Singapore

Poly student battled kidney failure and rare blood disease

Over the next two weeks, 4,600 students will graduate from Republic Polytechnic. MARIAN GOVIN (mgovin@sph.com.sg) and NURUL ASYIKIN YUSOFF (asyikiny@sph.com.sg) speak to three students who fought and beat the odds 


Her path to academic achievement has been fraught with pain, and uncertainty and the prospect of death have been constant companions.

Miss Yu Xin Yi suffered renal failure at 13 and went through dialysis and a kidney transplant.

At 20, she experienced the devastation of a rare, life-threatening blood disease.

Despite it all, Miss Yu, 24, will be graduating from Republic Polytechnic (RP) with a diploma in pharmaceutical science tomorrow.

Never mind that she is about four years older than her peers.

"Always persevere and never give up," she told The New Paper.

Miss Yu's health struggles started at 13 when she was diagnosed with kidney failure and hospitalised for six months.

At 14, she missed another two months of school because of surgery to insert a catheter for her dialysis treatment.

Her parents were determined to help her lead a normal life, so they took her to Guangzhou, China, when she was 17 to get a kidney transplant.

The transplant was a success. Miss Yu was accepted into RP and her future was finally starting to brighten.

"It was normal. Great, actually," she said.

Then, at 20, she suffered another cruel blow.

It began with what seemed like a fever and a viral infection. Doctors first diagnosed it as stress from school and recommended that she take a break.

But the fever continued to rage.

Doctors began to suspect that there was a problem with her bone marrow and she underwent a medical test called a Bone Marrow Aspirate (BMA).

The BMA confirmed that Miss Yu had Haemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare but potentially fatal disease that causes white blood cells to build up in the body.

Miss Yu had to undergo chemotherapy. While battling the disease, she stayed in the National University Hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) for five months .

It was a period of anguish and pain.

Her mother, Mrs Yvonne Yu, a pre-school principal, said: "There was a point when she was very depressed. She refused to talk to doctors or take medicine."

EMERGENCY

Miss Yu's stay in the ICU was the result of her small intestine bleeding and being filled with ulcers following the chemotherapy treatment.

She had emergency surgery to remove a portion of her intestine.

"I thought I wasn't going to make it," she said.

Her condition led to complications, resulting in an infection of her transplanted kidney, so it had to be removed.

A year after her latest battle with ill health, Miss Yu was finally on the road to recovery, even though she would have to be on long-term haemodialysis.

By then, she was already 21and had not completed her poly studies. She was not sure if she wanted to return to school.

But her mother reminded her: "If you aren't going to go back to school, (and) you don't have a certificate, what are you going to do?"

So for the next three years, Miss Yu studied hard, with the goal of being a pharmacy technician.

To balance school and her dialysis treatments, her programme chair helped make special arrangements that allowed her to skip classes on the three days a week that she had to go for dialysis.

"On those days, I would go home after my treatment, download the lesson notes and catch up through self-study," she said.

"It's all possible because of help from the school, the hospital and family."

There was a point when she was very depressed. She refused to talk to doctors or take medicine.

- Mrs Yvonne Yu, on her daughter Xin Yi's conditions

PolytechnicgraduationKidney FailurechemotherapyscienceTRANSPLANT