When the doctor told Mohd Faizal Rahmat his left leg had to be amputated, he was stunned.
His heart sank as he contemplated the doctor’s words. The thought that he would no longer be able to walk normally dismayed him.
He went home and resolved to ignore the advice and carry on as usual. But as the days went by, the agony in his leg became more excruciating.
“I couldn’t sleep at night due to the pain,” he told MalaysiaNow.
The artist is well known for his three-dimensional (3D) paintings of medieval Melaka, which went viral on Facebook a few years ago.
The startling details of Istana Melaka, the township, and the port won him many admirers among history buffs, with some saying the paintings transported them back to the 14th century.
Some of his paintings were bought by the public and also featured on the covers of several local books on Melaka. Others served as the backdrop for a forum on history by a broadcasting company.
“After my artworks went viral, I received a lot of freelance work,” he said. “The biggest commission came from Rizalman Ibrahim, who asked me to help with the redesign of Istana Negara’s Balairong Seri for the coronation of the current Agong. It was an honour to work on such a project.”
But as his artworks became more acclaimed, his health started to deteriorate, and in 2017 he began to suffer from pain in his legs caused by a mystery illness.
At that time, his mother was diagnosed with cancer, so he gave up his job as a designer with a firm of architects and went home to his kampung in Pekan, Pahang, to take care of her.
The pain got worse, and in 2019, he was diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease, a slow and progressive blood circulation disorder that causes the blood vessels outside the heart and brain to narrow, block, or spasm.
When he was offered a full-time job at another architect firm that year, he accepted and went back to Kuala Lumpur.
“I stayed in a hostel in Brickfields where a friend of mine work was working. My office was in Setiawangsa, quite a distance from the LRT station. I had to walk from the station to the office and my leg just got worse,” he said.
“In late 2019, I was dismissed because of my health condition just as I received my disability card.”
He and his friend had to move from hotel to hotel, sometimes being asked to leave since his left leg had deteriorated further and sometimes smelled unpleasant.
“Luckily, a good Samaritan, who wished to remain unknown, paid for the deposit on this house I’m renting. I still have to pay the rent and my living costs, and for my medication,” he said. “I share the house with my friend and another tenant.”
But he had entered the house as a different person. Prior to moving in, and after his leg had become painful beyond all bearing, he had finally agreed to have his left leg amputated at Hospital Kuala Lumpur in early 2020.
The movement control order, imposed shortly after his operation, allowed him to adjust to his new life as a disabled person.
Freelance jobs to paint 3D visuals were scarce during that period.
“Alhamdulillah, I managed to get by. Occasionally I get big jobs that allow me to save up enough for several months of living costs. And the continuing demand for my artworks helps too. The i-Sinar withdrawal also eased my burdens,” he said.
He said he can make RM700 a month from his paintings, not including the freelance jobs he gets.
“I have to sell the paintings as cheaply as possible since I need the money to live. I know the works are worth much more than that. But I have to lower my ego,” he said.
He has to depend on his friend to take him back and forth to the hospital for check-ups.
“I couldn’t do it by myself. My friend even learned how to do the dressing for my leg because we couldn’t get to the hospital every two days to dress my wound.”
He told MalaysiaNow that he has another operation scheduled this month, this time for skin grafting.
“At the moment, I’ve stopped accepting work. I might be warded and therefore, I would be unable to deliver. I want to focus on this operation before anything else.”
As he endures the coming days, some of the dark cloud that has been hovering above him might finally be disappearing as he can now add another achievement to his portfolio.
The German history magazine, GEO Epoche, will feature his artworks in their May edition, which he is excited about.
He also wants to focus on his next project: a book that will bring together his Melaka artworks.
“The book will be published in partnership with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, which I am a graduate of, and the Malaysian Institute of Architects,” he told MalaysiaNow.
“It won’t be just a book about visual artworks but will also contain information about Melaka’s history. We are also planning an exhibition to coincide with the publication of this book.”
Perhaps after the traumas he has suffered over the last few years, his life is now heading to a place where he can enjoy the fruits of his undeniable talent.