For Allan Tan, 48, there are two activities that can make him forget about the time. A graduate from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1992, Allan is a graphic designer by day and a painter by night. “I only do my painting around 9pm, 10pm. It makes me feel calm and focused and I’m lost in my thoughts.”
Since getting polio at the age of three years old, he has been using calipers and a wheelchair to get around. After enduring a bout of frozen shoulder – a condition where the arm cannot be raised above a certain height – for almost the last two years, Allan was looking online for therapies that could help him. “If you’re rich enough, every other day you can go to a masseuse. They will massage you and ease the pain. But two or three days later the pain will come back,” Allan shares.
He came across an article about Poh Choon and the local wheelchair basketball team. Curious, and acting on his doctor’s advice to exercise, he decided to give wheelchair basketball a try almost half a year ago. “The doctor will ask you to exercise. But when we do our own exercise we tend to focus on the shoulder and the pain. So, when the pain comes, you’ll stop [exercising].”
“Wearing my calipers to stand and draw… I can forget about the time," says Allan. "I will stand there drawing for two to three hours. Then after that, I get very tired. I can’t stand that long.”
A New Passion
Allan soon found that just like how he could stand for several hours in his calipers while painting, he would also forgot about the pain in his shoulder during basketball training.
“When I play basketball, I focus on the ball. I’m thinking about throwing the ball, so I don’t focus on the pain. It’s quite a different thing when you start playing sports.”
For Allan, the benefits of wheelchair basketball go beyond the recovery of his shoulder, which he estimates today to be about 60 percent recovered. Being involved in sports is also a counterbalance to his childhood.
“During my younger days, I missed out on a lot of things that everyone was doing, [like] hanging out with friends every weekend. You miss out a lot, even sports. During that time, I didn’t have a wheelchair and I never knew of wheelchair basketball or anything like that. During my time in school, I skipped all the extra-curricular activities.”
While his basketball teammates today are so focused on the sport that there is “at most two minutes of chit chat” before each training session, he has made good friends with some of them.“Especially one guy, we always hang out because he works nearby my office," Allan shares. "Sometimes he comes by and we have dinner together, he helps me run errands, things like that.”
Clearly, wheelchair basketball has opened up a new door for Allan - one where he is able to make new friends and continue his recovery at the same time.
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