AT AN age when her peers are spending their golden years playing with their grandchildren or travelling, Elaine Khaw is shouldering the burden of having to care for the two men in her life.
Her husband, 78-year-old musician Datuk Ooi Eow Jin, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease while her oldest son, 52-year-old Raymond Ooi Chin Seng, is homebound due to a brain tumour.
Khaw’s daily routine now involves bathing, feeding and keeping an eye on both men.
Khaw (centre) showing a photo while reminiscing over her late son Ronnie with her husband Eow Jin (right) and older son Raymond.
Eow Jin’s career spanning over five decades has seen him working as a composer, songwriter, arranger, record producer, band leader and resident pianist.
Considered a national treasure, he has written, arranged and played music for the likes of P. Ramlee, Sudirman, Rafeah Buang, Salamiah Hassan, Jennifer Yen, Francis Yip and the Alleycats.
However, Khaw, 76, said Eow Jin’s employment terms did not offer benefits or a pension and his income as a contract staff was insufficient for them to buy their own house.
“Eow Jin was already showing signs of forgetfulness towards the end of his last job.
“He would leave doors open, forget to turn switches on or off, or misplace keys,” she said.
Khaw with Raymond
“Even after that, he would sneak out of the house to look for jobs.
“But he frequently got lost, so we would rely on the police or strangers to help him find his way home.”
Khaw, a homemaker, has been kept busy caring and supporting her family from a young age.
“I did not get to complete my education, as I had to help my mother with the family business in weighing machines after my father passed away when I was 17,” said Khaw, who grew up in Beach Street in George Town.
Khaw said she first met Eow Jin, a fellow Penangite, at a cousin’s house.
He was working as a composer, while her cousin was a clarinetist for the same orchestra.
Khaw and Eow Jin married when they were aged 23 and 25 respectively.
“I was impressed with his dedication and filial piety.
Khaw (second from left) is thankful for the dedicated group of friends and neighbours who frequently drop by to help out. Seen here are (from left) Girly Saw, Wee Mee Yee, Elaine Lee, Pat Lim and Margaret Ban.
“He worked hard to fulfil his responsibilities as a son and husband,” said Khaw, adding that she also took on the role of caring for Eow Jin’s paralysed father.
“Eow Jin was transferred to Kuala Lumpur six months after we got married.
“I remained in Penang and delivered my firstborn Raymond.
“We joined him two years later. Our second son Ronnie Ooi Leong Seng was born in Kuala Lumpur.”
Tragedy struck the family when Ronnie was diagnosed with leukaemia at age 23.
“We were unable to afford the RM200,000 bone marrow transplant in Australia, which the doctor suggested would increase his chance of survival,” said Khaw.
“But we are very grateful to Ronnie’s employers and colleagues at Sungai Way Group, who gave us support and helped fund his chemotherapy treatment locally.”
Shortly before he died, Khaw shared that Ronnie told her not to worry about him.
“Ronnie said that if God wants him more, he will follow him.
“He also assured me that we will meet again in Heaven,” she said tearfully.
Meanwhile, Raymond has been battling brain tumour since he was first diagnosed at age 14.
“Raymond’s first and second surgeries to remove the tumours were successful.
“Complications arose after his second surgery. He could not balance properly or walk without aid.
“Raymond’s condition worsened when the tumour returned when he was 47.
“The doctor last informed us that surgery might improve his eyesight, although the tumour is now pressing on his brain,” said Khaw, adding that the family could only afford treatment for Raymond at government hospitals.
Khaw is thankful for the dedicated group of friends and neighbours who frequently drop by her rented home in Taman SEA, Petaling Jaya, to help out. One neighbour even cooks meals for them.
Despite her challenges, her friends noted that Khaw is always smiling.
She is also thankful to God and for whatever aid that comes her way.
“What Eow Jin and Raymond need are full-time care at a nursing home.
“The support they receive in terms of rental, food and daily expenses is just temporary.
“They need proper medical and nursing care, while Elaine should be relieved of her 24-hour duties,” said her friends.
To help Khaw and her family can contact 017-732 1613 (Mary) / 016-333 9235 (Jane) or email firstname.lastname@example.org