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Exam papers in one hand, IV drop in the other

Courtney Louise Tay, 16, Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary)

Inspiration: Her mother, who “was there at the hospital every day and cleaned up after me”. She walked out of school yesterday with her place in Secondary 5 secured.

But Courtney Louise Tay, 16, would have found her N-Level journey much harder had it not been for her mother's encouragement and care when she was struggling with a kidney disease.

At 14, the Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary) student was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a kidney disorder that causes the body to swell. She had to be hospitalised for a month.

"I was very scared when I was first diagnosed with the illness. I didn't know what to expect," Courtney said.

During her hospitalisation, her swelling was so bad that she felt dizzy whenever she moved, leaving her bedridden.

But her mother, Mrs Dee Tay, 40, was on hand to take care of her every need.

"My mum was there at the hospital every day and cleaned up after me. She was very caring, like a personal nurse."

The administration assistant also encouraged her daughter emotionally.

She said: "Courtney didn't really come to terms with her illness at first, but I told her she had to be strong, as it is a long-term illness.

"I also reminded her that there were others who were worse off than her."

The medicine Courtney was taking lowered her immune system, which meant she had to hospitalised when she fell ill every few months. Despite this, she was close to remission by the time she was in Secondary 4.

But just as things began to look up, Courtney had food poisoning in September this year, just as her N-level exams were around the corner.

BAD TIMING

"She got sick two weeks before her exams. It was bad timing," said Mrs Tay.

But Courtney did not let it get in her way - she sat for her science and mathematics exams at the hospital, with an intravenous drip in her left hand.

"I felt helpless at the start but I didn't want to feel that way," she said.

"I told myself that I shouldn't let this illness stop me from living my life. It's not going away anytime soon, so I might as well go through with it."

Courtney, who scored 16 points for her N levels and got promoted to Secondary 5, added: "Life is unpredictable, so we should appreciate and treasure each other more."

Her form teacher, Ms Noor Intan, 30, said she was inspired by Courtney's determination. "Seeing her strive in her studies is really admirable. If she can keep pushing on despite her illness, then so can we," she said.