Chow Ah Yee looks healthy for a 83-year -old woman. Yet, she dares not leave her home these days for fear that she may fall or faint while outside. Ever since she has been diagnosed with osteoporosis a few years ago, she has been careful not to over-exert herself for fear of fracturing herself.
“It all started a few years ago with a sore back when I did the household chores. Thinking that it was just normal fatigue, I ignored it for a long time although I did mention to my children that I was having persistent backaches,” she recollected.
Her daughters, who were staying with her advised her to rest more, thinking that she was probably feeling more tired than usual due to her advanced age. However, she was not convinced, as she used to be very active in her younger days, working for long hours and walking long distances.
She found it hard to believe that she would tire so easily as she had a strong stamina. “In fact, I used to walk to the community hall nearby to perform exercises with a group of senior citizens,” she quipped.
After some time, her daughters noticed that Wong was walking with a hunch. As many elderly women did the same, it did not strike them as something which was unusual.
One day, she was in the bathroom when she suddenly felt faint and collapsed. She was rushed to the University Hospital where she was warded for two weeks. That was when she was diagnosed with osteoporosis.
“The doctor told me that my spine was crooked and that one of the structures has collapsed, which is what gave me the hunch. I even joked with him, asking him if he could just bang it back into place with a hammer!” she said, not realizing how lucky she had been not to have fractured any bones when she fainted.
Since then, she has had to modify her lifestyle. Unable to stand or sit for long hours, she has learnt to slow down her pace and allow her daughters to care for her.
“I can’t even stand for three minutes to make myself a bowl of Maggi,” she laments, clearly indicating how much she misses her independence.
Since her diagnosis, she has started taking high-calcium milk and wears a back splint to support her back. She also watches her step to avoid falling and takes the weekly medication given by her doctor.
“Before the fainting incident, I had consulted a doctor whose medication did not work to lessen my back pain. After my diagnosis, I asked my niece who is a consultant rheumatologist for a second opinion and she prescribed me a drug which she said would help to rebuild my bones,” she related.
Even though she could not feel any significant progress, her daughters could tell that Chow was slowly straightening up although she had lost some height. What remained was a hump where the bones on her spine had crashed.
“We were told that the medication had helped to strengthen her bones so that she would not suffer a fracture so easily. That is a consolation to us as she is often alone at home during the day when we are at work,” said her daughter.