Toby Lim is a remarkable testament to the human ability to succeed in adversity. An excellent literature student in secondary school, regularly scoring 70 to 80 per cent mostly, he had had the unique experience of studying alongside and discussing about homework with JJ Lin, his then classmate. He had been well set on his course to realizing his dream of becoming a Literature teacher. However, his carefree life changed when he suffered an infection of the brain (Encephalitis) and the membranes surrounding his brain (Meningitis) during his National Service in 2000, which affected his nerves and leg muscles, rendering him wheelchair bound. The infection started with a fever that did not subside for almost two days and he was in a coma for almost 2 weeks. On awakening from his coma, his 4 limbs were so weak that he needed help for bathing and eating. The infection had serious side-effects, leaving him currently too weak to walk long distances. Whereas the initial prognosis from the doctor had been that it would take six months to 10 years for him to significantly regain his motor ability, 19 years down the road, he must still use a wheelchair.
Toby was ailed further by a neurogenic bladder condition, which has led to him having what he jokingly refers to as "ten yeat milestones" - a significant kidney stone operation every ten years He was admitted to the hospital in Dec 2018 for fast heartbeat (150 bps), sepsis, hyperthyroid and food poisoning. On the first day of Chinese New Year in February 2019, he was again admitted for a urinary tract infection. He has been cleared by the doctor to undergo a surgery to remove his kidney stone in the upcoming weeks since his thyroid condition has improved. Despite his excruciating circumstances, Toby has found unimaginable reserves of mental strength to follow his passion for literature and attain a Bachelor of Arts in English with Business from UniSIM in 2006. He was even featured as an inspira tional graduate on UniSIM’s newsletter.
The job market was not too kind to him, however, as though he found work in a multitude of organizations, he faced discrimination and many took advantage of him. There was even once when he was selected for an interview but when the interviewer realized that he was disabled, told him that there was no need to come. As a result, he was unable to land a full-time job and started teaching tuition – all subjects at primary level for 7 years till 2012 and English Literature as well as General Paper at secondary level.
However, his life took yet another drastic turn when his dad and brother passed away in 2012 and ’13, requiring him to focus family’s provision shop. He tried to revive it but due to heavy competition from huge businesses like Giant and NTUC, he closed it down in 2015. Given his passion for toys and books, he changed his form of business to toy and book resales through Carousell, where his username is gaialoves. He resells mostly vintage toys from the 1980s and ‘90s to people who range in age mainly from the 20s to 40s. Some people in their thirties want to buy them as they had seen them when they were growing up but hadn’t had the chance to play with them when they were young, while others want to buy some for their children. His oldest customer thus far was 50.
He feels that toys nowadays are getting better but more limited in their choices. For instance, there are no He-Man figurines anymore, whereas in the past, there had been a large variety like He-Man, Dino-Riders, Mask and Exo Squad. Nowadays, the toys are more targeted at pre-kindergarten children - thick plastic toys that are more tied in with cartoons. They are mostly made in China and Korea.
Toby likes science as well and a conversation with him leaves one with the impression of having spoken to a mix between Einstein and Stephen Hawkings. Indeed, the fever left his passion and logic in science untouched, as reflected in his robotic toy collection.
While Toby’s sociolinguistic and behavioural understanding of others is remarkable, what is even more laudable is Toby’s tremendous thoughtfulness in saying that he does not want donors to go through the cost of donating expensive toys like Zoids. He has also been donating regularly to Adrian Soco for the noble cause of building a toy library in less fortunate areas for the past 3 years.
It is truly praiseworthy that Toby’s kindness radiates through his hardships and it would be equally commendable if the kindness of others can help him now. Among those he resells, his favourite toys include Diaclone. Gundam, Robots, Doreamon, Gi Joe, Transformers, Toy story and Sylvanian families. Toby is a talented poet and songwriter as well, so he welcomes any opportunities in that line as well. Here is one poem he has written:
Time to play, they gathered themselves
Gathered their buckets
Filled with words
Some bold, some pencil line thin
The words poured right out
Like plastic bricks
Formed a complex ecosystem of marriages and relationships
Chance or accident
They do not want to go back in and gather dust
Cryptic, is it not? It is a really wonderful play on words as well, as is expected from a Literature enthusiast.
What Toby wants more than anything else currently is a network of befrienders and well-wishers. He worries about his future as his 73-year-old mother still works as a cleaner to support the family. He really hopes that anyone (including you, after reading this article) will be able to help him with the medical expenses incurred in his impending kidney stone removal surgery. He is sincerely grateful to donors who donate to him at the bank account below:
He will be admitted to Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for observation the 21 July ahead of his kidney stone operation on Wednesday, 25 July and can be reached at 90304756. Well-wishers are welcome to drop by for a visit by contacting him up till 23 July. Subsequently, to know more about his recovery, you can contact his mother directly at 82285976.
Photo credits for this article go to Toby Lim, The New Paper, UniSIM and Adrian Soco's Toy Library
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