Show moves Diana Ser to tears

Just five weeks after television host Diana Ser gave birth to her third child last year, she was working on her new show Touch Of Hope.

It's not that she's such a workaholic.

Ser, who turns 40 in April, told The New Paper it was because she found it hard to resist the programme's subject matter.

"The show is about women and children, which is very close to my heart because I have three kids," she said.

"And I like reality-based programmes. Talking to people and getting stories out of them is something very seductive to me."

But getting close to the suffering of some of the children featured in the show would leave her in tears.

Ser, who also runs a company in communications consulting and media training, is married to former TV actor James Lye.

They have a son Jake, five, and two daughters Christy, three, and Jaymee, nine months. From the photos Ser showed us, all three kids look more like their dad, who now works in the banking industry.

When Ser got the offer during her confinement to host Channel 5's Touch Of Hope, she decided to just accept it and see how it goes.

The medical documentary series, which premieres on Feb 2 at 9pm, joins patients at KK Women's And Children's Hospital as they face challenges such as facial reconstruction, gestational diabetes and cancer.

The stories include those of a 10-year-old girl who got third-degree burns when she fell on a hot metal sheet, a little boy who had Menkes syndrome which meant his body could not absorb enough copper, and two Laotian children who came here to remove lumps in their bodies.

Mentally, Ser said she was raring to get back to work, possibly because she had stopped work completely during her latest pregnancy.

Emotionally, it was tougher than she expected.

And physically, well, that was another matter.

"My (domestic) helper watched (one of the earlier episodes) and told me, 'Ma'am, you look so fat'.

"I was so bloated then. I looked different," Ser said.

Filming took place two days a week for around six hours each time. And she quickly lost the 15kg gained during pregnancy.

She was stretched emotionally with the many heart-wrenching stories in the programme, and cried often during filming.

The pain and suffering of some of the patients hit her particularly hard because her children are around the same age.

Ser believed her post-natal hormones were also partly responsible for her copious tears.

She added: "The most difficult episode was the one with a three-year-old boy who had Menkes syndrome. His parents were told most kids with this illness pass on before they turn three.

"When I first met him last May, he was near the end... and he died in September."

Son involved

She also got her son Jake involved in Episode 2 of Touch Of Hope.

He met Mo Seesomphone, a five-year-old Laotian girl who suffered from a rare deformation called encephaloceles which left her with a fist-size lump between her eyes.

Besides being the same age, both kids are also the happy-go-lucky sort, Ser said.

"I wanted Jake to know that Mo had a condition but she wasn't different from him. God loves us all the same."

She also hoped the programme will educate people to be less judgemental and more tolerant.

Episode 1 features a six-year-old boy who shouted wherever he went.

He was dismissed as a naughty boy by people who also blamed his mother for not teaching him manners.

But, Ser said, it was because the boy suffered from severe hearing impairment and learning disabilities which caused him to behave this way.

After seeing the frailty of life through Touch of Hope, Ser has walked away with one key lesson.

"I'll try my best to prepare my kids for life's journey but I'll try not to have any expectations about them."

Given Singapore's competitive education system, she explained that this doesn't mean the kids can get away with half-hearted efforts.

"I need to strike a balance in teaching them the importance of discipline and education, and their grades will be linked to that."

Naturally, Ser and her husband have their hands full with work and their children, and adopt a "divide-and -accomplish" tactic in the evenings.

Each is in charge of getting at least one child ready for bed.

Said Ser, who isn't planning to have more kids: "When we pass each other in the hallway, the only things we say to each other is, 'Has he or she had milk? Taken medicine already?'.

"And when the kids are asleep by 10pm, we turn on the computer and look at their photos."

When she isn't working and is at home with the kids, she sends text messages to Lye during the day to fill him in on what the kids are doing.

However, they are aware it cannot always be just about the children, and make it a point to have a dinner date for at least an hour once a week.

"It allows us to connect. Sometimes we end up talking about the kids and we have to talk about something else," she revealed.

Although they have disagreements over how to raise the kids, Ser said they don't quarrel because Lye usually gives in.

And she's learning to let go too.

"The kids need daddy's influence in their lives. It can't be mummy's word (all the time)."

This article was first published in The New Paper.