Wheelchair-bound woman struggles getting in and out of home because of inconsiderate neighbours and no lift access


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Singapore — How does a wheelchair-bound woman move around when her HDB flat has no lift access?

43-year-old Coco and her 50-year-old husband have been living in an HDB apartment for 15 years, without a lift lobby on their floor. While this would hardly be a concern for most, Coco is wheelchair-bound.

This is her heartbreaking story.

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Since 2018, Coco limits her outings to only her thrice-weekly dialysis sessions. This is because she cannot travel by herself, and needs a wheelchair and the assistance of her husband – who is also unwell – to help her.

Her whole life changed with an unfortunate incident. She was an early childhood educator and the principal of a preschool. Her life abruptly changed one day after an incident at the school. It led to a health crisis and she had to stop working.

At a barbecue with her colleagues, Coco decided to help fillet the stingray that her boss had caught and brought for them all. Even though she wore plastic gloves, while she was filleting the fish, one of the spines of the fish pricked her. Though she did not think much of it at first, she had a very severe reaction to the poison and had to be hospitalised that night.

The incident led to a slew of heart problems, surgeries and dialysis treatments.

Since stopping work in 2018 and staying at home, Coco has gained more than 20 kilos of weight. Due to this, and complications with her kidneys, she had to start dialysis in September 2020.

Her problems did not end there, as starting dialysis led to further medical complications for Coco that were potentially life-threatening.

Living with all her medical conditions is a struggle in itself, but Coco has an added challenge – leaving the flat to go for her dialysis sessions. She needs the help of a wheelchair to move around.

Going for her dialysis sessions thrice weekly is not only a struggle for her, it is also a difficult task for her husband. Because there is no lift on her floor, she, with the help of her husband, has to walk very slowly.

The struggle doesn’t end there. Navigating cramped corridors strewn with neighbours’ plants is another uphill battle for Coco and her husband.

While appealing to the Town Council either for a lift at the corners of her block, or to make her level electric-wheelchair-accessible, her MP Mr Ang Wei Neng visited Coco at her home. He told her that while he has explored the possibility of having a Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP), it would need the consensus of 75 per cent of all the residents.

Coco told TISG that Mr Ang even suggested that she and her husband move elsewhere. However, this is not an option for her as she will be undergoing her ninth high-risk surgery in a few months’ time. Furthermore, she added that, even if she moves, there is no guarantee that at her new place she won’t face cluttered corridors. /TISG

Look out for Part 2 of the video, where Coco shares how she tried to overcome her problems, and find out if she was successful. 

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