Brush with death made him want to become a nurse
Singapore celebrates its 130th year of nursing today.The New Paper speaks to three young nurses on their inspiration and love for the profession
You won't want to mess with nurse Jonathan Lim.
He is trained in Brazilian jiujitsu, a form of martial arts that promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant.
But ultimately it is nursing that has the bigger pull for the 24-year-old. His interest in it started when he almost lost his life at 13.
He contracted acute disseminated encephalomyelitis after a bout of high fever.
"My mother discovered me lying on my bed, unable to move. She took me to KK Women's and Children's Hospital where the neurologist diagnosed that I had acute disseminated encephalomyelitis," he said.
This is a brief but widespread inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that damages the myelin, the protective covering of nerve fibres.
"I was warded in the hospital and paralysed from the chest down for five days. My parents were told there was a high chance I would suffer from brain damage," he said.
Unable to move, Mr Lim said he was, however, aware of his surroundings, and he watched how the medical staff took care of him, "particularly the nurses".
"They were rushing around, making sure I was okay and taking care of my needs. That was when I told myself that if I were to get better, I would dedicate my life to taking care of others," he told The New Paper.
Fortunately, he recovered and 13 days later, he was discharged from the hospital.
With that second lease of life, Mr Lim started to map his future in healthcare and nursing.
"Nursing is both an art and a science. The art is in the way you communicate and understand what the patient needs. The science is the theory, knowledge," said Mr Lim, who will be joining Khoo Teck Puat Hospital as a staff nurse on Monday.
"While doctors treat patients, they are still removed from the patients. Nurses, on the other hand, are closer. They take care of the patients' every need. They are there for the pain and suffering. I want to do that, to be hands on," he added.
He admitted that there had been times when he felt it was not for him.
"The satisfaction I felt after helping someone changed that," he said.
And his martial arts training has helped him deal with patients.
Mr Lim said it stands him in good stead in controlling his temper and staying calm.
"I'd be able to detach myself emotionally should the situation with the patient or the patient's loved ones turn volatile," he said.
Having been a medic during his National Service and at the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, Mr Lim hopes to be a nurse in emergency medicine.
"It is a field I have had an interest in since the first day of nursing. I hope to work at least three years there and hone what I have learnt throughout my education," he said.
She visits patients on her days off
ON HER OWN TIME: Ms Yeo Yu Shan sometimes visits Madam Fam Ah Moy, 83, on her days off to ensure she takes her medication. TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG
He was diagnosed with last stages of lung cancer and warded in Tan Tock Seng Hospital in 2012.
When the 85-year-old widower was discharged, he went home to an empty flat.
Senior staff nurse Yeo Yu Shan, who took care of him, was "terribly concerned".
"Uncle was very frail, so I visited his flat twice to offer my help."
She eventually found out that he had died. That was what drove Ms Yeo, 27, to help the elderly sick in their homes, even on weekends and her days off .
"I wanted to make sure they take their medication and are properly cared for," said Ms Yeo, who is now part of the hospital's Post Acute Care At Home team.
The team visits patients, who require post-discharge care for as long as they need, until they are discharged by a doctor.
Feeling sorry for these elderly sick, Ms Yeo continues to visit them.
She revealed that her oldest patient is a 103-year-old granny, who went recently to the emergency room at the hospital to seek treatment for flu. She was later referred to Ms Yeo.
"She has a family, but she doesn't want to depend on them, so she lives alone. I have visited her for two Sundays already and so far, she has been well," Ms Yeo said, smiling.
Ms Yeo said her mother is proud of her work as a nurse and often tells relatives that her daughter "loves helping people".
"I can't help it. I tend to feel concerned, especially if the patients are frail and living alone.
"They are usually not able to take care of themselves. I often think about them," she added.
Aunts persuaded her to pursue nursing
"I wanted to be an advocate for health, teach patients to take care of themselves and their loved ones before it is too late." Madam Kartika Aryani Nasir (above)
Since she was 10, Kartika Aryani Nasir wanted to be a policewoman "to help rid society of bad people".
So after sitting for her O levels in 1992, she was determine to realise that dream.
Her late father protested.
"He said I was young, and it wasn't safe for a girl to work in law enforcement," she recalled.
It was after her father was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and her aunts, nurses themselves, conducted a pep talk, that Madam Kartika, now 38, became convinced she should look into nursing as a career.
"After all, I take care of my mother, who suffers from epilepsy. Sometimes during her fits, she will hit her head and I will be the one to help stem the bleed," she said.
Unfortunately, her father succumbed to complications that arose from diabetes before she could take care of him. That made her more determined to work in healthcare.
"I wanted to be an advocate for health, teach patients to take care of themselves and their loved ones before it is too late," she said.
Wanting to push herself to the limit, Madam Kartika applied to work in the emergency department.
"It is exciting... but that was oversubscribed because everyone wanted that posting. Despite the hard work and being on constant alert, it is the excitement that entices," she said.
So she picked the operating theatre (OT).
"We also handle emergency cases and there is action there still," she added.
Being in the OT also helped Madam Kartika hone her other skills - being attentive to the number of instruments used during surgery and the heightened level of hygiene.
"I learnt to be really disciplined and count everything to the last swab," she added.
For her outstanding performance and dedication to her work, Madam Kartika received the Health Ministry's Nurses' Merit Award this year.
As for her childhood dream of becoming a policewoman, she said: "I married someone in law enforcement, my husband works as an auxiliary policeman."