oily, salty food at hawker centres for his regular meals. When he later developed diabetes and high blood pressure in his 30s, he simply brushed these conditions aside and only took his medication sporadically.
His unhealthy lifestyle, bad eating habits and nonchalant attitude towards his health eventually took a toll on him. Six years ago, he started feeling weak in his body and his legs started swelling, and he eventually ended up with kidney failure.
“I took things lightly and neglected my health when I was younger. In those days, I knew little about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, eating the right kinds of food and the dangers of consuming too much sugar. No one taught me these things. By the time I learnt my lesson, it was too late,” says the 53-year-old remorsefully.
When Mr Aw was first diagnosed with kidney failure, he refused to accept his illness and went against his renal doctor’s advice to start dialysis as soon as possible. Months passed and his condition deteriorated until he had no choice. It was either life-long dialysis or face death.
“I kept going in and out of hospital to remove the excess water in my body. I told the doctor ‘I can still take the bus, walk and come to the hospital myself, so nothing wrong with me’. I was in denial.”
Now, Mr Aw is doing well on dialysis and is thankful to NKF for providing him with subsidised dialysis where he only pays $50 a month. He is active in NKF’s social and volunteer work. He shares with fellow patients about NKF’s patient employment programme to help them get back on their feet economically. After the Covid-19 pandemic is over, he hopes to use his first-hand experience to help new patients who might still be reeling from their diagnosis, put them at ease and share with them available resources in their rehabilitation journey.
“It is not only about the dialysis treatment, but the emotional, mental, family and financial issues that kidney patients have to deal with. I want to support other patients through my sharing because I can relate to them.”
Learning from his past mistakes, he wants others to lead a healthy lifestyle. Last year, in conjunction with World Diabetes Day, he helped to man NKF’s booth at a hospital community health fair to encourage the public to care for their kidneys. Whenever he is called upon, he volunteers as a model patient for nursing and dietetic training workshops.
“I will continue to do my part to encourage people in the community to eat right, exercise and stay healthy to prevent getting chronic illnesses. Once you get kidney failure, it’s too late.”
– Mr Aw Boon Kheng, kidney patient who shares his experiences with others so that they will not end up like him