Gam Xia | Chris x Mdm Tiah
“Madam Tiah is very fierce, let me accompany you on all your visits,” said the social worker. Madam Tiah was nominated as a beneficiary for our #BeTheDifference campaign and we were about to begin our first consultation with her. All we knew at this point was that Madam Tiah is in her 70s and lives in a one room rental apartment with her boyfriend, who is in his late 60s. And, as the social worker warned, ‘She is very fierce.’
Stiff Joints, Strong Bonds
When we first entered Madam Tiah’s apartment, the first thing that hit us was the scent of cigarettes. Next was the sight of Madam Tiah lying on the floor watching TV in her diapers while her boyfriend was busy cleaning up the house to ensure that we’re comfortable during the visit.
That scene actually summed up alot about Madam Tiah. There are three things Madam Tiah likes – watching the TV, lying on the floor and smoking. She doesn’t move much (unless it’s for a smoke) and her floor position has been her default position for many years now. Most of her needs are met by her boyfriend, a devoted companion who feeds her and changes her clothes whenever she yells to get his attention. With a sedentary lifestyle and a doting boyfriend, Madam Tiah has lost much of her muscle strength. Her condition further deteriorated during Circuit Breaker, so much so that her clothes have all become too large for her.
Made for Madam Tiah
Through the Be the Difference campaign and our consultation with Madam Tiah, we made her a sleeveless blouse, a pair of short pants, a pair of long pants and an altered Cropped Cape to meet her needs.
Madam Tiah loathes feeling warm. This is why she prefers to lie on the ground and also why she doesn’t own thicker clothing. So, we designed a sleeveless blouse in her favourite shade of red. As part of the design process we also considered Madam Tiah’s boyfriend. He has been her caregiver over the years, helping her to change her attire and attending to her needs, but age has been catching up with him and he is finding it more strenuous. Therefore, we added shoulder openings and a FrontSlit opening to the blouse to make wearing it much simpler.
Madam Tiah’s joints have become quite stiff over the years and it has become increasingly harder for her boyfriend to help her in and out of her pants. This is why her pants also came with FrontSlit so that her boyfriend can help her put it on without having to struggle with tugging it up her legs. Keeping in mind that Madam Tiah wants to keep cool, we made the pants using bamboo fabric.
MagSnap Cropped Cape
Despite Madam Tiah’s aversion to heat, she also feels cold easily when she heads out to the malls or clinics with an air-conditioned environment. To complete her outfit, we altered our Cropped Cape with MagSnap buttons from our Launch Collection to keep her warm when she needs it.
‘Xie Xie Ni’ (Thank you) was something that Madam Tiah’s boyfriend said profusely from the start to end of our visit as we delivered her new clothes. “So nice, maybe you should wait for Chinese New Year to wear them,” he suggested to Madam Tiah.
However, with the social worker’s encouragement to seize every moment given their age, we proceeded to help Madam Tiah into her clothes. Madam Tiah who does not usually move unless it was for a smoke, actually reached for the zipper to be a part of the process.
Before we left, Madam Tiah, notorious for being fierce and yelling a lot, held my hand gently and said ‘gam xia’ (thank you). I believe that thank you was also for Chris, the Well Wisher whose contribution to the #BeTheDifference campaign made Madam Tiah’s customised pieces possible.
We started #BeTheDifference to connect people who are willing to give to people whose needs are not met and we’re glad that through this, Chris made a difference in Madam Tiah’s life with us.
Madam Tiah was due for her doctor’s appointment the following week and we could already imagine how things might unfold. Madam Tiah would scream as her boyfriend zips up her pants and blouse. She might yell again that it's cold as they enter the hospital and he would drape the cape over her shoulders. And perhaps beneath all the yelling, she would be relieved to see that her boyfriend is no longer straining as much.