Retire? Not for this 81-year-old radiographer
Radiographer Ng Hon Wing, 81, loves his job so much, he chooses to mentor instead of quitting
At 81, he is the oldest employee at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
Mr Ng Hon Wing has worked there as a radiographer for the last 62 years - and intends to continue doing so.
"As long as I can contribute to SGH, I will carry on working," he said.
The sprightly man revealed he had tried to retire thrice, when he was 55, then 60, then 62.
Each time, he was persuaded to stay on and he agreed to do so as he loves his job.
He now works three days a week at the Department of Diagnostic Radiology, mentoring younger colleagues.
For his tenacity and dedication to his profession, Mr Ng got a special mention by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his 2005 National Day Rally speech.
The PM was then urging employers to give older workers a chance as they have much to offer. He spoke of how, when he went for an X-ray, Mr Ng did it in one swift take, unlike an earlier experience elsewhere.
Earlier this month, Mr Ng met Mr Lee again and the two took a wefie. The photo was posted on the PM's Instagram and Facebook page.
But Mr Ng's becoming a radiographer was almost accidental.
At 22, he was looking for a job when he came across a scholarship advertisement on the government notice board, he said.
He applied and was successful.
"I was sent to Glasgow in 1959 to train as a radiographer. Two years later, I returned and joined SGH," he said.
"I have been working there since then.
Recalling the early days of X-ray, Mr Ng said the equipment was heavy and bulky.
"We had to turn the patient around in order to take their X-rays accurately. It was quite harrowing as those who suffered broken bones would be screaming."
Then there were the obese patients. After having turned then over and over, Mr Ng said he sometimes would go home with a backache.
He also recalled how he had to provide his expertise at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and the then-Kandang Kerbau Hospital (KKH).
"I would arrive at work and receive a call that I was needed at TTSH, for example, and an ambulance was waiting to take me there," he said.
By the time he was done, it would have been around 3pm and he returned to SGH "only to find my work had piled up".
"There would be many patients waiting to have their X-rays done," he said.
He fondly recalled the time he helped with X-rays for the newborns at KKH.
"A nurse pushed in a trolley and I thought there was just one baby," he said.
"It turned out she was pushing in six babies on one trolley. That session was particularly noisy, with the babies crying."
Today's radiographers have it "a little easier", added Mr Ng.
"Everything is digitised and computerised. Each hospital has its own team.
"No radiographer has to travel to three hospitals to carry out his or her job."
Mr Ng said his career gives him a sense of purpose and he has never stopped learning throughout his working life.
"The important thing is to have the right attitude, to continue to upgrade yourself," he advised.
"Whatever comes along, take the opportunity to learn it, master it, overcome all obstacles."
In his free time, Mr Ng plays chess - sometimes with his only grandson - and golf. He also attends courses at the People's Association's Senior Academy.
In four months, he had completed 10 courses, which included how to use a smartphone and social media, palm massage and KPop line dancing. He will be in the second cohort of graduands this year.
Mr Lee wrote on his Facebook page: "I will be attending the ceremony, and look forward to seeing him there, with gown and mortarboard!"
Mr Ng said as long as his health permits, he will continue to mentor the young in his department.
His daughter, Ms Adeline Ng, said: "He loves going to work. It keeps him happy.
"It's only when he feels the stress of work will he then really retire for good."
"After positioning a patient for X-ray, I went behind the lead partition and said 'hold your breath' before taking the shot. I found out that she thought I had said 'hold your breasts' only after the film was developed. Her hands were in front of her chest."
- Mr Ng Hon Wing recalling a funny moment in his career as a radiographer