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Overcoming illness to regain purpose in life


At just 15 months old, I was diagnosed with Thalassemia Major, a blood disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce haemoglobin and red blood cells (responsible for carrying oxygen to the rest of the body). Children born with this condition usually develop anaemia and chronic fatigue, as the body may not receive the oxygen it needs.

Growing up, my childhood had been vastly different from my peers. A bulk of my adolescent days was spent at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) for regular check-ups and monthly blood transfusions. My weak immune system also meant that I had to be hospitalised on several instances.

Frankly, life then was not smooth sailing and I did get disheartened at times. While I was no stranger to the needle, the discomfort I felt during each blood transfusion was something one can never truly get used to. What really made a difference were the nurses. Apart from my family, they were my ever-present pillars of support who distracted me from the pain and put a smile on my face. Their encouragement gave me the strength to power through all my appointments and treatments, and left an indelible mark in my childhood.

My positive experience with nurses inspired me to join the profession. I started with a Nitec in nursing and am currently studying for my diploma at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP). In addition to being a full-time nursing student, I volunteer at Club Rainbow, a support group for chronically-ill children and their caregivers. As a beneficiary, I hope my journey will inspire others with similar conditions to live life to the fullest. I believe that with hard work and determination, I can give back to society in my own way.

Having dealt with my condition for the past 20 years, I have learnt to take things in my stride. My condition has stabilised and I now undergo blood transfusion every four weeks. I do fall sick at times, but I am armed with enough knowledge to monitor and manage my condition closely. In addition, I try to stay healthy through good eating habits and light exercise. When my immunity is lower, I stay home and continue to cope with my studies.

I am grateful to my lecturers and classmates for being so understanding of my condition. Instead of stigmatising or isolating me because of my health, they find ways to help me. My lecturers spend extra hours with me in school, and my classmates share their notes with me when I am behind the curriculum. If not for them, I will not be where I am today.

I am Nanyang Polytechnic third year nursing student Loh Yi Jie. Life is like attempting the standing broad jump – if you fall short and fail, do not be upset. Just get up, dust yourself and try again.