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Caregiver of mentally-ill wife: ‘I prayed that she would die before me’

Caregiver of mentally-ill wife: ‘I prayed that she would die before me’

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014
The New Paper
By Chai Hung Yin

SINGAPORE – “People told me I gave my wife unconditional love, but it was her who gave me unconditional love.”

That is what Mr Raymond Anthony Fernando, 64, says about his wife, Madam Doris Lau Siew Lang, 61, who died on the eve of Good Friday.

“Despite her mental illness, she would make extra effort to cook my favourite dishes – prawn mee soup, laksa and chilli crab – and attended to me when I was sick,” he says.

He and his wife were the public face of schizophrenia in Singapore for a long time, coming into prominence after he wrote and published a book, Loving A Schizophrenic, in 2005.

He often writes in to the press about mental health issues.

Madam Lau succumbed to pneumonia after being admitted to hospital earlier this month.

When we caught up with Mr Fernando last week, he was mourning the loss of his wife of 40 years.

They met as pen pals in the 1970s. Touched by her sincerity, he decided to marry her, despite family objections and knowing about her illness.

He says: “Even if I were to live my life again, I would still marry her. Maybe even more so, to protect and to take care of her.”

Even at the end, he was by her side.

He says: “She couldn’t talk and kept pointing up, as though she knew she was going away.

“I was very sad she couldn’t talk to me. I just held her hand. But I was happy I was with her during her last moments.”

Relief

When we were at his three-room flat at Ang Mo Kio, he was getting rid of her old medicines.

She took 50 pills a day. Besides schizophrenia, she had rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and high cholesterol.

He admits that there is relief from the constant worry that characterises life as a caregiver.

He says: “I no longer have to worry about her. I no longer need to give her the medicine. I can have a bit of a social life. I’m not happy, but relieved of a lot of stress.

“I prayed to God to take Doris first. Imagine if I go, there will be no one to look after her.”

Even though he was struggling mentally and financially, he never thought about leaving.

But the relief is poor salve for the pain of losing the woman he loved.

He says: “I can cope during the day. But the nights are the hardest. I’ve been crying every night.”

What has been keeping him going are the tributes to Madam Lau coming in through various channels, including Facebook.

He is also encouraged by the people who turned up at his wife’s funeral.

He will keep going for her sake, and speak up for sufferers of mental illness and their caregivers.

He says: “If I stop, it will be a huge injustice to her. In fact, I will be even more intense now. I’m on a mission. Doris set me on this crusade.”

He intends to later set up a fund in Madam Lau’s name to help people with mental illness.

As a tribute to her, he is writing a book titled She Said Goodbye, With A Rose. A rose fell off the coffin on its way to the cremation. He believes it was her way of reminding him that she still loves him.

He says: “It is her suffering that has made me love her.

“If she had been well and sundry, I may have taken her for granted.”

 

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About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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