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Wednesday, 3 October 2007

So long Sam: Passing away of a much-loved paediatrician

Sam at Petpositive's Launch in July (c) Oct 07

UPDATED @ 7.20pm on Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Always helping and trying to make a difference

I was saddened by the news yesterday afternoon of the passing away of a giant. Well-known national paediatrician Datuk Dr Sam Abraham, 78, who was in a coma breathed his last on Tuesday, October 2, 2007.

It was TraxxFM's broadcaster Pei Lee who first broke the news to me in an SMS message.

She wrote: "Dr Sam has passed away :( "

Her message came in at 6.46pm.

It was also she who told me a couple of days ago that Sam was in a critical state in the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

I later discovered from another friend that Sam had been in the cancer ward for more than a week, at least, after he was diagnosed with leukemia.

All this was naturally, too shocking for me.

It certainly must've been incredulous to all of Sam's friends too.

Run down
I last saw the good doctor three months ago at Petpositive's Charity Dinner and launching night at the Legend Hotel in KL on July 2007. (See picture above)

I recall noticing that Sam did look a little run down physically. But that was not the right place to ask him about it.

Sam had been helping me during the final days to help sell some of our tables. He managed to sell at least one table worth RM3000 and bought at least six RM300 tickets.

Five of them were sponsored by him to learning disabled persons and their helpers whilst the last one was for himself.

On the night of the dinner, he didn't just attend. He was spotted in various places trying to help out.

That's just the kind of man that he was - always helping around and trying to make a difference.

He also decided to invite himself into our VIP room - something I'm glad he did because he personally knew more than half of our guests than we did!

This turned out to be a huge blessing for all of us when it came to entertaining them.

Bigger VIP
It was clear that we had an even bigger VIP in our room!

I was told by one of our committee members that Sam had remarked that he was surprised at the key people who were present at our dinner do.

He quipped that a number of the big-shots were his personal friends and that he was really impressed to know that I "certainly had very good connnections."

Other than briefly chatting with Sam during the dinner, I never got to speak to him again. Not that I never tried.

I called him once or twice but either got his voice message on his mobile or he never answered his phone.

"Sam will do"
I first met Sam in the Selangor Cheshire Home in Selayang Baru during the early 1980s. He and I were doing voluntary work with the residents there.

I was teaching music and swimming lessons for the disabled community there whilst he was a regular doctor who provided free medical service for them.

Anyone who knows Sam Abraham knows what an incredibly humble man he is. He never wanted me to call him doctor "but just Sam will do" was what he told me almost 30 years ago.

That strictly has been his policy up until yesterday - even when he got his Datukship later. I don't recall exactly when.

During my stint at the Cheshire Home, I organised a unique Xmas carolling group of disabled and non disabled persons. One of our stopovers was at Sam's house in Damansara on a couple of Christmasses.

At each party, he was always the star of the evening. He made everyone feel welcomed and good about themselves.

But we parted ways when I stopped volunteering with the disabled home.

I got in touch with Sam again in 1989. I was looking for funds to go for an exposure trip to the United States. Sam, through his influence had helped me get a great discount from Malaysian Airlines.

I forget how much it was exactly now but it was something like RM500 for a round trip to Los Angeles and back.

Believer in inherent abilities of others
He and his wife Dulcie also made a visit to my house with their contribution to my trip. I was very touched by their kind gesture.

I was practically a nobody then. No columns in the newspaper, no society president head. This makes what he did for me then more meaningful.

He was obviously a believer in everyone's inherent abilities. He made good things happen.

My next encounter with Sam was to get his help to see a stomach specialist regarding my physical health. Through his intervention, I was able to get to see a top specialist in a private hospital free of charge.

I had told Sam earlier that I wouldn't be able to pay for the specialist's fees. He simply smiled and said: "Don't worry about it."

Sam and I got together again with his work as one of the Directors of Dignity and Services, an organisation that advocates for people with learning disabilities.

Added blessing
Sam and I used to share a lot of ideas and views together on how disabled people were treated - or rather - mistreated, at times, in our country.

More recently, he was thrilled when I got Petpositive formed. And looking back now, I am glad that he turned up on our big launching night and watched us in all our glory.

His presence was an added blessing to our proud occasion.

I recall picking him out from the floor when I was on stage with my speech. He was beaming from ear to ear.

That mental picture spoke volumes: he was in full support of everything I did. And that meant a lot.

By the way, Sam was also our invited guest when Bivai Special Dogs was formed in 2001. That launching was held at the home of the late Mr HRM Storey (the former political secretary of General Templer) in Jalan Gurney in KL.

My good friend Marina Mahathir was our honoured VIP to launch that auspicioius event.

Incidentally, Sam - known to Marina as Uncle Sam - was also her daughter's paediatrician, she told me last night.

We were SMSing each other only a few hours ago, chatting sadly about the loss of our dear Sam.

I forgot to mention that I have a photograph hidden somewhere of Sam pushing my wheelchair in St Mary's Cathedral a few years ago. The event was when Anglican head Archbishop Dr George Carey had paid a visit to Malaysia.

When I find it, I'll scan it and put it up here in this very blog.

I hear that a wake is being held at St Mary's Cathedral tonight at 7.30pm for the much-loved paediatrician.

I regret that I'm unable to attend the occasion because of my poor health.

Sam's funeral is scheduled for noon tomorrow, Thursday, October 4, also at St Mary's.

St Mary's Cathedral is Sam's church where he once very proudly introduced me to their wheelchair-friendly toilets and their parking slots for drivers with disabilities.

St Mary also has an active blind community worshipping within its walls each week. Many of these members, I understand, are specially invited each Christmas to the home of the Abrahams.

Phone pal
Sam was my regular phone pal. He'd call me every once in a while to keep in touch or to say what a great article he thought I had written.

Once he suddenly even popped by at my house unannounced. It was a delightful surprise. He said that he had been trying me but couldn't get me for a while and so decided to drop by to see if I was okay.

Now, how many friends care to do that these days?

I will miss you my friend. So long Sam - till we meet again.

aNthoNy thaNasayaN

Sign off: 3.30am

1 comment:

Observer said...

Thanks Anthony for your informative obit. for Sam. I did not know him well, but he always stuck me as a fine honourable gentleman, your comments confirm this. Malaysia has lost a wonderful man, he will be sadly missed not only by his nearest and dearest, but by all who had the privilege to know him. RIP Dr. Sam

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