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S’pore man relies on mechanical heart while waiting for transplant
While Mr Kevin Wong waits for a transplant, a golf ball-sized device keeps his heart beating
At just 22, Mr Kevin Wong found himself at death's door when his blood pressure and heart function dipped to dangerously low levels.
He survived, thanks to being implanted with a mechanical heart device - the Heartmate II.
Now 25, Mr Wong is waiting for a suitable donor heart while working as a service engineer at Transmedic, a company that distributes medical equipment like the Heartmate II.
"A new heart will make a nice gift," Mr Wong told The New Paper of his wish for the new year.
He suffers from dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged.
"Sometimes, I ask myself how this could have happened. No one else in my family has a heart condition," he said.
TNP understands that the cause of his condition is unknown.
Even though he played basketball weekly, he never had any problems.
Signs of trouble started showing only when he was 22, while he was in his final year in a polytechnic.
Walking short distances left him huffing and puffing, but he never thought it could be a heart problem until an unrelated emergency led to his diagnosis.
"I ate something wrong during a steamboat dinner and had a stomachache," he said.
The pain was so severe that he was rushed to the hospital.
A medical check-up there revealed more than just a normal stomachache. Doctors discovered that Mr Wong's heart was functioning at just 25 per cent.
A normal person's heart functions at above 50 per cent.
Mr Wong had to immediately undergo an operation to fit him with a pacemaker.
This device resynchronises the contractions of the heart's ventricles by sending tiny electrical impulses to the heart muscle, helping the heart pump blood throughout the body more efficiently.
Mr Wong's breathlessness, however, continued to worsen. Walking just 50m was enough to make him breathless.
His lower limbs, too, started swelling due to fluid overload.
He sought a second opinion from private doctors and was advised to get admitted into a public hospital for further treatment.
By then, his heart function had dipped to just 13 per cent.
His blood pressure had sunk to dangerous levels and he fell into a coma for close to a week.
Realising that Mr Wong's life was in danger, the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) medical team suggested implanting Heartmate II, which would help his heart pump better.
The device, also known as a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), is commonly used as a bridge to a heart transplant.
Mr Wong's heart surgeon, Adjunct Assistant Professor Tan Teing Ee, said: "As we do not have many donor hearts available in Singapore, we used to have patients who were not able to survive the wait for a heart.
"Ever since the newer generation LVADs were introduced here in 2009, not only have patients on the heart transplant waiting list survived many years longer, their quality of life has vastly improved as well."
Mr Wong's parents had to consent to the implantation because he was in a coma.
He found out about his mechanical heart - and the changes he would have to make to his lifestyle as a result of having the device - after he regained consciousness post-surgery.
"My mind was a blank. I didn't register what the coordinator told me. What to do? I can't change things, so I can only accept," he said, resignedly.
Mr Wong was discharged with a cocktail of drugs to stabilise his condition and to allow his body to accept the LVAD
A wire now snakes out from an open wound in his abdomen and links to a controller powered by two batteries.
The controller, which weighs 2kg and is kept in a sling bag, keeps his mechanical heart running.
He has to take it everywhere with him and make sure it does not get wet when he takes a shower.
"I just tape it up so that water can't get in. I used to think it was very troublesome.
"But after three years, I'm used to it," he said with a shrug.
He no longer feels breathless when he walks and although he has regained a near-normal life, there are times when he feels like he is missing out.
As he cannot do contact sports, he had to give up his weekly basketball games. But he makes it a point to shoot some hoops about once a month so that he can "feel like a normal person again", he said.
Even though he was exempted from national service, his condition also hampered his job search.
"I was rejected by five companies," Mr Wong said quietly.
He finally landed his job with Transmedic in April.
It was at an NHCS fund-raising gala and Mr Wong, a beneficiary, was seated beside a Transmedic employee, who told him of a vacancy that might suit him.
Mr Wong applied for the job and was accepted.
Now, his best hope for a normal life is a heart transplant, which he is already on the waiting list for.
According to a report in The Straits Times, the average waiting time for a new heart is 1 1/2 years.
Having lived with his heart ailment for three years, Mr Wong said that he has fully come to terms with it.
"I have learnt to be zen about it. No point being upset," he said.
My mind was a blank. I didn't register what the coordinator told me. What to do? I can't change things, so I can only accept.
- Mr Kevin Wong
23 PEOPLE ON WAITING LIST
Singapore food influencers' top choices for 2016
When it comes to choosing where to eat, these are some of the more trusted go-to guys.
Eight local food influencers give their must-try places for 2016.
Who: Maureen Ow of MissTamChiak.com
Recommends: National Kitchen by Violet Oon (#02-01, National Gallery Singapore, Tel: 9834-9935)
"The menu features authentic Nonya cuisine, Singapore dishes from Violet's growing up years and her 50-year-old recipe collection. I was really intrigued by their memory walls because every picture on those walls reflects Singaporeans' life in food."
Who: Jasper Aston Lim of Six-and-Seven.com
Recommends: Beef Tasting Platter at Ash & Elm (InterContinental Singapore, Tel: 6825-1008) "On the platter is the seldom seen Bavette d'Aloyau. Although slightly more fibrous and chewy, this less common cut is stunningly rich and full of that glorious meaty flavour."
Who: Cheryl Ng of Ms-skinnyfat.com
Recommends: Maggie Joan's (110, Amoy Street, Tel: 6221-5564)
"MJ is the epitome of underground hipness, with its hidden back street alley location at Amoy Street.
Try the mod-Mediterranean small plates such as roasted artichokes, egg dukkah, fork tender Iberico belly with prunes and that amazing orange burnt cake. Enjoy them first. You can thank me later."
Who: Sylvester Ng, editor of The Peak Selections: Gourmet and Travel
Recommends: Krapao Thai basil minced pork bee tai mak at Wild Rocket (10A, Upper Wilkie Road, Tel: 6339-9448)
"It's a common Thai dish but chef Willin Low gives it a modern, Singaporean twist. He replaces the sunny side up with an onsen egg and the rice with bee tai mak. The runny egg yolk serves as a creamy sauce and flavours the silver needle noodles to perfection."
Who: Tan Min Yan, associate lifestyle editor of Her World
Recommends: Buta Kakuni at Kakure (29, Scotts Road, Tel: 6733-5251)
"The pork is sweet and firm, the layer of fat a melt-in-your-mouth dream, while a dab of mustard on the side helps cut through the richness of the dish and adds a hint of heat. We've got to thank the Japanese for elevating something so simple to such a sublime dish.
Who: Shawn Loh of Secretlifeoffatbacks.com
Recommends: Salmon dishes at Mad About Sucre (27, Teo Hong Road, Tel: 6221-3969)
"Best known for their impeccable service and outstanding cakes, their tea room savouries deserve equal and immediate attention. Both the hot and cold smoked salmon dishes here - prepared using provincial French-style classical techniques - have revolutionised my perception of how smoked salmon could taste."
Who: Mia Chenyze, consumer and lifestyle writer, Simply Her
Recommends: Pan-fried sea bass at Paper Crane (96, Waterloo Street, Tel: 6837-0836)
"The sea bass is expertly cooked till the skin is crisp, and the flesh flaky and moist. It may sound homespun but there's a lot of 'heart' in it, and there's no mistaking the chef's flawless execution either."
Who: Kelvin Liao, half of Therantingpanda.com
Recommends: Montagne de Neige at Mad About Sucre (27, Teo Hong Road, Tel: 6221-3969)
"It's made of chestnut, premium white chocolate from Brazil, infused with rum and embellished with meringue. I love this even though I'm not a chestnut lover... I'm very picky about my desserts this year and nothing wows me as much as the ones here."
Mathieu Debuchy redeems himself after Twitter boo-boo
Arsenal’s Mathieu Debuchy, not so much of a social media guy in the first place, was just trying to be nice when he posted a Happy New Year message on Twitter.
The last thing the Frenchman expected was for Arsenal fans to be unhappy with that.
You see, in the accompanying screengrab of himself, it was clear that the fullback had searched for his own photo on the internet.
The fans, these days a demanding lot, are not so pleased with the lack of effort.
Debuchy swiftly returned to make a last-ditch saving tackle, however.
Thirteen minutes after his original tweet, he posted on Twitter what looked like a selfie, complete with five Happy New Year balloons in the background.
The caption read: “Better?”
The fans certainly appreciated his sense of humour.
Now, how’s that for a gallant comeback?
54-year-old charged over counterfeit casino chips
A Singaporean man, arrested in Malaysia on Thursday, was brought back and charged in court here yesterday over the possession and use of counterfeit casino chips.
Toh Hock Thiam, 54, is believed to be the leader of a syndicate responsible for the chips in Singapore.
Counterfeit casino chips worth more than $1 million, mobile phones and cash were also seized.
If convicted, Toh can be jailed up to seven years and/or fined up to $150,000.
The Singapore police thanked the Royal Malaysia Police and the Macau Judiciary Police for their “strong cooperation and assistance”.
"The arrest of this syndicate leader bears testament to the excellent relationships forged between the Singapore Police Force and the RMP and MJP," said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigations & Intelligence) and director of the CID, Tan Chye Hee.
"We are appreciative of the assistance from our foreign police counterparts and will spare no effort to bring to justice, criminals who commit crimes in Singapore and flee our borders thereafter."
Grilled scallop salad
Feeling overwhelmed with guilt from all that festive feasting?
Try this grilled scallop salad - it is slightly indulgent with the bacon but hey, it's still a salad.
If your resolution is to eat healthy, it may be more practical to ease yourself into a healthier diet without going from festive feasting to a depressing diet.
Go for bacon with lower sodium because scallops are naturally salty. You can also skip the bacon or use prawns instead of scallops.
I like the refreshing taste of mizuna, which is also known as Japanese mustard. It has a slightly peppery taste but is milder than rucola.
But mizuna is not easily available. Substitute with any salad leaves of your choice if you cannot get mizuna.
You can make more of the salad dressing, store it in an air-tight jar and keep in the fridge to use the next day if a salad diet is part of your New Year resolutions.
- 8 scallops
- 8 strips of bacon
- 3 fresh button mushrooms
- 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 avocado
- 1 egg
- 125g mizuna
- 1 lemon wedge
- 1 tsp cooking oil
- Mix the following:
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp honey
1. Place the egg in a saucepan and add enough water to cover the egg. Bring the water to boil on medium-low heat, then cover the saucepan and turn off the heat. Leave for 10 minutes.
2. Remove the egg and place in a bowl of cool water. Peel and slice the egg. Set aside.
3. Wrap each scallop with bacon and use a toothpick to hold the bacon in place. (A)
4. Use the medium setting of your oven grill to grill the scallops for 4 minutes. Flip them over and grill for another 4 minutes or until the bacon and scallops are cooked through. (B)
5. Heat one teaspoon of cooking oil in a pan. Fry the sliced mushrooms. (C)
6. Slice the avocado and squeeze lemon juice over the slices to prevent them from browning.
7. Place salad leaves in a serving dish. Arrange the mushroom, cherry tomatoes, avocado slices, egg and grilled scallops on top of the leaves.
8. Drizzle on the salad dressing or serve it on the side.