TELUK INTAN: Seeing his diabetic friend R. Doraisamy gradually losing his eyesight with no one to look after him, Mohd Yusuf Rohani has devoted the past 16 years caring for him.
They are neither related nor from the same cultural background but none of that matters to Mohd Yusuf, one of the winners of this year’s Star Golden Hearts Award.
Now 47, Mohd Yusuf does his best to tend to a man 19 years his senior whom he affectionately calls D.O.
Language has also never been a barrier between the two as Mohd Yusuf spent his primary school years in a Tamil school. Both have been communicating in Tamil since he met Doraisamy, who is now a double amputee, decades ago.
“I trust Yusuf more than I would my own family,” says Doraisamy, now 66, who is wheelchair-bound after losing the lower part of both legs to diabetes. “He listens to me.”
Doraisamy has six siblings, two of whom have passed away. But most of his remaining family members gradually stopped helping him.
“They could not give me money for my medical expenses,” he says.
Doraisamy, who is single, currently lives with his youngest sister and her husband at the Ladang Selabak estate where they are both employed.
Mohd Yusuf visits him daily, bringing him what he needs, taking care of him and sending him to hospital for treatment.
With their combined daily salary of about RM70, it is a struggle for Doraisamy’s sister and brother-in-law to care for him, so Mohd Yusuf shares what he can.
Doraisamy’s lower right leg had to be amputated when he was in his early 50s, and he lost the lower part of his left leg a few years later.
That was when his young friend stepped in to help.
“D.O was hesitant at first because he was concerned that our different praying practices would be a problem since we are of two different religions,” recalls Mohd Yusuf.
“But I told him it didn’t matter. I could just make space for him when he needed to pray.”
In addition to buying Doraisamy his daily necessities, his friend has bathed and cleaned him up after trips to the bathroom or when he throws up.
“It may be difficult but I don’t see it as a burden at all because he can’t see and he has no legs. Who would take care of him if I’m not around to do it?” asks Mohd Yusuf.
The desire to help Doraisamy came “automatically,” or as he puts it, simply because Doraisamy is his close friend.
“Hati saya tergerak saja (I felt moved). I learned that he was suffering from diabetes and as he was getting older, no one else could take care of him. That was when I came into the picture and decided to care for him like I would my own father.”
Mohd Yusuf first met Doraisamy, then a 28-year-old odd-job worker, when he was in primary school.
“I was nine when I first met D.O,” Mohd Yusuf recalls.
They were both living in Ladang Selabak and Doraisamy’s eyesight was already deteriorating rapidly due to diabetes but he could still walk.
“I noticed many of my friends, 14 of them, loved to sit and talk to him because he gave them good advice about life and their pursuits,” says Mohd Yusuf.
“All of them have secured well-paying jobs like engineers and contractors. I’m the only one left in the group who works as a labourer, so I could stay back and take care of D.O.”
Mohd Yusuf now works as a boilerman in a palm oil factory in Langkap, about 15km away from where he used to live.
When Mohd Yusuf turned 21, he married and settled down with his wife in Langkap.
“But he still made it a point to come and visit me a few times a week after his work,” says Doraisamy.
Mohd Yusuf works the night shift, finishing work at 7am. He goes home to sleep for a while and then visits D.O at 10am.
“I usually stay until 3pm and then go back home to rest before going to work again,” he says.
He works six days a week and gets Fridays off.
Mohd Yusuf is now a father of six daughters, aged nine to 24. Throughout the years, his wife and children all understood that he needed to spend time away from them on most days to take care of Doraisamy. Family time is not the only important thing Mohd Yusuf has sacrificed.
“I have turned down many job offers, like a chance to work in Langkawi,” he says.
“These job offers would bring me out of the state and away from him. But I don’t think of it as a sacrifice because I still feel satisfied that I can take care of him.”
Although Doraisamy receives RM300 a month from the Social Welfare Department as financial aid, Mohd Yusuf still chips in as much as he can to cover his living expenses.
“I haven’t been paying my house rental for two months now because I gave any excess money to D.O,” he says. “Luckily for me, my landlord is a considerate person because he knows what I’m doing for D.O.”
So thick is their bond that Mohd Yusuf once told Doraisamy he was willing to give him one of his eyes so that they could both see the world together.
“But he refused,” Mohd Yusuf says. “He told me that he’s already old and that I’m still much younger and I have so much to see.”
They have both accepted the situation, Mohd Yusuf says.
“He and I have both cried whenever we talked about this, but there is nothing we can do now.
“This is how it has to be.”
This year’s Star Golden Hearts Award is supported by Gamuda. For more articles, go to thestar.com.my/stargoldenheartsaward.